Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Palate goes to Portland Part II – From the Cascades to the Coast

One of our longer journeys during the Northwest adventure started in Portland and wound us through the Cascade Mountains, Bend, Crater Lake and ended at the Oregon Coast from Newport to Cannon Beach.  Two overnights and approximately one thousand miles later, we returned to Portland absolutely awestruck at some of the places we had just visited.
After a fairly relaxed morning on that Monday and a short local hike after breakfast, we packed up a cooler with food, water & a bottle of local Pinot Gris, and started our drive towards Bend where we would hang our hats for the night.  As you head South from Portland to Salem on the I-5, it feels like you are on any other interstate in any other part of this country.  Once you head East from Salem and into the Cascade mountains however, the vistas will take your breath away.  I love to drive and especially enjoy winding roads through the mountains continuously ascending or descending as your ears pop.  We passed mountain after mountain, waterfalls, streams, lakes and so much more.

Detroit Lake

 A couple of hours into our drive, we felt the hunger pangs and started looking for a cool place to eat our packed up picnic goodies.  This is where maps are far better than a GPS.  A GPS is great at getting you from point A to point B, but if you want to just follow your nose it won’t give you the big picture to say “let’s go there!”.   I had put my son in charge of navigation and so he opened up the map and started scouting.  He spotted Detroit Lake along our route and so that is where we headed.  A brief stop at the Parks Commission to ask for the best place for a picnic and we found ourselves at an amazing spot on the lake that wasn’t overly crowded.   It was a hot day (98F) and the lake is a popular summer destination.  Our little spot was in full sun (which is why it wasn’t crowded) but allowed us to wade in the lake for a bit. 

We unpacked our picnic of Ciabatta, goat cheese, salami, cherries, and other goodies.   As I started to open the wine, I realized that I had forgotten to pack a corkscrew; just as well since I still had a long drive in front of me.   I love picnics!  There’s something about sitting in the outdoors with a great view and nibble on food that’s cold and generally not so healthy.  I suppose I could come up with a healthy alternative but it just wouldn’t be the same.  There would be a certain loss of ambiance had I packed a salad with grilled chicken.  Besides we usually picnic after hikes so we’ve earned the food at that point.  Not so in this case of course.  I did pack some fruit!!
After we ate, we scattered with our respective cameras to capture our own perspective.  I have always loved taking photos and this adventure found my son enjoying it as well.  I gave him a quick lesson on some settings on the camera and off he went.  Needless to say he graduated during the trip from his little Kodak point and shoot to my Pentax Lumix point and shoot to my Nikon D80 DSLR.  I guess I will be sharing my camera & lenses from here forward.
We made our way to Bend through more of the Cascades, checked into our hotel and decided to kill some time by taking a tour of the Deschutes Brewery.  We planned to go for a drive on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and do some hiking but the temperature gauge was still reading 98F.  Deschutes is the second largest craft brewery in the US.  The tour and their operation are interesting and we got to taste any and all beers we wanted at the end.  My son was only somewhat interested (he was only offered root beer) and would have preferred to spend his time in the hotel pool.  But I enjoyed the beer tastings after a long day of driving and my favorite was the Obsidian Stout. 
A quick dip in the pool for my son and we were off to do some hiking, catch the sunset and see some beautiful lakes around Mt. Bachelor.  Several hours later we returned starving for food.  It was late and options were limited so we wound up at the Deschutes Brew Pub which we had been told earlier served good food.  It was nothing to write home about – just your basic pub food.  We ordered a burger, fish & chips, a side of asparagus and for starters tried their fried chick peas.  The chick peas I could have done without.  They were a little tasteless and need to amped up a bit.  What they needed was a bit of red onion, cilantro, lime juice and a sprinkle of red chili powder.  Add all that and the dish would have been perfect!!  Leave it to me to Indianize bar food.
After a good night’s sleep, breakfast and a quick stop at the grocery store to replenish our cooler, we continued our journey.  This was one of our favorite days of the entire trip.  We hiked up to a lava butte which was formed during the eruption of the Newberry volcano, walked with lanterns through a lava river cave, watched some amazing footage of volcanic eruptions, and wound up at the edge of Crater Lake in the early afternoon.  Walking up to the rim of the lake was a similar experience for me as the first time I walked to the rim of the Grand Canyon.  No matter how many photos you’ve seen or descriptions you’ve heard, you’re not quite prepared for the actual splendor in front of you.  The crystal clear lake is a caldera lake formed when the Mt Mazama volcano collapsed into itself.  Its sole source of water is the annual average snowfall of over 40 feet.  It is considered one of the purest bodies of water as it has no tributaries running into it.
We weren’t quite hungry when we arrived so we decided to drive around the lake which take about one hour without making any stops.  But stops you will most certainly make as the lake just takes your breath away and calls for many many clicks of the camera shutter.  We did some short hikes along the way and one awesome hike to the lake shore on the Cleetwood Cove trail.  A steep hike that descended 724 feet to the lake in a distance of 1.1 mile.   We had fun going down and my son kept telling me to hurry up because he wanted to get to the bottom and see if we could take a boat ride on the lake.  I knew of course that the rides were reserved well in advance and we didn’t stand a chance, but I didn’t want to disappoint him so I rushed.  We stayed by the crystal clear water for a while and relaxed before making the long steep climb back up.  That was not an easy feat, particularly because now our stomachs were grumbling.

Cleetwood Cove Trail

Exhausted and hungry we made it to the top and set out to find a place to have our picnic.  We found one at the rim village in a quiet spot and enjoyed our salami, brie, bread, fruit & a little wine.  I had obtained a corkscrew by then.  Having satisfied our hunger pangs we proceeded to the gift shop to buy some souvenirs, took one last look at the gorgeous, blue water and started what was to be a 4 plus hour drive to the Oregon coast to the town of Newport.
We didn’t arrive in Newport till nearly midnight.  I had lost my son to sleep hours earlier and the drive was long and tiring.  We had reservations at a Shilo Inn & Suites that was less than luxurious.  In fact it was likely the dumpiest place my son has ever stayed and he made it a point to say so as soon as we walked in.  Exact comment was “Couldn’t you find a Marriott here? this place is disgusting”  All this while half asleep.  I of course have stayed in worse places during my travels and thought it was ok.  It didn’t scream “go find another hotel” to me.  He wore his flip flops everywhere because he was afraid to step on the floor.  He pulled back the bedspread and sheets to make sure there was nothing in them.  He was funny and I realized then how much he has been spoiled at his young age of ten.
The next morning he refused to eat the Inn’s breakfast and so we made our way up the road to Georgie’s.  We loved this place.  It was a diner of sorts with a full view of the ocean.  We were seated by a window and while we were waiting for our food, we spotted several whale spouts fairly close to the shore.  It was a great way to start our day.  I had the corned beef hash with two poached eggs while my son had their pancakes and fruit.  The hash was fantastic and I polished it off in no time since we had not eaten dinner the night before.  I don’t usually comment on coffee but their coffee was so good I had more than 3 cups of it.  My son enjoyed his fluffy pancakes and finished off two large glasses of milk.  I guess we were hungry.

Haystack Rock

 We spent several hours at the Oregon Coast aquarium (my son wants to be a marine biologist someday so the aquarium was a must) and then started our drive up the coast on Highway 1.  It’s a beautiful drive that winds up through quaint seaside towns with some great vistas along the way.  Several hours later we made it to Cannon Beach, home of the famous Haystack Rock.  After spending some time walking along the beach and taking photos of Haystack, we made our way to the Wayfarer restaurant which is right along the beach.  We were early enough to get a great table on their deck so we could eat and watch the sunset.

The food at the Wayfarer was fantastic with a view to match.  We ordered a warm wild mushroom dip and Dungeness crab cocktail followed by Halibut Oscar which was topped with more Dungeness crab and a béarnaise sauce.  I had a glass of Matello Pinot Gris with my dinner which paired beautifully with not just the food but also the surroundings.  My son finished off his meal with a crème brulee which he loved so much that he wouldn’t share and I had to sneak a taste.
After dinner we took another walk on the beach as the sky grew darker.  I couldn’t help but reflect on the past few days and wish that we had more time to spend in each place.  I would particularly like to go back and stay at Crater Lake and do more of the hikes around the rim or just sit and stare at the lake.  We looked out onto the endlessness of the Pacific Ocean and turned to make our way back to the car for the 2 hour drive to our temporary home in Portland.  It had been a phenomenal few days that we are not likely to forget anytime soon.
Stay tuned for Part III through the Columbia Gorge, Mt Hood & some fantastic wineries…
Happy Travels!
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