Day 53 (7/23/14): Portland, OR | Vancouver, WA
It was still raining today, but I was feeling better and wasn’t going to let the rain get in my way. I was determined to get some donuts! For those of you who know me, you’re aware that I have a slight infatuation with donuts. Okay, okay… truth be told, I’m intensely passionate about donuts and am completely obsessed with them. Justin and I had seen Voodoo Doughnuts featured in an episode about donuts on the Travel Channel back in Albuquerque, NM and knew we had to visit the donut shop when we made it to Portland.
First thing this morning, we headed straight to Voodoo Doughnuts in downtown Portland where we waited in line in the rain for about 20 minutes. As we were waiting, we wondered if the line was similar to amusement park lines where you get inside only to realize that the line actually wraps around a dozen more times before you get to the front. Luckily that wasn’t the case though. The wait went by fairly fast as I was entertained by the fun, glittery exterior walls.
Once inside, you’re greeted by the funky interior décor of the shop and a colorful rainbow of donut delicacies. Next thing you know, you’re at the front of the line and are overwhelmed by all the choices and variations of cake and doughy deliciousness. You really can’t go wrong though, each donut has it’s own charm. Even though I’ve had better, cheaper donuts, it was still a fun experience to eat a Voodoo Doll doughnut and a Maple Blazer Blunt doughnut.
After indulging in sweet, delicious fried dough goodness, we took a day trip across the bridge over the Columbia River into Vancouver, WA. We were considering living in Vancouver as it’s still extremely close to Portland (less than 10 miles), but the housing is considerably cheaper. Also, Washington has no state income tax, whereas Oregon has no sales tax. So if you live and work in Washington, but make your purchases in Oregon, you get the best of both worlds by not having to pay state income tax or sales tax. Score!
Once we crossed state lines into Washington, we headed to the Nordstrom in Vancouver. We like to see where the Nordstroms are located in different places, as those seem to be the best areas. So far, it’s proven to be a pretty good rule of thumb, as have the locations of Whole Foods. However, after seeing both the Nordstrom and the nearest Whole Foods, we decided that Vancouver is not what we’re looking for in our next place to settle down. We’d really like to find a place that’s charming with eclectic shops and restaurants. While Vancouver had a lot of convenient chain restaurants and stores, it was a little too basic and cookie-cutter for us.
Day 54 (7/24/14): Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, WA | Portland, OR | Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, OR
We chose today to visit Mount St. Helens, which ended up not being the best decision. The past few days had been rainy and overcast, and today was no different, which apparently is not the best time to view the volcano. We drove nearly 2 hours from our campground outside of Portland through Washington to the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of Highway 504 to view Mount St. Helens, only to discover that clouds were completely blocking it, making the volcano impossible to see. Such a disappointment! After waiting about half an hour in the cold rain to see if the clouds would clear, we finally gave up. We still saw some nice views along the way though. A friendly tip, if you’re planning on seeing any mountains, such as Mount St. Helens, be sure to check the weather report for rain and clouds.
Even though the drive to and from Mount St. Helens had already made it a long day, we didn’t want the day to be a complete waste. We headed back towards Portland and took a detour to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Our first stop was Wahkeena Falls. While we enjoyed the lovely waterfall streaming through the trees, it didn’t even compare to our next stop in the gorge: the historic and magnificently picturesque Multnomah Falls. As the tallest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah Falls consists of impressive upper falls and a lower falls cascading a total of approximately 620 feet behind the Benson Footbridge, making for quite an impressive scene.
As gorgeous as the falls were though, I was expecting them to be more “natural,” but they’re actually quite touristy and very crowded at the base. There’s a parking lot, gift shop, restaurant, snack bar and restrooms, nice restrooms at that (then again, at this point, I consider any restrooms with toilet seat covers to be “nice” as they seem to be hard to come by on our travels). Lending to the tourism are soda cups, water bottles and other trash strewn at the viewing point below the bridge along with coins tossed in the pool of water. As irritating as that is though, the waterfalls and bridge are still a beautiful must-see.
Next, we made a quick stop at Latourell Falls where we caught a glimpse of the steep and narrow waterfall. Our final stop in the Columbia River Gorge was the Vista House. The surrounding panoramic views of the Columbia River from the observatory were absolutely stunning! This was the perfect end to our day as well as our visit to the gorge.
Day 55 (7/25/14): Mount Rainier National Park, WA | Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, WA | Portland, OR | Columbia River Gorge
We were planning on seeing Mount Rainier today, and as luck would have it, the rain finally let up! With it being a clear, sunny day, we also decided to take our chances with trying to see Mount St. Helens again since it’s only about 95 miles away from Mount Rainier. We were bound and determined to catch a clear glimpse of Mount St. Helens! We did our homework this time though and found out that the afternoons are usually the best time to see Mount St. Helens as there tend to be more clouds in the morning. Therefore, we headed to Mount Rainier National Park first. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t have much time at the National Park since it took about 2.5 hours to get there, and we knew it would then take probably another 2 hours to get to Mount St. Helens. We were kicking ourselves for not staying closer to properly explore the areas, but some time is better than no time! Am I right? RVing is our favorite way to explore the National Parks! You can RV to National Parks too with a National Park RV Rental. Give it a try!
While heading up to the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at Narada Falls. You can see the top of the falls from the parking lot. There’s also a bridge you can walk over for a nice viewpoint of the waterfall. But to get the best view of the falls and truly be able to appreciate them, you absolutely must take the short walk down the nearby trail. Seeing the waterfall from below gives you a completely different and absolutely breath-taking view! Narada Falls is the most stunning waterfall I’ve seen yet! The width of it alone is impressive, but there was also a vibrant rainbow at the base of the falls. The rainbow was a huge bonus to the already gorgeous waterfall, but the combination two made for one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen! Absolutely amazing!
We continued our drive and were treated to a divine scent of fresh, crisp mountain air mixed with the fragrances of pure white snow, colorful wildflowers and dense forest trees. By the time we reached Paradise, clouds had started rolling in and obscuring the view of Mount Rainier, but we were still able to catch some impressive glimpses of blue ridges of ice and snow along the mountain. The rugged texture was fascinating. Since the clouds wouldn’t let us fully appreciate Mount Rainier, we left the park and headed back to Mount St. Helens.
When we reached the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of the highway, the view of the volcano was better than the rainy day before, but there were still some clouds in the way. However, we noticed that the clouds were moving, so we decided to stick around a little while and see if the view got any better. Luckily, the longer we waited, the more the clouds dissipated until there was only a thin strip remaining, giving us a pretty good view of the volcano (especially considering that we couldn’t see any of it yesterday). Definitely worth the wait!
It was about an hour before sunset, which was the perfect time to be there! The observatory was closed, and the crowds were gone. We were 2 of maybe 6 people there appreciating the volcano. With no chatty tourists around, it was eerily quiet and serene looking out at the sheer magnitude of the remaining mountain and vast valley below with its lava flow trenches.
Looking at the leftover crater and lava dome inside encircled by a glacier, it was interesting to imagine what the mountain and surrounding forests looked like before the volcano erupted. It was also fascinating to look at the missing wall on the volcano and imagine the lava flowing down the valley creating the current grooves in the landscape. Also, looking at the fallen trees in the area, you gained an appreciation for the force of the blast from the eruption and how powerful it must have been.
Day 56 (7/26/14): Portland, OR
For our last day in Portland, we started off at the Portland Farmers Market in downtown at Portland State University. First of all, downtown Portland is great! Plus, we only had to circle around once to find nearby street parking. As we entered the market, we enjoyed live music, the aroma of various foods being cooked and the colorful display of fresh produce. I love farmers markets, people coming together to sell items they’ve grown or made with their local community supporting them. After perusing all of the vendors’ tents and their goods, we decided on an egg sandwich with bacon from Bingo! Sandwiches for a late breakfast. Good choice! We enjoyed the combination of thick bacon and pickled jalapenos (extremely messy but worth it).
After exploring more of the downtown area, we checked out the suburb of Beaverton, OR just 7 miles west of downtown Portland. We drove by Nike headquarters and through some neighborhoods. Again we were surprised at the amount of traffic! I think perhaps Portland doesn’t have the transportation infrastructure to support the growth they’ve experienced over the years. Unfortunately, traffic could be a deal-breaker for us when it comes to Portland.
We wanted to check out the diverse Alberta Street one last time before leaving Portland and ended our day there, walking up and down the funky street. It’s such a hip, edgy area with so much to offer – restaurants, bars, food trucks, live music, coffee/tea, cafes, bakeries, yoga, clothing stores, lofts, you name it, you can probably find it there. The surrounding neighborhood is older and slightly run down but still charming. Alberta Street is definitely a place to visit while in the Portland area!
For an appetizer, we grabbed some donuts from Tonalli’s Donuts and Cream (I told you I’m obsessed with donuts…haha!). The blueberry cake donut was mind-blowingly moist and delicious. It crushed all of the Voodoo Doughnuts! We then had dinner at Bunk Sandwiches, another Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurant that also happened to be on Alberta Street (like Pine State Biscuits which we already tried). Justin had the Pork Belly Cubano, and I had the Roast Beef. Both were super tasty!
For dessert, we had to get more Salt & Straw ice cream since it would be our last opportunity to have some, but the line was even longer than the time before! Luckily though we were able to skip the line by just buying pints of our favorite flavors rather than getting scoops. If you know what flavor(s) you want, that’s definitely the way to go! 🙂