Saturday, August 22, 2009

Road Trip: Oregon - Portland Does It Better

Portland is a beautiful city, and my time here so far has been wonderful, but before I talk about our day of adventures in the city, I must first backtrack to some events of the night before that happened after the posting of my blog. After Tyler popped the mattress (the duct tape ultimately did not hold by the way) he and Nate went out to the car to double check that they both had something very important – their passports. Nate came in and fished through his bag and revealed it, and in that moment I realized with horror the fact that I had forgotten mine. My mind raced to find a solution, and for a few terrible seconds all seemed hopeless – we would not  be going to Canada. Thankfully, we thought of a solution, though it does mean us spending a bit more time in Portland. That’s not so bad though, because, as I said, Portland is a beautiful city.

Our morning started with sausage and eggs, and we shortly afterward set out on our exploration of Portland. We carried with us a bag of sandwiches that our awesome hosts made for us to take. Our first destination we knew for certain, it had been set in our minds long before our coming to Oregon; we were going to make the great pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books – the world’s largest used and new bookstore. Getting there proved to be rather difficult, as our GPS wanted us to take the 5 North to the 405 (Oregon’s version there-of) North, which was closed. Thankfully, we stayed on the 5 and the GPS figured out another route. This route took us over a huge bridge that crossed the Columbia river. On our way over we got a spectacular view of Portland’s riverside Cityscape. I’m generally not much for cityscapes, but this view was incredible. We arrived in downtown Portland and ran into a different navigation problem – that area of the city has more one way streets than downtown Los Angeles, making it into a veritable maze. We did, finally, find our way into the parking structure for Powell’s, which was small and difficult to navigate, but we got our spot and headed into the book store… and it was worth it.

 Words… words can’t describe how fantastic Powell’s is, though the parking sucked. It was a giant building with four floors packed full of all kinds of books. Secular philosophy had a whole aisle dedicated to philosophy, plus an extra bookshelf (your average Barnes & Noble has maybe four shelves), several aisles dedicated to Christian stuff (including sections on Christian mysticism, church history and theology) and almost an entire floor dedicated to science fiction. It was a little depressing to see, however, that the Christian prophecy section only had premillennial dispensationalist works, but at least it was small. I ultimately did not buy anything, though I was sorely tempted by a signed first edition of The Speed of Dark (one of the best sci-fi books I’ve ever read) but it was $150, which is out of my price range. Tyler and Nate bought books though, Tyler getting Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Pygmy  and giant book on chess, and Nate getting Empire by Orson Scott Card and several books on various aspects of the military.

After our pilgrimage to this Mecca of literature, we turned to the AAA travel guide Nate’s dad had given us to determine where to go next. The guide mentioned several incredible sounding places, and we ended up settling on Washington Park. Now, I live in Huntington Beach, and so I’ve got a really awesome park a quick drive away from my house, but it is nothing compared to Washington Park. Within the bounds of the park are a zoo, a Japanese garden, a rose garden and a massive arboretum with hours worth of walking trails and thousands of trees. We ate lunch when we first arrived, after which we played on the playground’s seesaw (which Nate tried to kill me with… twice). After this, we walked up to the rose garden and wandered its paths, smelling the sweet fragrance of the flowers. Sadly, Tyler can’t smell the roses, and so couldn’t enjoy that part of the garden’s splendor. From the rose garden, we walked up to the Japanese gardens, which turned out to have an entrance fee. I at least considered paying, but I wanted to check out how much the zoo would cost first. The guide at the gardens told us the zoo was rather far away, and that we could take a bus there if we wanted, but we decided to walk.

The guide pointed out to us the Wildwood Path, which snaked back behind the park through the thick woods of the arboretum. The path started with a switchback climb upwards. Cutting across this path, were smaller paths, made by animals or more adventuresome people, and we took several of these shortcuts for the challenge they offered. We ultimately hiked around for several hours, without ever backtracking and the whole time we never came to the zoo. With the trees and ferns gathered thick enough to make dusk on the path we traveled, I felt like a man transported back in time to some primeval forest. By far the best part of this journey was when we emerged from the darkness of the woods onto a high green meadow. From there, we could see the arboretum trees stretched out bellow us, beyond them the city, and in the far distance the great blue-white peaks of Mt. Reiner and Mt. St. Helens.

Eventually, we found our way back to the car and returned to Tyler’s grandfather’s house. Here we’ve had our dinner, and spent the last few hours reading. Tomorrow, we’re heading out to a local waterfall, and maybe also visiting the old gothic church in Portland. So far, I really love this city, and it’s the only major city I’ve ever been able to say that of on first impression. I even think I could live here.