Saturday, July 20, 2013

Road Trip! Bandon OR

Recently a friend and I rode-tripped it down to Bandon, Oregon, and what a visual treat it was. It seems as you head south from Portland, the ginormous Douglas fir that dominate the northern parts of western Oregon give way to open spaces, creating wide expanses and incredible vistas reminiscent of California's central coast (think Big Sur). Rocky cliffs and crashing waves abound – but I'm getting ahead of myself.

It was a fun-and-photo-filled four days. Read on for trip highlights.

Crab cocktail at Griffs on the Bay

On the way down, we stopped at Griff's on the Bay in Winchester Bay. Here, we enjoyed a tasty, no-frills lunch of crab cocktail, garlic bread and beer. The crab was good, but the star of the meal was the ice-cold hefeweizen served in a deliciously frosty mug. 

After our simple-yet-satisfying meal, we hit the road and soon arrived at the Bandon Inn, a pleasant place located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. It was quiet and clean, and many of the rooms (if not all) have ocean views. They serve a light pension-style breakfast, plus fresh cookies later in the day. Another good thing is that there's a short trail leading directly from the inn down to Bandon's main street, making it easy to pop into town.

Bandon, Oregon

Once in town, we were greeted by two signs pleading us to enjoy Bandon  one on each end of the main road. My friend and I really got a kick out of them. They sounded a little tentative, as if we might NOT be enjoying Bandon. We felt the signs could benefit from a slight edit – perhaps adding an exclamation point to create a more confident-sounding sign for such a lovely location. 

OK, enough about the signs...

After scoping out the local restaurants, we decided on the Alloro Wine Bar, and actually ate here twice during our stay.  I can safely say that this is the town's "foodie" restaurant. We had excellent scallops, and hit on some new wines we liked. As for dessert, well, the photo speaks for itself.

Dessert at Alloro Wine Bar

So, besides eating and drinking, there was much scenery to be seen. At Bullards Beach State Park, we hiked a trail along the cliffs that had breathtaking views. It was quite windy that day (note the whitecaps), but we were undeterred for obvious reasons. 

Bullards Beach  vista

Bullards Beach  another vista

Bullards Beach – yet another vista

Bullards Beach – one more vista

Another jaunt took us to Cape Blanco, where we toured the lighthouse. Now, there are lots of lighthouses along the Oregon coast. But apparently, what's special about this one is that the Fresnel lens is still in tact. So, for all you optics geeks, this lighthouse is worth a visit. The lens is truly fascinating, especially up close.

Cape Blanco lighthouse

Cape Blanco Fresnel lens

We also checked out the nearby historic Hughes House, a fine example of Victorian architecture. It actually had a bright and airy feel (as opposed to other historic Victorians I've visited, which felt overdecorated and downright creepy.)  

Historic Hughes House

More spectacular ocean views were to be had at Cape Perpetua. It's hard to describe this location without slipping into cliches such as "breathtaking," "majestic,"and "captivating." But hey, they apply.

Cape Perpetua

We knew we couldn't return home without seeing the famous Oregon Dunes, and lucked into an easy way to experience them without having to exert ourselves. At the Tahkenitch Day Use Area, a wooden walkway leads to a viewpoint where you can admire these unique formations without having to tromp across giant mounds of shifting dry sand. We were actually feeling a bit guilty about skipping the hike - that is until the twenty-something ranger we chatted with confessed that she, too, had never actually hiked the dunes. 

Oregon Dunes at Tahkenitch Day Use Area

Basically, the southern Oregon Coast is the scenic equivalent of a "Greatest Hits" album.  Photo ops abound in this part of the state. Expansive vistas of the Pacific and craggy cliffs are almost always in sight. And like many hikers, I feel that you should "earn" your scenery – but probably the most guilty pleasure of Bandon and the surrounding area is that you can enjoy world-class views by simply getting out of your car. 

All photos property of Laurie Harquail

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Ahead: Parkdale OR

On that first day of Daylight Savings, a friend and I snuck in a couple of hours of cross-country skiing before it got too warm and started to drizzle. Not ones to ski in rain and melting snow, we decided to get a drink instead. So we hit one of our favorite Hood River Valley destinations – the Solera Brewery in Parkdale.

We love this place. It has a certain scruffy charm, and it's off the beaten path. But really, you don't have to drive that far off the beaten path to get there - just 6 miles off of Hwy 35. It's a perfect diversion in our opinion. 

We came here many times when it was still the Elliot Bay Public House. (Look closely, and you can see the ghostly outlines of the old sign.) And when it closed for a while, we were devastated. A favorite hang had been taken away from us.   

Thankfully, it reopened. During this particular visit, the new proprietor turned us onto a lovely IPA which wasn’t too hoppy, and in his words, was more “floral”. The beer is good, and the pub grub is above average. But what makes this minor detour worth taking is the view from the back deck. It borders on a pear orchard, and on a clear day (which this wasn't), the view of Mt. Hood is fantastic.

It’s a terrific place to come after hiking or skiing. And it's also fun to take visitors, because it’s just so Oregon.

And since we had gained an extra hour of daylight, we decided to take the backroads back to Hood River. The late winter light, the barely budding pear trees, and the dark clouds were stunning.

4945 Baseline Drive
Parkdale, OR  97041

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Night Special: Esparza's, Portland OR

One positive thing that has come out of The Great Recession is that restaurants have taken Happy Hours and dinner specials to new heights, which make for some good deals around town.

I mean, really, who wants to pay full price for anything anymore?

Which is how a friend pitched the Sunday night dinner special at Esparza’s Tex-Mex restaurant to me – a hearty plate of enchiladas for only $6.99.

Were they good? Well, they were certainly good enough – considering the price and the generous portion.  Not to mention the free chips and salsa, which were quite tasty, by the way. The chips were fresh and still warm when served, and the salsa had a nice smokey quality.

So, a plate of enchiladas with rice and beans, plenty of chips and salsa, plus one beer, and my tab came to $10.00 and change.

I would have easily spent more at Burgerville.

2725 SE Ankeny Street
Portland, Oregon  97214


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Leave it to Beavers: Beaver Lodge Sanctuary, Seattle WA

Seems like at every Northwest artsy-crafty show I've attended, there's always an artist's statement that declares their work depicts "where the natural and urban landscape collide". It might be another Northwest cliché (right up right up there with “Summer starts July 5th”) – but you know what? It’s true.

Recently, a friend introduced me to a fine example of the nature-meets-city phenomenon.  At the end of a short, tucked-away gravel path in Seattle's well-heeled Madison Park neighborhood, you'll find the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary. Nestled between upper-middle class homes and a golf course, the sanctuary is a small, woodsy area that connects with the water. It's dotted with tidy piles of crisscrossed logs and branches – the makings of these semi-aquatic creatures' homes.

Unfortunately, on that particular day, the beavers were laying low, and the lodges seemed still - at least on the surface. But, it was comforting to know they were there, co-existing with their human neighbors, and the Starbucks just up the road.

Beaver Lodge Sanctuary
37th Ave E (E Mc Gilvra St), Seattle, WA 98112