Portland, OR – Settling In
After four relaxing days in Portugal with family, I had one night at home in the Essex countryside before embarking on the adventure I’d been so looking forward to since the idea was conceived in April. From now, I’ll be travelling for over two years through multiple countries, from the USA, to Canada, the Bahamas, Australia, New Zealand and through to Southwest Asia.
The whole trip nearly ended before it had even begun, as at Heathrow Airport in London, I wasn’t allowed to board without a return ticket to the EU within three months of my departure. After some frantic head scratching, telephone calls and a hurried cigarette, a solution was found: buy the most expensive, fully refundable ticket you can and cancel it as soon as you get to the USA. Crisis averted.
After some gorgeous weather in Portugal, I was glad to board the flight bound for sunnier climbs when the conditions in London were so dreary. I was flying with Air New Zealand (incidentally, the best airline I’ve ever flown with – you could start using the in-flight entertainment system as soon as you were seated before takeoff – it’s the little things…) for the 12 hour flight to Los Angeles, where, upon arrival, I would have to sleep overnight in the terminal building for my 7am flight the next day to Portland.
Travel tip: if you’re ever stuck in LAX overnight, head for the Tom Brady International Departures building; comfiest seats in the whole airport.
Without a wink of sleep, I boarded my flight to Portland with Virgin America (hmm…) and was picked up by Joaquin, who I met travelling through Southeast Asia 7 months ago. We were driving straight from the airport to Lake Billy Chinook in The Cove Palisades State Park, three hours East. Joaquin’s friend Cristie had rented a “party barge” and two jet skis for the eleven of us, and the next 5 hours were spent soaking up the sun and speeding across the length of the lake at 50 miles per hour.
By 6pm, with a fuel refill and some swimming, drinking and sunburn under our belts, it was time to take the barge and jet skis back to the marina and head for the campsite.
With tents pitched, sleeping bags unravelled and fire lit, Rick and Tats got the cooking underway, barbecuing chicken and beef skewers. For dessert? S’mores. Two Graham crackers filled with melted marshmallow and chocolate; one of the messiest and tastiest snacks I’ve ever eaten. We happened to be camping the night of the super moon, the largest perceived moon that can be seen from Earth, and just before I turned in for the night for my first wink of sleep in 50 hours, it rose and perched on the canyon top above us.
After a good night’s sleep, the tents were packed away and, after a breakfast of bacon, egg and bratwurst, we started the drive to Smith Rock State Park, an area near Terrebonne famed for its many miles of hiking trails and tuff/basalt rock formations that hold over a thousand climbing routes for beginners and experts.
We started the four mile hike in moderate sunshine, walking up the zigzagging Misery Ridge trail to the peak, where we were welcomed by the intensely beautiful views this stunning area has to offer. Continuing in light drizzle, we arrived at Monkey Face, a ~200 foot rock with a very distinctive profile. In pouring rain, we finished the hike and ran for our respective cars before heading to the nearest food joint for my first American burger. I learnt two things over the course of the meal: it’s only acceptable to eat with your hands in the US, and if none of the filling falls out, one is deemed to have failed at life.
One very tasty burger consumed and we were back on the road to Portland. I experienced another first along the way, when Joaquin announced he was tired and I was tasked with controlling an automatic, left hand drive car on the wrong side of the road in torrential rain. Only slightly nerve-wracking, honest…