Charlottesville, Virginia is a beautiful town in a lovely part of the country. They’ve gotten some bad press lately due to divisive protests initiated by outside forces. I hope the coverage doesn’t keep visitors away from this generally genteel community with its gently rolling hills and scattered horse farms. The area also has both feet firmly planted in the history of this country.
The Boar’s Head Inn is an interesting historic hotel, with a history dating back to the 1700’s. The exact location first served as a welcoming spot for travelers in 1759, as an inn named Terrell’s Ordinary. In the early 1800s, Thomas Jefferson convinced a friend to move to the area and purchase the land. Through the 1900s the estate was known as “Birdwood” and was owned by Henry Fonda at one point in its storied past. Today, the remaining 573 acres and facilities are owned by the University of Virginia Foundation.
Of Note: There is no connection with Boar’s Head Provision Company (famous for the meats and cheeses so many of us enjoy). The logo for the resort used to display a boar with a left tusk and the Provision Company a boar with a right tusk. I’ve seen references the Florida-based Provision Company objected to the Inn’s use of the boar artwork, but maybe UVA simply didn’t want to extend the meat-supplier’s brand . . . . in any case, the Inn no longer uses an image of a boar as part of its logo. But you can still see this handsome fellow just inside the front door of the Inn.
For years I’d heard mention of a nearby spot where kids loved to swim and dive – this is it. Locally known as Trash Can Falls, it’s officially Laurel Creek Falls. The falls aren’t the star of the show here, it’s the hidden setting and opportunity to jump and play. We just enjoyed watching.
Students from nearby Appalachian State University mingle with local kids to scramble around the boulders and test the waters with jumps ranging from heights of 10-30 feet. The unmarked setting gives the spot a hidden waterhole atmosphere and you can just imagine Huck Finn stopping off for a swim. The river is a beautiful spot and we thought one smart couple had a great idea to hang their hammock between the trees along the shady bank.
Someone, likely unofficial, has placed a metal grate between the rocks to facilitate movement over a chasm.
One local student told me it was called Trash Can Falls because of its cylindrical shape, but further research explains that in years past a former recycle/dumpster site (called a “Convenience Center” in North Carolina), used to be the landmark for the trailhead. Today it’s hard to find.
From Boone, NC, head towards Tennessee on Hwy 421 and hang a left on Highway 321. After a few miles, just past a concrete bridge, you will see a small gravel parking area on your right (a sign for Laurel Creek Road is on your left). Park here, cross the street and enter the woods. In just minutes you’re there.
Portland was nice – people friendly, a very walkable city. Clearly, marijuana is very ingrained in the culture here, as there seem to be references everywhere. In places, it had a tiny bit of an Asheville vibe (but I like much Asheville better).
We loved our quirky hotel (the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is a re-purposed department store building built over 100 years ago). We even tried a beer flight to get in the Portland brewery spirit.
A must for me was a visit to Powell’s, the largest independent book store in the U.S. Covering one block and three floors, at first glance it is overwhelming. But the friendly staff and tips along the shelves made it a very comfortable experience. Tips on best sellers, special awards and staff favorites with detailed descriptions give the stacks an almost wine-shop ambiance. I needed much more time. Powell’s is located in the Pearl District, and it is jam-packed with all sorts of restaurants, taverns, and micro-breweries. While sampling local beers, we eavesdropped on a trivia contest being held on the patio below us and were very glad we were not competing, the music/”name a thing” category was a killer. For my trivia buddies: I only knew one – Wild (as in “Wild Thing”).
We enjoyed walking on the beautiful Willamette River-front and downtown area. What we didn’t enjoy was the number of homeless people who seemed to be living on the streets. Portland is known for many things, and one is the birthplace of the food truck craze, and it was fun to see the incredible array of food trucks scattered in clusters throughout town. Even the airport continues the laid-back vibe with live music to entertain, and a movie theater featuring short films by local film-makers (take note Miami).
A final word about our hotel. Every night from 5-6 they host a reception with local wine and some really excellent entertainment. We really enjoyed the musicians and singers during our two visits. The exceptional staff was also very pleasant and helpful. Combined with the ambiance and a few other special treats, it made the perfect place to stay.
Note: Although Powell’s is open till 11 PM, the Rare Book Room closes at 7 PM.
It’s wine country time as we wind down and prep to head home. Oregon is famous for Pinot Noirs, one of our favorites, and we didn’t miss the chance to check out a few wineries.
Leaving the coast, we headed to the interior towards Eugene, driving along the beautiful Siuslaw River and then north towards the wine country and eventually, Portland. We took off on one tangent* (in honor of our good friend Jim) to go through Corvallis, the home of Jim and the Oregon State Beavers. From there it was farmlands of golden, and occasionally russet, fields of grain, stacks of baled hay and the occasional flock of sheep. We learned this area is the grass seed capital of the U.S., and we saw endless fields planted with rye, as well as some with radish and pea seeds. Since I can only identify field crops of corn or tobacco you might wonder how I knew this . . . . well, there were a few small signs.
As we started seeing vineyards, we also passed groves of hazelnut trees, another huge crop in Oregon; they vie with turkey as the world’s leading producers.
The area surrounding the small towns of McMinnville, Dundee, Carlton, Yamhill and Newberg is home to hundreds of vineyards and wineries. After studying brochures about dozens of wineries, we selected a couple to visit. First stop, Anne Amie Vineyards. A beautiful setting that turned out to be our favorite Pinot Noir of the day. We also did tastings at Willakenzie Estate and Rex Hill before turning the car towards the imposing Mt. Hood and Portland.
* Only a local will know that, ironically, the town we turned off the I-5 to Corvallis, is Tangent.
Last night the stars were brilliant. It looked like the Big Dipper was being projected right in front of me. Sadly, we had to move on from the stunning Whale Cove Inn today, but not before one more whale came by to say farewell, along with the harbor seals and bald eagle watching it all. Fortunately, the gorgeous vistas didn’t end.
We headed south down Highway 101 to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and drove two miles up to an elevation of 800’ – the highest viewpoint accessible by car on the Oregon Coast. We enjoyed the incredible views from the Whispering Spruce Trail and seeing the shelter built in the 30’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. During World War II, the site was used to watch for enemy submarines. This park is under the control of the USDA’s Forest Service and rangers were on-hand to explain local wildlife, as well as information about invasive species growing in the area.
We moved on down the coast to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed Oregon lighthouse. Dating from 1892, it is still working, flashing every 10 seconds, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The former keeper’s house is now a six-bedroom B&B run by a concessionaire of the U.S. Forest Service (we did not stay there, but it would be interesting).
Nearby are the Sea Lion Caves, a privately owned concession that takes you down an elevator 208’ inside a 125’ high cave that is a hangout for Stellar Sea Lions. During the summer months, the Sea Lions also spend a lot of time sunning on the rock ledges just outside the cave. The bulls are loud, the pups are boisterous and they all smell.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area was a completely new coastal look; massive dunes, sea grasses and wind, lots of wind. We walked up to the top of some of the dunes. I cannot say it was fun. Trudging up through ankle-deep sand, getting stuck with the sharp grasses, wind practically knocking me over . . . the folks on the ATVs have the right idea. That would be a much better way to see the dunes, and obviously a very popular activity in this area.
We are staying in Florence for the night. Mostly this is a jumping off point for the dunes; there is a cute Old Town with restaurants and shops. As long as we can keep eating seafood and there is ice cream, we are good.
The thing that strikes me about these Oregon beaches is how vast they are. One after another, they line the coast. All with deep, soft sand and tides that have huge tidal variances of about eight feet. They also seem so pristine to me. There are no shells or debris; just occasional driftwood. And even though this is the busy season, it’s relatively uncrowded. There is plenty of time to interact with the knowledgeable park rangers.
The small town of Depoe Bay bills itself as the world’s smallest navigable port, and it is an active fishing village and jumping off point for many whale-watching excursions. Normally, I’m a fanatic for the whale-watching trips, but since we’d recently been on one in California and have seen so many whales from our hotel, we opted for other activities. We enjoyed the views and chatting with a local fisherman. The port may be small but it was certainly very active on this day.
We headed back down the coast to see a few more of those amazing beaches. First stop was Cape Foulweather, named by Captain James Cook in 1778. The whales were out and we spent some time just watching from the lookout house/ranger outpost at the summit.
At the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area we visited Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at 93’ the tallest lighthouse in Oregon, and spent some time hunting for sea life in the beautiful tidepools at Cobble Beach.
With seals lounging on nearby rocky outcroppings and bird colonies nearby, we found large numbers of anemone and urchins, as well as a few ochre sea stars and a bright yellow sea slug.
After another great seafood lunch, this time at Nye Beach in Newport. Newport is a really nice town with several areas to walk around. They have a lot of activities to offer including an aquarium and marine science center, but we chose to visit another lighthouse, this one the only wooden lighthouse in Oregon, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which was only in service from 1871-1874 and actually sits on top of the lightkeeper’s home.
Another observation – everyone we have met here is so nice. Helpful, calm, happy to answer questions; it’s a pleasure to be in Oregon.
This has been a lovely day. We’ve journeyed down the coast to Depoe Bay, and are staying in an absolutely wonderful B&B on Whale Cove (Whale Cove Inn). In addition to more wonderful views, we had a terrific lunch in Pacific City at the Pelican Pub & Brewery in a perfect place by the dunes at Cape Kiwanda. Cars can be driven on the beach, and the dory fleet of small boats also land on the beach; there is a lot of traffic on this beach. We did see a couple of beached dory boats but, regrettably, I did not get pictures.
We stopped in Otter Rock and saw the Devil’s Punch Bowl. The tide was high and the wind was howling, it was beautiful. Pictures do not do it justice; the golden rock formations are so solidly massive and in stark contrast to the swirling sea.
We continued on to (the west coast) Newport and its quaint Nye Beach and Historic Newport Bayfront on Yaquina Bay. The Bayfront area is home to a busy working fishing fleet, in addition to a U.S. Coast Guard Station, NOAA’s Pacific research fleet and all sorts of shops, galleries, and restaurants. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner of Dungeness Crab soup and fresh tuna at Local Ocean as we watched the last boats come in for the day. This is known as the Dungeness Crab capital, and our timing was good since crab season ends in mid-August and they are already in short supply.
The icing on the cake was returning to our room and seeing a Gray Whale hanging out in the cove outside our window. As it rolled to feed, it kept showing one side of its tail fluke, known as “sharking.” Perfect.
We are following our friends’ recommendations while on the North Coast, so our first destination today was Ecola State Park for the dramatic views of Crescent Beach and a long-range view of Haystack Rock.
We enjoyed the lofty vistas in the Oswald West State Park and the cute Cape Meares Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is near Tillamook (of cheese fame) and off a road called the Three Capes Loop. In reality, it’s a series of roads and, at least for now, is not a loop; so it was back out the way we came.
The town of Cannon Beach is clearly the most upscale in the area and very nice. The streets are lined with cute shops and restaurants. The colorful flowers are all so vibrant against the gray wood buildings and seem much larger than normal – it’s like they are all on steroids. Why can’t I get my hydrangeas to grow in these amazing purple and fuchsia colors?
It’s no surprise, we’ve had some great seafood in the area. Wonderful salmon, clam chowder, and cheese bread to name a few. Tonight, after dinner, we bundled up, which in my case meant five layers of clothes, and headed to the beach. Our hotel builds a great community bonfire nightly and brings out all the fixings for S’mores. It was cold, but the conversation was interesting, kids were cute, wood fire smelled great, the sound of the waves was relaxing, and I even got my husband to take his first (and only) bite of a S’more.
Did you spot the “Fake news” comment on the Shark sign?
We have close friends who have a get-a-way place in Cannon Beach, and they have shared many wonderful stories about the Oregon Coast. I’ve wanted to visit the area for a long time and I am just very sorry our friends could not be with us.
We headed about an hour and a half from Portland to the Oregon coast. It is strikingly beautiful. Raw, windswept, vast, and COLD. I still have trouble with the concept of being on a beach with a blanket and windbreaks in July (we saw no swimsuits)! We drove north on Highway 101 along the coast to the historic town of Astoria (1792) and enjoyed seeing the Victorian homes as well as the locations used in the movie Kindergarten Cop. This is Lewis and Clark territory, and the imposing Astoria Column was built in 1925 to commemorate their expedition as well as other westward expansion. You don’t need to climb the 164 steps, the views from the top of the 30-acre site are impressive.
Heading back to Cannon Beach we also saw the cute resort town of Seaside. I loved the starfish lights decorating the town’s light poles.
Walking on the beach here is pure pleasure. The beaches are huge and not crowded (by our Florida standards), and at low tide, you can walk right up to the famous Haystack Rock, the visual most often associated with the Oregon Coast. Haystack is 235’ high and part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and looks much larger in person and dominates the landscape for miles. Impressive.