The Road Less Travelled #5

Mount Hood from Mirror Lake

I left Bend, Oregon rather early in the morning so I could get a jump start on the drive through Mount Hood Territory.  Even though the long weekend is over, who knows the traffic and crowds I might run into.  It’s not a bad drive and it was pretty easy going so I made good time getting into the area.  There must be a fire or something around the Warm Springs area because it was quite smoky.  There were some parts I could hardly see, and because I don’t know the area too well, I wondered if the situation spread up into Mount Hood.  After awhile, it cleared up though.  I hope there is no loss of life and not much damage to property.

The mountain driving in this area was not as hectic as going through Yosemite or the area around Lake Tahoe.  Most of the time I didn’t even realise that I was up in elevation.  Lord knows my nerves can’t take much more.  I decided on the Mirror Lake hike based on some information I had read.  All the running and the hiking is kicking my butt so I have had to make decisions on shorter hikes.  Plus, I’m alone anyway and it really isn’t safe to take on these long hikes by yourself when you haven’t got anybody around looking for you.  I always text my sister and dad to let them know where I am but what are they going to do if I don’t return to my car by nightfall because I’ve fallen and twisted my ankle somewhere, or worse, a bear has eaten me!  I’m not worried about bears, but a twisted ankle is not far-fetched.

The Mirror Lake hike is easy, only about three miles round-trip.  The path is very obvious and since it’s a popular hike you won’t be alone out there.  When I first got there, I thought I had been duped.  The review I read claimed there was a great view of Mount Hood but I came the backwards way around the loop.  “Where’s this Mount Hood?” I muttered to myself.  I kept walking and then suddenly there it was!  Framed by trees and the lake, it made a perfect picture.  Very impressive.  It’s very crowded out there though, so no chance for sitting down and reflecting in God’s backyard.  A lot of kids and dogs and whatnot.  One kid was screaming for her father.  He was hiding in the bushes (some reason he thought it was funny to frighten the girl half to death) and she was crying, “Daddy, come out, I can’t find you.”  That’s real nice.  I passed him and he was crouched down.  He made that “Shhh” face, while snickering softly.  Hey, buddy, don’t include me in your twisted little game.  I only stayed a little while.

As I came back down to my car it was then I noticed all the signs telling you that you have to pay to use the area.  I mean, there are A LOT of signs.  I have no idea how I missed them.  I clearly was on another planet when I started.  There are three signs as you start to walk across the log bridge and then when you cross there are two more.  I do have an appropriate pass to let me use the area for free, but that doesn’t help if law enforcement comes by and sees that I don’t have the pass hanging in the window.  Anyway, you’re supposed to go to these specified locations to buy a pass.  If you have an America the Beautiful pass (which I do) you’re supposed to go the location and get the Northwest pass.  It’s free, but you still need that pass in your window, according to the sign.  I don’t know what kind of fines they give out, or if they tow you or anything.  Luck was on my side because I had no tickets in the windshield and my car was still there.  The fee is only $5 if you don’t have a National Park pass.  Save yourself the headache and pay the fee.  It’s not a big deal and the money goes to keeping up the trails and stuff.  There’s restoration going on at Mirror Lake, and somebody has to go up there to pick up all the trash that people leave behind.

I went back up the hill to Government Camp for lunch.  I ate at Huckleberry Inn Restaurant.  I just had a shrimp basket that was pretty decent.  I think when you’re hungry you’ll eat anything.  This renewed me for the 55 mile drive into Portland.  It was slow-going through Sandy and Gresham.  Stop lights every ten feet but this is the way Google Maps took me to the Hawthorne Hostel.  All the hostels were booked solid, so I could only get one night.  I liked the Hawthorne.  There was definitely much more of a community vibe going on than the Yosemite Bug.  I actually met people at the hostel who were really nice.  I exchanged stories with a couple of girls from Massachusetts.  I told them about the bear attacking my car and they told me about the random rancher woman in Bend, Oregon who followed them from a crowded campsite just to let them know that they could stay on her land for free.  Since those girls had each other, they decided to take the woman up on her offer.  I don’t get no such luck.  When you’re on your own you have to be a little more cautious.  I can’t go around accepting propositions from strange folk.

Courtney, at the front desk, was so helpful.  She loaded me down with a bus map, brochures of interesting neighbourhoods, a circular with nightlife information and just a boatload of tips and things I should try.  It’s 5PM, and if I were in NYC, I’d just be crawling out of bed for cocktails, followed by dinner and then dancing till dawn.  I don’t know if that’s the scene in Portland.  I want to find out but toothpicks are holding my eyes open.

It was too early for bed even though I was bone tired.  I have been really burning the midnight oil.  I get up at 4AM almost everyday to do homework.  About 5 I start my run.  Depending on how far I’m driving and if there are any planned stops along the way I try to get on the road by 630 at the very latest.  Driving takes its toll on you, and then hiking and all that.  I’m running out of gas and quickly.  I know it seems like a lot to be going to school, training for a marathon and on a road trip.  There’s just no other way.  One would have to give and I’m not prepared to make any sacrifices.  Last year was sacrifice; this year is doing what I want.

I explored Hawthorne Boulevard (Street?).  Cute but… So when you walk down Hawthorne words like vintage, sustainable, and organic come to mind.  These are buzzwords right now.  Everybody wants to be gluten-free and organic and all that jazz.  I’m not a doctor but unless you have celiac there’s no real reason for anybody to be gluten-free.  Anybody can slap a label on something and call it organic.  The FDA now regulates it but are people aware that big companies like Wal-Mart and Safeway can pay for the rights to use the organic label whether their crap is organic or not?  At any rate, this is a travel blog and not a diatribe on big business and what sells.  You do what you want; it’s your money.

Vintage is cool and all, and I love to be unique and funky but I can dig around in my grandmother’s closets for free.  I just browsed through the stores.  If you could see me you might think that I am a person who would love Hawthorne but I recognise a gimmick when I see one.  I know there are food trucks and stuff, but I wasn’t ready to really get into the city just yet.  I opted for Thai food at My Thai.  I dined al fresco.  I love saying that.  It makes me feel rich.  The weather in Portland is gorgeous.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Perfect for outdoor seating and a salad wrap followed by drunken noodles.  I could have fallen asleep at the table if the server hadn’t come asking me if I wanted some dessert.  Because I saw a creperie just down the street I told him no.  Two minutes later, I was al fresco again with an espresso and a crepe la delice.  So good.  Sometimes you get a crepe and they use cheap chocolate and it’s really sweet and turns your stomach.  Other creperies use Nutella, which I like but if you eat too much of it, it’s not a pretty picture.  I don’t know what these people were using but it was some darn good chocolate and the berry flavoured white sauce?  God!  Food coma, here I come.

I pretty much staggered back to the hostel in a food-drunken stupor.  It’s not even 7PM and I can hardly stay awake.  I force myself to hold on for another hour.  One of my roommates tells me that if I’m going south I should avoid the hostel in San Diego.  Her entire van was stolen from there.  I don’t plan on going to San Diego, thank God.  The bed is very cosy.  The sheets smell like fabric softener, and I am out like a light.

Tomorrow:  Portland, the sly devil… Food.  International Rose Test Garden.  Food.  Chinese Garden.  Food.  Pioneer Square.  Food.  Powell’s City of Books.  Food.  Buskers.  Food.  FOOD.  FOOD!

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