A Special Visit From the McCluskeys
Written by Jamie
A few weeks before Dan & Chelsea planned to fly in, my parents called asking if they could book a flight to fly into Portland right after Dan & Chelsea were leaving – of course we said yes! So after dropping our friends off at PDX, doing a quick clean of Bob and throwing the sheets in the wash, we headed back to PDX that night to pick up Cheryl & Jim. They planned to be with us for 6 days and then to fly back out of PDX, but we had no specific plans while they visited. Thankfully, there were a number of areas within a 2 hour drive from Portland that we wanted to explore while they were with us. We spent our first full day together exploring downtown Portland some more, grabbing a delicious lunch at Deschutes Brewery and a classic pizza dinner at the highly rated Apizza Scholls.
On day 2, we arose early and headed out on a slow drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, America’s first scenic byway. We grabbed some gorgeous views early on in the drive from the Vista House site. The winding roads are speckled with absolutely gorgeous waterfalls and hikes of varying lengths. We stopped to hike around Shepherds Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the very popular Multnomah Falls, followed by a stop at the Bonneville Dam where we watched a number of different fish species (salmon, lamprey, steelhead, sturgeon) climb a fish ladder up the Columbia River.
While the scenic byway continues on to The Dalles, we hopped off at Hood River and headed to Marchesi Vineyards for a wine tasting, followed by a beer flight at pFreim Family Brewers. We continued on our day tip to visit Mt. Hood and famous Timberline Lodge, the exterior of which was used to portray The Overlook Hotel in one of my all-time favorites, The Shining!
The next day we decided to head the opposite direction to the northern Oregon coast. We first stopped in Astoria, a town located near the mouth of the Columbia River, where they had a Sunday farmers market that we walked around. Once we reached the Pacific, we headed south and grabbed an awesome seafood lunch at Bell Buoy of Seaside. We continued on to the beautiful Ecola State Park, which features awesome overlooks onto Cannon Beach and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. We finally wrapped up our day on the coast with beers at the local Pelican Brewing Company.
We packed up camp the next morning and actually backtracked to Washington where we got a beautiful campsite at Ike Kinswa State Park conveniently located between our next two destinations: Mount St. Helens and Mt. Rainier National Park. Once we set up camp, we went right back out and followed the twists and bends of Route 504 towards the Johnston Ridge Observatory overlooking Mount St. Helens. Along the route are a number of visitors centers, each detailing different aspects of the active volcano, the region, and the magnitude 5.1 earthquake of 1980 that triggered one of the world’s largest recorded landslides, followed by one of the most powerful volcanic blasts in the history of North America. The Johnston Ridge Observatory gives a beautiful video presentation and offers amazing views of the volcano (it’s the closest you can get by car). We also really enjoyed the Forest Learning Center which detailed the effects of the landslide and blast on the flora and fauna of the area, and what steps have been taken since then to bring about regrowth and rebirth. Instead of grilling that night, we opted for some take-out chinese by the fire and enjoyed a beautiful night under the stars.
We headed out early the next morning for Mount Rainier National Park. When I had previously visited the Pacific Northwest, hiking Mt. Rainier was the highlight of my trip, so I was so excited to share the experience with Trae and my parents this time. Unfortunately, the weather this time was quite wet with very dense fog, but the experience wasn’t any less enjoyable. By the time we parked at Paradise and the visitors center, the temperature had dropped significantly, so we bundled up for our hike. A few backcountry skiiers passed us as we started our ascent to Panorama Point, which surprised us a bit at first, but it soon became clear that the conditions here were still quite wintery.
We realized the conditions were so wintery, they were too treacherous for us to ascend all the way to Panorama Point, where we were hoping to break through the the cloud line and catch a glimpse of the beautiful mountain scenery that I knew was around us. Slightly disheartened, we started to turn around at what would normally be a beautiful overlook but was shrouded by clouds. Just as we started our descent, the clouds broke for a few brief moments and revealed the seemingly endless mountains beyond.
We were so excited to see our beautiful surroundings! It was the perfect way to finish our day at Mt. Rainier and was arguably the crown jewel of our time with my parents while they visited us. The nasty weather persisted through the rest of the night, but we managed to grill a yummy meal and enjoy our last evening together. We were so thankful to have this special visit from my parents on this incredible journey. They were part of our inspiration for taking this trip (my dad proposed to my mom on a cross-country trip they took way back when), and it was so cool to share the experience with them now.
Trae and Jamie