Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pacific Northwest Trip Part 2 - San Juan Islands

Part 2 post of our Pacific Northwest trip - we actually started out our entire trip with Seattle, then San Juan Islands, before moving on to Portland and Hood River.  

We flew into Seattle and ended up only spending a few hours there before moving on to Anacortes, WA to be in good position for the following morning's early ferry to the San Juan Islands.  Seattle seems like a great city but we just didn't have enough time to do it justice.

The San Juan Islands were beautiful, very relaxed, and laid back.  The best way to describe it is probably saying its the British Virgin Islands of the Pacific Northwest....just much colder water, big & greener forests, and stronger tidal currents.  We focused our stay on Orcas Island but also visited San Juan Island.  We intended to also visit Lopez Island but ran out of time.  No windsurfing, SUP, or mountain biking, but we did a lot of hiking, boating (sea kayaks & motor), relaxing/reading, and eating.

We visited the world famous Pikes Fish Market in Seattle and watched the big fish show...

The Space Needle

A very nice waterfront park in Anacortes, WA

early morning Anacortes

note the brisk morning felt great coming from 95 degrees back home

The only fog on our trip was the ferry to Orcas Island

In the town of East Sound, Orcas Island.  East Sound is the main town on the island and had one of the best restaurants of our entire trip - "The Kitchen", a small order at the counter Thai place using very fresh ingredients for their unique dishes.

Deer Harbor, Orcas Island - one of the coolest harbors/marinas I've ever been to.

One of the San Juan Islands ferries

lots of sailboats - this is the BVIs of the Pacific Northwest

This island outside of Deer Harbor used to be owned by actor Gene Hackman (according to our whale watching boat captain)

local mode of transportation

hiking in Moran State Park on Orcas Island - the flowers were bigger than the kids

A nice spot for a break

The steep hike up to Mt Constitution on Orcas Island, the highest point in the San Juan Islands

The view from top of Mt Constitution - that's Mt Baker in the distance.  We could also see Bellingham, WA and Vancouver,  BC.  Note the tidal currents in the water...more on that below.

We went for a sea kayak whale (Orcas) watching adventure on San Juan Island

Turns out it was too windy and choppy and the Orcas didn't show up.  We got in a serious workout paddling into the wind.  My beautiful bride and the boys were not fans of this outing because of the wind and chop.  Should have waited for calmer conditions.

My daughter and her cousin stayed in good spirits throughout the windy and choppy ordeal.  

Back on Orcas Island

Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Beautiful hiking with scenery like this in the woods

What is it about waterfalls?

Laid Back

The view from our rental house on Orcas Island
Deer were everywhere around our house and they weren't scared of anyone

Since we didn't have a successful whale watching sea kayak outing, we did it the old fashioned way....a whale watching boat tour with the crowd.

Success!  No Orcas showed up, but we got the rare Minke Whale

Lighthouse on southeast corner of San Juan Island

Bald Eagles were everywhere

Probably the coolest animal sighting we had was this seal feasting on a large salmon he just caught.  He gave us quite a show.

A little blurry here, but gives you an idea of how strong the currents are around the San Juan Islands.  Stand up paddling or sea kayaking through this wouldn't have been possible.  This is in the channel.  There isn't much stand up paddling going on in the San Juan Islands yet (no SUP rentals on Orcas or San Juan Island that I was aware of), but I did see many calmer water spots outside the main channels where you could easily SUP.  This is a big sea kayaking destination.

More currents

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Our Hood River Adventure

We recently returned from an excellent Pacific Northwest family adventure.  I'll break up the trip report into 2 chapters, starting with the second half of our trip, Hood River, to satisfy you windsurfing junkies out there.  Grab an Oregon microbrew and enjoy this lengthy post...

This was my first trip to Hood River.  All these years of windsurfing and having traveled afar to windsurf other spots and now I finally get there.  You could say we got the full HR experience since we got some windless days and we definitely took advantage of many varied things the Columbia River Gorge area has to offer.

more proof your kids don't watch you windsurf

Several first impressions after windsurfing - all you HR regulars will just have to indulge me here and think back to your first HR experience.  Hopefully this will bring a smile to your face.  For those that still haven't windsurfed here, start drooling:
- Falling in the water and drifting upwind because of the opposing river current and wind direction.  You hear all about this but experiencing it firsthand was quite weird.  
- I didn't have to tack upwind once.  I think I tacked twice just to do it.  It's always a downwind run whenever you want it.
- The water felt great.  68 degrees on a hot day was nice.  Wore a 3/2 short sleeve wetsuit but many folks were in less.  Summer in Hood River is awesome.  Even the heat wave they had during our visit wasn't nearly as bad as our heat waves back east.
- The views while windsurfing were beautiful - having snow capped Mt Hood as a backdrop was incredible.

Every run out across the river, I'd look both ways to make sure a barge wasn't coming.  There was no way I was getting in front of one of those things.  I only saw 3 or 4 the first day and none the 2nd day I sailed.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any of the sub 5.0 conditions Hood River is famous for.  But it was still better than a very epic day on our local lake.  I only sailed the 1st and last day of our Hood River stay, both powered up 5.3 days.  The 1st day was on 94 liter Starboard Kode.  The last day I switched to a 103 liter Kode only because the forecast was supposed to be lighter and I did start out on a 6.0 but soon rigged down to the 5.3.

I enjoyed the Starboard Kode and Naish Force sail combo and I eased comfortably into the rental equipment.  The Kode is super fast and has more volume in the tail than most boards in its size.  I spun out a lot in my jump landings....but that was probably user error on my part.  I've never been a great jumper but I wonder if the increased tail volume played a part.  Any thoughts on this or Kode comments out there?  I rented from Big Winds and they provided excellent service and the equipment was in great shape.

You can't really tell in these pictures, but the swell on the other side of the river were stomach high rollers you could play in with some fun backside smacks.

I launched from the Event Site both days only because it was very convenient and conducive for the family to hang out and swim there.  You HR regulars are probably thinking I didn't get the full experience and that's probably true but life was easier with the family this way.  I do want to go back and experience the other launches and I'll just plan better with the family next time as far as drop offs, etc.  I did sail upwind towards the Hatchery and the wind seemed to be stronger in that direction.

A jibe a minute

Happy Happy Joy Joy

This is how its really done at the Gorge and the sub 5.0 conditions I'd like to windsurf in there next time...

2009 Windsurfing the Gorge from Trudy Lary on Vimeo.

Check out the size of the river swell at the Hatchery in this video...

Hatchery Swell from Warren Morgan on Vimeo.

And so begins the no wind part of the trip report - we got to experience a lot more of what the area has to offer and the family loved it all....

The kids loved swimming and SUP'ing in the river.

snow capped Mt Hood and the town of Hood River as the backdrop

When I go back and if I get more than just a couple of windy days, I want to experience a SUP downwinder on the river. 

Our house didn't have air conditioning - didn't really need it even with the heat wave.  We kept the windows open the whole time.  We found plenty other ways to cool off...

Horsetail Falls

Multnomah Falls, 2nd largest in the country

We did the hike to the top.  Here is the view down.

Then we went to Oneonta Gorge.  It's only a 1/4 mile hike in to the falls but you first have to climb over this sketchy log jam...

Yikes - Careful kids!

Then you had to wade through extremely cold waist deep water...

But it was worth it.  The kids rated this hike and waterfall their favorite.  It was 10-15 degrees cooler in this gorge than it was in the parking area just outside.

I was impressed by my daughter. That water had to be 50 degrees or less.  It was freaking cold and I wouldn't get in.

I mountain biked at Post Canyon.  No, I didn't jump that thing....just stared at it.  Top of the Drop Out trail.

Halfway down Drop Out trail.  The man made berms and jumps were something to behold.  

You had to be committed if you wanted to make these jumps.  Again, I just stared at these.  They are bigger than they look in this pic.

View of Mt Hood from top of Post Canyon trails

View of Mt Adams from the top of Post Canyon trails.  Unfortunately, half the Post Canyon trails are closed due to tree removal still going on from last winter's fierce ice storm that took down tons of trees.  It was a real mess.  I had been warned about it but still went up there and managed to get in 2+ hrs of some good mountain biking.
Looking down at the town of Hood River from the trails

This was more my speed as far as technical riding.  This is at the Family Man staging area.  They must call it Family Man for guys like me with many responsibilities - who just want to get out of Hood River without crutches and a cast.  Easier and more forgiving technical riding with less danger compared to those huge jumps you saw above.  I also had some incredible climbing and single-track riding.

My ride, a Specialized StumpJumper 29er.  Loved the 29 wheels.  I still ride the smaller wheels back home...I know...I'm a slow adopter, a real laggard.

Driving to Mt Hood

historic Timberline Lodge

We rode the lift up and watched the summer skiers and snowboarders.  Probably one of the only things we didn't do was ski....should have!

The kids loved playing in the snow in August.  This was at approx 7,000 ft elevation.   The ski lift took skiers up to over 8,000 ft.

The kids making their own fun and showing how its done

Looking at the top of Mt Hood.  People have died trying to climb that thing.  Note the lift at bottom left and the skiers lower center.

We hiked down.  That's my niece on the right.  She was an awesome addition to our family for the trip.

Our favorite Hood River dining establishments were the sushi at Kaze (but the service was lame), the Mexican at Hood River Taqueria, the Full Sail burger and garlic butter fries at Full Sail Brewery (along with a flight sampler), and the beer & pizza at Double Mountain.  Also had a great dinner (hmmm...grilled local Steelhead) at 3 Rivers Grill on the nice and shady outdoor patio.

The hike to Tamanawas Falls - very green, almost rain forest like
I really enjoyed this 4 mile roundtrip scenic hike because it offered everything from riverside hiking to big rock fields.

Tamanawas Falls

The mist from the falls sprayed a long way out and cooled us off

View from behind the falls

A brief 1:37 video of Multnomah and Tamanawas Falls...

Oregon Waterfalls from WaterTurtle Productions on Vimeo.

Not only did I love Hood River but my family loved it there too.  I love a town that has multiple options for fun outdoor adventures year round no matter the, a big emphasis on local foods support.  We stayed in a house near downtown with a view of the Columbia River and snow capped Mt Adams and walked into town a lot to eat, etc.  More cars and trucks with boards and bikes than you could shake a stick at.  There was also a nice farmers market nearby that my wife walked to and brought home some nice treats.  There is so much more to do there that we didn't get to.  I'm pretty sure we're going back.

We did spend a day in Portland on our way to Hood River.  We rented a 4 wheel covered bike that all 6 of us could ride in together.  We biked the loop around the Portland Waterfront Park trail at Willamette River.  Then I dragged the family on a local brewery tour so I could sample some of the area's finest brews.  Walked to Hair of the Dog, Green Dragon (Rogue's home), and Cascade Barrel House - all very good.  The family later dragged me to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts.

Next chapter - the first half of our Pacific Northwest adventure in Seattle and the San Juan Islands....stay tuned.