Though we spent the majority of our vacation in Portland in the city proper, we did rent a vehicle one day to explore the area immediately outside PDX.
This first stop is a bit misleading, as St. John’s is a neighbourhood in Portland, and we took the bus to get there. However, it was the furthest outside of the city centre that we reached during that vacation, and truth be told, St. John’s seemed more like a separate town as opposed to a suburb.
The lure to St. John’s was the second annual River Fest, which I spotted on a tourism website that same week. It seemed like a good excuse to check out an area of Portland we hadn’t heard much about before. It took us an hour to reach St. John’s via public transportation, and when we did, it wasn’t entirely evident where the festivities were located.
We eventually made our way to the banks of the river (after passing by numerous film trailers parked in preparation for the shooting of a Grimm episode), and found not a rousing festival scene, but a small collection of tents. River Fest turned out to be geared mostly towards families with small children (based upon the entertainers that were seeking an audience).
Regardless, it was still a good opportunity to walk along the shores of the Willamette. It was more industrial than picturesque, with numerous factories dotting both sides of the water, but the best discovery was St. John’s Bridge.
St. John’s Bridge
The only suspension bridge in the Willamette Valley, the Cathedral-like appearance of the towers made it easily my favourite of Portland’s bridges.
From Cathedral Park
A note of caution for pedestrians, however – the bridge is much better viewed from below than it is from above – we crossed it and found it a rather dangerous walk, given the narrow sidewalk, 35 mile an hour traffic and four lanes of traffic. Guardrails would be highly recommended for city officials to look into!
On the bridge
Before returning to downtown Portland, we did some shopping in St. John’s main street. The stores were charming, and included antique and vintage shops, gift stores, and a specialty food shop.
If you have some extra time in Portland, I would highly recommend spending a half day in this neighbourhood!
With the vehicle, our first stop was Vista House. Located on the Colombia River gorge, it feels like it is on the edge of the world.
The placement of Vista House (intended to be a rest stop for those making their way down the Colombia River Highway), takes full advantage of the valley and waterway views.
View of the Gorge
Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls
Down the tree-lined Oregon byway, scenic with views of the Colombia River, we first stopped at Wahkeena Falls. It was a good build up for the waterfall to come, smaller but refreshingly misty.
Further down the road, the picturesque Multnomah Falls awaited us. The highest year-round waterfall in North America, it was especially striking because of a bridge spanning the lower section of the falls.
Multnomah in miniature
Multnomah must be one of the most photographed sites in all of Oregon. We even saw one tourist recording a video on his iPad of all things as he hiked the trail up to the bridge.
At the Falls
Our next stop was the town of Hood River, just in time for a late lunch.
We chose the pub run by Full Sail Brewery, an independent business that celebrated 25 years of operation in 2012. It was a gorgeous patio day, so we sat outside, basking in a view of the River.
Instead of the usual cod, haddock or even halibut, the pub used salmon for their fish and chips and fish sandwiches. We opted for an order of each. Their portions were beyond generous (neither of us were able to finish our plates), though the fish and chips were the better choice – it was difficult to eat the sandwich topped with such a watery slaw.
Fish and chips
Cascade Cliffs and Cathedral Ridge Wineries
One of the reasons we wanted to get outside of Portland was to visit some wineries. Cascade Cliffs was identified as a winery located in downtown Hood River, so we were initially confused as to where this urban winery could be found. It turned out not to be field of vines, but a tasting room operated by the winery.
The Cascade Cliffs line-up
The map as such was a bit misleading (as was my understanding between that a “winery” is not synonymous with “vineyard”), but Mack commented that this establishment was a good option for those who couldn’t make it out to the winery itself.
We took home a bottle of blended reds, and left Hood River in search of an actual winery. As it was early in the evening, many of the wineries we passed on our way back to Portland were already closed for the day. We managed to find one that was still open – Cathedral Ridge.
Cathedral Ridge proudly identified an award they were recognized with in 2007, which may not have been a good sign for more recent achievements. It was quiet inside the tasting room/ shop, but the clerk was nice enough, if seemingly rote in her interactions.
She told us that the majority of the vines actually weren’t planted at that location, but were situated near The Dalles, further east. It was a bit of a letdown, though we still took the opportunity to pick up a souvenir bottle and wander what vines were located on-site. The moral of the story: make sure you plan out a sure-fire route, with enough time to explore!
Some of the vines at Cathedral Ridge
Although time is a luxury on any vacation, I was glad we took the better part of a day to see what was outside Portland.