Portland! (Plus a quick trip to the Oregon coast)


In September I flew to Oregon to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and three year-old niece. I stayed in their new house on the southern edge of Portland, in a town called Oregon City, which was the terminus of the Oregon Trail. Even though I miss them terribly, it seems apt that my sister ended up there since she played that game obsessively in grade school. 

I had already spent time exploring northeast Oregon and Washington five years ago, and my family would be at work/preschool during much of the week, so I decided to rent a car and take a few days for a side trip to a new place: Idaho. I ended up doing one giant loop, from Portland southeast to Crater Lake, east to Boise, northwest to Pendleton, and back to Portland, with some detours and stops along the way for good measure. It was a feast for the eyes the entire way around. 

I’m splitting up the pictures into three parts. First: Portland and vicinity.

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I’ve been receiving daily emails with worldwide airfare deals for the past month or so, with the intention of choosing my next vacation destination based on the loose equation: farthest I can go for the cheapest amount. I passed up a $600 Seoul ticket I saw the very first day I looked, because I couldn’t get the dates to work out quite right, and I hadn’t seen anything else super great since then… until the $550 ticket to Hong Kong that appeared this week.

I asked my friend whose job sends her to Hong Kong every few years whether she’d be there any time soon. Luckily enough, she’s going for a conference over Thanksgiving. I promptly invited myself to share her hotel room, and when she said she was thinking about adding on a trip to the mainland this time I proposed that we visit the “rainbow mountains,” which look like just about the most beautiful place on earth:

Zhangye Danxia

She responded that she actually wanted to visit the “other” mountains, the ones in Avatar, which appear to be equally jaw-dropping, and which I also would love to visit:

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Over the course of the night I went from thinking I’d maybe do a four-day jaunt in Hong Kong to planning an epic mountain range-hopping adventure. My Chinese colleague only added fuel to the fire the next day when she said that flights within China are super-cheap and I should be able to jump from place to place, no problem.

So I freaked out about this trip of a lifetime I was about to take. Except that when I looked into it further, there were plenty of problems. First and foremost, the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park where the rainbow mountains are is fairly impossible to get to without a 2-day journey of planes, trains and automobiles, all of which add up to quite a bit more than the $150 my colleague had promised. The Avatar mountains – Zhangjiajie National Forest Park – are only slightly more accessible – but only from Beijing, where roundtrip airfare from New York is definitely not on sale. So my epic adventure – which by the time I finished the research had grown in my mind to include a bullet train ride to various stops along the Silk Road as well as a foray into the Gobi Desert – was over before it began.

Back to square one. 😦

[Zhangye Danxia photo: Eric Pheterson; Zhangjiajie National Forest Park photo: Viktor Lövgren]