Sunday, March 7, 2010

Outtakes from my Oregon/Washington trip

Yes, it's been a while since I've graced these pages. Enough about that.

Ten days ago I returned from a six-day trip to the Portland, Oregon, area and Olympic National Park in Washington to the north. Here are my outtakes, thoughts and advice on Being Sacagawea for a week.

Photos, days 1-2

Portland, Oregon
• One of the coolest cities in the U.S. I've ever visited. Extremely walkable, great public transit options, slap-your-face scenery (even in the city), awesome eating, green-conscious. Except hardly anyone used umbrellas even though it was raining most of the time. This intrigued me.
• I'd never stayed in a hostel until this trip, but I received confirmation from others more seasoned than myself that the Northwest Portland hostel is a good one. It's, you know, a hostel, so don't expect Andes candies on your pillow or anything. Or non-disgusting shower curtains. I did pay the lowest rate, after all — a low-season $20 for a bed in an eight-person dorm. But the staff is very friendly, overall cleanliness isn't an issue, there are several lounge areas and kitchens, and the location can't be beat (hopelessly hip Nob Hill neighborhood, walkable to lots of stuff). If I have one piece of advice to pass along re: hostels from my one night of hosteling, it's this: Unless you sleep like the dead or own a high-end pair of earplugs, spring for a private room vs. a dorm bunk. People snore like the Second Coming.
Forest Park (it's the largest forested natural area within city limits in the U.S. and dadgum gorgeous)
Powell's Books, Skyline Restaurant (best butterscotch milkshake AND chocolate malt ever)
Pittock Mansion (didn't get to go but heard it's worth a look)
World Cup Coffee & Tea (across the street from the hostel)

Coastal Oregon
• I took U.S. Route 26 west to the coast and caught U.S. Highway 101 north. Just north of that junction is adorable Seaside, Oregon. I stopped to check out the Pacific Ocean; first time I'd seen it that far north, and first time in a long time I'd seen it at all. Misty, dramatic, gorgeous. But, had I known at the time, I might have gone out of my way a bit to the south on 101 to Cannon Beach, Oregon. And not just because that's where the La Push beach scenes in Twilight were filmed, heh heh. It apparently sports some amazing sea stacks and the scenic Ecola State Park.
C by the Sea gifts in Seaside
Pacific Way Bakery & Cafe in Gearhart

Southwest Washington
• My non-researched, drive-through observation of the difference between northwest Oregon and southwest Washington (and on up to Forks, Wa.): It seems that the towns in the SW Wa have allowed logging to solely define their existence. It would be different if a) logging didn't remove the pride-fostering visual cues of the region's best natural resource, or if b) logging created jobs that allowed families to live more than just a hair above the poverty line. But a drive around logging towns like Aberdeen and Hoquiam prove the detriment of placing all your eggs in one, big sad-making basket. You see shadows of cute-towns-that-could-be behind the code-iffy homes and boarded-up storefronts. Aberdeen and Hoquiam, for example, are located on the water (Grays Harbor, I believe). They could leverage that fact and other natural draws to bring in tourists, investors and permanent, monied residents. And where the actual logging takes place? Could the industry be any more aesthetically ham-handed? They leave the landscape looking like a mix of Beruit/shock-and-awe/Hiroshima/California-wildfire/Tank-Girl-apocolypse/Paul-Bunyun-vomits-napalm. Mountain sides either look like someone took a razor down the middle of a head of long, lustrous hair for a reverse-mohawk, or at best they look like a Disney-inspired Christmas tree farm with their eighth-growth, 20-year-old, uniform-height, perfectly-spaced trees. Visually, it's just sad, grotesque, and makes me wonder why people who would allow their surrounding natural beauty to become so unnaturally ugly. And please. Don't talk to me about the "jobs" the industry provides when your towns look like the Flint, Michigan, of the Northwest. The industry is giving you so much less to work with than what God originally provided. You're allowing the timber lobby to pick that nature gift clean in exchange for food stamp living. I don't know the exact answer. I don't exactly live in an area widely known for scenic beauty. But it's obvious that the blanaced answer isn't being lived out in southwest Washington.
Visit: Keep driving.

Photos, days 3-4

Olympic National Park
• Once you're actually IN the park proper, you don't have to worry about shaking your head into a crick like you did through all the land-rape on your way up. It's gorgeous.
• I stayed near Quinault Rain Forest. The other rain forest is the Hoh Rain Forest, which seemed to be the more well-known. I asked a couple of locals, and they both claimed that you won't miss anything by seeing one over the other. I visited the Quinault Rain Forest and was terribly, terribly pleased.
• I recommend the place I stayed, Lake Quinault Lodge, but you MUST know two things that I did not before I settled into my room: 1. There are NO telephones in the rooms. You likely will have no cell phone coverage while you're there, so this amounts to being phoneless while in your room. Be ready to leave your room and walk to the front desk if you need to speak to a lodge employee. 2. There is no wifi in the rooms, only in the lobby (which is nice: tables, comfy chairs, couches, huge fireplace). BUT: I slept in one of the king-sized fireplace rooms, close to the main lodge where the lobby is located. I got one to two bars of connection most of the time. But don't depend on that.
• The restaurant attached to the restaurant, the Roosevelt Room, is yummy but somewhat pricey. I took a Seattle Times travel story's advice and had the sweet potato pancakes for breakfast, and they were great. I didn't have dinner there, however, so I can't speak for it.
• There is no room service here. I did carry a globe of Washington red (pinot noir?) from the Roosevelt to my room for a hot bath my first night, however.
• They serve Starbucks coffee. I mention this because I was pretty astounded at the lack of Starbucks on my trip, seeing as how this was the general birthplace of the chain. It was awesome to see so many independent coffee joints and, even more numerous, drive-through coffee stands instead. I guess that's just places like Dallas where independent = scarce.
• Please eat at least one meal across the street at the Mercantile. The pizza is amazing, but they serve just about anything else you're in the mood for if not that.

West of Olympic National Park (including Forks!)
• Lake Quinault Lodge is managed by Aramark (yes, the company you most associate with Styrofoam cups and other concession-stand products), which also manages other lodges in the park, like Kalaloch Lodge (trivia: Kalaloch is pronounced "clay-lock"). It's located 33 miles northwest of Quinault and includes a main lodge and individual cabins located directly on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Take pictures in the white gazebo, but don't play too closely to the side or you'll meet your maker in a pile of drift logs.
• A few miles to the north, 101 takes you away from the coast a bit. That takes you to .... dum dum DUM! Forks, Washington!! TWIIII-LIIIIGHT!! If you like the Twilight saga, there are things to see and do here. If you don't, there's not. Warning: the Chamber of Commerce's Michael Gurling (shown here in a Today story) is enthusiastic about the Twilight-Forks connection and will tell you everything you ever or didn't want to know about the town, the books and the movies. He does know his stuff, however. Like how absolutely nothing in the Twilight movies was filmed in Forks. Not one little bitty frame. Crews came by to take a picture of the "welcome to Forks" sign, and that's it. At first I was surprised, but then it made sense. Forks, while home to many warm residents, isn't terribly photogenic (Forks scenes were filmed in Vernonia, Oregon), and then I realized that the movie version of town doesn't resemble the real thing in the least. Michael was nice enough to give me a list of Twilight scenes and where they were filmed. The majority of which? In the Portland area. Really? Well, looky looky. I had been debating in my head whether to drive up to the northwestern most tip of the continental U.S. (Neah Bay, Wa., on the Cape Flattery Trail) or just heading back to Portland for my last couple of days. Hmmm.
Visit (all in Forks)
— The Chamber of Commerce-slash-Twlight-information-center
Dazzled by Twilight memorabilia and gift shop
— JT's Sweet Stuffs for ice cream or old-fashioned candy
Forks Outfitters, where Bella worked part-time (just drive by)
— Pacific Pizza, next door
— Gathering Grounds coffee stand for a cup of Bella Selva (product not related to our Bella of Twilight fame)

Photos, days 5-6

Portland, Oregon, area
• Without knowing it, Michael from the Forks Chamber pointed me in the right direction. Not because I saw a couple of Twilight film locations, but because I would have missed out on some of the most scenic highlights of my trip: the Columbia River Gorge (with sights along the Historic Columbia River Highway) and Multnomah Falls.
• Remember the prom scene at the end of Twlight? Michael's list says it was filmed at the Columbia River Gorge Vista House. While trying to find this place, I ended up turning around in the parking lot of a View Point Inn and thought, Wow, this looks a lot like where the prom scene took place; oh well. I found Vista House and spent some time there. They both offer gorgeous views, but I found out when I returned home that prom scene did in fact take place at View Point Inn.
• I spent the most time at Multnomah Falls. Remember the baseball scene in Twilight? It was filmed on the Washington side of the gorge, and the waterfall shown in the background as Bella and Edward are walking to meet his family to play is Multnomah, which is located on the Oregonian side. It looks majestic from the highway, but you have to experience it up close. You can even hike to the very top of the falls on Larch Mountain by a 1-mile trail (warning: it's steep and doesn't feel like a mere mile). Not only is the trek worth it when you arrive at the top, but the trail itself offers stunning views of the gorge.
• While I was purchasing my Multnomah magnet, coffee mug and earrings at the ground-level gift shop, I asked the cashier if she thought the attached Multnomah Falls Lodge restaurant was worth a stop. She gave me a wide-eyed, freaked-out look and whispered, "Nooo!" I didn't ask why, but that was enough to keep me away. Too bad because the atmosphere seemed amazing. But good thing I didn't eat there because that lead me instead to dine at ....
Stone Cliff Inn in Carver, Oregon. I bumped into it while driving around, and it was a good bet. Nestled way up on a cliff overlooking the Clackamas River, it's fashioned like a log cabin, inside and out. I sat by the fireplace. I had an Oregon merlot, salmon, garlic mashed potatoes and a salad with a tomato-y vinaigrette. The waiter — no lie — looked like Jacob Black (and knew it). On my way out the door, I noticed a poster showing the "lion fell in love with the lamb/as if you could outrun me" scenes from Twilight. They were shot behind the Stone Cliff Inn's parking lot! The restaurant had set a spotlight on the big, mossy boulder that Edward crouched on. I visited another filming location, and I didn't even mean to this time ; )
— The aforementioned Vista House, View Point Inn, Multnomah Falls and Stone Cliff Inn
Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint
Carver Cafe in Damascus, Oregon, where the cafe scenes with Bella and her dad were filmed. Only open for breakfast and lunch, though. I drove by too late, but it looks adorable (and the menu, online, looks crazy-delicious).