Monday, December 17, 2012

A Lot of Trees: Portland OR

Peterson family Christmas tree lot

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, buying a Christmas tree meant going to the local supermarket parking lot.  And depending on that particular winter (if you can call it that), the temperature could be anywhere from 68 – 90 degrees, where lovely trees from cool damp places (probably Oregon) would be baking in the heat. You picked your tree, took it home in the family station wagon, and hoped it wouldn’t turn into kindling before the big day.

So, now that I live in the Christmas Tree Capital of The World, that probably explains my complete appreciation for the tree lot less than a mile from my house, which sets up shop every December in a very adorable rustic open space, complete with woodsy hut and wood-cut elves.

For me, the Christmas Season officially starts when this local tree lot is glowing with string lights and packed with fresh trees grown in nearby Canby, cut just hours before you take them home. It’s run by the Peterson family, and apparently has been doing business for over 20 years. Fathers, sons, and cousins are all on-hand helping out.

And after my initial tree purchase, I often return to buy fresh holiday greens, and sometimes even a wreath – so the thrill of Christmas tree buying extends well into December.

To top it off, Jim and Patty's is across the street, so I can get a warm yummy drink, then head over to tromp around the pine-scented lot, humming with the sound of buzz saws merrily trimming stumps and errant branches.

What could be more Christmassy that that?

Peterson Christmas Trees
NE Fremont & 49th
Portland, OR

Monday, November 12, 2012

Where the Cool Kids Are

The weather has turned and we've set back the clocks... meaning its cold, dark, and wet. But don't despair! Even if it sucks outside, you can still venture out into the World Wide Web.

For me, on these dark, soggy evenings, my latest social networking drug-of-choice is tumblr. If you've ever wanted to know where the cool kids hang out online, this is the place. What makes tumblr so cool? Just check it out - you'll see.

And here's a fun tumblr link for all you bloggers out there. Refreshingly goofy, even if it is at the Cool Kids site.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Better PB&J: Portland OR

One Saturday afternoon while on NW 23rd Avenue, I realized I had skipped lunch, which immediately made me feel ravenous. As fate would have it, I spied the PBJ’s food cart across the street, which serves gourmet sweet and savory grilled sandwiches.

Keena of PBJ's hands out sandwich samples

Man, these are good – and rich. (Nut butters, chocolate and cheeses - oh my!) And they use all local, mostly organic ingrediants. I had the Oregonian, an amazing grilled, melted concoction of challah bread, berry jam, blue cheese and hazelnut butter. 

I also got to sample a dessert-like sandwich (as if the first sandwich wasn’t dessert-like enough). This one involved peanut butter and chocolate, and finished on a perfectly salty high note.

I also chatted with one of the owners, Keena Taliman, who has boundless enthusiasm for turning people onto the gooey goodness of her fancy-but-still-down-to-earth sandwich creations.

NW 23rd Avenue and NW Kearney Street

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise: Vancouver BC

Gosh. Lucky for me, when I road-tripped to Vancouver BC earlier this month, I hit three days of 80-degree-plus weather and not a cloud in the sky. So, knowing what lies just around the corner in the Pacific Northwest, I took full advantage of the California-comes-to-Canada climate and spent most of my time outside. Let’s just say visiting museums will have to wait for a rainy day. 

Stanley Park Seawall bike path

What I did do was rent a bike, and took a leisurely spin around Stanley Park. Yes, a tourist activity, but one that actually allowed me to connect like a local with the city's wonderful natural beauty. Conveniently located near Stanley Park are several bike-rental shops. I wound up at Spokes Bicycle Rentals – which is quite a large operation, manned by lots of friendly international twenty-somethings from places like the Czech Republic and Australia. At Spokes, you can choose from several types of bikes – including one-speed cruisers, city cruisers, mountain bikes and full-on road bikes. I opted for the city cruiser, which is kind of an urban comfort bike with several gears. A lock and a helmet is part of the deal, and if you bring our own bike shoes, they’ll even hook you up so you can clip in. 

Totem poles in Stanley Park

I must confess, I really didn’t explore much of the park’s interior, mainly because I was so enamored with the 5.5 mile scenic seawall bike path. It circles the entire park, and for long stretches it hugs the water’s edge. In fact, riding along this seawall is pretty much the next best thing to being on a boat. I did make a couple of stops; one to check out the totem poles (a very popular destination), and another to watch freighters loaded with colorful containers cruise by. 

A freighter floats by on English Bay

Cycling around the park just left me wanting more. So I continued on and rode past several beaches including Second Beach – which on that particular day looked like the Canadian version of the French Riviera. It was hot and sunny, and visibly happy folks in bathing suits dotted the sand, soaking up the last rays of summer. I also admired the use of logs as Nature’s answer to the chaise lounge  very much in keeping with the tone of the city, which has an international Northwest-chic vibe. 

Second Beach on a sunny September afternoon

Vancouver BC is as beautiful as San Francisco and appears to be as bike-friendly as Portland, which is a killer combination. The city’s bridges seemed to have as many bike commuters as our Broadway Bridge on a summer weekday afternoon. Green bike boxes and wide bike lanes are everywhere, and nifty miniature bike maps are free in most bike shops. 

One of the city's many bike lines

Next time, I plan on taking my own bike and exploring the city on two wheels. Seems like an ideal way to either stay on or get off the beaten path.

Stanley Park
2000 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC  V6G 2V7

Spokes Bicycle Rentals
1798 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC  V6G 2V7
Ph. (604) 688-5141

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Perfect Hike: Elk Meadows, Mt. Hood OR

I try to get out and do a hike now and then, and a couple of years ago a co-worker introduced me to one that has since become my favorite. So much of a favorite, in fact, that now I only want to go on this particular hike, because I think it’s perfect.  (I guess it’s the hiking equivalent of ordering the same dish every time you go to your favorite restaurant.) The hike is to Elk Meadows on Mt. Hood.

A little whitewater on the way to Elk Meadows

So what is that makes this my fave hike? Well, let’s just say it has everything. Rushing water, colorful wildflowers, a roughhewn footbridge, a healthy climb – and to top things off – a gorgeous meadow. Plus, this hike is rated “moderate”– which means you can feel that you did a somewhat challenging hike – not just some easy two-mile stroll to look at a waterfall. (Nothing wrong with those, by the way.)

For starters, there's a well-marked trailhead (complete with a decent Porta-Potty nearby).

The beginning

Fairly soon into the hike you encounter Clark Creek, complete with a rustic footbridge.

Clark Creek footbridge

Not long after Clark Creek, you hit Newton Creek, another rushing body of water. But this time, you cross by walking across logs. A little scary, but just scary enough to make it fun.

Hiking buddy crossing Newton Creek

Along the way you can see some interesting fungi, like this other-worldly mushroom formation.

A large forest mushroom clings to a tree

You can also see a multitude of blue lupine in bloom.

Blue lupine abound

The path then leads to eight long-ish switchbacks.  Fortunately, on that hot August afternoon, the switchbacks were mostly shaded. (More perfection!) Also – eight is about the right number, and makes you feel like you earned what lies ahead.

Hiking buddy climbing switchbacks

After the switchbacks, the trail leads to the piece de resistance – Elk Meadows. Once you hit the meadow you can hike the perimeter and glimpse Mt. Hood from various vantage points.

Elk Meadows

This is an amazingly scenic spot, and it’s worth lingering to admire the picture-postcard beauty. It's also a great place for a picnic. Or just bring a book and a blanket and while away the afternoon.

A few things worth noting:

I’ve done this hike in July, August, and September, and the experience varied by month:

July was a bit buggy (due to melting snow pack, I believe). A lightweight long-sleeve shirt plus insect repellent came in handy.

August was quite warm, and a little dusty and dry – but minimal bugs.  

September was idyllic.  Wildflowers gave way to fall colors. It was warm but not hot. No bugs. This is picnic weather.

The hike to Elk Meadows is about a seven mile round trip. There is an option to continue on to Gnarl Ridge, making for a ten mile round trip. (I’m saving that for next time ... if I get past the picnic part).

For a more detailed account of this hike (and the Gnarl Ridge option) check out William L. Sullivan’s ever-popular 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.