Portland Paradise – Day 3

Our third day in Portland was a revelation of natural marvels. It was a gorgeous day – blue, sunny skies and mild temperatures. The perfect day for a stroll along the river, a hike to a waterfall, and continued explorations of the culinary scene…starting with breakfast!

Stumptown and Kenny & Zuke’s

Our group wandered the streets of downtown Portland on Memorial Day, in search of a new brunch spot. Unfortunately, many of the recommended restaurants were closed for the holiday. Suddenly, in the distance, we heard the roar of a crowd. What was going on? Riots? A Trump rally?

A marathon. As we approached the noise, we saw a cluster of numbered runners set off from a starting line, sprinting down a roped-off, empty street as onlookers cheered from the sidelines. But wait, something was wrong…a horn sounded, and the runners halted in their tracks, turned around, and returned to the starting line.

“I’m going to try to look a little more pumped in this one,” said one runner.

“Can I pass you this time? Just a little bit?” asked another runner.

What was going on?

“Nike,” EZ said, pointing to the Nike banners waving along the race route. It was not a real marathon at all! The “runners” were actors shooting a Nike commercial.

Our group turned around, continuing our search for somewhere to eat. We finally settled on Kenny & Zuke’s, a deli.

While we waited for a table, part of our group popped next door to Stumptown, a highly recommended independent coffee roasting house. EZ’s favorite coffee there was the Stumptown Nitro Cold Brew, which had grown quite famous over the last year. I acknowledged that the smooth, rich flavor had its appeal, but the nitrogen infusion boosted the overall effect to a level that was too strong for my taste.

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Once we were seated at Kenny & Zuke’s, our group looked over the menu. It seemed to offer standard deli fare, with some modern twists. Challah French toast, anyone?

I ordered a bagel and lox plate that I polished off with no problem. It was tasty, but not anything particularly new or creative.

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KO, sitting next to me, had ordered biscuits and pastrami gravy, which looked rather rich and heavy. She kept rescuing pieces of pastrami that were drowning in the gravy, and placed them in the safety of her mouth. She needed some help from the others to finish off the rest of the plate.

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After brunch, EZ and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the crew. GS and NR were flying out that afternoon, while KB and KO were parting ways for their own adventures.

Then EZ and I set off to the riverfront to bide our time as we waited for his Portland friends, DG and PK, to pick us up for our trip to the waterfall and gorge.

Willamette River

As we approached the Willamette riverfront, we noticed a buzz of activity and flashes of color: a carnival.

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We skirted around the carnival to the north until we neared the bridge, from which we could look out onto the water.

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After gazing upon the boats and jetskis that skidded across the river, EZ and I returned from the bridge and crossed the railroad tracks so that we could walk along the waterfront.

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On this side of the tracks stood a number of darling little apartments with their own private beaches. We walked along the path, admiring the dogwood trees overflowing with starry white flowers.

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The Falls and Oneonta Gorge

Soon, DG and PK arrived to pick us up and whisk us away for our hike just outside of Portland. The parking lot was packed, but DG managed to find a spot. We walked up a path crowded with tourists to Multnomah Falls, which the rest of our crew had visited the day before.

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Though beautiful, it was hard to soak in the sight with all the hustle and bustle of tourists around us. Luckily, this waterfall was not our final destination…an even more spectacular scene lay ahead.

DG led us down another crowded trail, but we soon reached a fork in the path. We took the trail less traveled, and found ourselves quite alone. It was peaceful in the woods, although we could hear cars passing by on the adjacent highway. But I was still enchanted by the verdant overgrowth of ferns, fronds, and moss. After a while, we verged to the right, leaving the sounds of the highway behind us.

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Finally, we found what we were seeking: Oneonta Gorge.

“You will get wet,” DG told us. And then he left us to traverse the gorge ourselves. He wanted to sprint back to the car and drive it up near the head of the gorge, so that we wouldn’t have a long, wet hike back to the car after our expedition.

PK, EZ, and I rolled up our cuffs and forged ahead, ankle deep in piercing cold water. Then shin deep. Then knee deep.

When possible, we stepped on rocks to avoid the water. But some of the rocks were slippery and dangerous; this trek was a perilous one. I slipped once when trying to step from rock to rock, and I have a few cuts on my shin to show for it.

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We clambered over a jumble of wood and treaded farther into the gorge. On either side of us, a sheer wall of brilliant green rose to the sky like emerald parapets. The burble of running water was the only sound that broke the silence. I felt awed by the saturation of natural beauty surrounding me.

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Then came the drop. At first, we tried to cling to the craggy rocks on the side as much as possible, but soon the way grew slippery and we could cling no more. We dropped like stones into the water, now chest-deep. It was like being plunged into an ice bath. Slowly, shivering, we waded through the water farther and farther into the gorge, until at last – Lower Onetona Falls.

Cascading down the mossy walls of the ravine and into the dark jade pool below, a diamond-white waterfall. Its beauty took my breath away.

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Other than the chattering of the falls, all was still. In the distance, a bird called.

I had never expected to stumble upon such splendor in Oregon. In the tropical islands of Hawaii or Sri Lanka, yes. But not so close to the metropolitan area of downtown Portland. EZ and I sloshed through the ice-cold water, giddy, and felt the rush of air and chilly spray ushered our way by the falls. We relished in the magnificent spectacle for a few more minutes as PK looked on. Then, when we could dawdle no longer, we all turned back.

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Teoete

Later that night, EZ and I met up with my friend CP at Teote, a Latin American restaurant in the Northeast Quadrant. The building was bright blue with red accents, but the first floor seemed fairly simple, with a wooden interior.

“Let’s sit upstairs,” CP advised.

A bar greeted us at the top of the stairs, lit by strings of crimson and gold bulbs and an assortment of hanging lanterns. The second floor felt warm, colorful, and eclectic all at once. Medieval chandeliers dropped down from the center of the ceiling, between each wooden beam. Modern and traditional artwork with a Latin American flavor adorned the walls. The vibe felt similar to that of Por Que No?, except less chaotic and more thoughtful.

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CP directed us to the outdoor patio, a covered area with a dazzling art centerpiece: a metallic blue and purple heart structure dangling above a hypnotic fire pit.

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I ordered a mole arepa, which featured Painted Hills shredded brisket cooked slowly in homemade mole sauce, topped with pickled onions, crema, queso fresco, and cilantro. The meat and other ingredients were flavorful, but the fresh, textured arepa bread elevated my meal to a whole other level.

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CP, who had moved to Portland a few years ago for grad school, does educational research to support school reform. It was clear that she was very passionate about her research. We had a fascinating conversation about the modern burdens of being a teacher, along with other obstacles to reforming schools.

After dinner, we said our goodbyes. But EZ and I had until the next afternoon to say goodbye to Portland as a whole…

Continue reading: Portland – Day 4…the final day!

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