Harvest Trip to Oregon
While Mum was in the peak of harvest the three of us took a trip to Oregon this last weekend. One of my earliest memories is taking a trip from Adelaide to Melbourne on an overnight train, so I thought the kids would enjoy taking the Coast Starlight – which runs from Seattle to Los Angeles every day – from Portland to San Francisco.
We flew to Portland and Uber’d to the VRBO I rented for our three days in Portland, a quaint one bedroom in the lower level of a beautiful old Victorian in the Alphabet District. It was ideally located, a quick two block walk to 23rd Avenue, which boasts a plethora of dining options as well as endless clothing boutiques and a smattering of outdoor stores. The Alphabet District’s main drag reminded me a lot of eateries in Australia: wide sidewalks with streetside dining in front of every restaurant. We dined at The Fireside on our first night, securing a spot on the sidewalk and sampling an array of tapas from their happy hour menu (a big benefit of young kids: you’re always dining during happy hour). Warmed olives, house bratwurst, divine macaroni and cheese (minus the jalapeños) and heirloom tomato flatbread were all a hit. As were the cocktails with Dad. It wasn’t my intention to have ice cream for dessert, but on our walk home we noticed the line into Salt and Straw – what I now know to be a somewhat famous ice cream establishment – who am I to deny ice cream whilst on vacation. Some very unique flavors, our selection included vanilla bean (Max), sea salt with caramel ribbons (Lilia) and pear and blue cheese (me). Definitely try this place if you’re ever in Portland.
For our full day in Portland I rented a car and we headed east into Columbia River Gorge to explore some of its more than 25 waterfalls. Amazing that such a pristine wilderness is within 20 minutes of downtown Portland! It was misty and overcast, which made for perfect photography conditions. The kids were in awe of the falls, so much water – a lot of it spring fed – cascading down the cliffs into the gorge. We hit Bridal Veil, Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls in the morning before driving to Hood River for lunch. Last but not least were Horsetail and Ponytail Falls (or sometimes called Upper Horsetail Falls because it’s situated above Horsetail Falls). Ponytail falls was the kids’ favorite, in spite of the grueling 30 minute switchback-filled hike to its plunge pool. The trail winds behind the falls and pops out the other side, definitely made me smile seeing the wide eyes of both kids when they discovered they could walk back and forth behind the torrent of water without getting wet.
Fun to stop off at the Bridge of the Gods (pictured below) on our way west along the gorge back to Portland, the bridge connects Washington and Oregon, one of the few spots along the gorge where one can cross the Columbia River. The three of us were meandering near the Oregon side of the bridge when the woman in the toll booth asked if we wanted to walk across, informing us it would be $1 each. When I noted to her that there’s no sidewalk on the skinny two-lane bridge, she said that the cars will be warned there’s pedestrians on the bridge and that it’s safe to cross. I shot a questioning look to the kids and quickly gathered that they were definitely not interested, no way they were walking on the road. I later discovered that the bridge is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and has scores of hikers cross it each day.
I didn’t take the camera to dinner with us on the Friday, but Deschutes Brewery in downtown Portland definitely deserves a mention as another spot not to miss. I already knew they had great beers, the downtown location is the biggest brewhouse restaurant I’ve ever seen and the food was exceptional. Great atmosphere and lots of action for the kids to absorb.
For our final day in Portland we dined on fresh, warm croissants from Ken’s Artisan Bakery before dropping off our rental car and setting off to explore downtown. The kids don’t get much exposure to public transport living up in wine country, and were completely enthralled by the Portland trams – suitably named MAX – that we used to traverse the city on our final day. We could have spent all day in Powell’s Books – the planet’s largest bookstore, boasting a kids’ section bigger than a regular-sized bookstore – but I wanted to see the famous Portland Saturday Markets on the river, where we ended up having lunch. Lots of local artisans and a very expansive selection of foods, our lunch consisted of: empanadas (one each of pork shoulder, ham and gruyere, and cinnamon apple), papusas, papaya salad, sticky rice and Thai BBQ chicken. Delectable! Our train was a couple of hours late out of Seattle so we rode the MAX to a few different areas of downtown while we killed some time, the convenience of the trams passing by every few minutes made it very easy to explore (and of course the kids loved jumping on and off the streetcars).
As two of only a handful of kids on the train, the conductor asked Lilia and Max if they’d be junior conductors for the trip. They were responsible for yelling “all aboard” at Portland Union Station when the train was finally ready to leave, a task they both embraced wholeheartedly. I sprung for a family sleeper cabin for our journey, which ended up being a wise decision as it gave us a ton of room and made traveling with the youngens pretty straightforward. When we finally pulled out of Portland around 5:00PM we were informed by our car’s host that our dinner reservation was at 5:30PM in the dining car and to please be prompt! It really was a hoot, full table service with cocktails and white linen tablecloths, our server was the same for every meal and the food was actually quite good. By the time we’d had dinner and watched some of the picturesque Oregon countryside pass us by it was time for bed, and after a big day exploring Portland the kids were asleep before their heads hit the pillow. I have a feeling the hum and motion of the train definitely helped…
We ended up stopping in Eugene for three hours from around 8:00PM to 11:00PM waiting for another engine. The locomotive that hauled us from Portland to Eugene was having engine issues and it was quentioable whether it could pull us over the mountains. It was fine by me: the kids were sawing logs and I lay in bed streaming the second season of Narcos! It also meant that when we woke in the morning we were welcomed with spectacular views of the mountains around Shasta and wound through the woods for hours next to myriad streams and rivers. A very special way to start the day, if the train had been on time we’d have been asleep for this entire section of the trip. We crossed Lake Shasta and wound our way into the Central Valley, making stops in Redding, Chico, Sacramento, Davis, Martinez and finally back to Mum – six hours late – in Emeryville. Unlike traveling on a plane, however, being late is all part of the adventure on the train. Fortunately everything on the train – meals, movies, the bar – runs on schedule even if the train is late, so for us it just meant more daylight hours to take in the view. Definitely a fun trip, the kids were exceptional travelers, now I have to think up something to top it!