Great Drive Series – Along the Columbia River in Oregon

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Oregon has been a place I have always been wanting to go.  When the opportunity to go on a business trip to Portland arose, I was thrilled.  Though I was not able to append a weekend on either end of the business trip to get to explore more, I did have a Sunday afternoon and the hours after office hours to check some of the area.

My favorite part was driving along the Columbia River Gorge.  I had not read up much about the area before going and it surprised to discover there was a gorge along parts of the Columbia River, near Portland.  I discovered it by looking outside my seat window as we were close to land in PDX.  I was very lucky to have picked a window seat (I am a serial aisler) and that it was on the right side of the plane which not only afforded me the opportunity to discover the gorge but also to see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.  (Clearly, the airplane’s window was a little dirty and, seemingly, so was the air right above – notice the brownish line killing my clear view of the top of Mt. St. Helens).

Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Columbia River, Columbia River gorge, airplane view, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Mt. St. Helens on the left, Mt. Adams on the right; the Columbia River and the gorge in the middle

Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Columbia River, Columbia River gorge, airplane view, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, Portland, Oregon

Close up of the mountains (and the window smudge!)

Getting to the Columbia River Gorge from Portland was very easy.  Just take I-84 East.  To visit the most famous of the waterfalls, Multnomah, one doesn’t even really have to get off the interstate:  there is a parking area in the middle of the interstate (a rest area) and a tunnel under the lanes to get to the waterfall.

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At the top of the photo, you can see the rest area

But it is nicer to get off earlier (at Troutdale or Corbett) and then do the scenic route, passing other waterfalls along the way.  The scenery is beautiful.Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

The first main stop is phenomenal:  Vista House on the Crown Point Scenic Corridor.  You enjoy great vistas up- and down-river of the Columbia River from this high vantage point.  I wish I had been there for sunrise or sunset (or both) – bet the view would have been even better!Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photoColumbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo, vista

After Vista House continuing eastbound, a series of waterfalls come before getting to Multnomah Falls, the tallest falls in the state.  There are several trails available to get out and walk.  I reserved my limited time to go up the Multnomah Falls which rises over 600 ft.  Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

I did the round trip up and down in slightly less than an hour.  It is nice they numbered the switchbacks going up but it certainly made me anxious to get to the last one – I’d rather not know how many I have left!

Latourell Falls on the left and Multnomah Falls on the right

Latourell Falls on the left and Multnomah Falls on the right

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At the top of Multnomah!

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Yikes, close to the edge!

I do wish I had had time to go to the coast and visit the Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge.  I enjoyed reading the story of Lewis & Clark a few years ago and would have enjoyed seeing where their journey ended where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.  Next time!

A Week in Iceland – Our Itinerary

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland', Golden Circle, nature, water, sight, sightseeing, must-see

A week in Iceland comes to a close.  I am sitting at the airport (to which I got way too early even though just about over 2 hours ahead of flight time) trying to figure out what I will be writing about and, more importantly, how I will be describing in.

Before I get on to sharing my experiences, I’d thought I’d start with a simple post about the agenda for the week.  Those of you who follow the ilivetoravel Facebook page have seen some of the sights I have seen but maybe without the overall context for the photos (go click Like on it if you have not done so yet; I post real-time there during the trips!).  I hope this post provides that context while I craft the stories that made up my full but short one week in Iceland…  So here the overall itinerary of what we covered; later on, I will add the links to each as I write about them.  This post will be short on photos so I can issue it faster but, never fear, I will be sharing tons of the great vistas in this country!

Day 1 – Arrival to Iceland

On the day of arrival, the plan was to make our way to our apartment in Reykjavik but first making a stop in the Blue Lagoon to recover a little bit from the lack of sufficient sleep and rest.  We figured this is a must-see even if touristy so we could achieve both aims (recovery and sightseeing) in one brilliant stroke.  More on the Blue Lagoon here!

One of my travel companions has an Icelandic great-grandmother so part of the trip would be about finding her roots.  On the first day, we had been invited to a BBQ at her second or third, removed or not, cousins she had never met.  So that was the plan for the evening.

Day 2 – Go around the Golden Circle

Our plan consisted of using Reykjavik as a base to see some key places before heading north, to the land of my friend’s ancestors.  The first of this was the Golden Circle – a route that covers some very important places in Icelandic history and natural beauty.  One of the most important places on the Circle is Þingvellir, where Iceland’s first Parliament was established..  We planned to use a tour company for this to ease our workload before the trip (i.e., researching exact;y what all we had to hit) and then doing all the driving to hit those places.  It was a good choice!

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Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland’s Golden Circle

Day 3 – Go south and meet the bad boy – Eyjafjallajokull volcano

Using the same logic as for day 2, we opted for the same small tour operator to do the South Shore.  We lucked out with the company we chose as they were very flexible and being a small tour, he could offer extra things or changes to the itinerary based on the weather that day.  We went to the southernmost point in the island, drove past two volcanoes, visited the black sand beaches, and visited two beautiful waterfalls:  Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.

Day 4 – Head north young man.  And another man, and a woman and two young girls

On day 4, we undertook the approximately 5 hour drive to our home base in the north of Iceland:  Akureyri, the second most important city in the country after the capital.   We looked forward to seeing the landscape along the way and contrasting it with the landscape of the south shore as we were told there would be a noticeable difference.

The house we rented for 3 days sat across the fjord from Akureyri and sported a large frontal window (I posted a couple of photos in Facebook).  It was a neat place to stay – you almost did not want to leave it!

Day 5 – Exploring family history in the great Icelandic north

Day 5 was reserved for visiting areas where my friend’s family had history, likely areas most tourists don’t see if they are just sticking to doing the ring road.  While the ring road is great to explore, areas off it are more pristine, if that is the right word.  So we visited small towns, like Dalvik (which seemed almost Alpine), and got to drive the northern rugged coastline, way off the ring road – it was awesome and more to come on this for sure!

Day 6 – A whale of a time

While in Iceland, whale watching is a must and we planned to join a whale watching tour in Husavik.  The waters were very calm and it was very pleasant.  More on this later.  We also knew we wanted to see the important Godafoss waterfalls which sit conveniently by the ring road.  Then we went for a hunt for the best ice cream in Iceland at Brynja in Akureyri.

Husavik, Iceland, whale watching tour, sea, boats

The harbor of Husavik, the whaling capital of Iceland

Day 7 – The start of going home

On this day we planned to backtrack to Reykjavik as trying to head back continuing the clockwise direction would take WAY too long.  We planned to stay near the airport so we could return the car, save money, and have an easy time the next morning getting five of us to the airport on time.  But we started the day walking around Akureyri before hitting the road – a town I liked a lot.

So this is a BROAD sketch of the itinerary.  The details of each story are yet to come – stay tuned!!!  (Subscribe to the blog so you can be notified when a new post comes out!)

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