May 4, 2014

Portland, Oregon

When I started writing this blog-post on Oregon, I came across the website Travel Oregon.It mentions the Seven must sees of Oregon, which are Mt. Hood, The Columbia River Gorge, The Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, The Painted Hills, Smith Rock and The Wallowas. To our delight we had already done some of them. Below is a glimpse of our trip.

After spending a few hours at Crater Lake National Park, we headed towards Portland. Below is a  glimpse of our trip route map.

View Portland Roadtrip in a larger map


It is a popular name for the National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother. The heart of the Shrine is Our Lady's Grotto, a rock cave carved into the base of a 110 ft cliff with a life size marble replica of Michelangelo's Pieta featured in its centre. It's a place that welcomes all religions. Whilst we were there, there was a large Asian melodious choir that performed and they were fantastic.
The Grotto is a peaceful place to reflect, pray or just enjoy the garden.

The Grotto also has an Upper Level Garden that you can visit. If you are going...
Location:  8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR.

The best way to experience it is to drive on it. This is definitely a recommended must do. The views from various scenic view points are simply break taking. Below is a picture of the road as soon as we had entered the highway.

scenic highway portland
Columbia river gorge scenic highway

The picture of the Crowne Point Vista House from this location with the vastness of the Columbia River gorge is one of the reasons for our visit to Oregon. It is one of the most frequently photographed pictures. Sunset from here is beautiful.

Crowne Point from womens forum vista point

A little history of the house taken from this website. Please check the link for latest weather and other updates.

vista house
Crowne Point Vista House

I have always wanted to visit Multnomah after seeing a write up on it on one of the travel magazines. This is one of my favorites without a doubt. We were lucky that day as we got a chance to experience a group of Native Americans in their traditional colorful outfits performing traditional dances in front of the falls.

The dance troupe at Multnomah Falls

Dancers at Multnomah Falls
After the show, we headed to go to the bridge over the falls. Take a snails pace walk and go uphill to Benson Bridge. You can hike further for about 14 miles ( to and fro ) and complete the Multnomah Falls Hike! For more details on this hike and the Larch Mountain Hike check this link.

multnomah falls
Multnomah falls

entrance to multnomah falls
entrance to multnomah falls

multnomah falls
Multnomah Falls
We had planned to visit about 3-4 falls near Multnomah but due to lack of time we planned to skip it. Here is a website that gives you a list of all the waterfalls in the vicinity along with their distances and accessibility.

We stopped by the Bridal veil falls state park: our intention to do a short hike. We decided to take the Upper trail (vista point trail). Now I wish we had done the falls trail. This led us to the precipice of the cliffs of the gorge. There were pretty purple wildflowers on the trail. The viewpoint from the end of the trail was this gigantic river paving its way around the mini islands of the Columbia River Gorge. In the below picture, the left side of the island is Oregon and the area on the right is Washington. For details on the hike to Bridalveil Falls click here. 

View from Bridal View state park looking north west.
The Bonneville Dam is worth viewing if you are in the area as it is a National Historic Landmark. The project’s first powerhouse, spillway and original navigation lock were completed in 1938 to improve navigation on Columbia River and provide hydro power to the Pacific Northwest. To read more about the dam facts visit this website. Visitors can watch the navigation lock in operation when commercial or recreational boats are traveling up or downstream. 

Included within the Lock are Adult Fishways:

The best months to see the fish climbing the fish ladders are as follows:
Chinook Salmon ......... September

Viewing area to watch fall spawning activities.

This could be the entry point to the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Have a lunch or picnic here. This is a good place to unwind, have a picnic or just relax. 

One of the many things learnt on taking road trips is to go with your gut feeling.What may be a good drive for someone may not be yours and vice versa. Whilst making the itinerary, we read about Mt. Hood Scenic Byway but missed out on the duration of the drive. That was one of the biggest errors made in terms of our planning. The drive to  the base of Mt. Hood was so different from the pictures above that we saw on the Columbia River gorge highway. We passed by vineyards, farms and were almost at the base of Mt Hood. We drove the entire byway for around 5 hours.

mt hood
Mt. Hood
We drove this way sometime in July. We were probably the only car going in the south direction and was very lonely. We did enjoy the drive but in hindsight if we were well prepared we would have probably preferred to do about an hour or two on this highway upto the base of Mount Hood.

We missed out on driving to the Canon Beach due to lack of time largely because of the long drive along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. So this maybe for another trip. However we want to mention it here as the pictures we have seen are just breath taking. For more details on Cannon Beach click here. The closest to seeing the Canon Beach landscape is probably Morro Rock in California.

On the whole, Portland is worth visiting, The Columbia Gorge is surely a 10 star rating with Multnomah Falls. The drives were scenic in July, I can just imagine what it would be like in fall! 

Feb 15, 2014

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

There is nothing that can prepare you for this one. It is 277 river miles long ( 446 kms ), 18 miles ( 29 kms wide ) and one mile deep ( 1.6 kms ). Carved by the roaring and majestic Colorado River, it has for millions of years carved out one of the most spectacular sights. You can see the river but it is a mile down and continues to carve the Grand Canyon. This is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and is all about the marvellous and mysterious Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona, USA about a 1 1\2 hours drive from Flagstaff or Williams. In 2013, the Grand Canyon was in the news, as millions around the world watched Nick Wallenda Live on television, make his incredible, daredevil tightrope stunt walk across the Grand Canyon. To see the clipping, click on this Youtube link.


The south rim of the Grand Canyon is the most visited by millions throughout the year.

If your planning just driving through Grand Canyon and do not have a lot of time there, here are some suggestions. Either use the free shuttle from point to point or park and walk the trails of your interest. The Rim trail is good to experience the Grand Canyon from various viewpoints. It is paved from Pipe creek vista point to Maricopa point. Some places are unsecured.
  • Evening may have a nip in the air specially in spring and in fall. Winter be prepared for cold, windy temperatures.
  • Take the shuttle. It is an easier way to get around without having to worry about parking. 
  • See the sunrise\sunset if possible. 
  • Winter you could expect snow and rain, whilst in summer, as hot as an oven. 
Panoramic views from different points will enable you to see the amazing canyon. Far below, you will be able to see the Colorado river that snakes its way through the canyon. No pictures or videos can make you experience this fascinating wonder of the world. Take a drive along the East rim and be amazed at how wide and large the canyon is! Hire bikes and enjoy views from the various vista points along the trail.

Some of the vista points worth seeing are:

Canyon View
Mather Point
Yavapai Observation Station
Powell Point
Hopi Point ( for sunset )
Yavapai Point: There is a glass viewing area that gives you a perspective of how far below the bottom of the Grand Canyon is.

Visit the NPS site for indepth guidance and information regarding the Grand Canyon. Sharing some pictures from our drive from San Francisco all the way to Arizona.

grand canyon
Layered look of the canyon

grand canyon
Visitors at the Canyon

grand canyon
cloud shadow over the Grand Canyon
I have gathered some travel itineraries of ours if you would like to visit other places too. Williams in Arizona, Flagstaff in Arizona, Page in Arizona, St. George in Utah is where we stayed while visiting the Grand Canyon. If your staying in and around the Flagstaff area, its worth checking out the night sky!

Las Vegas to Grand Canyon ( about 5 1\2 hrs driving time ):

Grand Canyon National Park to Page ( about 3 hours ) : details in this post.
Page ( Horse Shoe Bend & Antelope Canyon ) to Bryce Canyon ( about 3 hours drive ): 

Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park ( 2 hours )

Zion National Park  back to Vegas ( about 2 1\2 hours drive )

Monument Valley

Till our next post, cheers to yet another drive!!

Feb 12, 2014

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

Viewing places from a height is always captivating whether it is from a flight, a blimp or a skyscraper. The place could be blanketed in fog for a few minutes and the next moment you see the city lights, vehicle tail lights and downtown right in front of you. What is it about viewing places from a height that brings people to photograph and visit these places? San Francisco, the city of lights, fog or love ( or any other name you want to call it ) has the most perfect place to sit and relax and marvel at how the city transforms hour by hour each day.