After a week in Portland's restaurants and gardens, we were ready for nature. One of Portland's closest and most popular natural attractions is Multnomah Falls, the second highest, year-round waterfall in the nation. Getting there by car is easy; the drive along the Columbia River Gorge alone is worth a trip. There's also a lodge where you can have lunch, and an information desk for trail maps.
According to a Forest Service brochure, Multnomah Falls "offers one of the best places in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to view the basalt rock formations exposed by Ice Age floods." And the hike to the overlook is just over a mile.
Native Americans legends about the falls tell of a princess who throws herself from the heights to save her people from a sickness. I'm a sucker for legends and felt ancient history shimmering through the forest mist.
We found the hiking path gentle and paved, if a bit crowded on the lower viewing bridge, but worth the sweat to reach the overlook and river.
Don't go on a summer weekend or holiday though, unless you like crowds. The day after we visited, we saw a flashing highway sign that indicated the Falls parking lot was full at 11am. Instead, continue through the Columbia River Gorge and find a less popular hiking trail (see hiking map above) or drive into Hood River for lunch. The town has a swimming beach and loads of water sports. A dozen windsurfers launched while we gazed at the view.
You can also visit wineries of the Columbia River Gorge (on both the Oregon and Washington sides). We stopped at Viento, just off I-84 at exit 62, and then drove down Country Club Road to Phelps Creek Vineyards where their winemaker from Burgundy, France brings traditional winemaking techniques to the Oregon vineyard.
Our next adventure through the Mt. Hood Scenic Loop was to Timberline Lodge, famous for its exterior shots in the Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining. Truth be told, that's why we went. But when we got out in the parking lot, I wiped Jack Nicholson's creepy smile from my mind and went for a hike.
The open trails to the ski area above were too inviting to pass up.
Nothing could beat the view from the foot trail.
We finished our escapade with smoked hazelnuts, aged cheddar, and wine in the Ram's Head Bar on the second floor balcony of the lodge. Popular on a summer afternoon, the bar offers rustic lodge food and unbeatable mountain color.
Oregon's charm is in its scenic variety: mountains, vineyards, rainforests, volcanoes, and coastlines. Two weeks were not enough to see it all. I wished we'd had an expert to point out little-known spots, but we were never disappointed on our own.
We threw down our suitcases, took off our shoes, and
Then we soaked in a hot tub before dinner and watched the backyard wildlife.
We didn't need much excitement during our week at the beach. I took pictures of natural sand art and read novels most of the day.
But when we ran out of groceries and wine, we scouted the area for supplies. We drove up Highway 101 to Astoria, near the mouth of the Columbia River, and discovered a town caught in time.
Named for American investor John Jacob Astor, Astoria sits near the mouth of the Columbia River, across the bridge from Washington State.
When the spirit moved us again out of our quiet corner, we ventured into Cannon Beach, highly touristed but not without natural charm, plenty of food and wine, and a skateboard park that entertained my crew.
We trekked deep into nature on our bare feet, but next time we're out on the Oregon Coast (and we're sure to return), I'll hike the Neah-Kan-Nie Mountain trails through old growth forests and rent a kayak and a bike to explore further from the beaten path.