We have an amazing country, don’t you think? I love to explore the various areas of the United States, from the oceans to mountains to forests and Great Lakes. I’ve always felt lucky to live in Michigan, where we have cities, forests, miles of beaches, fresh water lakes and so much more. Outside of Michigan, my favorite area to explore is the West.
So this trip I went west to Oregon. I had a great travel partner: my fun-loving, spontaneous, adventure-seeking boyfriend, Justin. Our plan was to spend a few days exploring on our own, then catch up with his friends and wander through Oregon, breathing in as much fresh air and stress-relieving natural views as possible. First stop, Portland.
Our hotel was located in the Pearl District, Portland’s best known art district. It reminded me of a yuppy, artsy, young neighborhood. Great shops, many restaurants, breweries and people wandering the streets. Speaking of – both of us were struck a bit by how many panhandlers and homeless people wander the streets. Living near Detroit, homelessness isn’t anything new to us but I was surprised by the number of people sleeping in business doorsteps at night or hanging out at the central pavilion area. Although we kept senses alert, I didn’t ever feel threatened (of course it helps to have a protective, strong boyfriend!).
We were advised by many to explore Powell’s Bookstore, one of the largest independent bookseller in the country. Despite being an avid reader, I admit it was a bit overwhelming to wander through the three-story building – so many books! A friendly local provided many suggestions for dinner so we ended up at Deschutes Brewery. A refreshing wheat beer (my fav) and enormous soft pretzel with warm, delicious cheese rounded the evening off perfectly.
On Sunday, we headed to the Portland Japanese Gardens. You seemed to naturally lower your voice and feel anxiety seep from your pores when you entered the lush, green garden landscape. The 5.5 acres are proclaimed to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Each garden is created with three main elements – stone, water and plants. I found it interesting that human scale is typically maintained throughout so one always feels part of the environment, not overpowered by it. Portland’s Japanese Garden has five different gardens – the strolling pond garden was my favorite. I loved how the bridges, waterfalls, river and gardens flowed together to create such a peaceful, beautiful setting. I couldn’t help but pause to let the quiet wash over me.
We left one garden paradise only to wander into another – the International Rose Test Garden, which was established in 1917 and features over 6,800 rose bushes representing 557 varieties. It was beautiful in the fall so I can only imagine the beauty (and fragrance!) when the roses are in full bloom during summer.
Our next stop took us to Multnomah Falls near the Columbia River. The falls split into an upper and lower, with a total height of 620 feet. Multnomah Falls is the third tallest year-round waterfall in the U.S. and the tallest in Oregon. It’s pretty impressive standing at the bottom, but we decided it would be REALLY impressive to stand at the top. So we began our hike. The sign states it’s one mile to the top, however, we soon discovered that was one-mile straight up. After many, many switchbacks, we made it to the top. It was worth my wavy, frizzy hair (it was SO humid!). 🙂