Sunday, July 27, 2014

Babies and beer in the Pacific Northwest (cont.)

Santiam River
On Monday, Grace and Ryan had plans for us. We ALL loaded into the Jeep (and I mean all of us, even the dogs) and hit the road. We drove for an hour (hour and a half?) down some pretty winding mountain roads. The day was gorgeous, sunny and clear, and the scenery was beautiful.

Then we parked at a trail head, and everyone shrugged on a pack with some of what we'd need for the day. (Grace took Owen, of course, in the baby carrier, and some of his stuff. I packed in towels and food. Laura had a big cooler of drinks, and Ryan packed in a small tent and some other snacks/baby gear.)

We took a 10-minute hike through a beautiful old-growth forest. Trees were massive, and the sunlight filtered through leaves, making everything look even greener. I'd never seen the two dogs any happier. They were running ahead, sniffing everything, scooting back to check on us, and then taking off again down the trail. As we walked further down the trail, we could hear the sound of water.

After a bit of walking, there was a punch-through on the trail that led down to the Santiam River. A set of huge boulders jutted out into the river there. On one side of them was a short waterfall, and on the other side, the river wound through tall stands of trees. The rocks offered the perfect perch for one to sun and from which to jump into the river for a quick swim.

Mr. Pittock himself!
We unpacked, setting up the tent on the soft forest floor (in the shade) at the base of the rocks, spreading out our picnic gear for lunch, and stripping down to our swimsuits. We enjoyed our sandwiches, chips and fruit, and then it was time to give ourselves over to the river. I was the first to jump in.

That shit was cold. I mean COLD. Like, glacial. (And the river probably is glacial melt.) I swear, two degrees colder, and that water would have been solid. Here's what you do. You sit on the rock. You get hot. You jump in the river to cool off, IMMEDIATELY getting out. (Otherwise, you'll probably get hypothermia.) Then, you sit back on the rock again. This method allows for maximum outdoor enjoyment in Oregon in the summer.

Two of Grace's friends joined us, and we had a wonderful day out there. It's so pretty out there, with the river and all the trees and the mountains. We took turns holding Owen, and he napped obligingly in his tent for a while. After a bit, Laura and I decided to take a further hike down the trail to see what there was to see.

By late afternoon, we were beat. We piled back into the Jeep and headed home, stopping at a fruit stand along the way to buy fresh cherries. We ordered gourmet pizzas that night for dinner from Mi Famiglia. We got a couple of orders of steamer clams (YUM!) and three pies: the holy trinity (pepperoni and sausage with mushrooms), the fig and prosciutto (Oh. Em. Geeee!), and the wild mushroom and gorgonzola. Maybe it was because we were so hungry, but we LOVED this food! They had such inventive pizzas to choose from, and they were all so, so good. So well thought-out and made. We ate on the back patio again, washing down our slices with glasses of red.
The beautiful music room at Pittock Mansion

The next morning, we decided to take a trip into the city. We started with a quick breakfast at Singer Hill Cafe, a darling spot with a room full of vertical gardens and local art on display. I had a bagel with fruit, and Laura and Grace got delicious pieces of quiche. I really liked how the restaurant can almost be completely opened up to the outdoors on pretty days. Clever.

Laura wanted some time alone, so we dropped her off at the Chinese Classical Garden, and then Grace, Owen, and I headed for Pittock Mansion. I'd never been to Pittock Mansion, and I was anxious to see the home of one of Portland's first and most influential families.

From their website (edited for length):
English-born Henry Lewis Pittock journeyed on a wagon train from Pennsylvania to Oregon in 1853 where, at the young age of 19, and in his own words, “barefoot and penniless,” he began working for Thomas Jefferson Dryer’s Weekly Oregonian newspaper. In 1860, at the age of 26, he married 15-year-old Georgiana Martin Burton of Missouri. Together, Henry and Georgiana began a long life of work, community service, and devotion to family, which would last 58 years and celebrate six children and eighteen grandchildren. A consummate businessman, Henry Pittock took ownership of the Weekly Oregonian in 1860. He went on to build an empire incorporating real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching, silver mining, and the pulp and paper industry.
Pittock Mansion gardens
Pittock started as a newspaper man, but soon he and his family had their fingers in every pie in Portland. The whole family loved the mountains, founding mountaineering clubs. Many of the Pittock women were avid gardeners, cranking up local garden clubs and rose associations. The home is massive and perched carefully to take advantage of sweeping views of the mountains. Careful gardens and footpaths at the base of the house maximize views, as do the large windows throughout the house. (Even the pantry had a window in it.) All in all, it was good to be a Pittock!

After touring the mansion, Grace, Owen and I picked Laura back up. We all headed for the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City. I loved this museum! It's several adjacent buildings of artifacts and interactive displays, and each one has a big wagon cover frame over the top of it. You start in a spacious gift shop, where you can buy tickets, souvenirs and other items, then head into the first building. As you move through the exhibits, you do so in sequential order as travelers on the Oregon trail. First, you go to a mercantile and pack your wagon. There, you also learn about the types of lives the pioneers would have been leaving behind - more developed social networks, better schools, less cholera. You see some of the promotional materials that would have enticed travelers to hit the trail. You also watch a very moving video that tells the story of several trail riders in their own words, dramatized from actual accounts. It's very well done.
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

Then, you trace your path along the trail, learning more about the flora and fauna of the region and finding out how many of the travelers fared on their journey. (The answer? Touch and go. It was unimaginably difficult to survive such a trek. Sickness, injury, accidents, bitter weather - all contributed to kill you off before you finally made it to Oregon City.) Finally, you end at another general store, where you basically thank God that you survived and stock up for making your life in a new place.

This was a really interesting place to learn about the kind of moxie it took to head for Oregon and the kind of physical toughness required to survive the trip. They have some outdoor exhibit space, too. I'm very glad we got the chance to stop by!

By this time, we were pooped! We headed back to the house for a rest, as we had big plans for dinner.
I made it!

That night, Ryan kept Owen while Grace, Laura and I went out to a fancy dinner at Paley's Place. This is one of those gourmet, organic restaurants that sources their ingredients locally and is run by an award-winning chef. Prices are crazy, but the food and service is absolutely fantastic. Definitely a splurge, but one we decided was well worth it.

We started with the steak tartare and the taste of all charcuterie platter. Oh dear Lord. These were both amazing. The tartare comes with a golden yellow egg yolk on top, and you mix it into the velvety meat with all of the other goodies. Then, you spread it on little toasts and eat. It. UP!! The charcuterie platter offered endless tastes of this and that, comparing with your dining companions about your favorites and what nibble tastes best on which type of bread. (The chicken liver pate and the pork and green garlic rillete were our top picks.) Then, we ordered entrees. I chose the salmon, a delicious pile of fish, asparagus and fruit compote. For dessert, I couldn't resist the summer flight, offering tastes of three different sweet confections.

The food is magical here. Well worth a visit!

More to come . . .

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