Honeymoon in Seattle / Portland (Pt 3)
You’ve made it to the final chapter of our honeymoon story! To recap: one year after the craziest wedding of all time, Brandon and I finally had a chance to go on a proper honeymoon. We chose Seattle and Portland because I’m a little pink person who burns VERY easily in the sun. We thought of all the honeymoon spots in the world, these two cloud cities in the Pacific Northwest would be overcast enough to protect me, right? Wrong. Turns out, we visited during the one rare sunny week in the whole year. We know this because the locals constantly reminded us that they had never seen the sun before, and it was freaking them out.
Anyway. We still had a fabulous time, checked nearly all the boxes on our Seattle bucket list, and then headed to Portland for the second half of the week, hoping for an overcast respite. Prayers answered.
Remember, this was a #selfietrip. Sometimes when photographers go out into the real world to have real experiences, they leave their fancy cameras and lenses at home to enjoy the little moments as they happen. This was one of those trips. Feel free to excuse yourself now if you can’t handle looking at two people, madly in love, taking face-photos together.
On our drive down to Portland, we took a detour to go spelunking in the Mt. Saint Helens Ape Caves, which are ancient lava tubes formed under the mountain’s surface. The caves are part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
We tested our athleticism in the Upper Cave, instead of walking through the easy Lower Cave, which is flat and less than a mile long.
The upper Ape Cave is 1½-mile long and takes about 2½ hours to complete, returning on a surface trail. This section is more adventurous as cavers must climb over approximately 27 boulder piles and scale an 8-foot high lava fall.
The boulder piles formed after the eruption subsided and the fluid lava drained from the tube. As the lava tube cooled, it began to shrink and crack. These cracks weakened the ceiling and walls causing parts of them to collapse – forming entrances to Ape Cave.
Mostly, the cavern was super tall, stunning, and covered in cave slime, which you’re not supposed to touch. But, in an unusually short part of the cave, Brandon bonked his head pretty good on the cave ceiling, with blood everywhere in his hair, so it was unclear how bad the damage was. We mopped it up best we could with some pineapple-smelling wet wipes. Fortunately, the gash was small and healed up just fine. Moral of the story – come prepared with some basic first aid supplies and, this is important – hike in groups. We only saw two other people the whole time, which was mostly our fault for starting the trip not long before sunset. Next time, I’ll bring someone along who could carry Brandon out of the cave if need be, because I sure couldn’t.
All bundled up for the chilly cave! Temperatures hover around 42 degree Fahrenheit all day, year round. We did shed some layers from the heat of exercise as the hike went on, but it was nice to have the option.
Time to be honest. I’m obsessed with the show “Portlandia” (find it on Netflix), which inspired our Pacific Northwest tour in the first place. If you’re not familiar, “Portlandia” is a sketch comedy/satire show starring Fred Armisen of “Saturday Night Live” fame, and Carrie Brownstein, following their dry humor about alternative life in Portland, Oregon. They play many different characters in each episode and make fun of the hipsters, dog-lovers, vegans, music-festival-goers, recycling hippies, and indie punks who call Portland home. Go marathon all eight seasons right now. Go.
There wasn’t time to visit all of Portland’s boroughs to unpack their very specific sub-cultures, but we still had fun walking down memory lane at a few of our favorite places.
It’s important to note that unlike Seattle, which is a highly walkable city with a central downtown tourist area, Portland is super huge and spread out. Comprised of various neighborhoods – one grungy, one hippie, one preppy, one vegan, one dog-centric, and so on – Portland has much to offer, but it would take months to fully explore the city properly. We found ourselves frustrated at times by how difficult it was to jump from activity to activity. Each transition required a 15 minute car ride across town, which ate up valuable touristy time.
I’ll admit, we should have planned this part of our honeymoon better to save ourselves from so much driving, but going into it, we didn’t realize how sprawling Portland was. Lesson learned for next time.
Obscured from below by spring trees, the “Portlandia” statue is the second largest copper statue in the world after the Statue of Liberty. This incredible art piece is hidden in a non-touristy area, with limited visibility except from a narrow section of sidewalk across the street. We never would have found it if not for our trusty tour guide during the “Secrets of Portland Walking Tour,” hosted by Eric Kennon, the guy in green below.
Normally, I have mixed feelings about guided city tours because I don’t want to get stuck in a long, boring lecture about boring buildings and boring history. But we took a chance on the “Secrets of Portland Walking Tour” and were so glad we did! Erik showed us parts of Portland we never would have seen otherwise, including the hidden “Portlandia” statue, a haunted hotel, historic buildings, Benson Bubblers, the world’s smallest public park, Voodoo Doughnuts, and other explained mysteries.
And did I mention the experience was free? After all the driving back and forth during our Portland stay, it was nice to feel like we had received a substantial taste of the city’s history and culture before heading home.
The tour ended at one of the many food truck pods occupying the open lots below sky scrapers. I don’t know what the future holds for Portland’s food truck scene, but at the time of this writing, food trucks were seriously taking over the city, in a good way, with hundreds of trucks to choose from around town. We tried a little of everything for lunch that day, including German curried brats, Korean BBQ, and baklava. You can’t beat the diversity of a solid food truck park.
I visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) many times as a kid, so re-visiting the museum as an adult was surreal – as was this giant ear. Some of the main exhibits were under construction, but Brandon and I still had fun solving the interactive mind-teaser puzzles, learning about energy and robotics, somberly walking through the amazing collection of unborn human fetuses from conception to 9 months, watching a breath-taking IMAX movie about America’s national parks, and star-gazing in the planetarium, before ending our museum trip with a submarine tour outside in the Willamette River.
Bless that overcast sky.
You can barely tell, but that’s a real submarine behind us! A retired U.S. Navy veteran showed us around the USS Blueback at OMSI during a 45-minute guided tour. The vessel was decommissioned from the Navy in 1990, after serving in Pearl Harbor and the Vietnam War. Crews of 85 men once lived in the cramped quarters, so they had to make every bit of space count. Our guide said that each bunk is around 6.5 feet long, but if you were shorter than that, they would use the extra space at your feet for storage. Talk about efficiency!
After looking through the periscope, getting cozy in the (tiny) mess hall, touching an inactive torpedo, and squeezing into one of the two showers onboard, we were ready to get some fresh air. Hats off to people who can live in those claustrophobic conditions!
And speaking of sweets, we couldn’t leave Portland without visiting Voodoo Doughnut downtown. This busy shop is well-known for its voodoo doll-shaped donuts pierced with sharp pretzel sticks, maple bacon bars, and irreverent yeast bars (see: cock-n-balls), as well as the traditional flavors we all love. Yes, this bakery keeps it weird.
Anyone who watches “Portlandia” will recognize this bookstore, situated in an otherwise unassuming neighborhood in Northeast Portland, far from tourist areas. It’s the feminist bookstore, Women and Women First! In reality, In Other Words caters to the same demographic with books, resources, and events for feminists, LGBTQ+, and women in general. Brandon and I were so pumped to visit a real location from the “Portlandia” show, even if Fred and Carrie were not there with their salt and pepper wigs.
We’ve made it to the end of the honeymoon! One stop left.
Before leaving Oregon, we drove an hour and half to the coast for one last factory tour (we love them so much) at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Tillamook offers FREE self-guided tours overlooking the busy factory floor, as workers carve aged cheese blocks into tasty cubes for sale. Videos and signage explains the company’s 110 year history. Read it for yourself here.
We bought a hunk of 3-Year Aged Vintage Extra Sharp White Cheddar at the market/café, as well as gooey mac n’ cheese and ice cream in fresh-rolled waffle cones. Everything was so, so good – tangy, creamy, just perfect. And free samples everywhere! We were in dairy heaven. Don’t forget this off-the-grid stop on your next Oregon adventure.