Stories from Oregon

Last Wednesday a friend decided to buy an RV in Portland, Oregon. Knowing that a decent part of my recent life has been dedicated to ripping apart my RV and rearranging it, he offered to fly me up there to check it out with him and drive back down. Done deal.

Two days later we’re greeted at the Portland airport by a beautiful 2000 Roadtrek 170. I used to think that my RV was the shortest fully functional RV, but I was wrong. This thing is only 17 feet (vs. my 20’8″), and still manages to pack in a bathroom, kitchen, and all that. The only thing stopping me from selling mine and buying one is the fact that it doesn’t have a full-time bed. Other than that, this thing is ideal. So if you’re RV shopping in this size range, check it out.

Here are a few snippets from the trip:

Paley’s Place

As I mentioned in the footnotes of another post last week, deciding to eat properly raised meat still leaves me with almost no acceptable choices of restaurants beyond the vegan restaurants I already eat at. Grass fed/finished beef just doesn’t seem to exist in most restaurants.

Once we finished all the RV stuff in Portland on our first day here, I searched for grass fed beef, and found one standout restaurant: Paley’s Place. Expensive, but after technically being a carnivore for a couple weeks and still not eating grass fed beef in a restaurant, I was up for it.

I could go on and on about the whole meal, but in the interest of being concise, I’ll just tell you about the most amazing part: jamon iberico de bellota. I don’t really even like ham, but I have been wanting to try this stuff for at least four years. It comes from a specific type of pig that roams freely in the oak forests between Portugal and Spain. The acorns which make up the bulk of its diet give it a unique taste, and the fat ends up being extremely rich in monounsaturated fat, like olive oil. Once the pigs are killed, the meat is cured for a full three years and then sold for around $100 per pound. It’s one of the rarest and most delicious meats in the world. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw it on the menu.

I’ve had a lot of fancy foods before. Foie gras, Kobe beef, caviar, etc. Generally I think they’re overrated. Well, not the Kobe beef, but most other things. But this ham was beyond incredible. It had such a rich, distinct, and complicated flavor that I couldn’t believe it. In fact, it was so good that I couldn’t wipe the huge smile off my face while eating it. Amazing. If you have the chance to try it, definitely take it.

Eagle Creek

The reason there isn’t a new gear post is because I’ve found a few amazing new pieces of gear that I haven’t purchased yet. I have really high expectations for them, so I don’t want to write a gear post before getting them. The problem is that two of them, a new insulation jacket and a new shell, are replacing items I already have. And it just seems wasteful to get rid of the fleece and shell that have served me well since 2007. I forgot my jackets in San Francisco, though, which was just the push I needed to get over the hill to buy the new ones I’ve been eyeing for a while.

We went to e-OMC, an outdoors store, where I tried on a few things and ultimately bought a new shell. During the trying on process we idly asked where we should go hiking. Eagle Creek was recommended, so we went there.

Overall it was a pretty great hike. We did the 4.2 mile roundtrip hike to punchbowl falls, which was the highlight of the trek. The falls themselves aren’t the most spectacular I’ve ever seen (there’s a far bigger one visible from the road on the way there), but what’s really striking is just how green everything is. That’s my kind of forest. From the trail you hike down a few hundred feet into a gorge lined with moss covered cliffs. There’s a really cold creek running through it, cascading over waterfalls, and as far as you can see upwards are the kind of tall skinny pine trees that scream northwest. Really beautiful.

Bagby Hot Springs

I’m a big fan of hot springs, but until this weekend I hadn’t made it out to any that were in a really natural setting. The one I’d been to in Japan was in a small rural town, and Harbin Hot Springs in California is really well developed. Bagby hot springs is in the middle of a national forest and the tubs are made of giant hollowed out tree trunks laid on their sides. A few pictures from Flickr and we were convinced to go.

After the 1.5 mile hike required to get to the springs, we found the tubs and whipped off our clothes, ready to get in. Only then did we notice that everyone else was wearing bathing suits except for the four extremely gay guys in the corner. How am I so sure they were gay? Well, they had two people in each tree-trunk tub, and were splashing each other while squealing like young girls. Then again, they were also 100% sure that we were gay. Why? Because we ended up sharing a tree trunk as well, for starters. By the time we got a a bucket to mix cold water in with the hot, there was only one trunk left, and we weren’t about to hike all this way and not get a good soak in. Oh, and there was this conversation:

“Where are you from?”

Me: “San Francisco”

“Oh, I love San Francisco. I lived there for seven years.”

“Cool. I just came out a year ago.”

Only after saying that did I realize the double entendre, but it was too late.

Anyway, no big deal. We soaked in our log, they splashed around in theirs, and everyone was happy.

Next to our log was a larger round cedar tub that could generously be called a four person tub. Eventually its occupants left, so we decided to jump in to get some more room. Then one of the guys asked if we minded if he joined. Of course not. And then another. It was getting crowded, and another one of them came over and started hovering, looking for a good place to squeeze in. My friend and I looked at each other and burst out into uncontrollable laughter because of the invasion, which they had every reason to think was quite welcomed. Before the fifth guy could wedge his way in, we excused ourselves and started hiking back to the RV.

Log Walk

The hike to Bagby follows a creek which occasionally has a fallen tree across it. I’d estimate that the logs are forty or fifty feet long and about thirty feet from the rocky creek at the highest. Given our proclivity for slightly dangerous activities, it was no surprise that the idle talk of walking across a log turned into goading and an obligation to prove one’s manliness. So we scootched our way across one way, and then more goading led to walking upright on the way back. Not the greatest achievement in the world or anything, but it definitely feels good to challenge yourself and face a fear (even if the fear is justified).

Fern Canyon

As if we hadn’t already done enough hiking and wilderness immersion, we had one more spot to hit on the way back: Fern Canyon. I was wowed by pictures of it on my friend Alison‘s facebook page and made a mental note to go there. And finally, about eight months after seeing those photos, I had the chance.

We got there around 11pm and were greeted by a park ranger who pulled us over. The campgrounds were full, he said, and we’d have to backtrack to the nearest town, which was a considerable distance away, given that we were in the middle of a national park. Then, finally, just as he was about to walk away, he said, “Tell you what?’ll cut you a break. Go over to the parking lot where it says no camping, and you can just stay there.” Perfect!

The next morning we woke up and made our way through two small streams (in the RV) across a bit of seaside grassland that had an Elk rooting around.

Right after the Elk was the beginning of the Fern Canyon hike. The canyon is bordered by thirty foot high walls on either side, each totally covered with ferns. Amazing. The hike is really fun because it criss-crosses the stream that runs through the canyon. When we reached the end of the path we took some steps up to one of the ridges alongside the canyon. There we found ourselves in one of the tallest forests I’ve ever been in. The trees all looked perfect to climb, and so we did. I made it fifty feet up a one-hundred foot tree, but finally got sick of all the giant spider webs and came back down.

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(I don’t think that picture really gives an idea of the scale, but I tried…)

After the tree we made a quick trip to the nearby beach, where I saw another animal I’d never seen in the wild before: seals! I tried to take photos, but they didn’t come out well.

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Hopefully these sorts of posts are interesting to people. Would love to hear feedback.

We actually also stopped in the Humboldt Redwood Forest on the way back and walked a bunch of other logs. You feel like a tiny little elf when you run around in that forest because all of the trees are so huge.

I didn’t mention what an awesome city Portland is, but it’s REALLY awesome. Not big enough that I would want to live there, but I’m looking forward to visiting again.

I’m trying hard to stick to a Monday / Thursday posting schedule. This one is late because I wanted to include Fern Canyon AND I basically haven’t had internet access until now. I’m sure no one’s too upset about a one day delay…

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