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Two-Year Anniversary Trip to Oregon

posted Sep 28, 2013, 1:15 PM by Justin P   [ updated Mar 15, 2014, 5:57 PM ]

We woke up quite early Saturday morning to begin our weeklong trip to Oregon to celebrate our two-year anniversary.  We flew from RDU to Chicago O’Hare to PDX.  Although the flights were mostly on time, surprising for United, it was a little slow getting the rental car.  By about 130 in the afternoon Pacific Time, we finally were off.  After a long flight, we had a long drive to Crater Lake National Park.  We left Portland taking I-5 south to Eugene and taking OR-58 east through Willamette National Forest.   The drive along the interstate was much like every other interstate, but once we got off and starting driving through the forest, the drive became a lot more scenic as we drove through the Willamette Valley.  Along this road, we stopped at a Subway near Oakridge and got a couple foot-long subs, eating half and saving the other half for our lunch tomorrow on Wizard Island.  The lady at the motel we were staying at warned us that the Crater Lake area in general has limited options for buying food and of course there’s nothing besides a dock, boat house, and pit toilets on the island itself.  So the second halves of our sandwiches would make a nice lunch.  Continuing on through the forest, we made the stop for Salt Creek Falls.  I just can't drive past a waterfall without stopping.  Salt Creek Falls is the second highest waterfall in Oregon at 286 feet.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot time to stop and really explore much; a longer trail led to Diamond Creek Falls and Falls Creek Falls, but it was getting late and we didn't have time to go for a long hike.  Salt Creek Falls, however, was spectacular and definitely worth the stop and $5 parking fee.  It was a very short hike on a paved trail from the parking area to main viewing area.  When we first got there, I looked around and didn’t see it at first.  Then I got past some rocks and vegetation and turned to my left and WOW, that’s a huge waterfall, almost 300 feet.  And although it’s the dry season in Oregon, the water was still flowing quite well.  We got some pictures and enjoyed the view for a few minutes, but we had to continue on and make it to the motel at a reasonable time.  We got back on OR-58 and drove the rest of the way to US-97 and took that south towards Fort Klamath and our hotel just outside Crater Lake, Aspen Inn.  We were staying in a cute A-frame  “honeymoon” cabin.  The cabin was small and had few amenities (and was really cold), but really cute and comfortable enough.  I wasn’t able to get lodging within the park, so this would have to do.  After checking in, we unpacked a few things, took a shower and went straight to bed.  We had been up for almost 24 hours, flew across the country, drove across the state, and had to wake up early for our tour of Crater Lake in the morning.  I can't remember the last time I slept so well.

We got up early and left for Crater Lake National Park at about 7, right when the office opened so Sandy could get some coffee.  From the hotel, it was only ten minutes to the park and maybe 30 minutes or so to the rim.  We needed to be at the parking lot no later than 9 to be down to the docks by 930.  But we had quite a bit of time, so we made a few scenic stops along the way.  We followed the West Rim Drive and stopped at at an overlook right near the Rim Village.  There were really nice views of the lake and our first views of Wizard Island that we would be seeing up close shortly.  We also saw a mother deer and three fawns on the steep slope below the rim.  She kept an eye on us but knew we wouldn't easily be able to get down to her and her kids.  Our next stop was Watchman Overlook, just west of Wizard Island.

The overlook is just below Watchman Peak, where there is still an old fire lookout.  Besides the lake, we had great views of the rim and some of the surrounding mountains, including Llao Rock and Hillman Peak.  Just before reaching the parking area for Cleetwood Cove, we stopped at the overlook near Pumice Point.  We stopped for a few more pictures and then parked at the parking area and got ready for our boat tour and Wizard Island hike.  After checking in, we made the  hike down Cleetwood Cove Trail.  This is the only trail that allows access to the lake from the rim.  Although it’s steep, the trail is well graded and switchbacks reduce the slope a bit.  The weather was fantastic and the lake was absolutely beautiful as we hiked down towards the crystal blue water.  Going back up after our tour, however, would be quite a bit more strenuous, but certainly worth the fantastic tour.

Once we got to the bottom, we checked in again and boarded the boat and soon we were off on Crater Lake.  Ranger Dave accompanied our tour for this leg and provided some interesting information about the history and geology of this fascinating lake.  We passed Pumice Point, Llao Rock, and Devil’s Backbone, all beautiful rock formations between the rim and the lake, as the boat circled the perimeter of the lake in the counter-clockwise direction.  And like many of the features in the park, the names were derived from mythological sources.  Llao was the Klamath god of the underworld, whose battle with the sky god Skell caused the eruption of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake. 

After about 30 minutes, we docked at Wizard Island and departed the boat.  They have pit toilets at the boat house on the island and asked the visitors use these rather than going off trail, so once we had done that, we started hiking up the Wizard Summit Trail.  This is a fairly steep trail, gaining about 750 feet in a mile.  But I barely noticed the heavy breathing; the views from the trail were breathtaking and I was stopping frequently to take pictures.  The trail switchbacks a few times as it goes up to the summit of Wizard Island and then makes a loop around the crater at the summit.  This 90-foot crater is called Witch’s Cauldron, keeping with the mythology-themed names of the park.  We stopped and had lunch up here, enjoying the amazing panoramic views of the lake.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of pesky yellow jackets flying around up here and trying to get our food, but at least they weren’t aggressive and didn’t seem to be stinging.  In fact, there were a lot of these yellow jackets in the park, which kind of surprised me.  We also saw some cute little squirrels – quite a few of them live on the island.  Initially, we thought they were chipmunks, but a ranger later told us that they are actually golden-mantled ground squirrels.  Along the rim of the crater, there were a lot of spooky-looking dead trees that had been killed by dwarf mistletoe, a parasitic plant.  Hiking back down to the bottom, we took the Fumarole Bay Trail, which runs along western shore of the island to Fumarle Bay.  It was a very rocky trail and made for some fun hiking.  When we reached the bay, it was very difficult to follow the trail and the boat would be picking us up soon, so we stopped a bit to enjoy the looking at the beautiful water.  A few people on the tour had gone swimming, but it was way too cold for us.  Just looking at the water was enough for me.  It was a beautiful turquoise, a color we hadn’t seen since our honeymoon in Bora Bora.

After a bit we headed back to the dock and got ready for the rest of our tour.  A couple of young ladies were on the boat tour, but had not gotten off at the island.  They worked as biologists for the National Park Service and had been living in the park over the summer for research.  Yesterday had been their last working day and they wanted to take advantage of the boat tour before leaving.  From the boat dock, we continued in the counterclockwise direction around the lake towards Chaski Bay.  Our ranger for the last part of the tour was Ranger Mike.  Approaching Chaski Bay, we could see the lodge high up on the rim and also got to see Chaski Falls, a waterfall that flows directly into the lake.  This waterfall is only viewable from a boat.  At the far end of the bay, we came to Phantom Ship, another volcanic island rising from the lake.  Resembling a sailboat, it’s much smaller than Wizard Island and you can’t get off at the island.  From the rim, it doesn’t look very big, but viewed up close from the boat, it’s quite large.  This is a view that most people who visit the park will never get.  The boat made a complete circle around Phantom Ship so we could view it from every angle.  At some angles it really looked like a ship, at other angles not so much.  After making a complete loop around, we continued on.

The next thing we saw was Pumice Castle.  Bright orange pumice along the crater has been eroded away into the shape of a castle.  Against the grey and green of most of the caldera, the bright orange of Pumice Castle really stood out.  Shortly past Pumice Castle, we passed Palisades, a colorful cliff face that was yellow.

Soon, we were finishing the tour and made it back to the boat dock.  Crater Lake is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the boat tour provides the best way to see the lake up close.  It’s only run for a limited time during the summer and I’m so happy we managed to get in on the last day it was offered in 2013.  Ranger Mike had told us that the waters of Crater Lake are so pure and clean, we could drink the water untreated.  Since I was running low on water and the hike back up would be strenuous, I stopped to fill my water bottles before leaving the dock.  The cold lake water indeed tasted very good, much better than the tap water from the motel.  We chatted with the NPS biologists along the hike back up and it didn’t seem too bad at all, and then said our goodbyes when we reached the parking lot.  A large number of yellow jackets were swarming near the front of our car, apparently eating the dead bugs off the grill, but again they weren’t aggressive and never stung us.  We continued driving along the East Rim Drive stopping at the overlooks for pictures.  First, we hit Cloudcap Overlook, the drive to which is the highest paved road in Oregon.  This overlook provides views west across the lake and we could see Phantom Ship in the distance.  I found it amazing how different the island looks from the rim, so small.  Then we stopped at Pumice Castle Overlook to see the “castle” from above and then Phantom Shop Overlook.

Although this overlook is a little closer, the island still looked so small compared to how it looked from boat a few hours earlier.  From Phantom Ship Overlook, we drove down Pinnacles Road, stopping first at the trailhead to Plaikni Falls.  The trail is relatively new, having opened in 2011, and is an easy 1-mile hike to the waterfall.  The hike was very nice, running through beautiful old-growth forests and more open areas approaching the falls.  Although it’s not a huge waterfall, Plaikni Falls is in a very beautiful setting.  It is completely fed by snowmelt, so I imagine it would be more impressive earlier in the year.  After a few pictures, we headed back to the car and followed Pinnacles Road to the end at Pinnacles Overlook.

The Pinnacles are really cool fossil fumaroles, where volcanic gases and rose up through ash and formed erosion-resistant rock in the form of spires.  We viewed the Pinnacles from the overlook and then hiked the short trail to see a few more along the gorge until reaching the park boundary.  The trail continues into Winema National Forest, but it was getting late so we hiked back to the car.

We got back on the Rim Drive and stopped for one more waterfall, Vidae Falls, as we finished up the loop.  This is an easy roadside waterfall.  Vidae Falls is about a hundred feet of cascades, but being in the dry season, the flow was pretty low.  After a couple pictures, we finished up the Rim Drive and started heading out of the park, stopping at Mazama Village for the gift shop and restaurant.  We bought a couple of t-shirts and a picture of Crater Lake and then had dinner at the Annie Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop.  By the time we finished, it was after dark and we were both exhausted, so we made the drive back to the motel, took showers, and went to bed.

We woke up at about 630 in the morning and it was cold yet again.  It turns out the windows in the upstairs loft that we could not access appeared to be open.  But with some warm blankets and sharing body heat, we managed to stay warm enough.  We packed all our stuff up, checked out of the hotel and made our way north via US-97 towards Bend.  After the long drive on Saturday and the limited number of gas stations in this part of Oregon, we stopped and got gas along the way.  It was full service, apparently common in Oregon, though I haven’t had someone else pump my gas for me in more than a decade.  When we had nearly reached Bend, we turned off the highway at the Cottonwood Road exit and drove to Lava River Cave, part of Newberry National Volcanic  Monument in Deschutes National Forest.  Lava River Cave is the longest lava tube in the state of Oregon, allowing visitors to hike about a mile through the cave.  After parking, we paid the entrance fee to the Forest Service and headed into the cave with our camping headlamps for illumination.

After getting into the darkness where no more sunlight was present, we realized the headlamps weren’t that great.  We could see directly in front of us, but were missing out on seeing most of the cave itself.  So we ran back to the visitor center and rented a lantern.  With the lantern we could see a lot more of the cave, so it was definitely worth the $5.  With our lantern, we descended the stairs into the darkness through huge piles of boulders and rocks.  After a short bit, the cave opened up into a huge chamber.  Although it was dark, the lantern provided enough light to see the tunnel and ceiling high above.  We were even able to get a few pictures in here using the lantern and flash. 

Past here, we entered the Two Tube Tunnel, where there are actually two lava channels as the cave goes under US-97 and beyond that was the Sand Garden.  This area of the cave is fenced off to protect it from damage.  Sand, carried into the cave by water, was dispersed over the ground forming small piles.  Towards the end, the cave gets more narrow and shorter and I needed to duck down a bit to get to the end.  At one point, it continued further, but signs indicated we had to stop and turn around.  Honestly, I didn’t mind not going any further as it would have required crawling – I’m a little too claustrophobic for that.  So we turned around and hiked back out of the cave and returned our lantern to the visitor center.  Definitely a worthwhile investment so we could get the most out of our caving adventure.

From there we headed into Bend and stopped for lunch at Baldy’s Barbeque to try and see how the west coast BBQ stacked up and it was really good.  We both had pulled pork sandwiches trying their regular and hot & spicy sauces and we both enjoyed them  I had mine on a jalapeno cheddar roll and it was very good.  When we finished, we drove west out of Bend on Skyliners Drive into Deschutes National Forest to the Tumalo Falls Day Use Area to hit up some more waterfalls.  Tumalo Falls, a beautiful roughly 100-foot waterfall, is right there at the parking area with a overlook just beyond the pay station.  From here, the falls itself is a good distance away, but straight line of sight up the creek provides great view.  It was about a quarter-mile hike up to the overlook at the top of the falls, with some good views on the hike up of the side of the falls.

We continued on the North Fork Trail heading upstream along Tumalo Creek as there are several more waterfalls along this stretch.  And the trail itself was very scenic stretch of evergreen forest along a ridge above the creek.  After about a mile, we came to Double Falls, two waterfalls in one.  The upper portion is a 25-foot cascading veil followed by a 30-foot drop with some smaller cascades.  There is a rock outcrop, close to a hundred feet above the creek, just off the trail that provided great views of the falls. 

Just past Double Falls, we found Upper Tumalo Falls.  There is some discrepancy in the naming of these falls and whether they’re considered two separate waterfalls or just one.  But since you can’t see both at the same time, I’m considering it a separate waterfall.  Upper Tumalo Falls is actually a triple waterfall consisting of two 30-foot cascades, both of which split into multiple streams as the water cascades over the rocks, and then a smaller cascade below.  Depending on where you viewed the falls from, the lowest section may or may not be visible.  In the pool at the base of the middle section, there was a log floating in the water that was caught in a vortex and swirling around and around and around. 

We stopped here for a bit to take some pictures, and then started hiking back on the North Fork Trail.  When we were almost back to the trailhead, we turned onto the Bridge Creek Trail.  This trail runs through the municipal watershed for the city of Bend and we needed to fill out a permit to hike in the area.  Additionally, dogs, bikes, and camping are prohibited in the area to protect the watershed.  The trail runs through a scenic stretch of mixed conifer forest as it follows its namesake creek upstream.  Shortly into the hike, there was a small unnamed (as far as I can tell) waterfall along the creek.  But I was certain it was not the main waterfall as it was too small and the hike too short.  It was about a mile to Bridge Creek Falls another scenic waterfall, maybe 30 feet in height. 

The waterfall is mostly a freefall with a big log across the bottom.  It was a little more tricky to get shots of this one though - I had to climb around a bit to find the best angle.  When we were finished, we hiked back to car and made our way to our hotel for the night – Pine Ridge Inn along the Deschutes River in Bend.  We were both very impressed with room.  It was very clean, well-decorated, and spacious.  We had a gas fireplace and nice outside patio.

After settling in, we made the short drive across town to Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint in the middle of town.  It’s not often you find a volcano within the city limits, but Pilot Butte is just that.  We had planned to hike up the mountain and watch the sunset, but it was getting a little late and we had a bit of trouble finding the parking area for hiking.  So, we just drove up the top and got some beautiful pictures of the sun going down over the Three Sisters and Mount Bachelor.  In the distance, we could also see Mount Jefferson and even Mount Hood further off.  That was where we would be heading tomorrow. 

As the sun went down and it started to get dark, we headed back to the hotel.  We were still kind of full from lunch, but wanted to try out one of the breweries that Bend is famous for.  And just our luck, Cascade Lakes Brewing Company Lodge is just across the street from our hotel, so we didn’t have to worry about driving.  We headed over there and had some drinks along with their crab and artichoke dip.  It was very good and I really liked the Cyclops IPA.  After a couple drinks, we headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

Today was our two-year anniversary and we left Bend and headed to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to celebrate.  We had a very nice breakfast at the hotel and then checked out and started making our way north.  From Bend, we took US-97 north and then US-26 W into Mount Hood National Forest.  Ironically, we had great views of the mountain for most of the drive until we got into the forest, at which point the trees blocked our view.  As we got closer to the mountain, we took OR-35 N and got off at the exit for Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort.  There wasn’t much snow, so the skiing area was closed.  We parked just before the entrance on the side of the road at the trailhead for Umbrella Falls Trail (667).  It was only a quarter mile to Umbrella Falls, a nice 60-foot waterfall with a veil over the bedrock.

There was a footbridge crossing over the creek just below the falls and provided a good spot for pictures.  We stopped for a few minutes and then continued another quarter mile to the intersection with Sahalie Falls Trail (667C).  From here, it was about a mile to the next waterfall.  The hike was very pleasant, gradually heading downhill through the forest and along a ridgeline above East Fork Hood River.  As we got close to the road (OR-35), we were able to see the falls, but not well.  A very steep unofficial trail led down to the base of the falls and we carefully headed down this trail.  Once at the small area at the base of the waterfall, we stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the beautiful views in this secluded little area within earshot of the highway.  Sunlight hitting the waterfall created a waterfall at the base.

After eating lunch and taking some pictures, we made the challenging hike back up to the ridgeline.  Just before the highway was another smaller road with a bridge that was under construction.  I imagine that you could see the waterfall from here, but certainly the best views were from the base.  And since it was under construction, the steep trail to the base was the only way to view the falls.  We hiked back along the ridgeline to Umbrella Falls Trail and back to the road.  Sahalie Falls Trail makes a 4-mile loop with Umbrella Falls Trail, but we needed to continue on so took the shorter up and back route.  Back at the car, we could see Mount Hood just in front of us.  The summit was only partially covered in clouds and we took this opportunity to get some pictures of the beautiful mountain.  Good thing, as it turned out this would be the only time we would see the peak.  We got back in the car and made the short drive over to Timberline Lodge where we would be spending our anniversary.  They had advertised a special where guests who stay on weekdays in the off-season get a complimentary dinner for two at the Cascade Dining Room – perfect for a nice anniversary dinner.  I had mentioned that we were celebrating our anniversary to the staff in an email and the front desk staff wished us a happy anniversary when we checked in and upgraded us to a fireplace room.  They also left a nice card and a bottle of wine in our room.

When we were settled into our room, we made dinner reservations for 730 and of course, I had to go on a hike.  Sandy joined me, although she may have regretted that decision.  We hiked the Mountaineer Trail, a challenging three-mile loop with some significant elevation gain.  The trail starts off mostly flat, heading west from the lodge.  They were doing some construction, so we actually started on the Pacific Crest Trail, until intersecting the Mountaineer Trail, which just goes up and up, gaining about 1000 feet in a mile.  It was cold enough that even with the strenuous hiking, we weren’t getting sweaty.  But extremely strong winds made the hiking a bit treacherous.  At times we could see up to the ski lifts and Silcox Hut, where the trail turns and heads back down.  And there were times where the clouds rolled in and we could barely see 10 feet in front of us.  I was hoping for some nice views of the mountain from the trail as it rose above the tree line, but it was so cloudy, we really couldn’t see anything.  I’m glad I managed to get that shot of the mountain from the Mount Hood Meadows.  After several stops we made it the Silcox Hut and stopped for a break.  But within moments, it started snowing!  We decided it would be best to hurry back to the lodge and followed a CAT groomer trail down.  It was very steep, but that kept us going quickly.  As we approached the timberline, the snow changed to rain, a very cold rain at that, and we ran most of the rest of the way back to the lodge.  By the time we got back, we were drenched and freezing.  We got back to our room, changed into dry clothes, and almost immediately built a fire.  Luckily, the hotel has a washer and dryer so we could dry our wet clothes.  After taking hot showers, it was about time for dinner at the Cascade Dining Room.  We split a bottle of Timberline Riesling and I had the chicken and dumplings and Sandy had a steak.  The food was great, the service was great, and it was mostly on the house (we had to pay for the wine and gratuity).  What a great way to celebrate our anniversary!  After dinner, we considered the hot tub, but it was outside and it was still raining, so we warmed up a bit in the sauna and then went to bed.

In the morning, we had breakfast at the Cascade Dining Room.  It was not complimentary, we had to pay, but it was probably one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve ever had.  The make-your-own Belgian waffles with all sorts of fruity toppings and whipped cream were amazing.  I had one and it was so good, I had to go back for another.  After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and made our way to the Columbia River Gorge.  Leaving the hotel, we saw a couple of very nice roadside waterfalls on Timberline Drive before reaching US-26.  I’m sure the recent rain made these more impressive than usual. 

From US-26, we took OR-35 north towards Hood River.  Although it had still been raining when we left the lodge, the weather was nice once we got down a bit in elevation.  Near Hood River, we actually had much better views of Mount Hood and we could also see Mount Adams across the river in Washington State.  In Hood River, we got on I-84 west took exit 37 to get on the Historic Columbia River Highway.  Our first stop was John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor at the east end of the gorge.  Here was the trailhead for our first waterfall – Elowah Falls.  The trail to the falls is just under a mile through a beautiful forest.  The vegetation was so dense, it seemed like hiking through a rainforest, albeit with pleasant temperatures and humidity.  The trail gradually rises up to a ridge, and then descends via switchbacks down to McCord Creek near the base of the waterfall.  Sandy saw a couple smaller cascades and asked if this was a “baby waterfall”.  I didn’t think so and we continued on the waterfall.  At over 200 feet, it is anything but a baby.  The water flows over beautiful cliffs colored a bridge-yellow green from lichen and down a narrow freefall of 213 feet, with a nice foot bridge crossing over the base.  We stopped for a while and took some pictures, but couldn’t spend too much time as there were many more to go.  McCord Falls, just upstream of Elowah, is also here, but it would be another couple of miles to view the falls, so we had to pass on this one.

Leaving John B. Yeon and heading west on the highway, we entered Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and soon were at the stop for our next waterfalls.  We parked at the lot for Horsetail Falls, which can easily be seen from the road.  This 200-foot waterfall is absolutely beautiful, but the area can get crowded due its ease of viewing.  It is immediately clear where the waterfall got its name as the water takes the shape of horse’s tail is plunges down the cliff.

While most people are content to stop and see Horsetail, I knew there were more waterfalls in the area, so we hiked up the Horsetail Falls Trail (438) a short ways up to Gorge Trail (400).  It was a little steep getting up there, but the scenery was amazing.  We found a tree with a giant hole in the base, big enough for Sandy to crawl into.  And occasional breaks in the foliage allowed wonderful views of the Columbia River Gorge from the trail.  Shortly, we made it to Ponytail Falls, also called Upper Horsetail Falls.  Although this waterfall is much smaller than the one just downstream of it, it’s in a great setting.  The water plunges down from an overhang and the trail leads under the falls through a grotto allowing me to get some pictures looking out from behind the waterfall.

Continuing on for about a mile, we came to an old bridge at Middle Oneonta Falls.  This is a smaller waterfall on Oneonta Creek.  We had initially planned on continuing and hiking up to Triple Falls, but we decided to turn back as we just had too many waterfalls to do in one day.

On the way back, we saw an enormous slug on the trail.  At first I thought that someone failed to clean up after their dog, until I realized it was moving and had antennae.  We also stopped again at Ponytail Falls and climbed around on the rocks at the base, trying to find a spot to photograph the entire waterfall, including the upper portion above the cliff, but we couldn’t find one.  Back at the car, I stopped for just a moment to enjoy Horsetail Falls once more and then we continued on, stopping at Oneonta Gorge.  We hiked a little bit into the very narrow gorge and saw some people coming back from the waterfalls that are deeper in.  They were soaked and had to wade chest deep to get to the waterfalls.  I thought that given the dry conditions it might be easier to get through the gorge, but no such luck.  We weren’t prepared to get that wet, so we just headed back to the car.  Our next stop was Multnomah Falls.  With two drops totaling more than 600 feet, this waterfall is amazing.  Perhaps the hardest part of photographing it is getting far enough away to see the entire thing.

Unfortunately, with its fame and ease of access, the area around the falls was incredibly crowded.  We stopped for pictures at the lower viewing area to see both the lower and upper drops and then while Sandy got something to eat, I ran up to the Benson Bridge and got a few more pictures before continuing on.  Next, we headed to Wahkeena Falls, a Yakima Indian word meaning most beautiful.  It was short hike up to the waterfall, which was indeed very beautiful and had a very interesting shape, resembling a necktie.  In all, the waterfall drops quite a big height through a series of cascades and horsetail-drops, but like many of the waterfalls here, it was not possible to get the entire thing in one shot.

We continued on to Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint.  A short hike down from the parking area leads to great views of this 120-foot waterfall that is actually just under the Historic Columbia River Highway.  At certain angles, we could see the bridge just over the waterfall, but there is no safe way to see the it from the highway as the road is narrow with no sidewalks.  The waterfall has two tiers and the trail ends with a nice wooden overlook.  There is also a short spur that leads to the base of the falls with an enormous rock right at edge of the basin.

When we were done here, we continued on to Shepperd’s Dell State Natural Area.  This was probably the least impressive waterfall of the day, but worth the stop.  The waterfall itself has a very interesting hourglass shape.  From the parking area, there is a very short trail that provides views of the waterfall.  It is more a series of cascades, but viewing them is difficult due to vegetation in the way.  Like Bridal Veil Falls, Shepperd’s Dell runs right under the highway, and the bridge over the canyon was very pretty.  This was planned to be our last waterfall of the day and we continued west on the highway as we made our way to Astoria.

But shortly past Shepperd’s Dell, we saw a sign for Guy W. Talbot State Park and from the road we could see a huge waterfall.  No way we couldn’t stop at this one, so we parked and made the short hike over to see Latourell Falls.  This huge 250-foot waterfall plunges over beautiful basalt cliffs that have bright patches of yellow lichen adorning the cliff face.  And we pretty much had this waterfall to ourselves.  At first, we thought we were the only ones here, until we saw a guy in the water under the bridge taking photos.   By stopping at this last waterfall, we managed to hit nine in one day!  Not bad for a day’s work.

We got back in the car just as a tour bus was pulling in and I was glad we had missed the crowd.  We went a short ways further and made one more stop, although not for a waterfall.  We pulled into Vista House at Crown Point State Scenic Corridor.  From here, we had  wonderful views up and down the Columbia River Gorge, particularly by heading up to the balcony on the upper floor of Vista House.  The views from here were fantastic and it was great to see gorge from a good overlook as most of the time we spent here was in dense forest hunting for waterfalls and not seeing much else.

When we were done here, we got back on I-85 towards Portland and took I-205 to I-5 in Washington State.  Leaving Oregon, I saw a sign saying “come back soon” and thought to myself, we should be back in less than an hour!  In the town of Longview, we crossed back into Oregon and took US-30 to Astoria.  We checked into our hotel for the night, Hotel Elliott in downtown Astoria.  It was pretty nice place, although we didn’t stay for long.  Sandy loved the heated stone floor in the bathroom to keep her feet warm after taking a bath.  Once we checked into the hotel, we walked to Plaza Jalisco for Mexican for dinner and then headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Thursday morning, we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel.  One nice amenity in this hotel is their rooftop garden.  Had we gotten in before sunset last night, it would have been a great spot to watch the sun go down.  But we missed the sunset, so before checking out, we headed up there and got some nice pictures of Astoria and the river from the roof.

After that, we checked out and moved our car to a public parking lot and explored Astoria a bit by foot.  First, we walked down to the river and took a stroll along the riverwalk.  We headed down as far as the Columbia River Maritime Museum before heading back.  Sandy wanted to get some shopping in, so we stopped at a few of the antique stores and picked up a small Egyptian plaque to hang on the wall when we got home.  Might as well take advantage of Oregon's sales tax-free shopping.  A cruise ship was in port, so everything was very busy in Astoria.  We also walked by the Flavel House Museum and got some pictures from the outside, although we didn’t have time to go in, as well as the adjacent court house.  When Sandy was done shopping, we stopped by a Safeway grocery store to get some sandwiches for lunch and fill up gas in the car when we heard some very loud barking.  But it wasn’t someone’s dog, it was sea lions!  We headed over to the Port of Astoria parking lot and went to the shore to see the sea lions lying out on a dock.  There was one dock that we could walk out on to get a little closer, but unfortunately, we were still a good distance away.  Although we couldn’t see them well, we could certainly hear them.  I used a 200-mm lens to get some decent shots of them and then we got ready to leave Astoria.

After all the waterfall madness yesterday in the Columbia River Gorge, I felt compelled to check online if there were any waterfalls near Astoria.  And sure enough, I found directions to Youngs River Falls, conveniently located between Astoria and Cannon Beach.  From Astoria, we took Business 101 south across the bridge over Youngs River and then turned left onto Youngs River Road.  After about 7.5 miles, we turned onto Youngs River Falls Road, immediately after a rock quarry, and parked at the end of this road.  We hiked down to the falls, which are a very pretty 50-foot drop over a big rock wall. 

While we were taking pictures, we heard some splashing around in the water just downstream of the falls.  It was pretty big and I thought maybe it was a beaver or otter, but it turned out to be salmon spawning.  That was really exciting; I had never seen them before.  So we climbed out on the rocks into the very shallow water and watched in awe as these huge fish navigated upstream in such shallow water.  Looking around, we saw a couple dead salmon and some eggs in the water, which looked like small orange balls.  A local man we were talking to told us that when he was a kid, he would come out here and hunt for salmon with a pitchfork.  After watching the salmon for a while, we headed back to the car and made our way to Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rock.

We parked at Tolovana Beach State Recreation Area, which provides free access to the beach and is only a mile or so from Haystack Rock.  After changing into shorts and flip-flops and applying sunscreen, we started walking down the beach towards the rock.  The walk was close to a mile, but Haystack Rock is so big, it seems a lot closer than it is.  We stopped about halfway down the beach to eat lunch and then continued on.  We were very lucky that the tide was going out when we were there.  The Pacific water is very cold and we never got more than calf-deep.  But since the tide was going out, we were able to get all the way up to the rock, as far as we were allowed to go. 

I was hoping to see some puffins, but a ranger told me that they had migrated and wouldn’t be back until the spring.  We did see some cormorants and many gulls nesting along the high walls of the sea stack.  But the most exciting things here were the colorful ochre starfish and giant green anemones that live in the tidal pools around Haystack Rock.  These were some of the most beautiful starfish I have ever seen.  They are huge and beautiful in shades of purple, orange, and red.  We also saw several kelp crabs, hermit crabs, and some small fish.  We spent quite a bit of time exploring through all the tidal pools and taking lots of pictures.

After a while, however, my feet were starting to get numb from the frigid water, so we hiked back to the parking lot.  It was time to head to our last destination – Portland.  It should have been about a 2-hour drive taking US-26 east towards the city and most of the drive was pleasant.  But when we actually got to the city limits, the traffic was terrible.  It took us over an hour just to get across Portland to our hotel – Staybridge Suites by the airport.  We finally got there just after sunset and were ready to be done driving.  We parked the car, checked into the hotel, and walked across the street to a little Chinese place.  After dinner, Sandy took a bath and I took advantage of the hot tub before heading to bed.

It was our last day in Oregon and I was a little sad that our lovely vacation was coming to an end.  But we had one more day of fun ahead of us.  After the horrible drive through Portland yesterday, we did not want to get back in the car, so the hotel shuttle took us to the Cascades metro stop.  There were some issues with the fare machines, so a nice transit security officer told us to ride the train to the Gateway transit center and purchase our fares there.  So we did that and after purchasing our fares, we chatted with him while waiting for the next train to arrive.  We mentioned we were heading to the zoo and he told us that they had a baby elephant on exhibit, so we were real excited about that.  We followed the red line to Washington Park, which is right outside the zoo.  After purchasing tickets, we started off in the Great Northwest section, seeing mountain goats, black bears, cougars, bald eagles, and other critters native to the Pacific Northwest region.  Sandy was concerned on this trip that we might run into a bear while hiking to see waterfalls.  Well, we didn’t see any bears on all our hiking adventures, but we did get to see quite a few at zoo.  And from here, we could get good close-up pictures without the risks of coming across a bear in the wild. 

Next, we went to the Pacific Shores area and saw the sea lions, otters, penguins, and polar bears.  With the cool weather, the polar bears were particularly active.  One bear was playing with a big plastic barrel.  He was trying to bite it, but couldn’t get it because it was round.  So he pushed on it with his front paws to make a wrinkle that he could bite and show that barrel who’s boss.

The tigers and leopards were sleeping and we couldn’t see them well, so we headed to the Lorikeet Landing exhibit.  I really enjoyed this exhibit.  It’s an enclosed area where the birds are free to fly around, although they were spending most of their time eating cantaloupe and other melons.  I never realized how beautiful these birds are, with the most fantastic rainbow colors.  They weren't scared of people walking through their exhibits at all - they weren't really interested at all in us, just the corn and fruit they were eating.  A few times, though, they would look up and pose for a picture.

Then we headed to the Africa area, seeing monkeys, fruit bats, flamingos, crocodiles, giraffes, and hippos.  We walked through the Vollum Aviary to see more beautiful exotic birds and then went through the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit.  Here we saw some lions, cheetahs, and cervals.

Then we headed to the Asian Elephants exhibit.  This exhibit was under construction and they are building more habitat for the elephants.  I was happy to hear this as it seemed like the elephants didn’t have enough space to be happy.  But they did have the most adorable little baby elephant.  He was frolicking about pestering the adults with the biggest grin on his face.  He would run around and grab the tail of one of the adults with his trunk and then run away with an enormous smile.

We finished up by heading through the Fragile Forests exhibit, seeing the orangutans, chimpanzees, mandrills, and howler monkeys.  As we were leaving the zoo, it started to sprinkle a bit, but never really started to rain.  We wanted to head over to the International Rose Test Garden and waited for the bus.  After it didn’t come for a while, I checked the sign and apparently it doesn’t run on weekdays after Labor Day.  So we made the mile or so hike through Washington Park to the garden.  What a beautiful garden!  With literally thousands of rose bushes in nearly every color of the rainbow, it was truly spectacular.  Even in the light drizzle, we spent a while walking up and down the rows, checking out all the beautiful roses.

When we finished, we headed back to the metro stop and boarded the red line train back towards the airport.  A very nice lady was sitting across from us on the train and we had a nice time chatting with her on the ride back.  We got off at the Cascade station and had dinner, before calling the hotel to shuttle us back.  Tonight, Sandy and I both took advantage of the hot tub to relax before having to fly back home.