Spring is one of my favorite seasons in Oregon. The flowers are blooming in bright shades of pink, orange and yellow, the skies are full of moody, quick-moving clouds, and the weather is wholly unpredictable. It can turn any excursion around the state into a wild adventure, and my ramble around the greater Portland and Mt. Hood areas was of no exception.
The trip started out with blue skies and sunshine as I made my way to Milwaukie and Bob’s Red Mill for lunch. I needed to fuel up on something hardy for my upcoming kayaking trip in Oregon City. I sat outside basking in the late morning sun while I chowed down on chicken chili in a bread bowl with a fresh green salad.
Feeling ready for anything, I drove to ENRG Kayaking on the Willamette River. Having poked around their website earlier, I’d decided the best route for me was to paddle my way upstream to the glorious Willamette Falls. I’d never seen them, and I was itching to get a closer look. The staff at ENRG was courteous and knowledgeable. I have some basic kayaking skills under my belt, so they refreshed my knowledge of basic water safety issues and had me sign a waiver. (If you’ve never paddled before, ENRG offers an intro to kayaking class that will give you the tools to get out on the river.)
I made my way out to the docks and gently got into the bobbing boat, safely strapped into a life vest, and pointed my bow towards the falls. I struggled my way upriver at first, fighting the current, until I remembered that the staff had told me to stay close to shore where the current is at its mildest. I adjusted my position and soon made it to my destination.
Willamette Falls is the largest waterfall by volume in the Pacific Northwest and the seventeenth widest in the world, if you can believe it. It was a magnificent sight to see up close and probably the best view you can get of this underrated waterfall. I watched the sea lions play in the water and eventually drifted back to ENRG to return the kayak and carry on to the next leg of my adventure.
Satiating Seafood in Lake Oswego
My stomach was growling by the time I got off the boat, so I headed to Lake Oswego to happy hour at Five Spice Seafood + Wine Bar. I ordered an Elysian IPA to accompany the fried coconut shrimp and a crab and beet salad, both delectable. As I wasn’t quite satiated, I ordered the sautéed jumbo sea scallops. These came on a bed of lentils with roasted golden beets, carrots and mustard greens. I took a stroll around Lakewood Bay afterward to watch the sun set over the trees. If you were interested in staying overnight nearby on the Clackamas River, a fine choice would be the Clackamas Inn & Suites with a contemporary design and views of Mt. Hood.
The Trail to the Mountain
The following morning brought me to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City, the perfect place to learn about the pioneers’ first steps on the soil of Oregon and the difficult journey that brought them here. The museum details their winding trek across this beautiful state, siting journals written by travelers and explorers.
My head bursting with information, I hopped in my car to follow the historic Oregon Trail towards Mt. Hood. I drove the Clackamas Highway 224 to Highway 26 in Sandy. After a quick stop for lunch at the Tollgate Inn in Sandy (about an hour from downtown Portland) the weather took a turn for the worse. Dark clouds rolled in and heavy rain began to fall.
My next destination was the Wildwood Recreation Site near the edge of the old Barlow Road that took early pioneers through the Mt. Hood forest. My goal was to find the Cascade Streamwatch Trail. This paved 1.5-mile trail leads through a mossy forest to an underground viewing window where you can see salmon and steelhead in their underwater habitat. I embraced the bad weather, threw on my raincoat, and followed the trail to the viewing window. It was a calm and peaceful sight watching the fish swirl around each other as pellets of rain hit the water. I circled through the woods and found myself on a wooden boardwalk that cut through a gorgeous marsh. I had no idea this place existed before now and knew I’d need to return on a sunnier day.
Spring Snow on Mt. Hood
As I headed up Highway 26 towards Mt. Hood, the rain turned to snow. Soon the road was covered in white powder. Forfeiting my plans to have dinner in Government Camp in favor of getting out of the weather, I slowly continued along Highway 35 to reach Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. Thankfully I made it just before the kitchen closed for the night. I enjoyed the pork torta (highly recommended) and rosemary garlic fries and settled into the cozy Homestead Cabin for a relaxing night by the fireplace. I woke the next morning to fresh snow and sunshine and went on to explore the beautiful grounds of the resort, rich with history dating all the way back to the late 1800s.
The namesake for the resort, David Rose Cooper, was an avid explorer of Mt. Hood. As such, the prominent outcropping on the north side of the mountain was named for him — Cooper Spur. His wife, Marian, set up the first hotel in the area, a seasonal tent city equipped to house of all kinds of travelers, including climbers and researchers. Thus begun the influx of tourism on Mt. Hood. The walls of the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort are lined with old photographs that tell stories of mountain escapades and explorations of years past. Cool old artifacts and relics from skiers and mountaineers adorn the walls. After taking it all in, I went on my way to a local hike recommended by the friendly staff.
My plan to hike higher on the mountain was thwarted by the unexpected snowfall, so I took a quick drive north on Highway 35 to Tamanawas Falls. An easy hike, clocking in at 3.6 miles, it’s the perfect way to start your day with a huge payoff. I sat high on the rocks staring at the roaring falls, enjoying the solitude. I strolled back through the steaming forest to my car with time to take a side trip on the Hood River County Fruit Loop to see the rolling hills of flowering trees and make my way home to Portland. I promised myself I’d return to see some of the spots I’d meant to visit, as there are seemingly endless places to go, food to eat, and views to be seen on Mt. Hood and in greater Portland.