We took the rv for a test drive to Creekside City Park, Sisters, OR after it came back from having the transmission repaired. We wanted to give it a good distance test with some mountain climbing. It did just great and we had a nice day trip.
We meandered through the mountains and stopped here for a bit of exploring. At Sisters, we found Creekside City Park, where we pulled in for lunch. There is also a campground there. Creekside is nice and green (like most of Oregon) and has lots of shady trees. There are picnic tables but no barbeques and there seems to be a lack of trash cans. I ended up putting our trash in the dumpsters, inconveniently fenced off. At least they had doggie doo bags and scoopers. Of course, Mrs. Susie was on her own doggie dude ranch vacation back in Colorado.
From the picnic area you cross the covered bridge to get to the bathrooms in the camping area. The bridge is an impressive work of art, sturdily built and beautiful to look at. We trekked down to the creek and dipped our toes. I found it very relaxing to close my eyes and listen to the gentle burble of the stream which seemed to wash away all my cares. Wanting to share this experience with my companions, I dragged them down to the creek and made them sit and listen with closed eyes, also. They giggled and squirmed and didn’t get it. I guess you just have to mentally be in a certain place to appreciate it. I tried.
At a stretch stop on the way back to Portland, we found this pretty critter stuck to our front grill. He was still barely alive when we peeled him off, but didn’t survive long.
After Ballard Locks, we asked for a recommendation of where to eat for fresh seafood. Ray’s was mentioned. We drove downtown and found it on the docks. The outdoor seating looked appealing, but not on this chilly, overcast day. Our table inside had an outstanding view of the ocean. The seafood did, indeed seem very fresh. Steaming bowls of white clam chowder, accompanied by a shared seafood salad and a shared plate of Alaskan King Crab legs filled us up.
The quality of the food was exactly what you would expect from a high-end fresh seafood restaurant. Our budget is certainly not high-end, but by sharing 2 entrees among the 5 of us, and partaking of the cafe menu, we were able to enjoy a classy dining experience. We always enjoy waterfront dining and Ray’s is definitely tops on that list.
About an hour drive from where we were visiting in Tacoma, WA is Ballard Locks. The official name is Hiram M. Chittendom Locks, but I don’t think anybody knows that.
Ballard Locks is more than just a shipping channel. On the shore are beautiful gardens, with rare trees and plants. Parks to sit and watch the activity on the locks, have a picnic, or roll down the gentle slopes, as a number of children (and adults) were doing. There is also a walking path through the gardens and a museum. We had a personal tour guide: Tim, a ranger, took us around and pointed out features of the gardens and locks. He pointed out ginko trees, dawn redwoods and sequoias in the gardens.
He showed us the difference between the stronger, original cement and gravel construction of the buildings and the newer cement benches, which were already cracked and crumbling. He explained how the locks functioned as we watched them in action.
He showed us the fish ladders where the salmon migrate from their ocean home, back to fresh waters to spawn. Cables, much like clotheslines, are strung across the locks to protect the spawning salmon and smolts from seagulls and other predatory birds.
We watched as kayakers paddled through the locks from fresh water into Puget Sound and yachts motored from Puget Sound through the locks.
Even sculptures are displayed at the locks.
Across the dam, there is an underwater viewing area, where you can watch the locks and fish ladders, if you’re lucky you’ll see some fish. Of course, it helps if you’re there during spawning season.
Mount Saint Helens National Monument is an easy day trip from either Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington. From Portland we headed up the freeway through thick forests and past numerous rivers, streams, and lakes. Once on the road heading up the mountain, you can see the numerous areas that had to be evacuated in the days leading up to the eruption in 1980 (the mountain is a volcano). At least one old mountain man refused to leave his cabin, knowing that he was not long for this world anyway, and preferring to die on his mountain. There are many stopping places in between, but we waited until we were in the Mt. St. Helens area to stop for lunch. The visitor’s center at Hoffstadt Bluffs is nestled in a small valley just below the volcano. There are viewing areas, picnic tables, and a nice, grassy knoll, perfect for children (and some adults) to roll down. You can walk down to the river or sit in the sun outside the café next to the visitor’s center. This gift shop is very limited, but it is the only one open in late April, so we made do.
We continued all the way up to Johnston Ridge Observatory, where a ranger was giving a talk, despite the facilities being closed. We walked part of the trail, but only a little ways. This was an outing with abuelo, so no extreme hiking today. Much of the trail is paved, but there is a longer version that turns to dirt and gravel. We’re saving that for next time.
Watching the clouds play around the mountain was fascinating. At one point, a cloud formation made it look like the cinder cone was actually steaming! But it finally shifted and we could tell it was just clouds. Our pulses raced for a few moments.
On the way down, we stopped for an early dinner at The Birth of a Lake Trail. This lake was formed as a result of the 1980 blast and is still protected as it continues to grow and nurture water and plant life. The crystal clear blue waters sparkle in the sunlight. Spiders spin their webs unmolested. The trail goes most of the way around the lake, with plenty of stops for sitting and viewing.
Abuelo and Tia did a good section of this trail with his walker/chair. After a couple hours of relaxation at this quiet spot (until the guy with the leaf blower showed up) we continued back to busy Portland, scenes of mountainous beauty and visions of the frightening power of nature filling our minds to be pulled forth for future mental getaways.
Every big city that I have visited has its hidden escapes. Portland, OR is no exception. One such delight is the Chinese Garden, in the heart of downtown. Surrounded by high rises and parking meters, one does not expect to be swept away to a natural sanctuary, but procure your ticket and enter the garden gate.
Everything about the Chinese Garden is intentional. It is designed to transport you from everyday life. Step into the Courtyard of Tranquility and shed the cares of the world. Fill your eyes with the wonders of rock formations and waterfalls. Breathe in the heady scents of multitudes of flowers. Let the soothing sounds of the water and the birds and the breeze melt away your anxieties. Feel the warm sun on your shoulders (okay, so the sun does, indeed, come out in Portland) and the cool tiles under your feet.
There is an order and a flow to the garden. Windows and doorways frame views, guiding the eye from one peaceful scene to the next. Enter the Hall of Brocade Clouds and admire the wealth of your hosts. Carved ginko wood panels, ornate furniture and food offerings to the ancestors fill the hall. Proceed to the Terrace and take in an overview of the garden, patterned after the city compounds of wealthy Chinese families who wanted to live with the comforts of the city, but also wanted to surround themselves with the beauty of nature.
Knowing the Fish Pavilion has lots of shade and seating for gazing at the koi which populate the lake. Many of the fascinating and unique rock formations and most of the garden’s building materials came from China. Reflections in Clear Ripples is the name of the lounge house, or game room. Visitors can try out a game of Chinese Fortune Sticks and keep their fortune. Yet another pavilion, Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain, offers sweeping views of the lake and garden.
I sat in the Scholar’s Courtyard and soaked up the sun while I ate my lunch. Inhaling deeply of the spring blossoms, I listened to the water falling gently down the rocks across the lake. I listened to birds singing and arguing. I pondered human nature as I observed 2 women, frowning and gossiping about my friend, who took a phone call from her brother inside the Scholar’s Study, discussing our trip here with their dad, my son’s 91 year old abuelo. Such is the nature of the Chinese Garden. It is a place to think deeply and also a place to let your thoughts take flight. The Scholar’s Study is interesting. Writing implements and accessories are on display along with several piles of scrolls. Buddha boards are set up with water and brushes for visitors to practice Chinese characters.
The Moon Locking Pavilion would be the place to stand on a clear, moonlit night. The reflection of the moon is said to be locked in by the pavilion’s shadow. Relax with a steaming cup of tea, served in traditional Chinese cups from delicate porcelain teapots, in The Tower of Cosmic Reflections. The Rock Mountain and Waterfall crown the tour of the Chinese garden, followed by Painted Boat in Misty Rain, the final pavilion. Inside its boat shape you are meant to feel like you’re being gently rocked on the water.
Rather than proceed out through the gate, we decided to wander leisurely back through the gardens. Stopping and enjoying each view once again and drinking in the tranquility before returning to the craziness of the city.