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Three Weeks in Downtown Portland, Oregon


We sit on the basement “balcony” of our rented condo. Our heads barely above sea level, we have a great view of the Willamette River.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

McCormick Pier Condos, NW Portland, Oregon

Trains and draw bridges provide entertainment, along with a constant flow of bicyclists, pedestrians, and runners (don’t call them joggers) who cannot help to make eye contact with us as they turn a corner along the Portland River Walk.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

The Broadway Bridge makes way for water traffic

Good thing that Jack cannot see anything from this basement balcony, as he would constantly bark. After a run-in with a loud train horn, he refuses to go on the river walk, not even for a swim.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Bicyclists, runners, and walkers travel the River Walk to Saturday Market

I enjoy the high pitch tuning fork tone of steel on steel train wheels. It feels like I’m back in my hometown of Mingo Junction, Ohio. Only the city of Pittsburgh boasts more bridges than Portland, Oregon.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Bridges, bridges everywhere

We’re searching for the “beat” of this city, other than the prevailing motto of “Keep Portland Weird.” Many folks bicycle to work, but that’s not terribly weird. Countless dog-friendly street side cafes serve organic food, and mass transit rules, but what’s so weird about that?

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Weird….really?

We walk at least six miles daily (walk with your head on a swivel on account of the speeding bicyclists along the river and on the bridges), stopping only to eat meals and drink micro-brews. Although upscale restaurants are fantastic and casual, the permanent food carts are my favorite. The carts surround several city blocks and food ranges from Thai to Hawaiian, as well as new creations. Try the grilled cheese, filled with brie and sliced tomato.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

The 10th and Alder Food Cart Pod in downtown Portland

Everyone seems nice. The “genuine homeless” and even the “youthful summer homeless” are polite, perhaps because of the many services of food and housing available. Vehicles stop for pedestrians. Stand on the corner by a crosswalk, and traffic will come to a halt until you cross the street. This is probably the weirdest thing of all.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

The “young summer homeless” hanging out on the River Walk

The eternal long line at Voodoo Donuts appears a little strange, but those are mostly tourists. I like the chocolate and peanut butter creation. Mare prefers the maple bar topped with crisp bacon.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Oh my!

Many folks claim that Portland is the strip club capital of the US. We wonder if Portland might be the tattoo and skin piercing capital. According to “Google” the tattoo crown belongs to Miami. Even so, I’ve never seen so many young women with sleeves (arms covered in ink). Either way, the “tough guy” stereotype does not apply. They are too nice to look so rugged.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Oh yeah, skin art at it’s finest

It’s weird that most people in such a large city go out of their way to treat each other respectfully. Perhaps that’s what they mean by “Keep Portland Weird.”     Ron Mitchell

Photo by Marilynn Windust

View from Eastbank Esplanade

 

 

Ron Mitchell

MOUNT ST. HELENS


What humans see as devastation nature sees as opportunity. About 35 years ago, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions collapsed an entire side of Mount St. Helens.

Photo of photo of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

Photo of photo of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

Within ten minutes a landslide of incomprehensible proportion destroyed old-growth forest, lakes, and many mammals who hung around too close to the blast.

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake 2014 from Norway Pass trail

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake 2014 from Norway Pass trail

Life renews. Three days later, herds of elk roamed around the barren plain. Their hoofs churned up the pumice while their droppings planted seeds. Enter the lupine…pushing up through the pumice and regenerating life with numbers of purple flowers rarely before seen.

Looking into the crater of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Observatory

Looking into the crater of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Observatory

Gophers survived the blast underground and burrowed their way to the top, aerating and fertilizing. Insects and birds continued the process of adaption, taking advantage of brand new territory. Aquatic life survived under ice-covered lakes and ponds. Amphibians thrived. Today, there is more diversity and abundance of life around Mount St. Helens than before the blast.

View of Mt. Adams from Boundary Trail #1 near Mount Margaret

View of Mt. Adams from Boundary Trail #1 near Mount Margaret

We are privileged to hike through Norway Pass to Mount Margaret. Walking through the rebirth of a new forest on a clear day, views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake expand us. As growth matures, the diversity of life will decrease. Weed-out so to speak.

Match-stick forests created by the blow down from the blast

Match-stick forests created by the blow down from the blast

Leveled trees, rocks, ash, mud, etc., filled Spirit Lake. The water level rose almost 1,000 feet. Everything died in the putrid lifelessness that followed. Three years later, the waters cleared and nature began a new cycle.

Meta Lake from Norway Pass

Meta Lake from Norway Pass

Rain, melt and runoff created new lakes and ponds where everything from algae to frogs and beavers inspire us with resilience and adaptability. Life lives.

Iron Creek Campground

Iron Creek Campground

Camping on a side of Mount St. Helens that was not in the blast zone, we breathe in a rain forest with some trees up to 600 years old. What humans see as devastation nature sees as opportunity. Thank you abundant Universe.             Ron Mitchell

FIVE WAYS TO NOT KILL YOUR TRAVEL PARTNER IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST


Let’s face it, there’s a stage during every journey where travel partners grow grouchy. The book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance mentions this natural phenomenon. Living in close quarters can enhance certain challenges. Here are five ways to get over it:

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail at Cape Arago, Oregon

Hike the coast and let Mother Nature pull you out of yourself. Ego means nothing when you traverse along the ridge of Oregon’s southern coastline. From Sunset Bay to Cape Arago, observe seals and whales in a setting that is much bigger than all of us. (Resist the urge to push your partner over the edge)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Camping on the Rogue River in the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness area, Oregon

Camp, fish and swim along a churning, vibrant river like the Rogue. (Don’t accidentally knock your partner into the rapids) Yes, the rainbow trout are small, but tasty little suckers.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Crater Lake, Oregon

Climb a live volcano that patiently simmers beneath two-thousand feet of water at Crater Lake. (No nudging anybody into the snowbank down below)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Buying fish on the Columbia River near Beacon Rock, Washington

Drive across the Columbia River into Washington and purchase some real fish from the Native Americans. Now we’re talking…steelhead and sockeye freshly filleted for five dollars per pound.

Views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock from the summit of Mt. Hamilton, Washington

Views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock from the summit of Mt. Hamilton, Washington

Let Mother Nature sooth souls. A day-long hike to the summit of MT HAMILTON will exhaust the remainder of your mean thoughts.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Bert Cole State Forest, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

In the morning, before you start snipping, walk about a mile up Beacon Rock. Views of the Columbia River Basin will help you to forgive. (Make sure that your partner does not fall off the narrow walkway)

Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington

Rialto Beach near La Push, in Olympic National Park, Washington

If that doesn’t work, head to the Olympic Peninsula. Writhen trees and branches will carry you into the heart of a cold, green and gray world. Maybe you’ll start to like each other again at the most northwestern point on the contiguous US.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hiking Hurricane Ridge with views of Mt. Olympus in the background, Olympic National Park, Washington

Still grouchy? Take a hike along Hurricane Ridge for views of MT OLYMPUS that you may never see again. (Don’t tell your partner, “Get closer to the mountain goats for a better photo!”)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Wild Mountain Goats sharing the trail on Hurricane Ridge

Now, you may be able to hike to the summit of MT WALKER with no thoughts at all. (You’ll be too tired to push anybody off of anything)

Views of the Hood Canal and Mt. Rainier from the summit of Mt. Walker, Washington

Views of the Hood Canal and Mt. Rainier from the summit of Mt. Walker, Washington

Finally, the best way to not kill each other while camping in the Pacific Northwest (okay, maybe this is more than five ways) is to look way into each other’s eyes, and recognize that there’s no one else in the world whom you would rather spend two weeks with in the back of a pick-up truck…not counting the dog, of course.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Ron Mitchell

 

 

SUMMER FUN IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST


Jack and I drive from Phoenix to Portland to hook-up with Mare. We plan to explore Oregon and Washington by camping, fishing, and hiking, when not mooching off of relatives (Sister Pat).

Photo by Marilynn Windust

The Columbia River Gorge

Most tent campsites along the Oregon coast sit right on the line that divides temperate rain forest from the beach. We build a fire, shuck oysters and crack Dungeness crab for several days, while camping at Beverly Beach State Park. A short walk to the beach and Jack does one of his favorite things in life…chasing sticks and digging for rocks in the water.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Near Beverly Beach Campground, Newport, Oregon

Haystack Rock in Pacific City provides some R&R, along with a little “combat” fishing on the Nestucca River. Mare talks with a local fisherman. “I watch from my house to see when the chinooks [King Salmon] start biting,” he says. “I let these guys do all the work fishing, and just come down when they start hitting.”

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Haystack Rock, Pacific City, Oregon

The man might be watching me all day long, as I have no chinook on my hook.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Fishing the Nestucca River in Pacific City, Oregon

It’s time to head north for a short hike around Cape Disappointment on the Washington coast, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean…named “Disappointment” when explorer John Meares thought he had discovered just another Bay, not a river. Still, it’s not disappointing at all to us.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, near Long Beach, Washington

Back in Oregon, we head inland for a long, exhilarating hike. This one takes us along Eagle Creek, winding through temperate rain forest in the Columbia River Gorge.

Photo by Ron Mitchell

Hiking along Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

We pass numerous waterfalls on a trail that weaves through moss-covered lava landslides and shady forest.

Photo by Ron Mitchell

Tunnel Falls. Yes, there is a tunnel right behind the waterfall. And a heck of a drop off from the trail after!

Six miles later we reach Tunnel Falls. We have lunch amidst a magical background. Rejuvenated for the hike back, we are lucky to have missed the crowds, as they pass us on their way in.

 

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Tunnel Falls

The coast keeps calling us, though, and soon we’ll venture to the southern Oregon coast.        Ron Mitchell

ONE THING WE HAVE LEARNED FROM WORLD TRAVEL


Marilynn and I were camping with Jack the dog when a couple in the site next door walked over to us.

Camping

Camping

“Can we borrow some matches?” He said in broken English, making striking motions with his hands. Of course we gave them a handful of matches.

“Where are you from?” his accent prompted me to ask.

“Iran,” he said reluctantly.

“Welcome!” I said with a big smile.

Their faces lit-up. We conversed enough to ascertain that they rented a car in California, and were saving money by tent camping on their way to Las Vegas.

Later, Marilynn said, “It’s so cool that the first thing out of your mouth to that man was a smile and a ‘welcome.’ That’s a result of the thousands of greetings with smiles and welcomes that people from all over the world have given to us.”

We know how it feels to “reluctantly” say where we are from, while traveling in certain countries. Even then, we usually get a warm welcome.

Deep down, all of us are the same.

Thank you, Abundant Universe.  Ron Mitchell

THAILAND: FROM “TRAVEL” TO “VACATION”

Our final days in Thailand...

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SLOW BOAT THROUGH LAOS ON THE MEKONG RIVER

A slow ride on a long boat through Laos.

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CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

Loving the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand...

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THAILAND ISLANDS: KO LANTA AND PHUKET

Enjoying the paradise of Ko Lanta and Phuket islands in Thailand...

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THAILAND: FROM BANGKOK TO AO NANG BEACH


The 100,000-plus political demonstrators in Bangkok greet us with smiles, handshakes and cell phone photo requests. As far as we can surmise, the urban middle-class believe that the prime minister is corrupt and should resign. The rural majority support the current regime.

Protesters close down major streets in Bangkok

Protesters close down major streets in Bangkok

The energy of this crowd reminds Mare and I a little of Carnival in Rio. We get caught up in the high energy and cheer on the protesters with high-fives. Later, we question the wisdom of engaging in such activity in a foreign land. Touring a Thai jail is not part of the travel plan.

Ron connecting with the people

Ron connecting with the people

Actually, we fear the Komodo Dragons more than anything else thus far. They swim and crawl around the numerous natural canals that flow through Bangkok.

Komodo Dragon - check out that tongue!

Komodo Dragon – check out that tongue!

This massive city of monasteries, palaces, and world commerce is full of streets lined with food vendors. We could stay longer for the food alone, but are itching for the island beaches.

Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace

Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace

Now we’re talking…lounging poolside near jungle-covered limestone cliffs. Down here in Ao Nang, things are much more laid back, and it’s always beer-thirty. Some folks call Ao Nang the “poor man’s Phuket” because it is much the same, but smaller and cheaper.

Mare enjoying the pool at the Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort

Mare enjoying the pool at the Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort

Tourists roam the sidewalks that are lined with restaurants, guesthouses and a plethora of shops. Cover music blares in the many bars, and I even hear a Muzak version of “Cat Scratch Fever.”

Just another day at the beach

Just another day at the beach

Time to burn off the breakfast buffet with a walk along the beach, where monkeys frolic and longboats bob in Andaman Bay.

Andaman Coast

Andaman Coast

Oops…we stumble upon a gauntlet of Thai Massage specialists. “Massage? Do you want massage?” Yeah, Baby, rub that coconut oil all over my body.

The kind of gauntlet I am happy to run

The kind of gauntlet I am happy to run

A man motions for me to remove my shorts. Then, I start to remove my underwear and he enthusiastically stops me. “Sorry, I’m new at this,” I tell him.

Oops!

Oops!

Mare opts for the Aloe Vera rub. She also insists upon both of us getting a major foot scrubbing. Hmm…who would ever think that sandpaper could tickle so much? And we’re just scratching the surface.  by Ron Mitchell

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