We are now on our second half of the summer trip with four weeks of travel around the U.S. First stop was nine nights in Oregon. This state has so much to offer and we had a tough time deciding where we would go. We drove a small loop that started and ended in Portland, taking us to the Willamette Valley for wine tasting (surprising for us, I know…), the Central Oregon Cascade mountains and finally to the Columbia River Gorge.

We arrived in Oregon during less than ideal weather conditions. The Pacific Northwest was going through an unusual heat wave, with temperatures soaring into the 100s. Many places don’t have AC and were closing down early in the afternoon during the highest heat. To top it off, there are wild fires all over this region of North America. Due to the direction of the winds, we got socked in the entire trip with smoke coming from fires in Oregon and as far away as British Columbia. No clear blue skies for us and low visibility. On the bright side, no rainy days!


We stayed in Portland for two nights from Thursday 3 August until Saturday 5 August at the Eastside Lodge. This was a motel on the eastern side of the city about a 15 minute walk across the river to the downtown area. It was a lower cost option, though not that much as we found this city is not cheap to visit during the summer. It was convenient to some cool neighborhoods and breweries.

We flew in early on Thursday from San Francisco.  After we checked in and had some time to rest, we headed out in the afternoon for a self-guided brewery tour of Eastern Portland. The brewery scene in Portland is impressive and we had so much fun tasting beers at some great breweries within a short walking distance of our hotel. We went in succession to: Burnside Brewing, Base Camp Brewing, Cascade Brewing (unique for its sour beers), The Commons, and finally Rogue.

That night we bought tickets at the last minute to a comedy show at the Helium Comedy Club featuring Jay Larson. The show was awesome, we didn’t stop laughing the entire time.

We got a seat front and center! I was nervous we’d get picked on by the comedian, but we were safe enough at this distance.

On our second day in Portland we spent the afternoon walking through the city to see the different neighborhoods. This is easy since the city is flat. In the early evening we did a really strange tour of the Portland Underground. These are some tunnels under Portland’s Chinatown that were originally constructed for the purpose of transporting water through the city but then in the late 1800s and early 1900s were also used for more sinful purposes, such as opium dens and also to house “shanghai’d” men prior to sale – which is when men were kidnapped and then sold as slave labor on ships headed for Asia. The tour was a bit gimmicky and I honestly would never recommend anyone do it. Bit of a fail on my trip research part. But we recovered and that night we had a fantastic dinner in the Richmond neighborhood on Division street at Xico, a Oaxacan restaurant.

Willamette Valley

Andrew and I love exploring new wines, and so part of our trip to Oregon naturally had to feature a stop in the Willamette Valley. We stayed from Saturday 5 August through Monday 7 August at the La Bastide B&B in Dundee, about an hour south of Portland. We had a beautiful room decorated in a Provençal style a 15 minute walk outside of the {very short} main street of Dundee.

On Sunday we scheduled a private wine tour with Cellar Door Wine tours. The tour was fantastic and took us throughout the region to five small wineries: Wild Aire CellarsLenne Estate, Beaux Freresde Lancellotti Family Vineyards, and finally Bella Vida. We loved that the wines are Burgundy style and the Pinot Noirs were excellent.

View from Lenne Estate
View from Bella Vida
At Lenne Estate


On our drive over to Sisters we took the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. There were several spots to stop along the way, it was gorgeous.

Mt Bachelor from Sparks Lake
Mt. Bachelor

We stayed in a little one-bedroom rental cottage in the town of Sisters for three nights from Monday 7 August through Thursday 10 August. The house had a nice little deck off the back with a BBQ where we ate every night and was a short walk from the main drag.

Our cute little rental cottage in Sisters. The main house is pictured on the left. The building on the right was not accessible to us.

The first morning in Sisters we went for a trail run on the local Peterson Ridge Trail in the Deschutes National forest. Luckily the heat wouldn’t set in each day until 12ish, so we were fine in the morning. The trail system was fantastic! It was well marked and fun to weave through the forest on a quiet morning.

The Peterson Ridge Trail in Sisters

That afternoon we drove east 30 minutes into the bigger city of Bend. We stopped at the amazing Deschutes Brewery for a beer tasting, followed by a float down the Deschutes river – complete with a series of rapids! It was relaxing and a perfect way to spend the afternoon during the high heat. 
On our second day in Sisters we got up early to beat the heat and hit the trail. Our original hiking plan fell through and we realized too late (i.e. at the trailhead) that you may only enter that section of the park with a wilderness permit. We drove around for 30 minutes to find cell service only to discover that all 30 of the day use permits that are only sold online were sold out 😦 But not to fear, there was a backup plan and we hiked a 7 mile out-and-back trip up to the Black Crater. The smoke prevented us from seeing the complete vista but we were able to see the nearest peaks and enjoy our hike.

Three Sisters Wilderness. From top of Black Crater
The view from the Black Crater of the Sister peaks. As you can tell – verrrry smoky

After the hike we stopped by the McKensie Pass where there were incredible views and an interpretive trail all about the lava fields and local geology.

Dee Wright observatory from Mckenzie pass
Entering the Willamette National Forest, with the Dee Wright Observatory on the right. This is where the interpretive Lava River National Recreation trail started, taking us through the lava fields. The lava flowed from the Yapoah Crater approximately 2,000 – 2,700 years ago! It was amazing to see that it takes so long for the new earth to cover up with trees and growth. We were lucky to get to walk this trail as after our visit to Oregon, a wildfire started in this region two weeks after our visit and the whole area is closed to the public.

Three Sisters Wilderness. View of Mt Washington from Mckezsie Pass

View of the Middle and North Sister peaks

Hood River

On our 2.5 hour drive up to Hood River we took a pit stop near Mt. Hood at Trillium Lake. The lake’s location provides a beautiful view of Mt. Hood and had nice picnic areas among the trees, where we picnic’d ourselves for lunch.

Mt Hood from Trillium Lake
View of Mt. Hood at Trillium Lake

Our last stop in Oregon was to see the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed in the town of Hood River, which is right on the river in a beautiful location only an 1.5 hour drive to Portland. We stayed at the historic Hood River Hotel for our last night in Oregon, Thursday August 10.

After checking in to our hotel we laced on our hiking boots and apparently our insanity. It was 95 and smoky out but we went for a short 2.2 mile hike out on the Rowena Crest Trail. We had the trail to ourselves and enjoyed the view. It was a little frustrating because the visibility as you can see in our pictures was really … not good. A bit sad to miss seeing the gorge with clear skies, but what can you do.

Columbia River Gorge from Rowen viewpoint
Off the Rowena Crest Trail – as the skies were filled with smoke we diverted our attention to the golden hills lining this hike.
Columbia River Gorge from Rowen viewpoint
The mighty Columbia River!

That night we grabbed beers and dinner at yet another brewery, this time at Hood River’s own Full Sail Brewing. When we initially made the decision to road trip in Oregon, I hadn’t connected that they have so many good breweries. But clearly we’ve been taking advantage and visiting them every step of the way!!

Our last day in Oregon was Friday August 11. Our flight to Spokane wasn’t until 5 pm, so we had some time to explore a bit more. In the morning we did a short run along the riverfront and had breakfast at the Scandinavian style Broder Øst. Then we packed up all our stuff and started to meander our way back to the Portland airport.

We stopped along the way to do a self-guided walking tour of the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. We were too soon to be able to watch the salmon run or the hatchery in operation as the majority of activity begins in September, but they offered a very interesting self-guided walking tour and the ponds did have some young salmon fingerlings swimming around, waiting to get old enough to be released. I’d highly recommend it. Afterwards we stopped for a short time at the historic Bonneville dam.

We tried to stop to see some of the waterfalls on the way back to Portland, but it was so congested and crowded with people, with limited parking opportunities, we unfortunately had to skip it and satisfy ourselves with the glimpses we got from the road. We moved on to the airport to catch our flight for Spokane, Washington to meet up with our friend Cody to spend some time with him and some friends at his family’s cabin on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In summary…

I loved our time in Oregon. We saw such a small chunk of the state and there’s still so much more to see. But, Oregon is not that far from San Francisco so maybe we can make it happen again some time.