Adventures in Oregon: Mirror Lake & Hood River

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I am a collector (the Here We Go Magic tune has me pinned, I must admit). I am a collector of several things. Owl figurines, vintage tumblers, cookbooks, photographs, cards, beer, magazines, you name it. But that last one, magazines… that has been happening as long as I can remember. I have always been a hoarder of magazines. Up until just a few months ago it had taken me around 2 years to finally sort through my collections of Cooking Light, Rachael Ray, Sunset, Ready Made, Bon Appetit, Vegetarian Times, Martha Stewart, Country Living… um, yeah, I’ll stop there before I completely embarrass myself. There are some issues that I can never get rid of, namely those produced in the October months (it’s an Autumn thing, y’know). And Sunset… those are nearly impossible to trash. With constant ideas for day or weekend trips in and around the Portland and Oregon areas, I kept them filed old school Pinterest style.

I want to explore. I want to have adventures. I want to experience all that Oregon has to offer. The mountains, the trees, the dirt, the coastal ranges, the fog, the rain, the secret beaches, the small towns, the fresh seafood, the locally crafted draft beer, the lakes, the views, the parks… so I’m going to do it.

It’s timely that Sunset’s September issue just came out with a feature about exploring the coast of Oregon, Bandon in particular. It’s a great place to start off with ideas. Here is also a great archive to refer to. Some day I will get around to all of these wondrous places they seem to boast about.

And with that, here is adventure #1 of many to come. Hopefully you’ll stash away a few ideas for your own getaways, too!

Boyfriend took the reigns on this one. It was his wonderful idea to take a weekend trip to Hood River, stopping off mid-way along 26 east to take a little hike and picnic to Mirror Lake. We toyed around with the idea of just going up for the day, or spending the night in a private hostel across the river in White Salmon, WA. We booked the room for a night.

We started off with a hearty meal at Burgerville. Breakfast sausage sandwiches, hash browns, and protein smoothies. 6 bucks bought us satisfying classic fast food breakfast that we didn’t feel too guilty about.

We hopped on the road toward Sandy, OR through cute little logging and farm towns full of Christmas trees (we must have passed at least 5!) like Zig-Zag, Rhododendron, and Welches, lastly landing in Government Camp. The Mirror Lake trailhead caught my attention with the line of parked cars along the highway. It was the most ideal gorgeous day to go for a hike. It couldn’t have been better.

Doing our research, we found that the elevation gain was only about 800 feet. But we didn’t factor in our trek from Portland. Add another 2,000 to that. Within 15 minutes or so of hitting the trail, slight altitude sickness hit us. I felt a little fatigued and light headed, but I thought that maybe I was getting low blood sugar. He, on the other hand, had it worse than I did. We had to stop a few times and take it easy, almost considering turning around. But we kept going, water in hand. Maybe it was something in the air?

When we finally made it to the lake about 1.5 miles later, we felt fine. The breathtaking view of Mt. Hood easily took our minds off any discomforts we were experiencing. We set up our picnic lunch of Cubano wraps, grapes and sparkling water and watched kids and dogs take dips in the chilly water. A few mini crawfish were even spotted.

Once we got back to the car, we foraged ahead another hour to Hood River. Hood River, located on the Columbia River of the Gorge, is known for it’s excellent windsurfing and kiteboarding opportunities. Skiing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and more are available for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s filled with lovely historical homes and buildings on steep sloped streets, a quaint and charming downtown area with little boutiques and restaurants, not to mention a plethora of wine tasting bars. It was over 90 when we got there, so we tried to avoid the sun as much as possible. We ducked into a few shops, had a bit of ice cream, making our way over to Double Mountain Brewery. The heat was getting to us, so a little pizza ‘n beer pick me up was in order.

The waitress was kind enough to bring me samples of a few beers I was curious to try. I can’t even really remember what I had, I just remember not liking anything. I hate to be so harsh, but all three I sampled were terrible. I mean, I know I can be a beer snob, but I thought this was a place where beer snobs went. Oh well, I guess I just don’t “get it”, which is fine with me. I’ll go back to my newly discovered favorite cheap Trader Joe’s bohemian lager any day.  The seasonal sour cherry beer tasted like acidic vomit (sorry, but it’s true). The brick oven pizza crust was my favorite thing there. We had “The Buffy” (goat cheese, kalamatas, peppadew peppers, and basil), but the sweet and spicy peppers were not doing any favors as I was already in a sweat. Oh well, sometimes you just strike out. Next time we’ll go to Full Sail!

We stopped into a pinball pizza arcade, but it wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, so we hopped in the car to drive across a janky toll bridge over to White Salmon to check out our hostel (even though it was too early to check-in). It took us approximately 10 minutes to drive around the entire town. At that point, we were tired and over it. We called the hostel and cancelled our reservation as we couldn’t imagine what we would have done on Sunday if we stayed, and we’re glad we made that decision. At least we were prepared! And now know what all the “fuss” is about.

This weekend we’re going camping at Kingfisher. Stay tuned!

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