Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: Portland

September 29, 2014
Walking along the Willamette River
Start from the beginning of our Oregon trip.

Days 6-7: Portland (0 miles)

For our three days in Portland, we reveled in our hedonistic sides. Basically, we ate and drank and then ate some more, with some music and urban exploring thrown in.

We were staying in a residential neighborhood on the east side of the river, about a 20-minute walk from the historic Mississippi district. European ship-workers dominated the area in the 1800s, before it evolved into a primarily black neighborhood after a 1948 flood. The construction of I-5 and the Memorial Coliseum in the 1950s and 1960s cut off part of the neighborhood and by the 1980s, it was a center for drugs, gangs, street crime and general urban decay. The city declared it a historic district in 1999, helping spark a still-ongoing revitalization. It's now home to a number of bars, restaurants and shops. Our first night, we wandered into a newly opened bar called the Interurban, with a nice back patio. Ben tried and enjoyed a new type of beer, an India Golden Ale double IPA from Breakside Brewery. [1]

My chosen food truck. The options were overwhelming.
The next day we explored Portland on foot. We ate at the (in)famous food trucks, though Ben chose better than I did with his falafel from Wolf and Bear's. After lunch, we found Powell's Books, which claims to be the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. It takes up an entire city block. And not only did they have a ton of books, but they also seemed to put a lot of care into curation. The staff highlighted their favorites, including this one that Ben wants to read about America's forgotten naval expedition to the Dead Sea. Their store map was also pretty awesome:

Continuing our cultural afternoon, we toured the Oregon History Museum's exhibit on the history of the state. As a bonus, we also got to see a special exhibit on Abraham Lincoln's legacy. We had strategically planned our day to take advantage of happy hour, which we always miss in San Francisco, so we walked along the waterfront up to Deschutes Brewery. The brewery was founded in Bend, Oregon, and opened a brewpub in Portland in 2008. Deschutes is one of the larger craft breweries in the U.S. and its Mirror Pond Pale Ale is pretty easy to find (it's not our favorite though). More in another post on our favorite beers of the trip. Post-drinks it was time for ... dinner, of course, at Bamboo Sushi, which claims to be the first certified, sustainable sushi restaurant in the world.

Ben has a tradition of taking photos with Honest Abe.
The next day we didn't have much of a plan, until our AirBnB told us we absolutely had to eat at the Peruvian restaurant Andina, which someone at a party had also recommended to us. (We basically spent our time in Portland following the recommendations of people who used to live there, which is almost always a wonderful strategy for planning a trip). It didn't hurt that the food in Portland is really good and much cheaper than in San Francisco. Of course, Portland's median income is $51,000, compared to $73,000 for San Francisco, so we imagine the city feels more expensive for people who live there. I guess that's one upside of living in the most expensive city in the country, you start seeing everything else as "cheap."

Portland is supposed to have a good craft distillery scene, and not knowing anything about distelleries, we were eager to explore. Unfortunately, Distillery Row was out of the way, but we found nearby Clear Creek Distillery, which specializes in eau de vie. We still don't know much about distilleries, though we did figure out that neither of us much enjoys eau de vie. After all this eating and drinking, we were ready for a break, so we headed for a cool public park with a fountain, where we enjoyed ice cream and read our books.

Ben loves to recount the story of the wonderful night he spent at the McMenamon's in Portland on his 2006 motorcycle trip. Of course we had to go back, so that's where we headed on our second night. Unfortunately, the vibe wasn't quite as transcendental as the first time Ben visited (possibly because the musicians were somewhat mediocre and told overly long stories about their songs). We followed that up with one more drink at a bar on Mississippi Street, before retiring back to our rental, refreshed for our return to the wilderness. Also, we had washed our clothes, always a plus.

- Steph

[1] Guide to the Boise Neighborhood in Portland, Oregon

A Yosemite anniversary

September 27, 2014
Yosemite Valley, with Ben's head bandaged
It's been a whole year since our wedding, and to celebrate our anniversary, we went to Yosemite National Park for a long weekend. Campsite reservations go on sale online months in advance, at 7 a.m. on specific days, and sell out in seconds; we booked a site at North Pines Campground (in Yosemite Valley) at 7:00:15 sharp back in April, in a mad rush to click anything available and check out.

We decided to go in style and rent a car for the four-hour ride each way (it being a rather boring freeway drive most of the way) instead of taking the motorcycle. (This allowed for luxuries like real coffee instead of instant espresso.)

We drove up Thursday and set up camp. On Friday, we hiked to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, taking the Mist Trail up and the John Muir trail down. On Saturday, we hiked up to Dewey Point. About halfway up, though, I tried to cut a fallen branch into walking sticks by kicking it in the middle (while it was propped up on a log), but I miscalculated the angles and it snapped up and hit me in the head, knocking me down and causing a nice gash right over my eyebrow. Steph patched me up with our first aid kit (and later with butterfly bandages bought at the general store) and we decided to head back down. We were surprised by the lack of any medical services in the park on weekends. (Fortunately it seems to have healed well.)

Injury aside, it was a very fun weekend, with perfect weather, and obviously beautiful scenery everywhere.

We're thinking next time we go, rather than stay in the tourist-heavy areas like this time, we'll do a backpacking trip through the wilderness further north and at higher elevation. (We haven't done real backpacking since Patagonia.)

Liberty Cap, view from top of Nevada Falls

Vernal Falls (with a rainbow) on left, Nevada Falls on right
Vernal Falls

Driving to Yosemite

Panoramas: the view from the top of Nevada Falls and our campsite at North Pines Campground. Scroll to the right to see the whole photo.

panorama yosemite national park

panorama campsite yosemite national park

- Ben