Thursday, July 14, 2011

On the Road (Pacific Northwest 2011) Bend to Portland, Oregon (July 14)

Got a late start this morning. I was tired. I slept late. Eventually, I started my day in Bend with a walk around some of the shops in the old downtown area. I wandered into one that specializes in odd things from Japan--everything from Pokémon and Hello Kitty goods to books on the game of Go. The woman working there told me the old downtown was down and out 15 years ago, when she moved into the area, but it prospers now, mostly in restored turn-of-the-century (early 1900s) brick buildings. I then headed over to Pilot Butte, a cinder cone created by extinct volcanic activity virtually in the middle of the town. It gives a panoramic view of Bend and the landscape around it--more cinder cones at varying distances, snow-covered volcanic peaks in the far distance, some of the latter in the classic cone shape, others eroded by glaciation. There's a road to the summit, but also a walking trail. I strolled a bit, with my binoculars, of course. I saw a nice Ash-throated Flycatcher and some bright yellow clumps of wildflowers that I didn't recognize. The ground was littered with red pumice-like stones, the cinders. They seemed natural here, but I was put in mind of annoying "lava rock" litter on suburban sidewalks where the landscaping is unruly.

Next I set out to find Shevlin Park, a large wooded park north of Bend with a fast stream through it that came recommended for birding. It was very badly signposted. I was about to give up on finding it when I accidentally came across it on my GPS (it wasn't there the first time I looked). I took an hour's walk through pine woods and scrub and then along the river on my way back. It turned out to be an excellent spot. Got a new life bird--Green-tailed Towhee. In places the trees were alive with chickadees--both Black-capped Chickadee and Mountain Chickadee, I believe, and nuthatches. Got a good close-up look at a Hairy Woodpecker. The Northwest subspecies is distinctly buff-colored where ours are white. I saw a Lewis's Woodpecker and a wren and a flycatcher I'm still trying to figure out. More life birds?

Headed north from Shevlin Park out of Bend through Redmond and Warm Springs and then northwest into the Portland area. Not far beyond Bend I drove by a sign that referred to Peter Skene Ogden (the man Ogden, Utah is named after) and a scenic viewpoint, so I turned around to take a look. Beyond a large parking lot surrounded by signs with warnings about attending to children at all times, about keeping dogs on leashes (one said "Many dogs have died here") was a low stone wall. You don't see the steep (300-foot) drop-off just beyond the wall until you're right on top of it. The vista point gives access to stunning views into a gorge cut by the Crooked River and of the three bridges that span the gorge. One is an old railway truss bridge, one is a road bridge, built in 1927 (and, according to one of a number of informative signs, the highest, single-span road bridge in the US when it was new), the third is a modern road bridge (opened in 2000) built to replace the bridge of 1927, which is closed to traffic, but open to pedestrians. The view is pretty spectacular. I'm glad I stopped and went back. Turkey Vultures, Violet-green Swallows, and Swifts were flying in the gorge.

The rest of the day was spent driving through scenery that was pretty, but not up to the level of yesterday. Dinner tonight at Caffe Mingo (503 226-4646, serving until 10:00PM weekdays, 11:00PM weekends), in northwest Portland (807 NW 21st St., the "Alphabet District"), where I write this. Not too expensive, excellent food. Citrus-marinated olives (some of these are Castelvetrano olives, some taste like they've been marinated in hazelnut oil); artichokes crusted with garlic; braised chicken and mushroom risotto; washed down with a glass of Garofoli Verdicchio. Friendly, neighborhood atmosphere, a number of communal tables, an excellent wine list. About half the customers appear to be regulars--always a good sign--with the waiters and waitresses calling customers by name. There is no Wi-Fi connection here, but the connection is good from the restaurant next door, (Serrato, which also looks interesting). Recommended. Now, it's time to look for a place to sleep.... I may stop here again on my way back--if that works out.

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