Friday, June 6, 2014

Portland with Amy and a Baby: Part I

Just after Easter, my friend Amy flew over from Mississippi to see us and finally meet baby Tyler. I hadn't seen her in nearly 5 years and she hadn't been to Seattle in almost 7 years. I wasn't yet the waterfall aficionado that I am today, so she didn't see a single waterfall on her previous visit here. This time I was determined to show her some of the best waterfalls the northwest has to offer, which wouldn't be complete without a trip down to the Columbia River Gorge(ous). Charlie and Julie Hansen, friends of my parents, live in Portland and had offered to let us stay at their home while they were out of town for their daughter's wedding. Amy arrived late Monday night, and we drove down to Portland e
arly the next day.

After picking up Amy, we of course had to chat for awhile before going to bed. Nibbler came up and cuddled with us, happily purring away. Amy was immediately smitten. Nibbler just has that effect on people.

We waited until the next morning to introduce Amy to Tyler after he'd woken up for the day. Since Amy's most used to referring to animals as cute, she said something along the lines of "cute doggy, I mean, puppy, no kitty, wait no, baby." So now Amy refers to Tyler as "cute baby kitty puppy thing!"

Amy had her camera ready while we made our 4 hour drive south. 
Tacoma Dome
I checked the weather report for about a week before she arrived, but the forecast changed daily, so we had no clue what to expect. We drove through sunny and nice weather and pouring rain nasty weather, and when we got to Portland, there was a little bit of both kinds depending on which direction you were heading.

Amy became very excited when she saw this roadside waterfall. Being from Mississippi, she doesn't get to see much water cascading off high peaks. I couldn't wait to take her to the Columbia River Gorge if this little thing could make her so  happy. She was disappointed to not get a great shot of the Columbia river when we first passed over it, but I assured her she would have ample opportunity to take pictures of the Columbia river later.

Oscar put Ty down for a nap at the Hansen's while Amy and I drove east to the Columbia River Gorge. Tyler had a few mild cold symptoms when he'd woken up that morning, but little did we know that 2 days later he would end up hospitalized for severe bronchiolitis (more about that in a future post). This made for a pretty awful trip for Oscar. His trip consisted entirely of babysitting, spending a ton of money on an unplanned hospital stay, and worrying about his boy's health. Hopefully Oscar's next vacation can be a bit more pleasant for him!

Amy and I were a little concerned that the weather would be awful since we had to drive towards the darkest clouds to get to the Columbia River Gorge, but fortunately the better weather from the west followed us there. In fact for the rest of the trip, driving into ominous clouds always seemed to work out for us (though apparently that was just an Amy thing. Oscar and I tried driving toward gray clouds after she left and were of course met with pouring rain). It was still cloudy when we got there, but it wasn't raining and the clouds did not block us from viewing the scenic lookouts.

After exiting the main freeway onto the Columbia river scenic highway, we stopped at the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. You can see the Vista House from here, which we also stopped at later as we continued east. I like how the motion photo on the left captures the wind in the trees and the cars on the freeway. It makes the photo come to life.

There's a similar effect in the individual shots of Amy and me. You can see our hair blowing in the wind.
Lovely ladies and a lovely scenic backdrop!
The View from the Vista House
And finally we made it to Amy's first genuine waterfall (as in, large enough that it has a name) - Latourell Falls. She was very impressed! Her jaw dropped and she just stared for awhile. Seeing a waterfall in person is much more awe inspiring than viewing a picture of one, even a great picture. And speaking of great pictures, Google+'s new GIF autoawesome motion files are a large part of the reason I was so keen on coming back to the Columbia River Gorge. They work wonderfully with waterfalls because you can see the water in flow. In other types of GIF's, you know the motion would change more than just the flashing pictures you're watching, so viewing the same motion over and over again can get a bit jarring. But since waterfalls flow like this indefinitely, it's like you're actually there viewing the falls in the present.
I'd been to Latourell Falls 3 times before, but I'd never hiked to Upper Latourell Falls. Amy and I debated between hiking here or hiking between Wahclella and Multnomah Falls, and ended up choosing here. This was fortunate since I later found out I'd misread the guidebook and thought the other hike would allow us to see multiple waterfalls over just a couple miles, but we would have needed to walk about 10 miles total to do that. The smaller hike I'd seen was just walking between Wahclella and Multnomah, two falls that you can easily drive to, so there's really no need for a hike.

My guidebook led us to believe that this hike was only .8 miles each way, but we could tell pretty quickly that it was going to be longer than that. When I checked it again, I saw that it was .8 miles from the top of the falls. You still had to take the steep hike to the top first, and I have no idea how far that was.
The weather had been reasonably nice when we started the hike, so we didn't bring our raincoats, but it began raining once we made it to the upper falls. We got pretty wet with both rain and waterfall splash, but it was great since the waterfall was awesome! Our pictures don't do it justice (the upper drop just looks like a big flash of light). It has a very unique shape and you can go behind it, which was cold but cool (pardon the pun ;)). It might not be the 5 star beauty of its lower counterpart, but it was beautiful and unique in its own way.
 Amy and I got merged together in this motion shot. 
The rain had begun while we were busy behind the falls, so we hiked back as quickly as possible to avoid getting drenched. We went back to the main viewpoint of Latourell and found another group of 2 ladies who snapped this cute pic of us. They'd been debating whether to make the hike or not, and we told them it'd be totally worth it if they did.

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