Laurie and I just got back from ten days in Oregon on our post-Labor-day road trip. The trip totalled a bit over 2300 miles, and took us through Medford, Newport, Astoria, Portland and home via Klamath Falls. I tend to keep these trips a bit quiet ahead of time because I don’t want to make our place an easy target to those that might not realize they’d get to meet the house-sitters….
The trip took us through the Redding/Shasta area both directions; on the way up, I-5 was closed and we had to route around the burning. On the plus side, I finally got to tick Burney, California off the “must visit some day” list, but it meant about a 90 minute longer drive. The smoke was incredibly nasty starting almost 75 miles south of Redding, and we even had significant smoke when we stopped in Medford for the evening (this image is from the Black Bear Diner in Medford near sunset).
From Medford we headed to the coast; originally we were going to go up I5 and cut over to Newport, but I changed my mind and we drove out to the coast at Bandon, and then drove up. It gave me a chance to show off Bandon a bit to Laurie and we stopped off and grabbed munchies at the Face Rock creamery, which is a quite nice cheese house in the town. The more I visit that town, the more I find I’m liking it, and I really want to find time to go and spend a week or so digging into it and shooting there again, but that wasn’t part of this trip.
Our base of operations was Newport, where we stayed for three nights, at a place called the Agate Beach Motel. This is a small (ten room) motel in the style of a set of road bungalows; our room was a small one bedroom with a full kitchen and a living room, plus a covered carport. The sort of thing you’d see in the 1950s along the highways; very comfortable, the staff is awesome, and it’s my default if they have rooms available when I go looking.
The place is right on the bluff just south of Yaquina Lighthouse, with great views, and since we had a patio outside the room, we took full advantage of that as well. Much of our time in Newport was sitting and enjoying not doing anything or having to think about email or social media.
Oregon Coast Aquarium
The one place we did visit was the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which we love but hadn’t been to for a number of years. It gave me a chance to haul out the camera in the aviary for a while and talk to the staff; the Murres had a fledged chick that hatched this year, but they were still intent on keeping it safe and surrounded so I never got a clear shot of it (of course). We also checked out the rest of the exhibits, and if you’re in the neighborhood it’s a good place to spend half a day.
It’s not a huge facility, but the birds and animals are quite accessible and I was impressed with the design of their exhibits. One involved showing how underwater archaeology is done with a combination of lighting, staged exhibits and fish, and it was amazingly beautiful.
And then it was off to Astoria.
We only overnighted in Astoria, so we could focus on other things this trip. That just gave us enough time to have lunch on Long Beach (in Washington, just north of the river) and dinner at Baked Alaska, an old favorite of ours.
Oh, and stopping by Cellar on 10th and picking up a case of wine, also a regular stop of ours here. They specialize in wines of the Northwest, especially ones you aren’t likely to see elsewhere unless you visit the winery directly, and they’re always good for pointing us at interesting things we wouldn’t know to get without their help. This trip we brought home half a case of a nice Pinot Gris, and a number of other interesting things, including an Oregon port I can’t wait to try…
Okay, I confess. We did not make the pilgrimage to Powell’s this trip. I know, heresy.
We did spend a couple of nights in Portland, though, as a jumping off point to a few places; on the way in from Astoria, we headed out to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and spent some time there; it was slow for birds (the summer birds are gone, the winter birds not arrived yet) but it was made up for by multiple Muskrats wandering around, and a small group of Columbia Whitetail Deer.
We then spent the next day up at Mt. St. Helens enjoying the weather and the mountain playing with each other. On the last morning, we drove out through the Gorge to Hood River, and then south to Klamath Falls for our last night on the road.
The Columbia Gorge was a bit sad to see; part of the historic road is still closed because it’s unsafe, and the burned areas are easily visible from the main road through. It was also clear that the greenery was somewhat stressed from a dry summer, and so everything looked a bit brown and wilted and not terribly pretty. We visited on a Saturday where there were events going on so all of the lots were pretty full and there was a lot of traffic, so we ended up driving through. Multnomah looked much lower flow than I’m used to seeing, but that’s the kind of year it seems to have been.
Klamath Falls has a number of significant wildlife refuges near it, and I’ve been trying to plan a winter trip up there for a while; I figured stopping on the way home might give me some ideas and help me decide where to stay and how long I should schedule. The stop didn’t disappoint; I now have a good feel for where the various refuges are in relation with each other and that will help me plan the trip, although right now I’m thinking it won’t be this winter, either.
We visited Klamath many, many years ago — back in the early 90’s? — when our regular trips into the northwest were just starting, but haven’t been back since. In case you were wondering, you won’t see any falls here, because when they built the reservoir and flooded the lake, it ate them. But it’s a nice rural town, strong into agricultural (ranching mostly) with hunting as well; our hotel lobby was decorated with taxidermy of a number of animals and one each of every species of duck you could hunt if you came here in the winter.
But in reality, it was mostly half way home when we didn’t want to try to make the shift back from Portland to Silicon Valley in one drive. But stopping in sets up future, more substantive visits for me down the road.
And then we drove home, again using I-5, which was by then open, but that meant driving through the burned area. Still lots of smoke, and we saw stands of trees along the road literally smouldering and throwing off lots of smoke as we went by. Seeing the destruction was all quite sad, and I really feel for the locals that are having to breath that air for days and weeks; while the fire is being contained, it won’t be put out until the rains hit, and even then, there might be spots that flare up later.
Lots to talk about from this trip, but I’m still digging out at work and sorting it all out. The photos in this posting are all from the iPhone, and I’m just starting to go through my DLSR images.
Before I go, though a bit about food. I’ve mentioned a few places we like, but I wanted to mention a few more. I am thinking of putting together my guide to the Northwest where I’ll detail this more later, but if you’re ever visiting this area, a few more ideas for you: in Tillamook, of course, you have to stop at the Tillamook Cheese factory; they’ve built a new visitor center and shop, and it’s quite nice. For me, even better is the nearby Blue Heron, which is more or less “Made in Oregon” for food things, and we did a nice job of stocking up on some stuff that’s hard to get in California (like: Marionberry jams and some rather nice goat cheeses to munch on for picnic lunches). The Blue Heron was where the rain caught up to us and we finally felt like we were visiting Oregon again.
McMenamin’s is a regional chain; they have a number of restaurant/brewpubs around the state, and we often stop by the one in Lincoln City when we’re on the coast. Good beer, decent ciders, and good pub food.
In Portland we stopped by Stanford’s on Jantzen Beach for a nice steak; it may not be a trendy restaurant in a very foodie city, but for us it’s a solid and reliable stop when we’ve been on the road and don’t feel like much of an adventure.
And finally, in Klamath Falls, we saw a place near us that looked interesting and got good reviews online, so we tried it out; I’m happy to say that Nibbley’s was the find of the trip. Really nice food, very capable and friendly staff, and a dessert counter that’s hard to find these days — in Silicon valley, if I say “Max’s in its prime” you get a sense of what this place was like and what it’s dessert menu offered.
And that was a rather nice end to things. We have a refrigerator full of nice cheeses, our wine collection is a little bigger and better, and I have another bottle of the Jacobsen Salt lemon zest for my popcorn. (it’s available on Amazon, by the way, and so are their caramels, which are awesome).
Which will keep me going for a bit, until the next trip.
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