Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Hipster Pilgrimage

I'd been feeling a little stir-crazy lately so I decided to hop in the car and get out of dodge for some well-deserved (I think) R&R. Since starting my big boy job in May I haven't accumulated an awful lot of vacation time, so I wanted to go somewhere relatively inexpensive, nearby and somewhere I had never been before. Plus, I've been watching a lot of Grimm lately and thus, headed myself to Portland.

Portland, or the "City of Roses," has a really cool vibe to it. Its 2.26 million residents make it the 23rd largest metropolitan area in the United States (thanks Wikipedia) and yet it preserves the mellow, kitschy feel of a much smaller town. It's also very mossy, which is cool, and in October the humidity is manageable, if not pleasant.

Our hotel was right downtown (score) so we didn't have to drive in and out every day, which made the whole place seem that much smaller, not completely unlike downtown SLC.

The city is actually surprisingly dark. Not in a sketchy, look-over-your-shoulder way like Queens or Brooklyn, but in a quiet, take-your-time-you-got-plenty way that, again, makes the city seem smaller than it actually is. Downtown is incredibly walkable, with a lot of great landmarks like VooDoo Doughnut, Powell's Bookstore and a bridge (seemingly) at every block. My only complaint would be that it's kind of hard to find a place to eat, which was made all the more frustrating by my iPhone charger shorting out the first night, leaving me in a perpetual digital darkness. The above photo is at a cool bar we found for dinner on the first night. They make a mean bacon bleu burger and they pipe in the audio from concerts at a venue upstairs.

I had gone to Portland with only four specific activities in mind: buy a book at Powell's, eat a VooDoo doughnut, check out Imagine Dragons at the Roseland Theater and explore the Columbia River Gorge. Since three of those could be handled in a single evening we spent our first day driving along the Oregon coast, stopping at a few eye-popping vistas and quaint (read: affluent) seaside towns.
The Oregon coast is exactly as gorgeous as it is described but I was surprised at how much beach there was. You hear about it being nothing but cliff faces and rocks but at least for the portion of Highway 101 that we drove, it's a happy medium of both stone and sand, which makes for some pretty stunning scenery. The rock formations also seem to just appear out of nowhere (see top photograph) like Stonehenge.

Day 2 was the city day, which began with a morning of exploring Washington and Forest Parks. If you've never been to Portland, Washington Park is the "Central Park" equivalent, except it's much more forest-y and mountainous. It's actually quite amazing, just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown and you're in this dark, lush, rain-forest-esque network of trails. It made for a great morning jog and (also unlike NYC) you hardly ever run into anyone else at all and not ONCE did I have to run around a crime scene or people taking bridal photos. (The first time I ever visited Central Park I jogged past a taped-off scene with a body in a bag. No biggie.)

The Park is also home to the international rose test garden, which is a great place for a quick stroll...if you're into that sort of thing.

Day three was the Gorge, which in hindsight or as a tip for future trips I would have liked to spend more time exploring. In a stretch of just a few miles there's slot canyons, cliff-side vistas and, most notably, freaking awesome waterfalls.

The picture above is Multnomah Falls, the Gorge's most famous. The picture didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped but you can imagine how cool it is in person. We were there in the October which means the water was at low flow and to give you an idea of the size, those two blue blobs on the bridge in the photograph are people's rain-poncho'd heads. If I wanted a good shot I would have needed to get there at like the crack of dawn for a) the light and b) not having people in frame. Oh well.

This one is Horsetail Falls (or Ponytail, I'm still not sure which is which). It's not particularly big but it's always fun when you get to walk behind a waterfall. I took a gabillion shots before I finally found one that I liked. Normally I don't like to blur water but I think it gives this shot a cool ethereal look, especially juxtaposed with the touch of sunlight on the right side. ANYWAY...

We found this slot canyon right when we were leaving which is too bad. I'll need to go back someday and really explore it. The water comes to a giant log-jamb which is cool to climb around on and, I imagine, would be fun to swim around in if it ever got warm enough in the spring or summer. Then again, it's a canyon in Portland that gets little sunlight so its probably always violently cold. In my earlier years I would've jumped in. Sigh, youth is wasted on the young.

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