2016 Travel Overview

Previous years-in-review – 201520142013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Some of our travel stats for the year:

  • 82k total air miles on 11 airlines: American Airlines, Southwest, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Dragon Air, Air New Zealand, Vietnam Airlines, Etihad, Qatar, Icelandair, and Jetblue.
  • 11 countries visited: we returned to the UK, New Zealand, and Spain, plus we added several new-to-us: Oman, UAE (Abu Dhabi), Vietnam, and Iceland (marking our 40th country visited!)
  • Domestically, we made return trips to San Diego, Chicago, New York, Portland, Florida and Asheville.

2016_travelmap

And, of course, our 2016 end of year video featuring “Search Party” by Sam Bruno. Enjoy!

Leandra’s 40th: Silver Falls State Park

We’ve been wanting to go to Silver Falls State Park since our very first trip to Oregon, but it always fell off the list for one reason or another. This trip we set out to rectify our previous oversite, setting out early on Sunday morning. After 1.5 hours of back country roads (and a quick stop for gas) we arrived at the south station where we procured a parking pass via credit card, then headed to the smaller North Falls Trailhead lot to hike to the first two falls. Since it was early we easily snagged a parking spot and began our walk of the ~1 mile top loop.

Upper North Falls @ Silver Falls State Park North Falls @ Silver Falls State Park
Upper North Falls, North Falls

Looking at the trail map we figured we could save our feet a mile or two if we hiked to the next set of falls from the Winter Falls Trailhead. Lucky for us, we managed to get the last spot (of about 8).

so strong!  Middle North Falls @ Silver Falls State ParkMiddle North Falls @ Silver Falls State Park  no trail

Six falls in a four mile hike is a great day for us!

On our way out of the park we stopped back at the South Falls lot, which at noon was now quite busy and filling up rapidly. As to be expected given the parking lot, South Falls itself was very busy with lots of families, strollers, and dogs. Thankfully it was still (barely) in the shade.

South Falls @ Silver Falls State Park

Since we had a wine tasting reservation that afternoon we skipped Lower South Falls in favor of a shower. Overall, Silver Falls State Park was a great day trip, with quite a dense collection of falls and views. We definitely need to get back on a future trip, perhaps at a different time of year with more water flow.

Leandra’s 40th: Columbia River Gorge

Our original plan for our last day in Oregon was to drive to the coast, but I vetoed four hours of driving in favor of returning to the Columbia River Valley and visiting some waterfalls we hadn’t visited back on our 2008 trip (Latourell to Wahkeena and Multnomah to Elowah).

But first – breakfast!

Eric found this location of Cameo Cafe (known for a Korean influence) close to our hotel, so I had to get the kimchi omelet with bulgogi. My giant omelet also came with a four-person portion of hashbrowns. The table next to us wisely decided to split this dish between two people when they saw it delivered to my table… Needless to say, I did not finish all of this and also didn’t eat anything else until dinner.

my ginormous breakfast @ Cameo Cafe East  

Our first stop, after driving past a whole bunch of waterfalls we’ve photographed already, was Wahclella Falls. It’s a pretty two mile RT hike on a well-established trail to this falls. It was fairly busy with families and the small parking lot was totally full but there is street parking just a ways up the road and public toilets at the trailhead.

Wahclella Falls

We needed to check into our Southwest flight at 12:25pm so we stopped in at Thunder Island Brewing for wifi and a half pint. Unfortunately they were out of their Sour and Scotch Porter so we opted for the Hood Valley cherry cider which was refreshing and tasty. Our bartender was very chatty and even gave us a local guidebook to look over while we sipped our beer. On our way out we walked along the river park for some views downstream.

Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods; a toll will allow you into Washington

The next waterfall was a bit tricky as the directions described a 4-5 mile hike which I was not keen on doing. Instead, we decided to chance the semi-paved road to the trailhead and made it most of the way until I got nervous about the size of the rocks in the road compared to our little compact rental car. It wound up being a little less than three miles RT to the base of Dry Creek Falls and it was a lovely, quiet hike. We only saw two other groups the whole time!

Eric on his photo spot  Dry River Falls
Eric on his photo perch; picturesque Dry Creek Falls

We had some time left so we did a quick stop at Starvation Creek Falls. There are several waterfalls in this area but parts of the trail were under construction, so we just saw the one closest to the parking lot. We will definitely come back and do the longer hike on a future visit.

Starvation Creek Falls  view from base of Starvation Creek Falls
Starvation Creek Falls; looking downstream from the base of the falls

At this point we were thirsty so we drove into Hood Creek and stopped at Pfriem for a Belgian Golden and a sour Saison. We also walked along the river watching the many kite-boarders take advantage of the windy day.

beers @ Pfriem in Hood RiverColumbia River

Though a full day we only spent about 2 hours of driving!

Leandra’s 40th: wine tasting in Willamette Valley

Wine tasting in Willamette Valley is one of our favorite activities in Oregon, and one of the main reasons I wanted to go for my birthday trip. Staying in Newberg for the weekend gave us easy access to many old favorites and some new ones as well.

Saturday

wine tasting @ Dominio IVTrisaetum Winery – We were the first people to arrive and the wine tasting experience with Jasmine was pleasant. I opted for the Red & White flight while Eric got the White only flight. They have a LOT of Rieslings (one of the main reasons we choose this place) but Eric definitely preferred the 2014 Ribbon Ridge (baked apple and lemon with some mineral) over the five other choices. I found their Pinots to be a bit on the light side and also pricey.

Arborbrook Vineyards – An old favorite of ours (we used to be wine club members), we stopped in to buy a few bottles of the Pinot Gris but decided to do a wine tasting as the fee was waived with the purchase of the bottles. Eric picked up a few of the 2014 Croft Pinot Gris and I couldn’t resist two bottles of the delicious 2014 Coury Clone.

Lachini Vineyards – Located within sight distance of Arborbrook and suggested by the staff there, we made this small tasting room our next stop. Their website touts their wines as ‘premium’ and while we thought everything was good (especially the rose), the real value was the Grape Republic label at $25 for a perfectly drinkable Oregon Pinot Noir. Ashlyn was a great hostess and another lively group tasting with us provided plenty of entertainment. The tasting room was warm given the outside temperature, but we had an enjoyable tasting nonetheless. On a cooler day their patio area would have been a beautiful spot to sit.

Dominio IV – This small tasting room in McMinnville was also a revisit for us. The tasting experience was rather impersonal until the end when it was bolstered by the appearance of the winemaker, Patrick, who chatted with us for a few minutes about the wine. The Syrah and Pinot Noirs were good, as usual, but I was less impressed with the Tempranillo on this visit and Eric thought the Viognier had a slight bitterness to the finish this year.

Sunday

member tasting @ ErathErath – Because we are wine club members, we were able to secure a reservation for a private tasting out on the shady front terrace overlooking the vines. Theresa was our pourer (she also hosted me when I had the girls out two years ago) and she did a wonderful job of keeping our glasses full. We receive regular shipments from Erath throughout the year, but this tasting was helpful so we know how our existing bottles are tasting, plus notes on several of the other wines they have available. Our favorites were the 2015 Knights Gambit Rose, 2014 Leland Pinot Noir and the 2013 Le Jour Magique (White Pinot Noir).

Argyle Winery – Noticing the sign coaxing visitors to “end your day with bubbles!” (open until 7pm), we decided to stop here before heading back to the room. I was here two years ago, and since then they have built a beautiful new modern tasting facility behind the small house they previously used for tastings. Eric tried the special “Cool Whites for Summer” tasting and I got a glass of the Knudsen Vineyard sparkling to sip while he took tasting notes. :) Eric found two wines he liked on the list (2014 Spirit Hill Chardonnay and 2014 Nuthouse Riesling) and we let ourselves get talked into joining the wine club because it meant free refrigerated shipping on our first shipment, plus a free bottle of their standard sparkling since it was my birthday month!

Monday

Carlton Winemakers Studio – This place is a little further out but I wanted to go back since I remembered the tasting being good several years back. Christine did not disappoint with her energy and good humor but I was less than impressed with the Portfolio flight offerings. The price points were good but the wine just wasn’t to my liking – this is likely due to the wet 2013 season, which left me unimpressed at nearly all the wineries. Plus you have to buy six bottles to waive the $15 tasting fee. Our favorites were the 2013 Merriman Chenin Blanc and the 2014 Lazy River Estate Pinot Noir.

Carlton Winemaker's Studio

Argyle Winery (part two) – As we were now wine club members, we figured we should stop in and try some of their other options! This time Eric got the flight of bubbles and I tried the Pinot Noirs. I fell in love with the 2014 Nuthouse Pinot Noir and luckily was able to add two more bottles to our Sunday order, leaving room in our shippers for Cascade beer later in the trip.

argylewineflight

As usual, we enjoyed our tasting experiences. In general, we noted that prices are definitely rising in Willamette Valley, and that we preferred 2014 & 15 to the 2013 vintages.

Leandra’s 40th: Mt. Hood

On this trip to Oregon we originally intended to spend Friday wine tasting in Willamette Valley. However, with an expected temperature of 95F, we decided to escape to a higher elevation in search of cooler temperatures.

After a 1h drive, plus a bit of camp traffic, we parked at the Little Zigzag Falls trailhead and made the short half mile round-trip hike to a beautifully shady falls with very cool water, quite refreshing on a warm day.

Little Zigzag Falls

Our next stop was Mirror Lake, a moderately strenuous 1.5 mile uphill (o/w) hike. Most of the trail takes you through forest, but eventually loops around the small Mirror Lake. As the name indicates, there are nice views of Mt. Hood, plus lots of flowers (and bugs!) too.

Mirror Lake living up to its name

in bloom   wildlife

Now mid afternoon, were ready for a bit of shade, so we stopped at Glacier Haus Bistro in Government Camp for a snack of croquettes for me and house-smoked salmon for Leandra. After the Mirror Lake hike and the dry conditions the free water outside was quite welcome!

Refreshed, we headed to the trail-head for Umbrella and Sahalie falls. Both can be accessed via a 4.7 mile hike, or as we found out, you can drive much closer! From the main parking area we did the one mile roundtrip hike to Sahale Falls, where I clambered down the cliffside to a rocky overlook while Leandra stayed on the trail and swatted flies.

Sahale Falls

Alternatively, you can continue driving along the Elk Meadows trail road to the Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort, and as you drive over a small stone bridge you will see Sahale Falls on your right.

If you continue up that same road there is a small pull-out just before the resort parking area with a small trail through the meadow. The trail to the beautifully bendy Umbrella Falls is maybe .2 miles, and winds through a meadow that was in full bloom in mid-August.

wildflower meadow

Umbrella Falls

And the view of Mt. Hood is quite excellent too.

Mt Hood

By now it was late afternoon, so we began driving back to Newberg. On the way we stopped to try the beers at Bunsenbrewer. I enjoyed the Wit (cinnamon and coriander) and Leandra sampled the tasty sour stout.

Beeriodic Table menu @ Bunsenbrewer

On the way we fortuitously saw a sign for the Jonsrud View Point, and it was quite picturesque.

Mt Hood from the Jonsrud View Point

Knowing we wouldn’t get to Newberg until after dark, and fearing most of the restaurants would be closed, we decided to stop at Oregon City Brewing for some pretzels and and apricot sour for me, plus a porter for Leandra.

beers @ Oregon City Brewing

All told, a pleasant day trip to escape the unexpected heat.

Leandra’s 40th: a birthday in Portland

For Leandra’s birthday she decided that we would go to Portland to celebrate with wine tasting, hiking, good food, and unbeknownst to her, a concert too. There are so many things to do within a few hours of Portland so one of the hardest parts of planning was focusing on just a few areas. Weather played a role too, as the weekend we were there saw temperatures in the mid 90s, so we rearranged our schedule along the way. In the end we spent a day hiking on Mt. Hood, two days wine tasting, and two more days waterfall hiking. All in all a good way to celebrate a milestone birthday.

oregonmap40thbday

Where we stayed

Jupiter Hotel
Check-in was friendly and easy and we were given the choice of a first or second floor room on the ‘chill’ side – we choose the second floor. It was a warm day, and our doorway was very hot as the air conditioning units of our room and the neighbor both exhausted to the same small space. We ducked into our room which was small but enough for one night. Beside the bed there was a small two person table, a desk area and a small closet. Bed was OK, if a little firm. The cold water in the sink was not working, but was addressed by the time we returned later in the evening. Our room didn’t get very dark so we were glad for the eyeshades we brought so we could sleep in the next morning.

The Jupiter isn’t that fancy, but it definitely had a great location with lots of bars and restaurants within walking or short Uber distance. This was our second visit and we would consider returning in the future for a good price.

Windrose Vacation Rental
Located on the edge of downtown Newberg, we enjoyed staying in an apartment whilst in wine country. Located in the basement of a larger meeting center, the bedroom stayed cool even in the August heat, and had a large closet and plenty of space. It would be nice to have a thicker curtain to keep the room dark in the summer mornings (the blinds did not cut it). The kitchen had the pieces we needed to enjoy breakfasts and takeout. Downtown is quite walkable from here, and we took advantage of this a few times too. While we never met the owner in person, she left us a kind note, tasty chocolate and her cell number in case we needed anything. The only (small) negative was that the TV didn’t work – apparently she was getting her roof redone and the DISH wasn’t set up properly.

Radisson Hotel Portland Airport
Tucked amongst some low rise office parks, the Radisson has a strange location compared to some of the other airport hotels.

Pros:

  • Cookies in the evening, snack bars and coffee in the mornings.
  • Housekeeping was quite friendly, always smiling and saying hello in the hallways.
  • Spacious rooms.
  • Lots of parking.

Cons:

  • Sleep number bed didn’t work – it was stuck on the hard setting and it was never fixed, even after we mentioned it to the front desk staff.
  • The windows are thin, so you do hear air traffic. The hotel provides ear plugs, but some of the more recently constructed hotels nearby block the noise better.
  • Room layout is a little strange – bathroom when you first walk in, then the bed, then a sitting area? Perhaps this is to move the bed away from the window, but it felt a little odd to have the bed in the middle of the room.

Overall, the room was fine for our needs, a good use of points during an expensive time to stay in Portland.

Eric’s 40th: a day in Boston

We had the option of a four hour layover or a ten hour layover, and since we hadn’t been to Boston, we choose the ten hour option. Because we would have carry-on bags we knew we’d need to store them somewhere and unfortunately, the airport doesn’t have a storage facility and there aren’t many easy options in the city either. Thankfully, Rowes Wharf Water Taxi will store luggage for passengers, so we grabbed a boat from the Logan Ferry terminal to begin our adventure by a unique route into the city.

waiting for our ferry to Rowe's Wharf  city views from the water
waiting for the ferry; our view of downtown on approach

Once our luggage was stored we set a return time, then began exploring the city. Since it was now lunch time we started at Stoddards. Leandra opted for six raw oysters and a brown ale while I got a Flemish red ale and basket of fries.

We were quite lucky to have a beautiful spring day, so we decided to walk through Boston Common to find the ‘Make Way for Duckings’ statue.

Make Way for Ducklings!

Across the park we saw the State House and State Library.

Boston State Library

From the steps of the Library we started along the Freedom Trail, which wound through downtown Boston including sites such as Faneuil Hall and Paul Revere’s Tomb.

Paul Revere's gravestone   monument to Irish immigrantsmural in Faneuil Hall

We were tempted by the produce of Haymarket, but instead opted for pastries in North End.

the most incredible cannoli ever.

bicycle in Boston   modeling a lobster hat in Quincy Market

Our feet were starting to get tired so we began our walk back to the pier. Along the way we stopped for an early dinner at The Merchant, where Leandra couldn’t help but get a few more oysters.

oystersatmerchant

We definitely lucked out on weather and enjoyed a beautiful day exploring Boston before heading back to the airport and on to Europe.