Portland and Bend in 5 Days
In October, 2015, I presented at a conference in Portland, Oregon. Jimmy and I had been to Oregon twice before, and I came away from each trip with a longer list of reasons to go back. So I knew a long weekend trip was in order. We originally intended to visit the Columbia River Gorge area, but as is often the case with this area, there was a lot of rain in the forecast and so we decided last minute to go to Bend instead.
Day 1 - Portland
I had already been in Portland for work for five days, but didn't have much time to explore the city. I'm pretty sure Portland is where the food truck craze started. Since there was a a giant food truck pod within walking distance of my conference in downtown, I ate pretty much every meal there. The highlight was the soup flight at Savor which included three cups of soup and a piece of bread for only $6. Other attractions I enjoyed in downtown with my work colleagues included the Glowing Greens glow in the dark putt putt and the drinking chocolate flight at Cacao. If you have FOMO like me, I highly recommend flights whenever they are on the menu.
As part of my conference I got to take a trip to the Food Innovation Center. We learned all about how they help businesses test out new food products and get them ready for market. One business they worked with was the regional ice cream chain Salt and Straw which is known for it's off the wall ice cream flavors such as bone marrow and smoked cherries or pear and blue cheese. Then we served as taste testers for some new salad dressings and even got paid $20 for our services. They do all sorts of events, so I highly recommend checking out their calendar to see if they have anything going on while you are in town.
So while I fit all that in around my conference schedule, I'm sure you could do it in your first day in Portland. Jimmy on the other hand just took a late flight in and we spent the night at an Air BnB close to the airport.
Day 2 - Portland to Bend
I remembered that our long lost Peace Corps friend, Casey, lives in Bend. I sent her an email hoping that we might be able to meet up at some time for a meal to catch up. Lucky for us, she ended showering us with hospitality all weekend long. Casey and her husband were in the middle of house renovations and so they arranged for us to stay at their friends house.
It took about three hours to drive from Portland to Bend and it was rain all the way until we crossed to the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain Range around Madras. Bend receives 12 inches of rain per year compared to Portland's 44 thanks to the rain shadow effect.
When we arrived in Bend, we wanted to check out the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and we did - just in a more roundabout way than we had intended. We ended up on some national forest back road that ran all along the Lava Cast forest, but never connected to the Lava Lands parking. So we spent some time pulling off the road and scrambling on the hardened lava in the middle of nowhere, before finally stumbling on a main road.
Since we were getting hangry, we stopped at the Sunriver Resort before backtracking to the Lava Lands Visitor Center. While playing in the lava fields was fun, it was definitely a lot easier to cover more ground from the monument with its paved walkways. The lava covered the forest here about 7000 years ago, and you can still see the molds that the trees left as the lava wiped them out. The new trees that grow in this area are all sorts of spirally and cool as a result of the slowly eroding lava. So the lesson is to put Lava Lands Visitor Center instead of Newberry National Volcanic Monument in your GPS unless you want to take the road less traveled.
We had a little time before meeting up with Casey for dinner, so we went to the Crux Fermentation Project, which is a really beautiful brewery with an amazing firepit made from old metal buoys. There was live music and tasty brews too.
Day 3 - Bend
We started the morning with breakfast at Chow which was amazing. We had to wait a while for a table, but they had free coffee and cornhole outside while we waited, which was a very nice touch. I got the biscuits and gravy and bloody mary which came with a fun selection of pickled things. Then we headed off to hike to Tumalo Falls. It was a really pretty 7 mile loop and looked like a good spot for mountain biking too. It was an easy hike and took us about 2 and half hours.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Bend and convinced ourselves that we would really like to live there one day. They have the most awesome architecture and the Deschutes River runs right through town which is apparently a popular float spot in the summer.
As it was Halloween, we spent a little while getting dressed up to go out galavanting. Casey happened to have a box of Halloween costumes for her impromptu guests so Jimmy ended up as a War Boy from Mad Max and I ended up as a pumpkin. We walked from Casey's house to some fun bars and McMenamins Old St. Francis School. If you don't know - McMenamins is a chain of awesomeness in the Pacific Northwest. They generally take some old building and then fill them with a whimsical mix of guest rooms, breweries, wineries, theaters, restaurants, pools, etc. I think we have been to four McMenamins now and they never disappoint. We saw Tony Smiley at the Old St. Francis School and it was such a fun show. He is a one man band that plays all your favorite hits via some pretty epic looping tricks. He seems to be somewhat of a regional celebrity, so I totally recommend checking his calendar if you are going to be in the area. After hanging out at the Old St. Francis School Brewery for a while, we walked back to Casey's and had the feeling that Bend is really just like a college campus for adults.
Day 4 - Bend to POrtland
Casey gave us some suggestions of things to do on our drive back to Portland over homemade scones. We took her suggestion of doing the 3.7 milk out and back hike to the Tamolitch Blue Pool via the McKenzie River Trail and we are so glad we did. It only added about 30 minutes to our total driving time and took us a different way back for new scenery. It was definitely a different ecoregion from Bend as there was a slight mist the whole time we were hiking and very lush greenery everywhere.
The hike ends at Tamolitch Pool which is a pool of water that flows out of an underground river through a lava tube. Something about the water flowing through the lava makes it bright blue.
When we got to Portland, we checked into our AirBnB which was a really cute tiny house someone had built in their backyard. We met up at Blossoming Lotus with one of Jimmy's work friends that also happened to be vacationing in Portland. We got the live nachos and bimbimbap, and I can highly recommend both. Then we went to the Imago Theater for Portland's Experimental Theatre Ensemble's "All Well" which is based on Captain John Franklin's 1848 Artic Exploration. That sounded cool to me, but basically it amounted to us paying to take a nap in a hammock in a dark room for about 30 minutes. I guess I didn't get their experimental play.
Our first stop was Bob's Red Mill which is in Milwaukie, Oregon but not far from our AirBnB which was in Southeastern Portland. We got oatmeal in their restaurant and then went on the factory tour which was free and even included some free samples of freekeh and oatmeal.
We then headed over to the International Rose Test Garden .
We then hung out in Mount Tabor Park and made our way over to the Hawthorne neighborhood. Hawthorne has a lot of fun antique and furniture shops. They also had a beekeeping store which had been featured on Shark Tank and was of interest to Jimmy.
We have another Peace Corps friend in Portland and so arranged to hang out with her for the evening. On the way to her house, we wanted to visit the tiny house homeless community near the airport. We found it, but once we got there, we realized it's not really a place to visit. There was signage discouraging visitors, and it just felt a little intrusive anyways. We spent the rest of the night catching up with our friends and playing with their adorable kids. Once the kids went to bed, we went out to McMenamin's Kennedy School for a drink at one of their many bars. It was a lovely way to finish up our trip.
This was a pretty cheap trip thanks to hospitality of friends and work paying for flights.
Car Rental and Gas - $288
Food - $218. We were fed often by our amazing Oregon friends, but we also indulged a bit on all the microbrews. Plus I made $20 at the Food Innovation Center - so that paid for some of my beer.
Flights - $155. My flight was covered through work and Jimmy redeemed miles for his flight to Portland.
Lodging - $117. We only stayed with friends with the exception of one night in a tiny house airbnb.
Total = $778 for the two of us