Tag: Portland

Exploring the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

I wake up in Portland city’s confines early in the morning and not surprisingly, it’s raining. The weather doesn’t deter my good mood, because today I’m going to explore the Columbia River Gorge National Recreation area. Nothing makes moss look a little greener than a light mist in the air.

The day starts with a walk around Laurelhurst Park in an ironically named part of the city for such an overcast day, Sunnyside. My couchsurfing host Tom and his shepherd dog Sadie are enjoying an off leash walk while I meander around the lake snapping pictures of ducks and flowers. The park is painfully beautiful, green and lush. It’s hard to hate the cold in the late winter air and the precipitation when you see how enchanted a simple tree can look in the temperate rain forest.

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Flowers along the walk at Laurelhurst Park in Sunnyside

My travel companion for the day and good friend Jeff lives in Vancouver, Washington, just over the Oregon border. He picks me up and we’re off.

This is my first visit to the Pacific Northwest and I’m charmed at the scenery. Because of Oregon’s geographic location, snow, especially near Portland rarely falls. This day in March, the peaks of the gorge are dusted lightly with snow, making for a dramatic contrast to the gray sky.

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The Columbia River Gorge view from Chanticleer Point

Our first stop heading east of the Columbia River Highway is Chanticleer Point which gives us our first vista of the gorge including the iconic Crown Point.

I pause to read about the gorge’s geological history and learn that molten basalt from cracks near the Idaho border shifted the Columbia River Gorge north to its current location. Due to some melting ice dams in Montana during the last Ice Age, water surged over the top of Crown Point, cutting through layers of stone quickly, thus creating the greatest concentration of high waterfalls in North America.

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This particularly piqued my interest. Not only was this initial vista impressive, but there were endless waterfalls along our drive to discover. Not a shabby afternoon for a girl from the flat Midwest.

We drive further and enter Guy W. Talbot State Park and I’m astounded by the sheer height of the surrounding trees. Because of the lush landscape, I am immediately reminded of fairy tales of my youth, half-expecting a fairy to grace us with its presence. This place is amazing.

After parking, we follow the paved path from the park for a short quarter-mile hike down to Latourell Falls, sometimes referred to as the lower falls. We access it after crossing a bridge which dates back to 1914 and was constructed with special lightweight materials because of the unstable, wet soil.

As we approach Latourell Falls, the mist from the falling water graces my face and gives me a chill. I’m not slighted or annoyed, but rather, exhilarated. The waterfall is pounding with an intensity I can only harvest respect for. I inch my way toward it, being careful to watch my step over the slippery rock. I finally get close enough to feel the earth rumbling beneath my feet and its power rocks me to my core.

Jeff enjoying the front-row view of Latourell Falls
Jeff enjoying the front-row view of Latourell Falls

We get back in the car and drive down the winding, old highway bursting with basalt lava flows, giant ferns and amazing twists, turns and curves. I love this drive; it’s nothing short of magical.

Jeff and I continue onward to the double-tiered Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest fall at 620 feet. Sourced from the underground Larch Mountain springs, it’s good to visit year-round. It doesn’t dry up in the summer like many other waterfalls.

A gaggle of tourists funnel up and around Benson Footbridge which allows for a bird’s eye view of the lower cascade. The bridge was built in 1914 by Simon Benson who also was one of the original builders of the old Columbia Highway.

I take a moment to look out at the entirety of the gorge from the bridge. The colors are stunning and ethereal; the way the sun refracts on the gorge wall makes the hues vivid and impressive. I can hardly believe that where I stand is place of natural beauty. It almost seems like a scene I might have conjured up in a dream.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls
The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

All of the sights in the gorge are just a short 30 minute drive outside of Portland city proper, each stop along the way demanding proper attention.  Whether it was a short hike, a photo shoot or a stroll around to gain different perspectives of the forest, the Columbia River Gorge is a great place to visit any time of year.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls
The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

On the ride back to the city, Jeff and I talked at length about the Pacific Northwest and its unique geographic location. We pull off at Cascade Locks and check out the Bridge of the Gods which spans between Oregon and Washington State.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls
The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

The scene is romantic: A light fog mists the air as we walk the grassy park near the water. Suddenly the Union Pacific rolls by and blasts its harsh horn into the twilight. It’s chilly, damp, austere. The sun begins to set and the scene is warm, the trees evergreen. The Pacific Northwest in late winter is melting, renewing itself for a new day and season.

Life as a full time traveler

I’ve been traveling full-time for almost eight months.

I’m humbled by all the experiences I’ve had. This has been the best year of my life in so many ways. My mind’s been opened to the big wild world, and it’s love, my friends.

Never thought this year would have me chillin’ with ‘roos

Couchsurfing around the world, camping on remote beaches and calling wherever I lay my hat my home has been the name of the game this year. But the time has come for me to go out and get me one of those J-O-Bs!

I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively this year, taking time off from the grind to really concentrate on the next chapter of my life. As I went, I was able to scope out different living situations so that at the end of my year I could pick somewhere to live and settle in for a while.

From Philly, to Chicago, out west to L.A., San Francisco, Northern California, out to Australia and back, Portland and then Hawaii, I’ve seen a lot of places I’d love to call home for a while for a variety of reasons.

Where the road goes

But nothing was as special as Hawaii.

Like a good love, the islands swept me off my feet. I came and could hardly bare the thought of leaving right away to continue on my round-the-world trip. Coming here for a 2 week trip turned into a four-month travel-venture that leaves me wanting more.

home

After living in the rainforest for four months on east side of Big Island in Hawaii, I’m ready for an upgrade of awesomeness. My next chapter has me going back to the mainland to sell off some final things I left behind this year and transplant myself in Maui. The scene is burgeoning, the food is good and the jobs a lot more plentiful than Big Island.

I’m not ready to say goodbye to the islands. In fact, I just arrived. I’m stoked to see where my future lies here. I’ll continue to travel as much as possible.

I’m definitely not ready to hang up the old hat. Not yet. There’s just too much good world to take in. But for now, I’m going to stay on island time.

Photo Essay: One day in Portland

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PDX: Show me what you got

I’ve been waiting to visit Portland for a number of years now and I can finally say, without further ado, that tomorrow is the day my dreams come true! SO awesome!

I will be Couchsurfing for about 4 days and in that time hope to discover at least a hair of what this city’s about. Maybe I’ll fall in love with it. I’m pretty sure I will.

Totally ready to tame this beast:

Public transit. Always. Courtesy TriMet

I definitely want to check out all of the hype around the different food trucks. I’ve been working in the restaurant biz for years,and Portland’s food trucks are all I hear about. Portland this, food truck that. Alright, I get it! I’m going to witness it first hand.

Next is the Voodoo Donut Shop, a place that the Food Network and Travel Channel has made me salivate over for years. As the saying goes, The Magic IS in the Hole!

I’m also going to be in microbrewed beer heaven. I thought I found that in Philadelphia, but, alas, Portland is where it’s at. I can’t wait to down some unique brews!

Fancy donuts, awesome street food and microbrews everywhere? Portland, I might just love you. 

It’s official: 2012 is my RTW trip year

After much internal debating (Mainly of where to go, not whether or not I was going to go), I’ve officially embarked on my Round the World (RTW) trip.

I’ve read Bootsnall’s articles about  RTW trips, have followed many travel bloggers RTW trips and never thought this was possible for someone like me. I watched television and my heart ached at the thought of Paris and Amsterdam. I knew one day I’d eat Pho on the streets of Thailand and see a howler monkey in the rainforests of Costa Rica. But I never thought my RTW trip would happen so…haphhazzardly.

After I decided to live deliberately, challenging the status quo and going against the grain, I quit my waitressing job and my life in Philadelphia. I was living close to my sister and my friend had just moved to Philly so that we could live together. I felt a bit guilty dropping my life so suddenly, but one day, as it tends to happen, it hit me:  I have savings. I have an insatiable wanderlust. I. have. to. go. NOW!

I started innocently enough in Australia. Big deal, right? It rocked my world. I’m a changed person. I came home craving and wanting more experiences. I stayed a month and enjoyed myself so much, I’ve made the solid decision to stay on the road until my 26th birthday in September.

This picture alone was worth the trip to Oz

I thought I’d come home and work after Australia. But the more I tried to think about what job I would do, I would draw a blank. Go back to school? I wondered, maybe try to get an office job?, hell, maybe I’ll even waitress again. Somehow these all placed second to my desires and the perfect storm of opportunities bestowed upon me.

So after 2 blissful weeks in California, another 4 in Australia and a week of soul-searching in Chicago, I’ve officially decided to keep traveling until I run out and steam. I’m embarking on phase two of my journey this Sunday with some United States destinations I’ve always wanted to see. I fly into Portland to couchsurf, possibly visiting Austin, Texas, flying in Los Angeles at the end of the month to visit a friend, then taking a flight to Hawaii (big island) where I hope to spend the month. After Hawaii, I head to Costa Rica to Helpx on an organic farm (or resort, whichever will take me) and try to spend a month in Latin America (Possible destinations: Peru, Ecuador, Belize, Honduras) to improve my Spanish.

Current mission: find a more beautiful sunset. Wivenhoe Dam, Australia

From Latin America, I’ll fly to Japan, hit up S.E. Asia for a month and finish with a tour through Europe via Eurorail Pass.

Phew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. My newly acquired passport will need more pages sooner than I thought!

How can I possibly have that many savings? you may wonder. Good question. I don’t. I’m going to be couchsurfing, working in exchange for room and board, sleeping in tents in volunteer situations, staying in budget hostels, you name it. Wherever I lay my hat will be home. I could literally die from excitement. Where will I end up? Who will I meet? It’s almost too good to think about.

I hope you all will join me on my adventures by following along. I surprised even myself with this decision, but I just can’t bear to let this opportunity slip through my fingers. I sincerely hope you, like me, hold on for the ride. It’s gonna be sweet. 

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This post, and this entire trip and my changed lifestyle, is inspired by all of you readers, all of the people I practically stalk for inspiration and information on Twitter, Matador Network for changing my life by watching one video about the Cook Islands, BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Manifesto, Couchsurfing, Helpx, my free-spirited friends, my ever-supportive family, hippie love and that wild, wacky & wonderful wanderlust.