Van has turned in to a ham. You take out the camera and he immediately starts making his “smiley” face, which in reality is a cross between a smile and a grimace. In fact, you don’t even need to take out the camera for him to start posing with that camera-ready grin on his face. When we were exploring a beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, he pranced around the bushes and hedges, posing every few minutes and directing me to take out the camera. One hand on hip, the other resting on a bush or touching a flower, and a smile plastered on his mug. But he’s a twenty-first century boy. His favorite part is running up to you after you’ve shot off a few photos so that he can see the photos you just captured. Instant gratification, indeed.
Instead of tons of photos of the gorgeous Willamette Valley, we have tons of Van. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the Willamette Valley is absolutely one of the most beautiful spots in this great country. Were it not for the mild winters, it would definitely be on our short list. We loved, loved, loved it!
Our first discovery was the amazing Mexican food to be had in Woodburn, Oregon. Apparently the town is known for having outlet shopping (we saw the shops from afar), but much, much better than that is the main street a few miles to the east that is chock full of Mexican restaurants and grocers. Seriously excellent and authentic food. If you’re looking for Tex-Mex, this is not the place. It was so good we ate it two nights in a row. If you find yourself anywhere near Woodburn, you owe it to yourself to check out Luis’s Tacqueria or one of the other gems that line the main street.
Then we realized that our nifty museum memberships could get us in to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum for free. Along with a personal tour of a B-17! We spent a long, fun day checking out all of the planes (including the Spruce Goose) and catching up on the history of the space program. Alan didn’t need any catching up, but it was a great refresher for me.
When we weren’t eating yummy food or touring planes, we spent our time outdoors amidst beautiful farmland and waterfalls. We camped for several nights at Champoeg State Park where we were entranced by the disc golf players and their professional looking gear. No casual players here! But even better was the small museum and historical farm. Van couldn’t get enough of the smell of the hops. Future homebrewer? A mother can dream…
But the best part of Champoeg was the fur trapper rendezvous that we happened upon. Actually, Van was personally invited by two fur trappers in traditional French-Canadian trapper clothes the night before (must have been the smile he flashed them). We walked two miles to get there, some of it through some pouring rain, but it was well worth it. We had an up close and personal look at fur trapping, homemade birch bark canoes, dutch oven cooking over an open flame, and guns used by the fur trappers. We spent a long time speaking with each of the folks at the rendezvous and came away with a much greater appreciation for this part of our history.
Once we said our goodbyes (only temporarily) to the Willamette Valley, we headed up to the Columbia River Gorge for a few days of exploring. It rained – a lot – which means we didn’t take very many photos. But we did see the gorgeous Multnomah Falls in an uncharacteristic break in the rain. We also spent a cozy afternoon wandering around the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood and taking a detailed tour from the resident park ranger. My favorite was curling up in front of the roaring fireplace to dry ourselves out. But oh how I longed to stay at the lodge and write in my journal at a desk tucked into a nook in the main room.
We left the area thinking that the Willamette Valley would make a wonderful home. Unfortunately, not for us. Finding a place that felt so right but for its mild winters reinforced to me just how important snow (and lots of it) is to us. The mild winters knocked it off of our short list, but if you’re one of the more sane among us, perhaps it should be on yours.