Monday, December 31, 2012

Oregon Coast Day Trip

ecola state park
Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Oregon

My absolute favorite place on Earth is the Oregon Coast.  Growing up, my grandparents had a small vacation home in the town of Tolovana, near Cannon Beach.  We would sometimes go there on weekends and over school vacations.  I grew to love the long sandy beaches, enormous rock monoliths, and the small beach towns.  Every moment from the wet drive through the coastal range, to the cool breeze on a beach walk, to the small town bakery where I get my maple bar, takes me back to my childhood and a smile remains on my face.

It's no surprise that when I was visiting Oregon on my winter break, I asked my parents if they'd accompany me to a day at the coast.  Whether you are a Portland Oregonian looking for a spontaneous day trip or a first time Oregon visitor, this is a great way to spend a day in Oregon.

Day Trip Itinerary 

Camp 18
Sculpture outside Camp 18
We stopped at my favorite (and well known) restaurant, Camp 18, for a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, fried razor clams, and biscuits.  If you haven't been here before, you should.  It is a large log cabin style building on Sunset Highway in Elsie, Oregon that boasts hearty meals and decor fit for a lumberjack.  The restaurant is a beautiful example of rustic log cabin architecture and has a true logger/hunter motif.
We always try to get a table in the back left corner of the main room to view the many bird feeders and stream below.  The meal portion size is enormous so it might be wise to split a meal...or come with a big appetite.  Before you leave, take a stroll around the grounds and admire the river, wood carvings, and logging museum memorabilia.

Indian Beach, Tillamook Lighthouse, and a HIKE!
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
Since high tide prevented us from walking on the beach, we decided to head to Ecola State Park for a little hike.  To get there, take 101 west and take the City Center/Ecola State Park exit.  The park has a $5 day use fee to enter.  Park in the Indian Beach parking lot.  This is a great spot for photos of the rock monoliths and crashing waves.

We took the Clatsop Loop Trail which goes from the Indian Beach parking lot to the "Hiker's Camp".  Round trip the trail is 2.5 miles and is moderate to easy terrain.  Highlights of this hike include traveling through a coastal forest which is home to some of the largest Sitka spruce trees in the region.  My favorite part of the hike is the ocean side portion of the loop which takes you along Tillamook head and provides stunning views of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and Pacific Ocean.

After the hike, we rested at Indian Beach parking lot where there are picnic tables overlooking the beach.  We enjoyed our packed lunch before driving back into the town of Cannon Beach.

Maple Bar
Maple Bar at Cannon Beach Bakery
One Last Treat
A trip to Cannon Beach would not be complete without a visit to the Cannon Beach Bakery where I always get a Maple Bar*.

*To my East Coast friends- a maple bar is a donut type treat, but instead of a ring, it is shaped as a 6 inch bar and covered in maple frosting.  Mmmmm!

On the Road again
We left Cannon around 2 pm, making sure to get one last look at Haystack Rock before heading back home to Portland.

Recommendations for a winter day at the Oregon Coast:
- Bring Rain gear:  Weather is different than the valley.  You never know what it's going to be like, but it frequently is going to be windy or wet in the winter months.
- Walk:  This might be a long stroll on the beach or a hike in Ecola Park, but in order to appreciate the Oregon Coast, you need to take it slow and get into nature.
- Start traditions:  My family's traditions of stopping at Camp 18 and getting a maple bar in Cannon Beach allow me to reminisce and remember the good ol' days while continuing to have memorable experiences with those I love.  Create your own.
-Enjoy:  If you are expecting a San Diego style beach with sunbathing and calm seas, think again.  Enjoy the Oregon Coast in winter for what it is... as well as what it isn't.  This is a rugged stretch of nature that pummeled by strong waves and wet winds. Enjoy the solitude you can experience and the kiss of cold salt wind on your cheek.

I can't wait to return.

Grey Skies and Grey water of the Pacific Ocean
Grey Skies and grey water of the Pacific Ocean

Friday, December 28, 2012

Columbia River Gorge Hike

Summit of Angel's Rest
Kelly at summit of Angel's Rest Hike
Adventure:  Angel's Rest Hike

Location:  Columbia River Gorge, Bridal Veil, Oregon

Difficulty:  Moderate difficulty.  Large elevation gain but graded trail with switchbacks makes it manageable for the average hiker.

Distance: 2.3 miles one way

The Experience:

For the winter holiday, I flew to the West Coast to spend time with my family.  One day, my sister, Kelly, and I decided to go on a little adventure.  We thought about skiing or snowshoeing but both involve so much gear and up to a 2 hour drive.  Instead, I suggested my favorite pastime ... hiking.

Angel's Rest Trailhead
We headed for the famous Columbia River Gorge area.  This is well known to hikers and nature lovers.  The wide Columbia River separates Oregon from Washington and simply driving along I-84 out of Portland for 40 minutes you get glimpses of steep cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and dense forest.
View on Angels Rest Trail
Great Views along the way

On this cold northwestern day, Kelly and I decided to try a trail about 30 minutes from Portland called "Angel's Rest".  The trail can be accessed easily from the parking lot just off I-84's exit 28.  We did a 4.6 mile there and back to the top of a bluff that overlooks the Columbia River and Washington State beyond.  The hike also has the pleasure of crossing near streams, through deep forest, and has switch backs that give many peaks at the river below.

icy trail
Icy last third of the way


I highly recommend this hike to a visitor or local Oregonian.   My only recommendation is to prepare for ice as you climb to higher elevations in the winter months.  Kelly and I were able to manage without  any form of traction, but it was tricky.  MicroSpikes or Yak Traks would have been enough to keep our shoes on the icy trail.  Also, prepare for heavy winds on the summit (a common feature of the gorge).

Mountain Views
Mountain Views across the river

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend in Killington, Vermont

Long Trail, Vermont
First time on the Long Trail, VT
I drove the three hours from Kennebunkport to Killington, Vermont to spend some time with two of my best friends, Courtney and Michael.  I'd never been to Killington before.  My goals of the trip was to spend time with my friends and get outside.  Although at the time, we had not had much snow (Dec. 15-16), I brought my downhill skis in case we could go skiing at Killington Ski Resort.

I arrived Saturday morning around 10:30 am.  I dropped off my stuff with Courtney at the Econo Lodge in nearby Mendon on Rt 4.

Maine Junction - on Long Trail
It was a sunny, chilly day and Courtney and I decided to go for a little hike.  We noticed a few miles up the road the was a parking lot and a sign for the Appalachian Trail.  Without a map, we took the trail from the road and enjoyed an easy, graded trail for a few miles through hardwood forest.  We never reached a peak or good viewpoint and after a couple hours turned around and returned to the road.  I've heard rumor that the Long Trail portion of the AT is nice hiking but mostly "in the trees" as apposed to the White Mountain portion where you get frequent wide views.  Still, it was exciting to try a new portion of the AT and see the beautiful Vermont woods.

On Sunday, Courtney and I headed to the ski resort.  Tickets were $80 which was steep considering many of the trails were closed due to lack of snow.  The trails that were open were good, but crowded. A snow storm blew in starting around 10 am and continued through the day and night.  We were really grateful for the gondola which made it possible to have a comfortable ride to the top of the runs.  I would love to go back and experience Killington skiing when their runs are open and there is more snow.
Hiking with Courtney

I drove back through the storm on Sunday night.  What should have been a 3 and half hour drive ended up taking over five hours in the storm.  I got home, happy to be safe and sound with my kitties.