Thursday, August 29, 2013

East Side Weekend Roadtrip

The east side of the Pacific Northwest doesn't get much love, probably because it doesn't reflect the wild and wet reputation that seems to stick with the PNW label. But the wide open deserts and the scrubby plateaus of the eastern edge of the PNW are just as much Northwesty as the rest of it. I'd never actually seen any of NE Oregon until this trip (spoiler: it's pretty much like SE Washington), and it was time to finally explore another area of this great country.

We started on a Friday in Spokane, looped down through Oregon, managed to fit in the teeniest slice of Idaho, and arrived back in Spokane in the evening on Sunday. I'm not going to provide detailed driving directions, as I think you'll drive better with your own map, almanac, or some quality time with Google Maps, but here's a link that's pre-loaded.

The Nitty Gritties
Length: 650 miles
Time: 2.5 days
Gas stops: roughly 2, but that depends on your car
Weird things to pack: snacks, supplies for a picnic lunch & dinner, dramamine
People to take: at least one other driver

Day 1
Our trip commenced at 3pm on a balmy Friday afternoon, as we packed the car and drove off from Spokane, heading down Highway 395 to the Tri Cities. This is an easy, lazy drive that sets the tone for most of the rest of the weekendfarmland, wheat fields, small towns, with scrubby sagebrush in between. A three hour and change drive time got us to Pendleton just in time for dinner, with no need to get lost in the Cities of Tri in between. We checked out The Prodigal Son brewery (delicious!) for some nosh and great beers, and were lucky enough to encounter a country band playing on the front of the Hamley Steakhouse. They provided a fun soundtrack as we explored a bit of downtown Pendleton.

Day 2

In the morning, we grabbed some coffee from the hotel's breakfast bar and hit the road first thing, 'cause breakfast was our next stop at Joe & Sugar's Cafe in La Grande. Their breakfasts are filling (check out the specials, especially if you like strawberries on your waffles) and I quickly discovered that their dark coffee was more delicious than the "regular." If you're looking for a good read, check out Looking Glass books across the street, and if you're there on a Saturday in season, check out the farmers market. It's small but mighty, full of gorgeous produce, quirky knitted hats, and handmade goat-milk soap. We grabbed some peaches, packed them away, and prayed they wouldn't bruise too badly.

From La Grande, we continued south on OR-84 to Baker City. We had to stop here for a cable that got left behind, but our main goal was the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center perched on a hill just a ways out of town. It costs per head (not per car, sadface) to gain entry, but the center was beautiful. I prefer museums to interpretive centers as a general rule, so I wasn't super enamored, but it would be a great place for families with kids or for people who don't know much about the Oregon Trail. We broke out our picnic lunch on the tables that sat next to a recreation of a wagon camp. Loves me some covered wagons.

Then, on went the hiking boots and down we went to the bottom of the hill to a section of the original Oregon Trail. So many men, women, children, wagons, horses, oxen, dogs, probably not cats, etc etc etc went over the trail that it's still packed down and visible from a distance, and available for a short hike. It's always nice to a) get out of the car and walk a little, and b) intentionally walk in places where history took place. I kept imagining how good you'd have to get at just putting one foot in front of the other, keeping your head down, and refusing to think about the vast desert around you.

After our brief hike, we got back in the car and headed up OR-86 to Halfway in roughly the same length of time as the Eagle's album Desperado. Our goal was to check in to our lodgings (at Pine Valley Lodge, super fun if a little pricey) before heading about 30 minutes out of town to Cornucopia, the ghost of an old gold mining town. I had spent the first leg of time researching this trip looking at ghost towns, and was 100% excited about this.

Well, Cornucopia's a ghost town all right.  Ghosted of pretty much everything. I was hoping for a hard-core town, all falling apart, with a saloon and everything. Don't expect that. Cornucopia is more like a dirt road sprinkled with ramshackle buildings, some of which are still being used and some of which are falling down like what you'd think of a ghost town. There's not really much to explore, but it's a pretty area and an engaging drive. Apparently the mine is still viable, and newly bought by someone, so there's a small chance that it'll get mined again if Oregon regulations will allow for more cost-effective extraction techniques. The more you know!

A return to Halfway netted some dinner (pre-packed shredded chicken for sandwiches, with our peaches for dessert) and some games of Dominion in the lodge's common room. Much more satisfying.

Day 3
This morning, we took advantage of the lodge's breakfast bar, and I ended up talking to the proprietor about lacto-fermented sauerkraut, ghee, and DIY salami. We wanted to hit the road early because this day contained the most drivingabout 7 hours of itand we didn't want to be on the road all day. Just most of it. Our immediate destination was the Hell's Canyon Overlook, but we tried to take a detour into Idaho first (don't do that!). Hell's Canyon houses the Snake River, which unfortunately can't be seen from the overlook, and is actually so inaccessible that most of the canyon can only be seen from the river via boat. [Insert ad for speedboat tours here.] Regardless, the view is beautiful.

Warning: this road is winding, twisty, and may induce carsickness.

Fortunately, the next available town is Joseph, so we stopped to take advantage of its tourist traps and also to grab lunch. The Chief Joseph memorial is a quick drive through town near the edge of Wallowa Lake, and turned out to be an interestingif somewhat soberingway to stretch the ol' legs for a bit. On our way back through town, we hit up the Wallowa County Museum ($) which is chockablock full of interesting artifacts from an old teepee to a 1920s permanent curling machine, but unfortunately doesn't allow photography. Joseph is also home to Arrowhead Chocolates, a tiny slice of hipsterdom transplanted into rural Oregon, makers of one of the best chocolate mochas you'll ever put in your face. Or so I've been told.

Protip: Get gas in Joseph, because pickin's are slim for the next couple hours.

From Joseph, we sped via OR-3/WA-129 up, around and down more roller-coaster roads through Lewiston (hello, Idaho!) to Pullman (hello, Mongolian Grill!) and finally back to Spokane. That  sentence sums up hours of driving without any of the details that make this road trip stand out in my mind: the rock in the middle of the road that we wanted to adopt, a field packed with sheep all facing the exact same direction and another dotted with black and white goats, a gorgeous streak of hot pink sunset, the scattering of lightning flashes over the Palouse, cannibal bees clustering around the bug splatters on the front grill of the car. Set against a backdrop of desert and pine, this is one road trip that I'd take again.

Monday, March 18, 2013


I think one of the most wonderful parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is the unbeatable proximity to some of the most gorgeous places in the world. I feel so lucky to be able to live on the Olympic Peninsula, and especially grateful that I can spend a beautiful day with friends making an easy drive to the coast, and get to see such amazing stuff on the way.

I made this hike itinerary in the hopes that it could help a visitor to the area narrow down some options and have a Ready-Made Plan. This is a potential day trip from Port Angeles; an easy day, where you could start at noon and be home for dinner. I just took this trip a few days ago, and I feel that these spots constitute a really nice balance between driving, hiking, and viewing. There are, of course, hundreds of beautiful places to see in this area, but that can also make it overwhelming when choosing things to do. Here’s a trip plan that I love, with rain forests, waterfalls and beaches. (Unfortunately, neither Marymere Falls nor the Second Beach at La Push are wheelchair accessible. However, if your party includes a wheelchair, going to Madison Creek Falls, continuing west, and substituting the nearby Rialto Beach for the La Push beaches would also constitute an excellent day trip).

As with all hikes on the Olympic Peninsula, it is important to be prepared for bad weather. Having waterproof hiking boots and a waterproof jacket is a must, and, as for all hikes this short and on clearly marked trails, make sure you bring food and water.


To take this drive, get onto Hwy 101-W in Port Angeles, going towards Forks. There are not a lot of services between PA and Forks, so definitely get food, gas and water before you start out. After about 10.9 miles, take a left turn onto Olympic Hot Springs Rd, at the brown park service sign for the Elwha Valley. It will be just before a bridge over the Elwha River. Continue down this road for a bit, until you get to a small parking lot with a sign for Madison Creek Falls. While I would encourage everyone planning on visiting the park twice or more in a given year to buy an annual Olympic National Park pass, it isn’t necessary to pay park admission anywhere on this itinerary, including at this location, provided you only go to Madison Creek Falls. If you want to investigate the old Elwha Dam site, you’ll need to go through the ranger pay station further up this road. As you drive, check out the Elwha River. This is one of the few occasions you can actively watch a previously dammed river slowly going back to its natural state.

Difficulty: Very Easy

Distance: 200 ft.

Madison Creek Falls is a pretty little waterfall that requires a very short walk on a well-established trail. The forest is very pretty, and the waterfall is quite picturesque. There are picnic tables at the trailhead, as well as a fairly well-maintained pit toilet.

After enjoying Madison Creek Falls, head back out the way you came and get back on Hwy 101-W. After a few miles, you will be treated to amazing views of Lake Crescent through your passenger side window. There are several turnouts, and I encourage you to stop and enjoy the views of the lake. Just past Lake Crescent, you will see brown park service signs for Marymere Falls and Lake Crescent Lodge. It is a very clearly marked right hand turn. After you turn right off of Hwy 101, you’ll need to take another well marked right turn to get to the Marymere Falls parking lot, where there are good picnic areas, clean flush toilets and a ranger station.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: .8 miles

This is a very well maintained trail with a manageable incline. Unless you are very elderly or very out of shape, you should be able to manage the one short, steep bit. The second bridge leading up to the falls can be a little slippery, so use caution.

Marymere Falls is extremely beautiful, and the hike to reach it is a lovely opportunity to see the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula without having to drive all the way in to the Hoh. Definitely remember to bring your camera.

When you get done with your hike, just go back out the way you came and get back on Hwy 101-W. (La Push is often very blustery and rainy, so check the weather and tide tables before you go. The Forks Visitor Center has a very handy live webcam of La Push; check that out here.) Drive for about 35 miles, and then, just before you get into Forks, take a right onto Hwy 110-W (La Push Road). It will be a little more than 11 miles to La Push. You will cross onto the Quiluete Reservation, go down a short hill, past blue signs advertising smoked salmon, and finally past a brown sign directing you to Second Beach. There is a parking lot on the left side of the road from which the trailhead begins.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2 miles to the beach

This is a steep trail that is invariably muddy. Second Beach is way more beautiful and pristine than First Beach; however, if you are not up for being winded and potentially muddy, skip Second Beach and continue to First Beach. There is a very primitive outhouse where the trail meets the beach; I’d advise using the restroom beforehand, but it is there if you are in a bind. There is a posted advisory, but I will mention it as well: debris from the Japanese tsunami occasionally turns up on the beach. It provides a number to call if you find personal belongings.

From Second Beach, you can continue down La Push Rd, (the Lonesome Creek Store, on the left, is a nice little convenience store if you need anything) which will become Ocean Front Rd, and then Front Rd. Turn right onto Alder St, and then left onto River St.  The beach is not well marked, but if you find the parking lot that drops straight down to the water, you are there. There are usually a few Port-a-Potties there, if you need them.  I like First Beach, but my advice is to spend a little more time at Second Beach instead. It is more beautiful, less crowded, and a nicer walk.

Difficulty: Very Easy
Distance: A few feet from the parking lot

If Second Beach isn’t your cup of tea, you can get out of your car and walk a few short feet down to the water. Look out to the horizon and realize that there is no land between you and Asia. I find it both terrifying and kind of beautiful.

I hope this helps someone plan a trip- or even a dream trip!
Have fun!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

More PNW Pride

I am super bummed that I didn't find the kickstarter for The Great PNW before pledges closed, because I would have donated hella money to the cause. Hopefully they get their website up and running soon!

xo, anne

Monday, January 28, 2013

Amazing Leftovers Curry


1/4 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
1/3 onion, sliced thinly
10 frozen pre-cooked shrimp, peeled
2/3 cup peach nectar
2 Tablespoon canola oil
2 Tablespoon red curry paste
2 Tablespoon cream cheese
1.5 Tablespoon of brown sugar
splash of soy sauce
sriracha to taste

steamed rice, for serving

So we came up with this recipe because we had a bunch of leftover ingredients, and didn't want to open a whole can of coconut milk for a small batch of curry.

1. Saute' the onions in the canola oil until they start to get translucent
2. Add cabbage and 1/2 the peach nectar. As the cabbage begins to get soft add shrimp, sugar, soy, sriracha, and curry paste. Continue to add peach nectar as combination simmers.
3. When cabbage is cooked through and shrimp are piping hot, add the cream cheese, and stir until melted.
4. Serve over rice. Top with sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, green onions, or any combination of the three.

I ate mine with a peach nectar and sparking water drink. It was awesome!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Arts not Farts

Last night, on my quest for the new issue of Hellboy in Hell, I stopped by one of my favorite galleries in Portland, Compound. Would I could drop $500 on a piece of original art... but alas, I must console myself with a $3 piece of Mignola goodness.

Vivien Chen, pen & ink & watercolor. The best combination.

Oat Montien, whose art reflects his weird dreams.
Sometimes Portland-type art (disclaimer: only one of these artists lives in Pdx) makes me tempted to give up on the human spirit and creativity in general. But sometimes, art is both interesting to look at and somewhat thought-provoking,  a reminder of why human beings do art in the first place. Living things growing out of a dead skunk? Okay. A surrealist forest scene? Bring it. Not to make money or follow a trend, but to express the unexpressable. These pieces remind me that there is more to life than my anti-creative job, and I NEED to keep creative like I need to breathe.

This weekend, I am purchasing some gouache to try. Because I can.

And then I will read more Hellboy.
xo, anne.