Seattle

 us west coast  Comments Off on Seattle
May 302014
 

So we’d heard, and seen (The Killing), that Seattle was very wet. It was to our surprise then that we had excellent sunny weather. Apparently the city does have a lot of cloudy days but precipitation is not actually that high.

Seattle downtown from the ferry

Seattle downtown from the ferry

We walked about half an hour from our B&B in Capitol Hill down to the city and Pike Place Market. Of course lots of fresh seafood but also flowers, fruit and vegetables and deli items. We had delicious fish sandwiches (halibut and catfish) at Matt’s in the Market.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

No visit to Seattle is complete without a trip up the Space Needle. As you go up (160m in 41s) in the elevator to the observation deck you face out and there is only glass between you and a long way down. The 360 degree views were outstanding – a very green city, Puget Sound, Lake Union and the massive snow capped mountains in almost every direction.

Lake Union from Space Needle

Lake Union from Space Needle

Turns out the Seattle International Film Festival was on and there was a theatre not 100m from our B&B. We grabbed some tickets and got into some culture.

The following day we caught the ferry (think Grey’s Anatomy) to Bainbridge Island. It took about half an hour to cross Puget Sound – the views were again excellent. You could just see massive volcano (4000m) Mount Rainier in the distance. We had lunch on the island and walked along the trendy cafe and shopping street.

Space Needle from ferry

Space Needle from ferry

So that’s it for this trip; thank you for reading 🙂 We dropped the car back at SeaTac having clocked up 1993 miles (3200km) – not too expensive when gas is a little over A$1/L – and flew via LAX home.

Mount Rainier. You could (I think) see others in the Cascade Range as we flew South (Mt St Helens, Mt Hood).

Mount Rainier. You could (I think) see others in the Cascade Range as we flew South (Mt St Helens, Mt Hood).

Portlandia

 us west coast  Comments Off on Portlandia
May 282014
 

Portland is Oregon’s largest city, although not the capital, and is known for it’s environmental values, liberal politics, hipsters, beer, coffee and roses to name a few. Such satirised in the Portlandia Organic Chicken Sketch (YouTube). We stayed in Nob Hill near the gardens and a very trendy cafe/restaurant/shop scene. You could catch the street car for $1 (two hour ticket). It is also bike friendly, has a light rail, bus system and over 1000 electric car charging stations.

Gilbert Building

Gilbert Building

We mainly just wandered, shopped (no sales tax in Oregon) and had coffee and beer. A few things of note were the International Rose Test Garden – almost in full bloom, the Holocaust Memorial – for those lost and those who survived and immigrated to Oregon.

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

The statue Portlandia is the second largest copper statue in the USA. No prizes for guessing the largest.

Portlandia

Portlandia

IMG_20140528_082216

Bend to Portland

 us west coast  Comments Off on Bend to Portland
May 262014
 

Last big day of driving today – 200 miles, as usual we tried to stop along the way. The traffic was nose to tail all the way from Smith Rock to Portland with everyone returning from a long weekend away.

Smith Rock is only half an hour from Bend and is a popular rock climbing destination. The volcanic formations stood out on the otherwise flat landscape. It was desert-like but then again it was very green and a river ran through the canyon.

Smith Rock

Smith Rock

We kept driving along US 26 towards Mt Hood. Lots of volcanic, desert-like scenery including some vast plateaus near Warm Springs. Definitely a good drive today, varied and less windy!

Mt Hood from Panorama Point

Mt Hood from Panorama Point

Hood River is another wine region but is known for fruit, you can see the orchards in the foreground of the photo above. We joined the Columbia River Highway which follows the river into Portland. It is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest and forms the boundary between Oregon and Washington. The highway goes through the gorge and you can see a few tall waterfalls from the car.

Columbia River

Columbia River

Crater Lake

 us west coast  Comments Off on Crater Lake
May 252014
 

It was Memorial Day long weekend so we met with a queue getting into the Crater Lake National Park. There is a ring-road around the crater, but the east rim was still closed due to snow. So every vantage point on the west rim was busy.

The lake is formed after a deep (1943 feet (sorry metric system)) caldera formed in Mount Mazama (only dormant) and has filled with centuries of rain and snow. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before, so big (6 miles across) and so very blue.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Mount St Helens is a few hundred km north.

Wizard Island, Crater Lake

Wizard Island, Crater Lake

We continued on towards Bend. We arrived in downtown where the locals were gathered beside the river, there was live music. We took a beer from the local and sat on the grass beside the Deschutes River.

May 242014
 

After some waffles, bacon and a poached pear for breakfast, we kept driving north and headed in to Prairie Creek Redwood State Park – between the highway and the coast. The dirt road in had so many potholes it was quite slow going. There were also some creek crossings. $8 for a day use pass. At the end of the road, the trail to Fern Canyon began. It was a short walk through the trees before reaching a rocky creek that had over time carved out a canyon, at times 25m high. The canyon walls were completely covered in ferns and moss. The location was apparently used in Jurassic Park 2.

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon

Back on the road and we spotted a gang of about 20 elk just sitting in the grass behind the dune.

Elk

Elk

We left the 101 after Crescent City and drove the 199 running along the Smith River until we crossed into Oregon. Then headed east to Ashland. This little town is known for it’s Shakespeare Festival which runs about 9 months of the year. We hadn’t made any plans to see a play but enjoyed a nice dinner at Amuse followed by a stroll in Lithia Park. It was designed by the same person who did Golden Gate Park in SF. Sunset is around 8:30pm.

The Redwoods

 us west coast  Comments Off on The Redwoods
May 232014
 

Next stop Trinidad, 160 miles north, including some very windy road before we hit US 101. It was about here we got to drive through a 100m tall redwood tree, the Chandelier Tree. Someone cut a hole in it about a century ago so why not?

Chandelier Tree

Chandelier Tree

There is an old alignment of the 101 known as the Avenue of the Giants, so we took this scenic route which runs through Humboldt State Park. It was a great drive, you can pull over in many places to admire the massive redwoods.

The car looking tiny in comparison to the redwoods.

The car looking tiny in comparison to the redwoods.

A quick stop at Eel River Brewing Co (Eel River was named after lamprey were seen). Then on to Eureka and Arcata before reaching Trinidad. We walked down to the harbour in Trinidad, it was blowing an icy wind.

Trinidad

Trinidad

Trinidad Head Memorial Lighthouse

Trinidad Head Memorial Lighthouse

Mendocino

 us west coast  Comments Off on Mendocino
May 222014
 

For the next part of our trip we were to head north, eventually ending in Seattle. The first leg, Sonoma to Mendocino was about 120 miles.

After a stop in Healdsburg for coffee, we drove on to Anderson Valley Brewing Co, just south of Boonville. A couple of beers were sampled and entertainment was provided by a chocolate Labrador who thought he could play fetch with tiny pieces of bark from a pot plant.

Boonville is a few shops along the highway. Some abandoned buildings but then some quite contemporary shops like Farmhouse Mercantile. We had lunch at Lauren’s.

Further north we sampled some wine at Navarro’s – Anderson Valley is another good wine area. Finally the road hit the coast and we joined State Route 1 that runs along most of the Californian coast.

Bird colonies, Mendocino

Bird colonies, Mendocino

Mendocino, a town of B&Bs and water towers, was looking very beautiful thanks to the flowering cottage gardens. The wooden water towers are either still in use or have been converted into decks or rooms. The fog rolled in just as we arrived so we didn’t get much of a view of the coast from here.

Our B&B in Mendocino

Our B&B in Mendocino

Detour South

 us west coast  Comments Off on Detour South
May 212014
 

So we decided we’d left San Francisco without a couple of things seen. One was getting up close to the Golden Gate Bridge and the other, as recommended by J&K, was a visit to Sausalito.

We packed a picnic lunch from Whole Foods (also known as whole paycheck) and drove south from Sonoma, less than an hour.

We just got a couple of photos off before the fog rolled in. You could only just see San Francisco from the north side of the bridge.

From Horseshoe Bay

From Horseshoe Bay

After driving up to the lookout far above the deck of the bridge, we wandered around the waterfront city of Sausalito.

Sausalito

Sausalito

We thought it was cute if very touristy…We couldn’t help but wonder who buys all that souvenir crap…

We swung by the outlet mall on the way home 😉

Tasting Notes

 us west coast  Comments Off on Tasting Notes
May 202014
 

Our next stop in California was in Sonoma. The Sonoma and Napa counties are home to over 400 wineries. It is spring so the vines are green and in flower. We spent a day driving in the area visiting a few different regions within the counties.

Hess Collection (Napa)
Shared a $15 (!) tasting, including some new (for us) varietals such as charbono and carignan.

Hess Collection

Hess Collection

Artesa (Napa)
Here we just went for the view, it was extremely windy at the top of the hill, where the cellar door is built into.

View from Artesa

View from Artesa

Truett-Hurst (Dry Creek)
This was probably our favourite. The wines were excellent, chardonnay, pinot noir and zinfandel. It is also a biodynamic winery and has beautiful gardens, both cottage and vegetable, that you could wander.

Gardens at Truett Hurst

Gardens at Truett Hurst

Unti (Dry Creek)
We rocked up here without an appointment but Mike was kind enough to offer a tasting along with his stories and knowledge of the wines.

Arista (Russian River)
Again could take our tasting and wander the gardens.

At  Arista

At Arista

Paradise Ridge (Sonoma)
Big views and sculptures in the grounds.

Lunch was in the cute town of Healdsburg, tapas at Bravas. While in Sonoma we had two amazing dinners at Harvest Moon and The Girl and The Fig.