Portland, Oregon: Where You Can See Forever
by Ruby Bayan
January may not be the best time to tour Portland, especially if you're a year-round sunshiny Floridian like my partner and me. But if a week in the dead of winter could give us the clear weather we had when we were up there, any time of the year can be the finest time to visit Oregon.
Before England's Francis Drake set foot on the shores of Oregon in 1579, what later was nicknamed The Beaver State was home to 125 tribes of Indians who hunted in a mild climate that ranged between 32 and 66 degrees F all year round. For many years, England traded with the Oregon Indians for fur that they sold to China. In 1811, the American Fur Company, founded by John Jacob Astor built a trading post in the town that became known as Astoria.
American settlers in wagon trains came into the Willamette Valley through the Oregon Trail in the early 1840s; and by 1853, Oregon acquired statehood, being the 33rd state of the Union. A fifth of Oregon's economy is accounted for by its timber industry and wood and paper manufacturing; and today, Oregon is one of the keenest adherents of environment consciousness and diversity preservation.
Sights to See
Whether you're a new resident or an old timer of the USA, if it's your first tour of Oregon, Portland is the best place to book temporary residence because from there you can drive to and from the most prominent attractions within a day. Here are the most beautiful sights in and around Portland:
Northern Oregon Coast
Block off one whole day for a leisurely drive down the famous Oregon coastline. Take US-26 West from Portland all the way to the beach -- the drive wouldn't seem hours long because the panorama of the country scene of orchards, wineries and open farms are truly engaging. Watch out for the sign that points to the largest Sitka spruce tree in the US and stand next to a national treasure.
You will drive through the Douglas fir forests of the Oregon Coast Mountain Range that parallel the 296 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, and come into the favorite vacation spot of north westerners, the coastal resort, Seaside. You'll see the monument where the Lewis and Clark expedition first met the Pacific Ocean.
Drive southward along Highway 101 and marvel at the most photographed Haystack Rock along Cannon Beach. Try the fresh catch in any of the string of seafood restaurants that line the shore. Continue south to Tillamook Bay where the famous Tillamook Cheese factory gives an open tour of how their popular cheeses are made, and then drive on back to Portland after watching the red-orange sun sink into the ocean.
Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway
The 80-mile long river canyon known as the Columbia River Gorge that divides Oregon from Washington is a sea-level route that cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range. Its 292,500 acres became a National Scenic Area when President Ronald Reagan signed an act forging the interagency and tribal cooperation among the USDA Forest Service, the Columbia River Gorge Commission, and the states of Oregon and Washington.
From Portland, take I-84 east to Exit 17 at Troutdale, and jump onto the Historic Columbia River Highway (I-30). Eleven miles east you will come to one of the most spectacular lookouts along the Gorge, the Crown Point State Park. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971, and highlighted by the Vista House which was built in 1918, Crown Point is one of the most visited attractions in Oregon. From the Vista House that sits high above a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, you can almost see forever -- or at least a panoramic view that extends as far as 35 miles.
Continue eastward along the Historic Highway, and start counting waterfalls -- there are a total of 77 along the Gorge. One of these worth stopping and hiking for is the Bridal Falls; but if you must pause and be one with just one waterfall, the magnificent Multnomah Falls gives you all the reasons to do so. It drops 620 feet from Larch Mountain, and is the second highest year-round waterfall in the US.
A timeless natural wonder, the Multnomah Falls is nature at its best. Well-preserved hiking trails lead to the Benson arch bridge that puts you closest to the rushing waters, and all the way to the top of the falls, where you can take in the dazzling view of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Gorge.
Your trip to Oregon wouldn't be complete without a day on the state's highest mountain peak, Mt. Hood. Driving along Highway-26 east to Government Camp then Highway-35 north, you will see the snow-capped Mt. Hood standing alone, practically beckoning. Its leading natural terrain parks, the Ski Bowl, Mt. Hood Meadows, and Timberline Lodge, year-round favorites for skiing and snowboarding, are not only the most accessible winter destinations in the Northwest, they also offer breathtaking views of a horizon of snow-mantled peaks and valleys.
A week in Portland will give you enough time to visit the other attractions that make Oregon unique. There's the Bonneville Lock and Dam, a powerhouse and historic landmark where the US Army Corps of Engineers monitor the migration of salmons along the Columbia River. The Pittock Mansion on the West Hills of Portland is a French Renaissance Mansion built in 1909. Downtown, you can visit the World Forestry Center, and the Japanese Gardens that are known to be the most authentic in the nation.
So, if you're ever up in the Northwestern part of the US, make it a point to stay for a week or so in Portland. It may seem like its always raining in Oregon -- but some days, Mother Nature parts the clouds and lets you see forever.
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]