Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Washington, Oregon - Day 4: Columbia River Gorge

Once again we woke up to dark and overcast skies with a pretty hard rain falling.  We joined the commuters making their trek across Portland heading for Interstate 84 on the east side of town.  After getting on I-84 we drove west along the Columbia River until we reached the town of Troutdale where got off onto the Old Columbia River Highway.  Even though the rain continued, it was a beautiful drive through hilly, forested countryside.  Unfortunately at about the 10 mile point the road was closed and we were forced back onto I-84.  Several miles later we were able to get back on the Old Columbia River Highway and continue our scenic journey.
Even though it was very rainy, it was still a beautiful drive.

Along this drive there were many waterfalls the first of which was Latourell Falls.  Not letting the rain stop us, we donned our rain gear and got out to view and photograph the falls.

Latourell Falls in the distance.

There were many falls along the route, but most required some hiking to get to and it was too wet for us to take any but the shortest hikes.  Our next stop were the most spectacular and well know falls, Multnomah Falls.  They fall 542 feet in a single plunge and then drops another 70 feet.  There is a bridge across the gorge part way up that was built in 1914.  After having the road to ourselves for most of the morning, there were quite a few people at the falls considering the weather.

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls
The upper part of Multnomah Falls from the bridge.
From there it was on to Horsetail Falls, our last falls of the day.

Val in front of Horsetail Falls.
Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls

By the time we finished at Horsetail Falls, we were getting pretty wet and decided to stop early in the town of Hood River on the Columbia River.  We drove to the end of the Old Columbia River Highway, got back on I-84 and by mid afternoon we were in Hood River and in our hotel room.  It was right on the river so we had a great view of the Columbia from our room.  After a late lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon updating this blog and planning tomorrow's itinerary.  Even though the weather hasn't been the best, this has been a great trip so far.  It is always interesting to see things not in the bright sunshine; the clouds and rain gave a whole new perspective and beauty to areas we traveled through.

The view of the Columbia River from our hotel room.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Washington, Oregon - Day 3: Silver Falls State Park

When we got up this morning it was dark, overcast and raining, not a good start.  Our plan today was to visit Oregon's Silver Falls State Park and then head up to Portland where we would me with Val's niece Hillary, her husband Jason and their three kids, Avery, Anderson and Ella.

Because of the weather, we got a bit of a late start as we headed off to Silver Falls.  It was a beautiful drive through the countryside enhanced by the fall color.  Along the way we saw several vineyards and many Christmas tree farms.  By the time we reached the park, the rain had stopped but the cloud cover remained.  That was actually a good thing as bright sunlight is not the best weather for photographing waterfalls.  Silver Falls State Park consists of a series of ten waterfalls some of which are accessible by short trails and other by longer hikes.  The area is like a rain forest with dense foliage and lots of water everywhere.  Also enhancing the beauty of the area was the wide variety of fall colors in many of the trees and bushes.

Our first stop was North Falls overlook, a 136 foot waterfall.  

North Falls from the overlook.
Some fall color at the overlook
More fall color.
Next we drove on to the North Falls trailhead and hiked down to the falls.

North Falls
 The North Falls trail actually goes around behind the falls offering an unusual view.
North Falls from behind.

After returning to the trailhead we took the short walk to the Upper North Falls.

Upper North Falls.
 The next falls we visited was South Falls.

South Falls had a paved trail.
South Falls.

By the time we finished at South Falls it was mid afternoon so we decided it was time to head for Portland.  The first part of our drive was through more beautiful country side and picturesque country towns and then it was back on I-5 and into Portland.  After checking into our hotel and getting cleaned up it was time to head over to Jason and Hillary's home where we were going to meet before going to dinner.  They have a beautiful home in the western part of Portland near Beaverton.  After visiting a bit, it was off to dinner at the Rock Creek Tavern.  It was out in the country, had great food and as a bonus, some great live music.  It's in a very rustic old building that had been restored and included some very interesting art along with very old timber and barn-like architecture.  I highly recommend it.  We had a wonderful time with Hillary, Jason, Avery, Anderson and Ella, they're a great family.  Once again, at the end of the evening, it was hard to say good-bye.

Washington, Oregon - Days 1 and 2: On the Road

 Day 1
We were on the road and heading north by 9 AM and had a very easy drive as there was little traffic on Interstate 5 and not many trucks.  We stopped for the night in Red Bluff and after a mediocre Mexican dinner at a nearby restaurant we called it a day.

Day 2
We left Red Bluff under sunny skies and had a nice drive up through Redding and the mountains surrounding Mt. Shasta.  Mt. Shasta dominates the view as you drive and it stands out above everything else.

Mt. Shasta from Interstate 5
Mt. Shasta

As we came down out of the mountains and passed through Weed, the weather began to change.  It became foggy and then as we crossed into Oregon, it began to cloud up and we had light drizzle.  It continued to drizzle as we headed north towards Salem, Oregon (our destination for the night) but we managed to avoid the rain until we arrived in Salem.  

Val's ex-sister-in-law Penny, her husband Nate and their family live in Salem, as well as Val's nephew Garrett.  Penny and Nate invited us to dinner in their beautiful home. The whole family was there including Val's niece Hillary and her family who live in Portland, Penny and Nate's two children and their spouses, and Garrett. There were 14 of us in all and we had a fantastic dinner and good conversation with everyone.  Penny and Nate are great hosts and we had such a good time visiting we hated to leave.  It was a long day, but a great ending.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Washington, Oregon - We're Heading North

October 27th -- We are heading north for our last trip of the year.  We will be visiting Washington and Oregon with most of our time spent in Washington.  Along the way we'll be visiting Val's niece, nephew, sister-in-law and their families, and one or two of my former work colleagues. 

This trip is a bit of a gamble weather-wise as late fall is not the ideal time to visit the Northwest, but we're hoping to be able to travel without the summer crowds and maybe catch some fall color.  It's been a dry summer and fall up north and so far all the mountain passes that might normally be closed are still open.  We are not averse to some rain as sometimes it is interesting to see things in other ways than just sunshine.  We have no set plan for this trip so we can be very flexible and if the weather is bad in one place we can go find better weather.

I should be able to keep this updated very regularly so we'll see you on the road.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Aunt Judy Visits Tahoe

The day after we returned from our Idaho trip, my aunt Judy arrived.  A week earlier she and her friend Elon had traveled from Michigan on the Amtrak Southwest Chief to Los Angeles.  Elon was attending a class reunion and staying with friends in (I believe) Costa Mesa and Judy stayed with my brother Doug and his wife Janis in Granada Hills.  She spent the week visiting with Doug, Janis, their daughters Becky and Mandy, and my parents (my mother is Judy's sister).

After her visit in Granada Hills she took the Amtrak Surfliner to San Luis Obispo where we met her.  My aunt Judy has always been more of a cousin or sister to me than an aunt as she is only a few years older than me.  We always have a good time together so Val and I were looking forward to her visit.

Dave, Val and Judy at Novo's in San Luis Obispo for lunch.
After a few day of visiting and catching up, it was off to Lake Tahoe.  Originally Judy had planned to take the train up to Sacremento to meet up with Elon (who had traveled north to visit relatives) and take the Amtrak California Zephyr back to Michigan, but since she had never been to Lake Tahoe, we came up with a better idea.  We would drive up to Placerville, CA, pick up Elon who was staying there with relatives, and then drive on up to Lake Tahoe for a couple of days and then put them on the train in Truckee, CA which is just north of Lake Tahoe.

As usual we were staying at Harrah's which is next to the lake right on the California / Nevada border.  We arrived in late afternoon, got checked in and settled and then met Judy and Elon in the casino for a little pre dinner gambling.  Harrah's was sold out for the weekend so it was very busy and noisy in the casino and Judy seemed a little overwhelmed; I think she had expected a quiet lakeside retreat.  We had a good Mexican dinner at the Cabo Wabo Restaurant across the street at Harvey's and then it was showtime.  As part of the weekend, we had gotten a pair of comped tickets to see Penn and Teller which we gave to Judy and Elon.  They said the show was very good and they both got their picture taken with Teller after the show, here's Judy.

Judy and Teller of Penn and Teller.
We all slept late the next morning and didn't do much of anything until lunch.  Here are Judy and Elon next to the waterfall in the American River Cafe in Harrah's.

Judy and Elon at lunch.
After lunch we had made reservations for a lake cruise on the Tahoe Queen which was a paddle wheel boat that was actually propelled by the paddle wheels.  It was a beautiful afternoon with warm, mild temperatures and perfect weather.  Here are some pictures of our lake cruise.

The marina with the Tahoe Queen.
Elon, Val and Judy before boarding with the Tahoe Queen in the background.
A beautiful day on Lake Tahoe.
Judy and Dave as we get underway.

Harrah's and Harvey's among the trees.  There's a reason they won't allow any more large hotels to be built.
Judy enjoying the day.
Judy again.
Emerald Bay.
Leaving Emerald Bay.
Perfect clouds added to the beauty of the day.
After our cruise it was back to the hotel for a little rest and free time before dinner where Elon's aunt and her friend John would be joining us.  We ate at the buffet which is on the 18th floor with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.  It was a good dinner with good company and we all had a great time.  This was Judy's and Elon's last evening in Tahoe as their train leaves tomorrow from Truckee.

We left for Truckee mid morning so we would have enough time to visit the Donner Emigrant Trail Museum in Donner State Park, but things didn't work out as planned.  We decided to drive to Truckee on the west side of the lake because we thought it would be more scenic, but what we didn't know was that the road was closed about halfway up due to a marathon being run.  So we turned around and retraced our route and started up the east side of the lake wasting about 45 minutes.  This wasn't the last of our missteps; despite driving this road many times, Val and I both missed the turnoff to North Lake Tahoe and ended up on Highway 50 headed for the Carson Valley.  Now it should have been an easy thing to just turn around and get going north again, but unfortunately, there are no places to turn around until you get all the way to Carson Valley.  Another 45 minutes lost.  

After our comedy of errors, we finally made it to Truckee where we no longer had time to visit the museum, but we did have time to have lunch and walk around and look at the shops.  The area around the Truckee train station is the old part of town so there were lots of places to eat and interesting shops.

Elon, Judy and Val having some ice cream for dessert at the old soda fountain.
Judy and Elon in the station waiting for the train.
Judy and Elon made it on the train without problem and we were on our way back to South Lake Tahoe (without all the mishaps this time).  Val and I decided to stay and extra day so we didn't leave until Tuesday.  As always, we had a great time in Tahoe, you couldn't have asked for better weather especially when you consider there was a heat wave going on at home with temperatures over 100 degrees.  

One note here; for some reason I was fascinated with the mirrors in the elevators at Harrah's.  When you stood on one side all you could see was your head and feet which I thought looked odd so every time I was in the elevator (alone) I tried to take pictures.  Here's one of many.

Dave's elevator self portrait.
We really enjoyed Judy's visit and meeting Elon, they were both a lot of fun to be with and we all had a great time.  When we came back from New Orleans on the train a couple of years ago, we had a layover in Chicago and after a seeing a little of the city in the short time we had, we decided we would like to spend more time there and see the sights of the city.  Judy, Val and I agreed it would be fun to meet in Chicago and see it together.  We haven't set a date yet, but I definitely think it's going to happen; see you in Chicago Judy.