Portland & Columbia River Gorge

It’s not likely to be a surprise for me to say that Portland has a lot to offer, but considering that RVing, for us, tends to be more about getting away from city life, we were surprised by just how much we enjoyed our week in Portland’s metro area. With gorgeous views, amazing hiking, and a city overflowing with delicious food, it would be hard not to!

IMG_1101After a tip from a seasoned RVer in Cannon Beach, we chose to stay in Troutdale, on the east side of the city. In truth, the location was perfect, but I probably wouldn’t have chosen to stay there without the gentleman’s recommendation because, well, “Troutdale”??? Well that’s what I get for judging a book by it’s cover, so to speak. Troutdale’s little village was adorable and walking distance from the RV park, which was, without doubt, the nicest city-based RV park we’ve stayed in; it was far from being a parking lot and was nicely managed and maintained, and was right on the river! Furthermore, Troutdale is right in between Portland and the Colombia River Gorge on the 84, so 20 minutes in either direction and we were either enjoying the city’s offering, or hiking and gazing at waterfalls… perfecto! And I have to mention, since we spent time there every single day, Troutdale is also home to a 1000 acre off-leash dog park called… wait for it… “1000 Acres!”

IMG_6676We went on two hikes in the Colombia Gorge area. The first was from Horsetail Falls to Triple Falls, about 5 miles round trip and 3 gorgeous waterfalls to view. Overall this was a moderate hike, with some easy sections, more than a few switchbacks, and some rather harrowing sections where we had to climb (with kids) over a rock slide area. I’m a huge fan of waterfalls, so the reward ratio was perfect for me. IMG_1038At Triple Falls, Raj took Nina the last 1/10th of a mile to get ON the top of the falls, and I hung back with London to take pictures… I nearly had a heart attack though as from my vantage point it looked like they could easily fall off the cliff! Raj assures me it wasn’t so bad actually being there. Hmmm.

IMG_1096The second hike was to the Multnomah Falls, as everyone claims its a must see. Well, while I agree  the base of the falls and the view from the first bridge were worth it, the rest of the hike, and particularly the top view, was a huge let-down. It’s so popular that the crowds were annoying, there are 11 long steep switchbacks (it’s only about 2.5 miles round trip), and the view from the top pales in comparison to the view from below. Though I’m glad to have gotten the exercise, I’d recommend the Triple Falls hike first.

IMG_7200We spent time each day letting the dogs run wild and make friends at 1000 Acres, just 2.5 miles from the RV Campground. Portland is incredibly dog-friendly and we could have taken them on our hikes, but when we hike in more crowded areas and need to keep them on their leashes, it becomes a bit overwhelming combined with the kids. I always feel so guilty when we leave them behind, particularly in places where they could have joined us, but we also have to choose to simplify at times. IMG_71971000 Acres offered such a great compromise because no matter where we explored during the day without the added stress of the dogs joining us, we could then take them to the park and let them run freely and get all their pent up energy out! The place is so unique and absolutely massive, runs along the Sandy River and has views of Mt. Hood… it’s perfect! On our last visit there, however, we we got a bit lost and ended up on some rather uncomfortable paths and frustrated with the lack of signs (and with each other, too). Though we weren’t in any real danger, I started to feel claustrophobic when we found ourselves on paths that clearly hadn’t been traveled in a long time. I was very grateful that we had service on our phones and could use google maps to find our way out.

IMG_7258Our favorite evening was the night of the eclipse! We explored a different part of town, Northeast Portland, and went to Yakuza for sushi. It was a very cute area, more residential with a laid back vibe. The food was beautiful, but not the best we’ve ever had. When we left the eclipse had just started and we stood on the street with many neighbors who had come out to visit and watch together. When the kids lost interest we took them for a special dessert… ice cream at Salt & Straw! I usually resist the treats Raj and the kids indulge in, but with flavors like Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon or Pear & Blue Cheese, and ingredients that are locally sourced, organic and sustainable, I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. We weren’t alone either, at 8pm on a Tuesday night, we stood in line for half an hour to get our rather pricey cones! With toddlers. It was worth it. And… the eclipse was still happening so got to keep watching while we waited – bonus!

IMG_6693The best part about exploring the city of Portland, was that we had unexpected companions who were also our “occasional” tour guides; Tina and Debbie were in town with us again! It may sound cheesy, but it’s been such a pleasure to get to know them. We never had any expectations of forming lasting relationships on this trip – popping in and out of places isn’t exactly conducive to breaking through superficial chatter. But we have a nice connection with Tina and Debbie, good conversations, and similar interests; it’s just easy to be with them. Of course, it helps that they are both wonderful and patient with the kids, and the kids adore them right back. We feel incredibly fortunate that with all the other blessings and good luck we’ve had on this adventure, all the memories and experiences, and the incredible family bond we have nourished, we will also return home with two new friends.

IMG_1079We were supposed to go on a hike with T & D but a bit of rain moved through and we decided getting soaked didn’t sound all that appealing. Luckily T & D had the brilliant suggestion of checking out a local fish hatchery and dam. This is another one of those ideas I wouldn’t likely come to on my own, and even if I had seen it on TripAdvisor or Yelp and thrown it out to Raj, he would have scoffed. As it happened though, it was perfect! We were able to get ahead of the weather for the most part and see rainbow trout and then went into a little aquarium style viewing area and witness massive sturgeon. Raj, who isn’t an fan of things in the water with him, will never go into the Columbia River… for the record. Then at the dam we saw salmon doing their thing by going 4 floors underground where there was another aquarium style viewing area. We also listened in on the Army Corp of Engineers’ informative talk with a class of 3rd graders and learned about the salmon’s entire life cycle, which was way more interesting than I would have expected!

IMG_1082After a morning seeing fish, we were all craving fish & chips! Yes, seriously! So, we hunted down a Brewery who seemed to have them on the menu. Well, in the end they didn’t have fish & chips, but at least they had beer… and nachos… AND Cards Against Humanity (it’s a game, in case you haven’t heard of it). We sat around with our flights of beer, sampling several but enjoying few unfortunately, and laughed our butts off. As an added bonus, it was located in the shadow of the Bridge of the Gods, which was mentioned in Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild (Reese Witherspoon), so we snapped an obligatory picture.

IMG_1085Every Saturday at Porland State University there is a massive Farmer’s Market. I love farmer’s markets! Any farmers market makes me happy. But this one was spectacular.They had the obvious fruits and vegetables, freshly cut flowers and the yummy baked breads, but they also had kombuchas, soups, pasture-raised meats, farm-fresh eggs, local honey, curries, cheeses, coffee, salamis and pates… it went on and on! IMG_7225I was able to get everything we needed for the week and didn’t have to go into a grocery store at all (if on one side of the spectrum farmer’s markets make me giddy, typical grocery stores on the other end depress me – i don’t know why – something about everything being all lined up, and nothing being fresh enough). T & D got their groceries too and we ate crepes and tamales for lunch on the green in the middle of the fun.

IMG_7229Luckly we had brought coolers with us so we could drop our goodies in our cars and then go walk-a-bouts downtown. We balanced all our healthful choices at the market with insane hot chocolate from Cacao and Blue Star Donuts. Mostly though we just wondered and enjoyed how walkable the city is and what a beautiful day we had there. To finish off our great day, D and I put together a beautiful charcuterie platter for our dinner. Noshing on brie, pate, strawberries, olives, salami, nuts and bread and washing it down with red wine, is easily in my top 5 favorite meals.

IMG_7266T & D offered us an amazing treat our last day in Portland. They babysat the kids for a few hours so Raj and I could just “go somewhere.” Though I stressed a bit about how fussy the kids were with us that morning, they convinced me to chill out and go. We didn’t really know what to do with ourselves so we found a Mexican restaurant with a patio, sat outside drinking massive chili-infused margaritas and then took Lucy to a car wash! Yeah, we are out of practice in the date department, but the short break was much needed.

Before heading back to the coast to finish up our tour of Oregon’s beaches, we once again said goodbye to our friends. We won’t likely see them again on this trip, but luckily they live in Kentucky, so when we are all home again, we can take another trip to see them. In the meantime, we can follow each other’s adventures!

Troutland/Sandy River RV Resort: 4.5 Stars – the village is so cute and walking distance from the campgrounds – perfect location halfway between gorge and Portland and a 1000 acre dog park 2 miles away. Great wifi, lots of tv channels (even HBO), nice staff, nicely maintained – on the river and close to 84. Only negatives for us were no firepits and no playground. Would definitely stay here again to visit Portland and all its offerings.

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