Long ago when our dream of living and traveling in an RV was born we made a list of places we wanted to visit. Eventually that list became a google map, and then gradually the map of places we wanted to visit changed into a map of places we had visited. I’m happy to report that the first place to ever make the list, the Portland Japanese Garden, has now officially changed from “to visit” to “have visited”.
My first exposure to the gardens was in a magazine article. I believe it was a Cooking Light magazine of all places. You know one of those articles about a city and the cool things to do there? I’m sure the article must have mentioned food since it is a cooking magazine, but that part I don’t remember.
Probably because it was completely overshadowed by the stunning photos and description of the garden. Five and half acres of sculpted evergreen topiaries, stone lanterns dripping with moss, Japanese maples & towering Birches, waterfalls, raked sand gardens, shallow winding streams and ponds full of Koi. I knew this was a place I had to visit. Four or five years later the dream came true, and happily the garden lived up to the lovely magazine photos still etched in my mind. Here’s a few shots of my own from our visit to the gardens:
The Japanese Gardens are only a small part of the 400 acre Washington Park located right in the middle of Portland. The park also boasts a zoo, children’s museum, rose garden, forestry museum, and arboretum. We bypassed the museums and zoo, instead choosing to explore a portion of the arboretum. High on a ridge at the top of the park 12 miles of trails wind around 187 acres of trees of all species.
We enjoyed walking around and peeking at the informative signs posted at the base of each tree. There is no admission to the arboretum, and the dogs are allowed on the trails. It seems like a popular place for locals to enjoy some nature and we saw lots of people strolling around with pooches in tow.
Our main purpose of visiting Portland was the Japanese Gardens, but we did get out and enjoy city in other ways. We choose an RV park right in the city so we could easily get around for some exploring. The Columbia River RV park is a pretty typical city RV park. Each site is a concrete pad with a strip of grass on each side and if you’re lucky a single tree or shrub. The size of the sites was generous, the pads were level, and at the Good Sam rate of only $30/night for full hookups we felt it was a very good value.
The park is located across the street from the Columbia River and one afternoon we walked down Marine Dr. and onto Bridgeton Rd. which runs along the river. We drooled over the boats in the marina, marveled over the massive boat garages, and were enchanted by the charming floating houses.
Do you know about these floating houses? It was a new concept for me. It’s not a houseboat, but instead a house that floats. The difference is that a floating house is attached to a dock, has no engines for driving or moving, is connected to a sewer system, and is usually part of a floating house neighborhood.
A number of the houses we passed were for sale and we checked out of some of the sale flyers out of curiosity. They are relatively affordable (between 200,000 – 300,000), but you also have to pay a monthly moorage fee which we thought was pretty high at five to six hundred a month. You don’t have a yard in a floating house, but you do have a nice dock surrounding your house, and some had second floor decks that looked out over the water.
I don’t think we’ll be trading in the airstream for a floating home anytime soon, but it was fun to check out this unique style of living.
Our first night in Portland we drove into the downtown area for dinner at a fantastic local brewery. Deschutes Brewery is known for their distinctive atmosphere, creative menu and of course, excellent beers. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t have a single picture to share from our meal or walk around downtown. You’ll just have to use your imagination as I describe our meal.
We started with a sample tray of 6 small beers. I liked the Mirror Pond Pale Ale the best while Tim leaned more toward the dark porters and stouts. He ended up ordering himself a full glass of the Chainbreaker White IPA and I was content to sip on the tiny sample glasses. I’m not a big beer drinker and often have a hard time finishing an entire pint glass, so the the sample size portions were right up my alley.
For dinner I had housemade noodles with smoked chicken in a creamy red pepper sauce. The dish was topped with chunks of goat cheese and sprinkled with baby spinach. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. The sauce was creamy but not too rich, and the tangy goat cheese on top perfected the flavor. Tim went with the Baby back ribs smothered in Black Butte Porter BBQ sauce. They were the kind of ribs that just fell of the bone and he had no trouble cleaning his plate. I would highly recommend this brew pub for dinner or just a few beers and apps.
After dinner we walked around the downtown for a bit, peeking in store windows and just generally enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city. After spending tons of time this summer in the woods — and more recently on almost deserted beaches — it was fun to see so many people and so much activity. We only stayed a few days, and left feeling like there was much more we could have explored. The lure of the ocean was calling to us though, and we since we’ve decided this trip though Oregon is more about exploring the coast than anything else we headed back west.
On the way out of town we stopped at an orchard to pick some apples. It’s hard to pick just and few and we ended up with an entire bucket of apples after just a few minutes of picking.
Guess we’ve got some apple eating to do!