Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shorthorn Hike, Mt. Adams Wilderness Area

Why hike the Shorthorn Trail?

The Shorthorn trial provides peaceful, gentle hike through the woods. Just past the open meadow, with the view of Mt. Adams’ snow-capped top, is a meandering creek that remains green, and cool, even on this 86-degree day. It’s an inspiringly beautiful place to eat lunch. Today’s photos are here.

Where is the Trailhead?

Washington State – Gifford Pinchot Forest – Mt. Adams Ranger District.

About 25 miles north of Hood River, Oregon is Trout Lake, Washington. When you get to Trout Lake, take the right fork at the gas station. It’s about 25 minutes up Forest Road 80, and then 8040. Park at the Morrison Creek Campground, where there are outhouse facilities.

How strenuous is it?

It’s a gentle, consistent climb from about 4,650 feet to about 5,800 feet. A leisurely hike up and down took us less than 3 hours this day. The trail is often powdery, which can mean dusty.

Tell me more.

The trial is mixed firs and pines in the Mt. Adams Wilderness Area. At times, Morrison Creek runs near the trail. That creek was dry today. At other times, the bear grass can be stunning, as these photos from 2009 show.

One hiking book does not even mention the best pay off – the beautiful creek past the mountain meadow. The water looks pure enough to drink, and it nourishes green grass and lovely flowers under the forest canopy. For us on this day, it provided one of those wilderness, “ahhh” moments that makes us glad to be alive in the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three Perfect Days in Portland: Day Three: Gorge Hike & Neighborhoods

The Wahkeena Falls Loop is a great way to share a classic Pacific Northwest experience. Even in the heat of summer, the waters run cold and the moss and ferns are green. Firs, Western Red Cedar, Hemlock, and rocky canyons keep the trail shady. The 5.6 mile trail climbs to the top of Multnomah Falls. Then, we walk upstream to an intersection with a trail that heads west through the forest. Wahkeena Springs is my picnic place. Even on a busy Sunday at Multnomah Falls, we had the springs almost to ourselves.

Having observed the source of this river, we followed it tumble downhill to the Historic Columbia River Highway. Here are some photos of the hike.

On the way back, we stopped to show Scott the classic Northeast Portland, along Alberta Ave. The anti-Lake Oswego.

In the evening, we finished off our day with dinner at Bamboo Sushi, where every other page of the menu notes another certification it has earned. These are not awards for culinary skill, but culinary correctness, Portland's version of Kosher: Most Sustainable Seafood Restaurant in the United States; Business for Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow; Green Source Business; Monterey Bay Aquarium; Salmon Nation; KidSafe Seafood, Green Restaurant Association, Marine Stewardship Council; Blue Ocean Institute.

Which is not to suggest the food is second rate. That would be wrong. People waited for seats at Bamboo Sushi on a quiet sunday night because the food is terrific. Instead, I mention all of the certifications and partnerships because it is so "Portland" to aspire to be the number one, very best, top-of-the-heap environmental good citizen (in a very humble way, of course).

So, thank you, Scott, for visiting us in Portland. We hope you now have enjoyed some of the many flavors of Portland and its environs.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Perfect Days in Portland: Day Two.

Summer saturdays in Portland begin with the Farmers Market. Of course you can get your vegetables, fruit and bread. Also, you can buy lamb, yak, flowers, vinegar, breakfast, lunch, and stuff you never heard of before, including lobster mushrooms for $16.99 per pound. If you want to hang around town, then bring a cooler to store your purchases.

We continued our day shopping downtown and in the Pearl District. NO SALES TAX in Oregon. So for Californians, any purchase is a 9% discount. Scott experienced the grubby parts of downtown and a bit of The Pearl, including the sight of kids frolicking in Jamison Square,

After we returned home, I showed Scott Lake Oswego, where he, a former Ferrari owner, recognized a $300,000+ Ferrari. Yes. There's a difference between understated Portland and people in Lake O.

All the while, Allyson prepared dinner from our Farmer's market bounty. Lamb slaughtered just days ago, I think the Lamb's name was Hannah. Maybe not. But that's kind of the vibe with the locavore food trends in Portland. Corn salad. Green salad with some late-season strawberries. Farmer's Market bread, and Two Tarts bakery cookies. Ann joined us for dinner, which all made for a lovely evening.

Oh, I forgot. More of those Padrone peppers. Allyson copied Toro Bravo's recipe. Plus, we enjoyed some local cheeses and hazelnuts while Scott & I grilled the lamb.

All in all, a good day.

Three Perfect Days in Portland: Night One, Secret Society / Toro Bravo

For most restaurants, when the hostess says “It’s about a1 ½ to 2 hour wait.” We say, “Thanks, anyway.” We stayed for Toro Bravo.

Two reasons to stay: The Secret Society & the food.

Secret Society on Urbanspoon
The Secret Society is the creaky, 1907, former fraternal hall upstairs from Toro Bravo. I rank it as the best bar in Portland because of a combination of great cocktails, cozy, unique atmosphere, and fun people who frequent there. The ballroom hosts musicians, who often play 1940s music. At times, some patrons will dress the part. In the past, we’ve been there when it looked like we walked into a WWII movie. Tonight, the crowded place bumped us into other friendly folks, one of whom took the picture at top.

Toro Bravo on Urbanspoon
Toro Bravo serves really delicious, creative food on small plates to share. I hate to use the word "tapas," because they are better than the tapas you've eaten elsewhere. The atmosphere is great: High ceilings, common tables, regular tables, and seating on bar-like stools. The noise from a roomful of convivial conversation and background musical downbeats allows for private conversations even when sharing a common table. Willamette Week, Portland’s venerable entertainment weekly, ranked it Restaurant of the Year in 2007, and Toro Bravo continues to please. It started with an free appetizer of padrone peppers as we selected our plates to share with each other. It finished with two desserts: Churros to dip in chocolate and baked summer fruit with ice cream. In between, little taste bombs exploded in our mouths.

After dinner, we drove across the Willamette River, with the city lights twinkling, toward the Pearl District, where Rob met us for a drink at Teardrop.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Three Perfect Days In Portland: Day One, Wine Country

The food will come later. So make room in your calorie account by starting your day with a walk or a jog in a city forest.

If you lodge downtown, then Forest Park is your better option. It's the largest forested park in a  United States city.  We started our day in Southwest Portland, so Scott and I hit the trails in Tryon Creek Natural Area. Even though it is not the biggest city forest, at 670 acres, it's not small, either. Lots of trails to enjoy. Even without jogging, we got our hearts pumping by walking fast up hill.

Although there are great breakfast places everywhere, we ate at home before heading off to Dundee, Oregon for a quick winery tour of the Northern Willamette Valley. Key tip: visit the Dundee wineries first, Highway 99W through Dundee is a traffic nightmare for the evening hours. We stopped at Domaine Drouhin, which offers a lovely view and well-respected Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

Another tip: check the wine tasting policies of the wineries. Most charge a tasting fee, which is refunded with certain purchases. The policies range from a certain dollar amount to a certain number of bottles. Domaine Drouhin's policy today is a refund with a $100 purchase, and each bottle is pretty spendy. I probably will not return there on my next tour.

Next stop was Anne Amie, the former Chateau Benoit. The view of the fields and coast range is dramatic (above). It has been among my favorites for 25 years. AA refunds the tasting fee with $50 purchase, and it offered wines we wanted to buy, anyway: two Pinot Gris and a white blend met the $50 goal. Although not on the tasting menu, Anne Amie poured us their Pinot Noir Blanc, which was quite delicious.

Another favorite stop of ours is Lemelson Vineyards, which has a more generous tasting policy: $7 for a flight of whites plus one Pinot Noir or $10 for the Pinots plus one white, and a refund with the purchase of one bottle. I think we bought 6 bottles because the wines are good and priced right.

On to the tiny town of Carlton, which has more wine tasting rooms, restaurants and other shops. We passed on the wine. Instead, we enjoyed cheeses, meats, bread and spread at a The Horse Radish restaurant. Afterwards, the next-door shops seduced us. Republic of Jam offers tastings of their unique jams. Ever heard of plum-cardamon-orange? Or rhubarb rosemary? We picked up chocolate caramels at the chocolate shop on the other side of the restaurant.

Final stop was Brick House Vineyards, whose tasting experience is perhaps the most intimate. No big bar, just a six-seat table and a person to explain the wines. We wanted to order some of the Gamay Noir, but it was not available. So we purchased a $10 tasting of their high-end Pinot Noirs. Brick House offers a refund with a three-bottle purchase, which can amount to purchase of over $100. We hurried up because Steve, the knowledgeable man who helped us, said that if wines hit 80 degrees, then they are ruined. It was over 80 outside, and we needed to get the car's air conditioning on and motor back to Portland before rush hour.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Perfect Days In Portland: What are the Best Things To do: Intro.

What to do with three days in Portland?  It’s a challenge to set an itinerary for a visitor because there are so many wonderful things to do.  Tonight, brother Scott arrives. 

Outdoor adventures and tours can include the Pacific Coast on the far west and hikes around Mt. Adams on the far east.  Both only about a 90-minute to 2-hour drive.  River rafting the wild and scenic White Salmon River?  What about the wind surfing capital of the United States at Hood River, Oregon, 60 minutes away.  Closer still are the hikes up, around, and under waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

But the city is great, too.  Which of our favorite restaurants and coffee houses? Or food cart pods?  Which neighborhoods?  Alberta St.?  Pearl District?  The Farmers’ Market in the South Park Blocks is a must for Saturday Morning.  

Any sights worth seeing? Pittock Mansion for the overview?  Rose Garden (the garden, not the basketball arena)?  Maybe the current exhibit at the Portland Art Museum?

Maybe a jaunt to the nearby wine country.  But again, which of the 100+ wineries to visit?  How can I only pick 4 or 5 of them? 

Tonight he arrives.  Tomorrow, we start making these difficult decisions. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Portland's First Thursday Art & People Promenade

Portland’s First Thursday gallery walk is a time view art and watch people. From its humble beginnings, it has become an institution that crescendos every year in August, when the weather is best. This year we experienced the event with the McSordyl family and Rob and thousands of others.

What is First Thursday?

On the first Thursday of every month, art galleries in Portland extend their hours into the evening. For the serious galleries, this is the opening night for artists. A few galleries still offer nibbles, but that has diminished dramatically since the early days, when many galleries offered free wine and cheese and crackers.

In addition to established galleries, artists have one-night stands along NW 13th Avenue (pictured above), which becomes a busy promenade in summer. Nearby, guerrilla artists find a parking spot, plug the meter, and offer their works on random sidewalks. The variety is wide: paintings, glass, gliclee, photography, jewelry. . . . Some of the art is achingly beautiful or miraculously creative. Other works drive people to whisper, “That’s art? I could do that.” Prices range from a few bucks to tens of thousands of dollars. All who pay attention to the art react and think.

Other businesses get in on the summer action. Some mobile food carts roll in to help feed the masses. For example, we grabbed food from Koi Fusion along with Kim & John and their two young boys. Smart shop owners in the busy areas stay open or plan special events for the night. This August night, a clothing store carded young people lined up lined up for beer and music inside. A normally quiet coffee shop drew my attention with tropical music and dancing. Kitchencru, on Broadway & Flanders, had a mini food & wine fair.

The stated reason is art. The other attraction has always been people.

The People.

Who you see depends on the month, the micro-area, and the time of night.

Early on a summer evening, it’s everybody: young, older, singles, couples and families. Some look very hip and others less so. The older folks and families depart earlier, leaving the rest to fill the restaurants and bars. As we were heading out of the Pearl District, we noticed many younger women dressed to kill and men hoping to be slaughtered.

The winter months provide less of a circus. A higher percentage of people circulating among the galleries appear more interested in art, which is easier to appreciate without the throng.

Certain areas and galleries draw their particular clientele. For example, winter or summer, you can always find a younger, more alt crowd around the Everett Street Lofts.

Where in Portland is First Thursday?

The short answer: West side including the Pearl and Downtown. (Galleries on Northeast Alberta Avenue extend hours on the Last Thursday, which is a very different scene.)

The epicenter is the Pearl District, where upscale galleries mix with art schools and street fair vendors. Fine dining, martini bars, and pizza joints round out the area. (One of my current faves is Irving Street Kitchen.) In fact, it was the art galleries that helped name the district. Back when the neighborhood was more industrial, there were a few “pearls” such as an art gallery here or there. Now, an industrial shop is the oddity. Here’s a map of some of the galleries.

Just across Broadway from the Pearl District is the Everett Street Lofts. A lease condition upon some of these live-work spaces requires the creative tenant to open for First Thursday at least nine times per year. One never knows what he or she find there. One month, I desired a gorgeous hanging fabric. Another month, an artist entertained me with “spin art,” which involved using a regular room fan to apply paint. Yet another month, a proprietor offered all the wine I wanted for $10 plus a raffle: I put my $5 ticket(s) in the cup by the art I wanted. I actually won a piece, but I think they gave me the wrong one. (Creative? Yes; Organized? No.) A walk around this block can be the most provocative of the art experiences on First Thursday. In August, Everett Street Lofts opened its roof top for art, music and a cash bar (pictured above).

Another few galleries open in what was the epicenter in the 1980s, around SW First and Second Aves. Here’s their map.

History: Who started First Thursday?

Seven galleries collaborated to create the event and advertise it with notices through the U.S. Mail. Their goal was to increase visibility and draw more of the public to galleries. The seven founding galleries were: Jamison Thomas Gallery, Laura Russo, Elizabeth Leach, Blackfish Gallery, Hoffman Gallery at the Oregon School of Arts and Crafts, Lawrence Gallery, and the Augen Gallery. The founders worked with other galleries, who agreed to stay open, even though they did not pay for the mailers. (History from an interview with William Jamison in 1989.)

William Jamison believed that art nourishes the soul. Jamison’s spirit still brings people together at Jamison Square. Had he lived until 2011, I’m sure he’d be pleased to see how many different souls experience the diverse array of art forms during First Thursday.