(No projects this week. Just a jealousy inducing recap of our Pacific Northwest trip. Check out our picks for Willamette Valley.)
After doing a bit of research for our trip, we scaled back our Portland time. I knew we could eat in this city for two weeks straight, but I was worried we would get bored and all “what do I do with my hands” if we stayed longer than that. So we popped into this quirky town for just two days.
The plan: Eat as much amazing food as possible and enjoy some luxury accommodations before heading into the wilderness.
The lodging: We scored a room at The Nines using Amex points (yay!) and would highly recommend it. The staff is amazing, and the location put us in easy walking distance of food carts, great restaurants and awesome shopping.
The food: We packed as much food into our Portland time as possible. Honestly, we didn’t have a bad meal. Here were some of the stand outs.
Tasty and Sons: We actually stopped on our drive from Seattle to McMinnville just to add another famous Portland brunch spot to our trip. Tasty and Sons is widely acclaimed and rightfully so. Breakfast Tapas may be my new obsession. We ordered WAY too much food. My favorite was the breakfast board, which had little bites of everything you could want at breakfast: tart cheese, berries, bread, bacon, a 6-minute egg, duck pate and jerky (the jerky seemed odd, but it totally worked.)
Drinks at Urban Farmer: This might be the coolest hotel bar (it was in the lobby of The Nines) I’ve ever seen. We took full advantage of the happy hour specials before heading out to dinner.
Lardo: The sandwiches here are top notch, but what stood out the most was the awesome kale salad.
Picnic House: Picnic House made our roster when we decided that walking to dinner was much better than pulling the car out. Yelp reviews guided us to this hip, delicious spot. We opted to share a few small plates and fell in love with with butter lettuce salad, which was like their take on a cobb, but with bacon bits the size of croutons. The charcuterie plate was the biggest we’ve ever seen and we could have made a meal out of just that and the salad.
Sweedeedee: Sweedeedee is THE brunch spot in Portland and I can see why. The food was amazing. The dishes sound deceptively simple, but they pack in the flavor.
Food carts: It seemed hard to go wrong at the food carts (we hit up the pod at 9th and Alder a few times.) I did some due diligence and decided months before the trip that I had to get the chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai. This dish gets raves throughout the interwebs and I’m happy to count myself among the legion of fans. The dish is perfect. Fluffy rice, succulent chicken, flavorful broth. I would eat this again and again.
What else: We did a little shopping in Portland. I basically want to live at Powell’s Books. We snagged a hefty photo book of one of Aaron’s favorite photographers as a souvenir. We also stumbled across a cute hat store and Aaron scored three new ones for his collection. Hat stores (especially of the male variety) are basically non-existent in the Midwest so this was a happy discovery. Thanks to Instagram, I realized our friends Derren and Lisa happened to be in Portland at the same time so we spent a few hours catching up with them. It was a nice surprise addition to our trip!
Our original plan for the trip was to hang in Portland and do some hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. But we both got really distracted with the idea of Mt Rainier after several friends extolled its virtues. We carved out 2 1/2 days to explore the park, and it did not disappoint.
The plan: Hike gorgeous trails and take lots of pictures (NOTE: Once we get the film back, I’ll post those pictures as well. They’re probably much better than these.)
Carter Falls: Our first trek in Mt Rainier was up to Carter Falls. I chose this from the guidebook because it was short and “easy.” I also learned an important lesson about choosing hikes: look at the elevation gain. After crossing through the Nisqually River (below) it was basically up, up, up to a few ok waterfalls. The best part of the hike was definitely the river bed and the peeks of Rainier. If we went back, we’d spend more time exploring the river bed and eschew the hike to the falls.
Paradise Glacier: On our first full day in the park, we decided to undertake the hike to Paradise Glacier. The guidebook was spot on about the beauty of this hike. Starting from the visitors center we walked through a foggy valley and marveled at ALL THE WILDFLOWERS before ascending into moon-like terrain. Everything was gray and foggy and amazing. It was hard to capture in pictures. Hopefully our shots on film will do it justice.
Not the glacier – just a cool shot of melted snow.
I would disagree with the book on the difficulty and time on this trail. The elevation gain was pretty severe at points (“gentle switchbacks” is a generous description) and we moved slowly on account of the picture taking. By the time we made it back to the car for lunch we were both exhausted and very happy. This was one of the best hikes we’ve ever done. We decided to call it a day and crossed our fingers for non-foggy weather on our last day.
Nisqually Vista: The guidebook totally paid off when it steered us to an easy, 5-star view of Rainier on the Nisqually Vista trail. It’s one we probably wouldn’t have found on our own, but on a clear day it has to be one of the best views in the park. Case in point:
Following the glacier trek, our legs were a bit weary so after the short Nisqually Vista trail, we wanted something easy and relatively flat. We opted for the Lakes Loop. Starting at Reflection lakes we, once again, climbed up, up, up. The fields of wildflowers were pretty, but the entire hike didn’t hold a candle to anything we already viewed. We snapped very few pictures, except for this panorama at a lookout point at Faraway Rock.
Overall Mt. Rainier park is gorgeous. The Sunrise (Northeast) side of the park is already on our “next time” list.
Next up: Olympic National Park and Seattle!