Pacific Northwest Road Trip, Part 4: Portland (OR)

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If you missed the intro post to this blog series, be sure to check it out here.

Also known as The City of Roses and Bridgetown (with no shortage of roses or bridges), Portland is a great city. It is extremely walkable, its people are super friendly, and it has an impressive food scene, as well as an even more impressive craft beer scene. With the most microbreweries per capita in the world, what’s not to love? Further, Portland is the perfect city for outdoor enthusiasts, as it is surrounded by some of the best hiking in the country.

Day 6

We arrived to our Airbnb around six p.m. and agreed that it couldn’t have been more fitting for our Portland stay. It was located in a downtown, historical building and its decor was the perfect mix of modern and vintage. Given that Portland was smack in the middle of our two-week trip, it was amazing to have access to a washer/dryer and full kitchen. With that being said, I won’t try to make night six of our trip sound exciting, as it was spent doing laundry, making pizzas, and watching a movie. As boring as it may sound, it was much needed.

Day 7

Given our laidback night the evening prior, we woke up feeling refreshed for a full day of exploring the city. We roamed around the downtown area, hitting up all the hot spots, such as Pioneer Courthouse Square, Stumptown Coffee, Voodoo Doughnut, and the infamous Portland food carts.

Next, what was intended to be a quick visit to Powell’s City of Books ended up being a several hour stop. Needless to say, Powell’s is amazing! It spans an entire city block in Downtown Portland and is the largest independently-owned book store in the world. It has an amazing selection and is definitely worth checking out. Just a few blocks away is what is considered the Pearl District, which is home to great boutique shopping. A boutique that I particularly enjoyed was MadeHere PDX, as it has an amazing selection of tasteful, handcrafted items that are perfect for souvenirs.

After hours of roaming around, we were starved and eager for some brews. Naturally, we hit up nearby Deschutes Brewery for some grub and beer flights. I’m no craft beer connoisseur, but I was thoroughly impressed. Before we knew it, it was getting late. Knowing that we still had so much that we wanted to check out the following day, we headed back to our Airbnb.

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Day 8

Our second full day in Portland was even more jam-packed than our first. Dan wanted to sleep in, but there was no way that I was going to miss the farmers market only blocks away from our Airbnb. The Portland Farmers Market is known to be one of the best out there. As our stay in Portland did not coincide with one of the infamous Saturday markets, I was at least determined to check out one of their smaller, weekday markets. Well, color me impressed. If their Wednesday market is as impressive as I found it to be, I can’t even fathom what the Saturday market is like! Think: incredible bouquets; fresh, local, and seasonal produce; and artisan food items. Again, a great stop for tasteful, handcrafted souvenirs.

Afterward, I dropped my goodies off at our Airbnb and subsequently walked to NW 23rd Street in Nob Hill. If you’re looking for great shopping and local eateries on one convenient strip, this is the place to be. I first hit up Barista Coffee, followed by several boutiques. Dan and I ultimately met up for a late lunch turned happy hour and dessert feast. We stumbled upon an eatery called Papa Haydn, and I am so happy that we did. Known for its incredible dessert selection, it also has amazing food, cocktails, and service.

After feeling fat, happy, and buzzed, we headed to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. A visit here is a must, especially if you’re into photography. Between its impeccable blooms and intoxicating aroma, it’s easy to get lost here for hours. When Dan finally convinced me that I had gotten “the perfect shot” several times over, we drove to Cathedral Park to take in some of the best views of St. John’s Bridge. Between the bridge’s turquoise coloring and unique design, I was swooning!

After the sun set over St. John’s Bridge, we headed to the Buckman neighborhood of SE Portland so that we could check out Cascade Brewing Barrel House. We really enjoyed this brewery, as it features a number of sour, barrel-aged beers. With unique flavors like apricot, elderberry, and honey ginger lime, I was in love. After several tastings, however, we headed back to our Airbnb knowing that we were set to hit the road the following day.

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Day 9

On our way out of Portland, we made it a priority to stop at Multnomah Falls, which is part of the Columbia River Gorge. It was absolutely breathtaking! Just 30 minutes outside of Downtown Portland, the Columbia River Gorge has so much to offer, including an abundance of waterfalls. I’m thrilled that we had the opportunity to check out what is arguably the most stunning waterfall of them all.

…Next stop, Olympic National Park!

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Pacific Northwest Road Trip, Part 3: Crater Lake National Park (OR)

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If you missed the intro post to this blog series, be sure to check it out here.

As you can tell by the abundance of photos that I have included in this post, there is no shortage of beauty at Crater Lake National Park. The story behind Crater Lake makes it that much more majestic; it formed after a volcano erupted and subsequently collapsed over 7,700 years ago. Being that Crater Lake does not connect with any lakes or streams and is instead fed by rain and snow alone, it is touted as one of the cleanest large bodies of water in the world. Similarly, at nearly 2,000 feet deep, it is the 9th deepest lake in the world. Because it is contaminated on such a small scale and its waters are so deep, Crater Lake is made up of some of the bluest water you will ever lay eyes on.

The best means to enjoy Crater Lake is to either stop at several overlooks along Rim Drive or hop on one of the boat tours offered by the park. The boat tours involve a 1.1 mile hike to the boat dock followed by the tour itself. Dan and I would have loved to take a boat tour, but they were sold out by the time we arrived to the park. I later found out that the Wizard Island Tour allows for top-notch cliff jumping. If and when I revisit Crater Lake, you know what I’ll be doing. ;)

Day 5

Being that our drive from Lake Tahoe to Crater Lake was the longest of our road trip, we didn’t arrive to camp until quite late. Being that it was both cold and dark when we arrived, we set up camp in record time. We stayed at the Mazama Village Campground, but had I known just how chilly it would be at Crater Lake in early September, I would have opted for a cabin. Luckily, we were at Crater Lake for only one night and were accompanied by the most amazing night sky that I’ve ever seen. Since we were at such high elevation with limited pollution, I was able to spot one constellation after the next. It was an awe-inspiring experience! Between the stars, a toasty campfire, and hardcore snuggles, we quickly forgot about the cold and ultimately drifted off to sleep.

Day 6

After a chilly night’s sleep, we woke up early, packed up camp, and drove along West Rim Drive. It’s important to note that we chose the western portion of the drive only because it made sense for our subsequent drive to Portland. I’m sure other portions of the drive are just as scenic! Anyway, we stopped at three overlooks before we hit the road again, and the views were nothing short of amazing. We were up-close-and-personal with Wizard Island and were able to spot Phantom Ship from afar. The last overlook that we stopped at was Watchman Overlook, which is a must. At an elevation of just over 8,000 feet, it offers the most encompassing views of the lake and its surroundings.

…Next stop, Portland!

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Pacific Northwest Road Trip, Part 2: Lake Tahoe (CA)

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If you missed the intro post to this blog series, be sure to check it out here.

Stop two of our Pacific Northwest road trip was Lake Tahoe. For those of you who don’t know, Lake Tahoe is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the country, only slightly smaller than the five Great Lakes. It is situated in the Sierra Nevada, with one portion of the lake in California and the other in Nevada.

Luckily, some friends of mine grew up going to Lake Tahoe and were able to fill me in on the differences between North Lake Tahoe and South Lake Tahoe. Both were described as an awesome time, yet completely different from one another depending on what you’re looking for. In a nutshell, North Lake Tahoe tends to be great for relaxing while South Lake Tahoe tends to be great for partying. Since this trip was all about R&R, we opted for North Lake Tahoe. More specifically, We stayed in Carnelian Bay, which is on the northwest shore of the California portion of the lake. We stayed at an awesome Airbnb that had a fireplace, pool table, and small deck complete with lake views. It was the perfect mountain retreat.

The hype surrounding Lake Tahoe is for good reason; it is pristine, massive, and absolutely gorgeous. Regardless of the season, there is so much to do. Between hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, skiing, snowboarding – the list goes on and on – it is the epitome of an outdoor lover’s paradise. Since we were there over Labor Day weekend and the weather was bright and sunny, the water and beaches were calling our names. However, I’d love to go back during the winter months to check out the slopes.

Day 3

As I mentioned in my previous post about Yosemite, our drive from there to Lake Tahoe was a long one. As such, we didn’t get to Lake Tahoe until dusk. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to unwind and enjoy our sweet digs. We drank some wine and played some pool by the fire, and it was absolutely perfect. Still, we called it an early night so that we would be well-rested and ready to go the following day.

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Day 4

As planned, we woke up early to take advantage of our only full day in Lake Tahoe. For whatever reason, we decided to drive the entire lake. While I don’t exactly recommend that plan of action, it was an awesome way to catch a glimpse of everything that the lake has to offer… all 72 miles of it.

We first stopped at Emerald Bay, which was hands down the highlight of our excursion. It couldn’t have been more stunning! Next, we stopped for lunch at Sprouts Café, which was extremely nourishing after eating nothing but camp-friendly food for days on end. After lunch, we continued our drive and stopped at several random beaches along the way. Ultimately, we ended up at Patton Beach near our Airbnb. It was a dog beach, so Dan skipped rocks and played with the pooches while I snapped some photos of kayaks; I just love their vibrant colors!

Tip: For an awesome app detailing Lake Tahoe public beaches, click here.

Anyway, after our lengthy drive, we headed back to our Airbnb to freshen up. Per the recommendation of my friend Michele, we went to Sunnyside for dinner. It was fabulous to be wined and dined after several days of eating on-the-go. Similarly, it felt good to get dolled up after several days of living in workout gear. Surprise, surprise – it ended up being another early night for us, as we wanted to wake up early enough to enjoy the lake one last time before we hit the road again.

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Day 5

Prior to checking out, we enjoyed one last game of pool. Being that our Airbnb was the guest house of a larger home, we became friendly with the property owners. It was hardest to say goodbye to their lovable Golden Retriever, Bogey. After loading up the car, we rented some kayaks from Tahoe Adventure Company in Tahoe Vista. Needless to say, it was an incredible kayaking experience that I will never forget.

…Next stop, Crater Lake National Park!

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Pacific Northwest Road Trip, Part 1: Yosemite National Park (CA)

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As mentioned in the intro post to this blog series, Yosemite National Park was the first stop of me and Dan’s Pacific Northwest road trip. It was both me and Dan’s first national park experience. Let’s just say that Yosemite set the bar high. Very high.

For starters, the park is 1200 square miles. Being that you could spend an entire lifetime exploring this park, I wasn’t too hard on myself about not being able to see everything it has to offer in a mere three days. Still, it was a magical three days and I’m still in awe of the beauty that we saw while we were there.

Day 1

Our first day was pretty low key. Between our early morning flight and subsequent jet lag, we were more than okay with taking it easy. The drive from the park entrance down to Yosemite Valley was beautiful in and of itself. The roads were windy, the trees were plentiful, and the sky was the bluest blue. We stopped at several overlooks along the way and ultimately made it to our campsite.

Speaking of our campsite, it couldn’t have been more perfect. We stayed at North Pines Campground, which is known to be one of the more quiet campgrounds that Yosemite Valley has to offer. Our site was among the trees with access to a small beach overlooking the infamous Merced River. Dan surprised me with a hammock and we found the most peaceful spot for it; it’s where I enjoyed my morning coffee daily. With the river flowing and the birds chirping, it was a dream come true.

I must note that reserving a campsite at Yosemite can be challenging. Reservations for the time period in which you’d like to visit open up five months in advance. The craziest part? All campsites sell out within fifteen minutes! Be sure to scope out the site that you’d like to reserve prior to reservations opening up and have your credit card ready the second that they do. For more info, check out the following page: www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping.

Anyway, once we got to our site and set up, we hung out by the campfire, made some food, and drank some wine. Over the course of the evening, were greeted by critters such as deer and an overly-friendly raccoon. Before crawling into our tent, we took some time to appreciate the stars. In my humble opinion, early to bed and early to rise is the name of the game when it comes to camping.

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Day 2

Our second day in Yosemite was jam-packed and I loved every second of it. We took advantage of the park shuttle to get around, as it’s free and eliminates the issue of dealing with parking. Our first stop was at Happy Isles, home of the Mist Trail, which leads to both Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. We hiked to the first of the two falls, Vernal Fall. It was absolutely beautiful, complete with a double rainbow.

Next, we took the shuttle back to our campsite and hopped in the car. The shuttle does an impressive route around Yosemite Valley, but does not go elsewhere. Our next destination, Bridalveil Fall, is just outside of Yosemite Valley and requires a short drive to get there. Unfortunately, Bridalveil Fall was nearly dry. As we later found out, Mirror Lake and all of the falls (except Vernal Fall) dry out come September. Being that I’m a self-proclaimed waterfall chaser, I hope to one day return to Yosemite in the spring, when the falls are in their prime.

Rest assured, the drive to Bridalveil Fall was not in vain. Our time there involved a short, yet lovely hike surrounded by majestic mountains. Further, it positioned us that much closer to Wawona Road, the highway that leads to Glacier Point. The hour drive to Glacier Point was well worth it, particularly at sunset. The views of the sun setting on Half Dome were simply breathtaking.

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Day 3

Being that we had to check out of our campsite by noon and had a long drive to Lake Tahoe, we hit the road early. Of course, I enjoyed a blissful cup of coffee on my hammock before we did so. We purposely exited the park by driving through Tuolumne Meadows. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to make any stops on our drive out, but I witnessed enough beauty on that drive to have yet another reason to revisit Yosemite.

…Next stop, Lake Tahoe!

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Pacific Northwest Road Trip: The Intro

It’s been over two weeks since Dan and I have been back in Philadelphia, and I am finally blogging about our incredible road trip. Rest assured, this by no means indicates that I’m not ecstatic to share stories and photos. Instead, the reason is twofold.

One, I hit the ground running the second we got back. Our plane landed on a Wednesday at 10:30 AM and I somehow managed to get myself into work that night. Unfortunately, it feels like I’ve been at work ever since.

Two, I was at a complete loss as to how I could sum up so much amazingness in one blog post. Plus, I was overwhelmed by the 2000+ photos that we took. That’s when it dawned on me: write a blog series! Duh. So, welcome to my intro post.

Six stops. Two weeks. One amazing adventure. That’s our trip in a nutshell. But, of course, I’m always down to go into the nitty-gritty details. This adventure of a lifetime was two years in the making and was everything we thought it would be and more.

It all started by us flying from Philadelphia, PA (PHL) to Fresno, CA (FAT). From there, we rented an SUV and ultimately flew out of Seattle, WA (SEA). Here’s what we did in between:

PHL to FAT

2 hour drive

Yosemite National Park (CA)
Duration: three days, two nights
Shelter: campsite

4 hour drive

Lake Tahoe (CA)
Duration: three days, two nights
Shelter: Airbnb

6 hour drive

Crater Lake National Park (OR)
Duration: two days, one night
Shelter: campsite

5 hour drive

Portland (OR)
Duration: four days, three nights
Shelter: Airbnb

4 hour drive

Olympic National Park (WA)
Duration: three days, two nights
Shelter: campsite

3 hour drive

Seattle (WA)
Duration: four days, three nights
Shelter: hotel

SEA to PHL

As you can see, we rotated national parks and cities, and that wasn’t by coincidence. Being that I hadn’t done a great deal of camping prior to this trip, I didn’t know how much I could handle. As it turns out, camping was one of my favorite aspects of our trip. Still, it was better to be safe than sorry. Plus, the unlimited showers at our Airbnbs and hotel were a godsend. ;)

Renting a vehicle for this trip is a must. More specifically, I would recommend a fuel-efficient SUV. For starters, I couldn’t imagine a sedan on those windy, mountainous roads. Further, it was nice to have the extra cargo space given that we were essentially living out of our vehicle for two weeks. Keep in mind that you will have the usual travel essentials plus camping gear.

Speaking of camping gear, here is the bare minimum that you will need for two people:

  • A two-person tent
  • Two 30°F sleeping bags
  • Two compact pillows
  • A full-sized air mattress and an electric air pump with car adapter
  • Two towels
  • Paracord for a clothesline
  • Trash bags
  • Durable dinnerware, cutlery, thermoses, and water bottles
  • Multi-use, biodegradable soap for dishwashing and handwashing
  • An LED lantern with extra batteries
  • Two flashlights with extra batteries
  • Firewood, a magnesium fire starter, and a pocket knife
  • Bug spray and a citronella candle
  • A large backpacking pack that will fit all of the above
  • A large cooler with ice
  • Easy-to-make food that won’t easily spoil (pb&j, trail mix, protein bars, apples, instant coffee, etc.)
  • Extra water!

We checked our backpacking pack at the airport. Meanwhile, we purchased the cooler, ice, food, and water once we landed and replenished as needed throughout the trip. Prior to heading back to Philadelphia, we filled the cooler with any leftover food and water and donated it to the homeless.

In terms of weather, we couldn’t be more grateful for the abundance of sunny days that we had. I must note that we took our trip in September, when the days are warm and the nights are chilly. Two words: wear layers! The best thing I did to prepare for our trip was invest in a lightweight, yet insulated jacket.

Regarding national park entrance fees, be sure to purchase the America the Beautiful pass. For just $80 per vehicle, you can visit any national park in the United States for one year. This is a much better deal than paying entrance fees at each park.

With all of that being said, I think I’ve gotten all of the logistical, somewhat boring aspects of our trip out of the way. However, if I’ve missed anything that you’re dying to know about, please let me know!  And, of course, stay tuned for future posts detailing each stop of our trip. :)

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A side-of-the-road photo op en route to Lake Tahoe.