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Tuesday, 01 May 2018

Portland, Seattle and Vancouver: The Pacific Northwest’s Premier Road Trip

Written by Maureen C. Bruschi
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My husband and I grew up on the Northeast Coast. We crave cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, experience the energy of Broadway shows in NYC, and stroll the Jersey shore beaches. When we decided to investigate how our neighbors on the Northwest Coast live, we weren’t disappointed.

The two of us enjoyed everything from wandering through Portland’s Japanese and Rose Test Gardens in Washington Park, snacking on local mussels and cockle clams in Seattle’s Fish Market, to exploring Vancouver’s west coast rainforest and artistic totem poles in Stanley Park.

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First Up, Portland

After a flight from New Jersey to Portland, Oregon, we rented a car and began our 11 day northwest road trip. If you’re a bookaholic, don’t miss Powell’s City of Books – the world’s largest new and used bookstore. Stocked with over one million books, Powell’s Books occupies an entire city block in the Pearl District. Powell’s helps you navigate through its 3,500 sections with its detailed map highlighting its color-coded rooms.

After a book purchase at Powell’s, we wandered through Chinatown’s gift and import shops, before picking up the Waterfront Park Trail by the Willamette River. Here you’ll find (if you don’t blink) the smallest park in the world, Mills End Park, a circle measuring 2 feet across with a total area of 452 square inches across. In 1948, the park was originally slated to become a site for a light pole. When the light pole never showed up, Dick Fagan, a local columnist, planted flowers in the hole and named it after his newspaper column, “Mills End”.

On our second day, a Hop-On-Hop-Off trolley was an easy way to explore the city. While the trolley stops at 14 attractions in Portland, a driver/guide describes the charms and fascinations of the city. We hopped off the trolley at Washington Park’s Rose Test Garden, one of the oldest and largest rose test gardens in the country, and understood why Portland is referred to as the City of Roses. A drizzly day didn’t deter us from wandering around the park which has over 10,000 rose bushes and stunning views of the city.

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Within walking distance is the Japanese Garden known as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. We followed zigzagging streams and cozy walkways, discovering an authentic Japanese Tea House and unique garden styles. One garden style, the Flat Garden, represents the beauty of each of the seasons: the Japanese maple for autumn; the 85-year old weeping cherry for spring; the black pines for winter; and the cool “water” of the raked gravel for summer.

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In the afternoon, the trolley dropped us off on the waterfront at the Aerial Tram. The tram lifted us up to Marquam Hill from the South Waterfront for a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Tabor and Mt. Hood across the Willamette River.

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Our final day in Portland included a morning drive along the Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. We followed the Mt. Hood Scenic Loop by the Cascade Locks over the Bridge of the Gods into Washington State. Mountains towered over us as we followed a twisting route to Stevenson, a vital stop for steamboats from the 1850s to the 1920s. Stevenson provided the enormous steamboat boilers with wood cut from the town’s surrounding forests.

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Originally we planned to tour Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls. Unfortunately the tour was cancelled due to a reckless wildfire. Instead, we explored Silver Falls State Park in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Hiking shoes helped as we trekked to three waterfalls weaving through dense forests along the park’s Trail of Ten Falls. For me the 177-foot South Falls waterfall held a magical endless beauty as our group rambled behind this massive falls as water tumbled from above.


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Last modified on Tuesday, 01 May 2018

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