Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poor Oregon, You Got Lost in the Wedding Shuffle

Nathan and I took a trip to Oregon back in August before the wedding crazy really reached its peak. It was a fantastic week in which we hung out with Dean, enjoyed the ridiculous amount of wild blackberries, and tried to adjust to fall weather having just left the dog days of August in Chicago.

I should mention that I had never been out west before. I've been to California, but that is truly a region of its own. To get to Oregon, we took a plane with Chester the Eskimo's face plastered across the tail (Alaska Air). Our long flight had more screaming children than any flight I've ever been on save Orlando. I was miserable. Nathan was watching Family Guy on the personal DVD player that we rented for $7 so he was oblivious and laughing uproariously at shows I would swear he's seen at least a dozen times.  No joke, he honestly can relate every conversation we have back to "that time on Family Guy" or South Park.  I find it deeply disturbing.  We arrived at 11 pm CST and rented a car because we still had a 2 hour drive to Corvallis, which is where his brother was living for the summer while he attends baseball camp.

Dean had tons of things planned for us.  Day one of our visit he had the day off from baseball so we headed to the coast.  It was quite chilly, and I was very thankful I had packed my sweater at the last minute (I lived in this sweater the entire trip).  We headed west to the coast and then south.  We had to make a stop before we reached the coast because I was ready to lose it sitting in the backseat while on all those curvy roads.  And by it, I mean my breakfast.  It turned out to be a lovely digression though because we walked down into a meadow and ended up catching crawdads and enjoying the sun as it burned off the fog.

After the poor crawdad was suitably traumatized, we got back in the car and continued on to the coast.  As we neared the coast, Nathan spotted a travel information post so we stopped.  (He likes to stock up on brochures to read to us at each site.)  While he browsed, Dean and I made a beeline to the little building next door where a lady was dumping a huge writhing tangle of crabs into a massive pot of boiling water.  The little building turned out to be a seafood shop which was selling the morning catch.  We decided to buy a whole crab to have for lunch and some seafood chowder to slurp in the car.

Nathan and Dean
We continued on to the Oregon Dunes.  They were large and hard to miss, but we had great difficulty finding how to actually get to them.  After driving far down the road, we finally came to a park entrance.  We climbed the large dune and got to the frosty, wind-blasted coast.  The boys played aerobee for a very long while.  I took a ton of pictures, mostly out of boredom and to practice using my long distance lens.  We decided we were going to try to get to a distant point that Nathan pointed out from the top of our dune.  We got back in the car and went back to the first place we nearly stopped.  It was fantastic.  You had to climb straight up this huge hill of sand for what felt like an eternity.  When you reached the top, it was just an endless vista of sand and scrub pines.  The boys ran off to play aerobee in the endless sand box, but I laid down to "keep watch on their stuff," aka nap and read.

After the dunes, we continued on up the coast and saw some spectacularly described sites such as the haystacks and the Devil's Basin.  Not as spectacular in person, especially at high tide.  However, we did get sidetracked at a picnic area taking a hike to see the world's largest Ponderosa Pine.  I scoffed, but it ended up being an enjoyable hike and a VERY LARGE tree.

We ended day one in Newport, where we had a fantastic seafood stew dinner at a small restaurant called filled with oceanic flotsam and jetsam. After dinner, we headed down the wharf to eat more blackberries and watch the sea lions bark and beach themselves on the pier.  An exhausting first day.

That guy chickened out, but I didn't.
Day two began with a trip to the local farmer's market, which was awesome.  We stocked up on berries, cheese, and bread for lunch.  We headed to Eugene to see the University of Oregon.  (It's hard enough talking Nathan out of his odd penchant for examining any and all campuses we encounter during our travel, but when there's a second McArdle throwing his affirmative vote into the mix, I have no hope of escaping the tour.)  Then we headed to High Rock, a hidden water hole off the side of a well-traveled road that a local friend had shown Dean.  It was gorgeous and warming up just enough that we were willing to brave the icy waters.  We hiked down the river and then back up on the far bank on what Dean and his friends had named "The Mission."  This involved belly crawling through crevices that reached out over the water, a wee bit of bouldering along cracks, scrabbling through loose gravel and tangled weeds up huge stone boulders, and then finally jumping off the 15-20 foot high rock into the water...all in a bathing suit.  Slightly bloodied thighs did not impede me.  I even went on to jump off the highest rock, which was probably more like 30-35 feet. 

We headed back for Dean's game that afternoon.  Dean pitched the last half, but we missed a bit due to a yummy meal of sushi and Nathan needing to check out the Oregon University campus.  We apparently arrived back at the stadium just after Dean was put in, but we didn't hear the change.  Nathan mentioned he was going to go look for Dean in the bullpen, and I said, "Every pitcher looks like Dean to me.  That guy looks like Dean."  (It was Dean.)  In our defense, Dean had told us he would be pitching the next night, and we were planning to watch every minute of that game.  I hadn't even brought my camera for this game.  He told us later that he knew he was pitching this game, but it wasn't a big deal.  We begged to differ.

Day three of our trip involved an early morning hike up Mary's Peak, the highest point in Corvallis.  It was a very nice morning for hiking, but upon reaching the top, we realized that the fog had not yet burned off, and we really couldn't see anything.  At least the hiking made up for the lack of view.  Hiking in Oregon is very interesting.
Of all the hikes we did, every single one was in completely different types of landscape: dune hiking, tall pine forests with clear forest floors, deciduous forests with lots of undergrowth and wildflowers, and old growth forests.  All very different.  It made for some very fun walking.  In the afternoon, Dean was needed back for a baseball game, so we headed back to the ball field.  After the game, we were treated to an evening cookout with Dean's host family where we ate phenomenal smoked ribs. 

Our final full day in Oregon, we headed to Portland to try out some of the world-famous street vendors.  The food trucks have been written about in nearly every food magazine.  These trucks are located throughout the city.  Each truck has their own specialty.  Some sell Thai food, some tamales, and others sell Korean tacos.  We had done a little research, and had a best of the best list.
We aimed for this place for Thai rice and Koi Fusion for tacos.  We were not disappointed.  They were both fantastic.  We also took the tram up to the hospital to see the view of Portland and the surrounding area.  It was a little foggy, so we didn't get any great pictures, but it was a fun ride.  Thus ended a very enjoyable trip.  I hope I get to make my way back there someday soon.


  1. Hanna, these pictures are gorgeous! How fun. I think it would be neat to travel that far out west sometime. I love your new profile picture too!

  2. I love your pics and it looks like a great vacation spot! That's funny that Nate and his brother both like to check out colleges!!