Friday, March 1, 2013

Mini-Vacation: Visiting, Hiking & Camping in Oregon

Last week was David's Spring Break from school, so we headed down to Oregon to visit our friends in Portland and do some camping/hiking out in the desert.

On Valentine's Day we left Vancouver after I got out of work, stopped at Red Robin along the way for a *romantic* little V-Day din, and arrived at our Portland hotel around 10:30ish.

drive from vancouver to portland

After I put in a workday from the hotel room on Friday we went out to dinner at Grain & Gristle with our friends Simon and Emily. I had their burger, which was deeee-lish, and my dinner companions enjoyed their $2 craft beers. [There was one total "Portland moment" when our server was describing a ridiculously terrible-sounding, served-at-room-temperature beer with oysters and truffles in it that made us all chuckle.] We dinner-capped next door at the bar Tiga, where I boldly ordered a virgin Shirley Temple, continuing my tradition of doing what I want.

On Saturday morning Dave and I went to the Prescott Cafe for breakfast - this was on Simon's recommendation because he knows that Dave and I can be slightly turned off by the over-the-top, exaggerated menu items at many of the "typical Portland" breakfast places. I don't need a softly poached egg served with braised pork belly and plum sauce on top of a bed of shaved kale (is that even a thing?). I just want some over-medium eggs and bacon. Turns out that Prescott Cafe is exactly the kind of down-home place that I like to go to for breakfast... the food there just happened to suck, unforch. Ya win some, ya lose some.

After breakfast we scooped up Simon and went out to do some adventure gear shopping at Next Adventure and REI. As a Valentine's Day present, David got me an AWESOME new soft-shell jacket, which I got a ton of use out of over the next few days. #holla

On Saturday evening, we dropped Simon off at work (at Valentine's, which is apparently the place to be, y'all) and then headed to Target for a massive haul because it's so much cheaper to buy our basics in Oregon than it is to buy them in Vancouver. We bought sooo much awesome stuff like canned tomatoes and black beans and pasta and peanut butter. So much peanut butter.

Also while in Portland, doughnuts were definitely on the agenda. Me boo and I both have definite sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) and when we first moved to Portland in January 2012, we went a little overboard with buying doughnuts several times a week. The habit cooled off eventually but never died completely. Everyone hypes up Portland's Voodoo Doughnut, and while I do enjoy their doughnuts, the place is really more of a tourist trap than a necessity. I might have gone there if the line wasn't literally down the street when we drove past it. But why wait for that when you can just get Tonalli's anytime of the day, with hardly any wait at all??

tonalli's doughnuts portland
.  get ya donut noms on, ladies!  .
Tonalli's was our go-to doughnut place while we lived in Portland - especially since it was sort of on our street... I mean, what's a mere half hour walk when delicious doughnuts are at the other end of it? So on Saturday after our Target trip, we headed to Tonalli's and then took our doughnuts over to our friend Doug's house to visit with him, drinking tea and getting our laugh on for a couple of hours before heading back to our hotel.

On Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel early and headed over to Simon's house to scoop him up again. From Sunday morning to Wednesday morning, we'd be adventurrrring!

Our big plan was to drive east/southeast from Portland to the desert to see what we could see of the John Day fossil beds (which had been on my list of "things to see in Oregon" for almost a year), and then southwest from there to Smith Rock State Park to camp and hike for a couple of days.

drive from portland to john day to smith rock

Here are some of my favorite pics from our drive to the desert on Sunday...  Definitely click on all of the images below to see their larger versions!

hills in oregon desert

wind turbines oregon desert
.  the A is a reflection in the glass from my UMASS t-shirt.
i don't want to talk about why this window doesn't roll down  .

oregon desert

abandoned house oregon desert

The fossil beds have different sites, so we chose to drive to the Painted Hills... because doesn't that sound like a cool thing to see? Well they were:

painted hills john day fossil beds

painted hills john day fossil beds

There was a bit of excitement when we nearly ran out of gas as we were making our way to/from the bowels of the Painted Hills. The fact that none of us had service or even any battery left in our cell phones was a nice touch to this challenge, especially since we were basically out in the middle of nowhere. We eventually cleared that hurdle, finding a gas station in the nick of time.  Dave ended up needing to put 14.93 gallons of gas into his 15-gallon tank. Eesh. #closecall

From there we headed south to Smith Rock State Park, where we had plans to camp at a Bivouac Camping Area - meaning that you'd park your car in the parking lot and then bring your camping gear from there out into basically an open field intended for random tenting. In the darkness we could barely tell who else was staying in the field and had to use our head-lamps to locate a place to set up our own tents. Did I mention that there were no open fires allowed at the site? Because there weren't.

We set up our tents in the darkness, unable to see our surroundings at all. I knew that when we woke up in the morning we'd be surrounded by some pretty sweet shit... 

... And we were: 

smith rock

Ooh. La. La. Geology!! Nature! State parks!

smith rock

And deer! 

deer at smith rock bivouac campground

deer at smith rock bivouac campground

On Monday we made a luxurious breakfast of eggs and bacon at the picnic area of the campground and set out for a late morning/early afternoon hike to check out the enormous and stunning rock that was surrounding us. Dave had gone rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park several times before, but this was the first time that Simon or I had seen the place. I was surprised to realize that it was all basically one huge continuous rock formation, rather than lots of separate rock formations like I think I'd expected. #Duh #ItsNotCalledSmithRockS

There were a ton of people rock climbing all over the rock that day, which for me was a bit insane to see. Tiny figures scattered across a dominating, sheer rock wall, hundreds of feet in the air, trying their best to pretend that it was totally normal for them to be doing so. A real trip, for a non-climber like myself.

rock climbers on smith rock

We walked along in front of one side of the rock before beginning to make our way up and around it, via a switchback-filled trail called the Misery Ridge Trail. Here's a view of the switchbacks, as seen from a totally different area of the park:

misery ridge trail, smith rock state park
.  switchbacks in the lower left  .
And here it is from the top, looking down at it:

misery ridge trail, smith rock state park

This ascent kicked my ass, for some reason. It was steep, but it was short. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath, and I wasn't even hiking quickly. Once we made it to the top of this part of the trail, however, it was mostly just fun adventuring from there.

hiking around smith rock
.  boys and rock  .
hiking around smith rock
.  simon and i.... and rock  .
hiking around smith rock
.  views on views on views  .
After our hike we were a little beat and the weather was getting a bit chilly. So what did we do? Well we went to go see A Good Day to Die Hard. Because nothing says, "You're on vacation!" like Bruce Willis and binge-eating Reeses Pieces.

We decided that night that we'd leave Smith Rock the next morning (Tuesday) - rather than Wednesday morning as we'd originally planned - because it was starting to get pretty freaking cold and without being able to have a nice roaring fire at our campsite, that was slightly less appealing. No matter - we had a secondary adventure planned in no time: We'd head out to the Oregon coast to try to snag a yurt at Cape Lookout Campground in Tillamook, OR. A yurt is a cabin-esque structure with canvas walls, bunks, and - most importantly - heat. Basically like a hotel, when you're used to camping in a tent. 

We woke up early on Tuesday morning, shook the snow out of the inside of our tent (condensation from our breath froze on the tent walls during the night) and immediately started making some coffee to keep us warm while we broke down our camp and packed up the car. We had a long drive ahead of us to get to the Oregon coast!

drive from smith rock to oregon coast

We arrived at Cape Lookout Campground late afternoon and picked out a yurt from the remaining available:

yurt at cape lookout campground
.  zee castle  .
The campground is right next to the beach so after we'd unpacked our stuff from the car we walked over to enjoy the waves 'n sand 'n stuff for a bit. 

cape lookout

I tried to avoid being roped into their "homerun derby with a plastic bat and ball in the raging seaside wind" game, but alas, this happened:
cape lookout
.  definitely a swing and a miss  .
cape lookout
.  dave and simon  .
I literally didn't hit the ball once, but I swung at it many, many times before finally announcing that this was "no fun" and running off to take more pics.

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out at our yurt around our fire, making different versions of delicious camping food (grilled ham and cheeses, fire-roasted hot dogs, s'mores made with Reese's new peanut butter candy bars in place of the standard Hershey bar... #campingheaven) and trying to scare away the five or six raccoons that were very carefully scoping out our campsite all night long.

raccoons at cape lookout campground
.  rascals  .
I love camping in tents - I've been doing it my entire life - but I gotta say... the yurt was prettttttty nice to sleep in. We could even hear the ocean all night long, right from our beds. It was a perfect way to spend the last night of our vacation. 

On Wednesday morning we packed up and it was back to Portland to drop Simon off at his apartment before Dave and I had to drive home to Vancouver. Friends, geology, adventures, pictures, lots of eggs 'n bacon, sleeping bags, mix CDs and 1300+ miles. Not a bad time!

Tonallis Doughnuts & Cream on Urbanspoon Prescott Cafe on Urbanspoon Grain & Gristle on Urbanspoon


  1. the painted hills are awesome. sounds like a fun adventure!

  2. Sounds like it was fabulous! I've always wanted to visit Portland, I heard it's an amazing city!
    Isn’t That Charming.

  3. Emily I know we don't actually know each other, but I think you definitely would like to spend some time in Portland haha! I hope you can make it there sometime! So much vintage shopping, donuts, cheap food... and no sales tax!

  4. cool pictures!

  5. This trip sounds/looks so fun! Gorgeous photos, the one of that deer is especially cool. I can't wait until it gets warmer so I can go hiking and camping! So fun.

  6. My favorite dates are ones spent out in nature! Thanks for sharing (visiting from Kelly's Korner).

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