Ever since my first memorable trip to the Northwest, I had been pining for more. Having
heard and read a lot about Oregon, and Portland in particular, I finally got an opportunity
to satiate this desire by visiting this part of the country over the President's day weekend. If you don't visit the Northwest between July 4th and Halloween, the weather at most times is gloomy and depressing. But fortune favors the brave, and my to and fro first class flights to the city was further sweetened by 3 bright days of sunshine and warm weather. The occurence of 3 consecutive days of sun was best summarised by my colleague at work, whose first words on hearing this was, "You lucky son of a gun!".
The city of Portland has a very laidback and casual air to it and is often compared to Austin and Madison. In many ways, it follows the trend of most of the west coast cities like LA, San Francisco & Seattle. Devoid of big chain stores, the city exudes a personality of a small town with local stores dotting the downtown. Given the liberal outlook in this part of the country there is a plethora of unique stores and especially notable are the neighbourhoods of Hawthorn and Division district. Courtest the gloomy weather for most part of the year, coffee plays an important role in the lifestyle of Portlanders. I had my fill at the Stumptown coffee, and I must say, it definitely comes close, if not matches the best one I have had in Houston. The city also boasts of an underground network of micro-brews and doles out some really cool local blends.
The downtown, despite the lack of really tall buildings, sits pretty on the banks of Willamete river. With numerous bridges criss-crossing the river, the city resembles, in some ways, the east coast cities settled along the river. But on clear days, the downtown boasts of some unparelleled views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St Helens. Although St. Helens has its top blown off, Hood retain its perfect triangular apex as it rises 11,000 ft above the ground in its snow covered splendor. This forms a perfect backdrop to travellers and commuters heading east on the Interstate 84.
The main agenda of the trip, skiing, was established in the vicinity of Hood. Despite faring better than my compatriots, I was a tad disappointed at my endeavour. Having arrived with the lofty goal of graduating to steeper climbs of Blues, I ended up languishing for most part on a terrain which although dubbed "green", must have been a simple "blue". As I quench all my aspirations for same this year, in flat Houston, I look forward to a prolonged outing next year, hopefully in the Rockies, Sierras or the Cascades!!
The trip also involved a small jaunt to the beginning of the columbia river gorge and a brisk hike to see the head of the Multnomah falls. Under strict time constraints, the steep 1 mile hike to the top was completed thanks mainly due to persistence of my friend, but must say, it was well rewarded with vista views from the top. Having had my fill of Waterfalls (Catarratas), in Costa Rica, I arrived at this falls looking to sneer down at it, but was mildly surprised with its height and beauty. The remainder of the day was spent driving to the coast to the small beautiful town of Cannon Beach. Due to a really flat ocean bed, and tides, I was greeted to an array of colorful aquatic creatures clinging on the exposed rocks. Starfish, Sea Anemones and Mussels clinged on to moist rocks as they waited for the high tide to bring them back to their moist habitat.
Mountains and jagged peaks always allure people and add beauty to the landscape. And then
there is a rocky ocean with waves beating down on them and miles of pristine sand. You mix
the two, and you get a great meeting of land and sea. Don't believe me....just head west!