PQ’s summer staycation guide

By Andrew Edwards, PQ Monthly

Oswald West; photo by Andrew Edwards

 Here are seven options for seizing the rest of your summer, no matter how much time, gumption, or gas money you’ve got.

White Salmon, Wash.: This underappreciated Gorge town, about 1.5 hours from Portland, offers everything we Pacific Northwesterners love about summer: water, wildlife, and beer. Stay at Inn of the White Salmon (172 W Jewett Blvd.; 800-972-5226) for a small-town-stylish night indoors, or drive 30 miles up Highway 141 to Lothlorien Woods Hide-A-Way, where you can sleep like an Ewok in a real-life tree house (222 Staats Rd., Snowden, Wash.; 509-493-TREE). Drink like a woodsman with a Local Logger Lager at Everybody’s Brewing brewery (151 E Jewett Blvd.; everybodysbrewing.com), then climb towering basalt cliffs and take in soaring views of the Columbia on lesser-known hike Coyote Wall, whose trailhead is only about 15 minutes outside of town. Finally, an outdoor double-whammy: a whitewater-rafting/horseback-riding extravaganza for the cherry on top of your rugged weekend staycay (Northwestern Lake Riding Stables, 1262 Little Buck Creek Rd., White Salmon, Wash.; 509-493-4965).

Oswald West State Park: You have to be made of strong stuff to count Oregon’s stretch of Pacific Ocean among your preferred swimming locales. Or, maybe you’ve found Oswald West State Park’s Short Sand Beach, just south of perennial Portland favorite, Cannon Beach. South-facing and sheltered by a tree-lined cove, the white sands and calm green water here can seem more lagoon than ocean. The waves are also usually dotted with wet suits, as the spot is one of Oregon’s best for surfing. Additionally, the park boasts irresistible hiking trails, including the 7.6-mile, 1,700-foot-gaining trek up Neahkahnie Mountain, which offers such dizzying views of the Pacific you’ll swear you can see Japan.

Camping near Welches: This unincorporated Clackamas community is little more than a sign on the side of Highway 26, which is what makes it the camping destination you’ve been looking for. Remote but not far out, the Salmon River Trail begins here and will lead you through the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, which is every bit as enchanting as it sounds. Head out for the day, or backpack deeper into the lush old growth forest to camp at Bighorn, Rolling Riffle, or Goat Creek Campgrounds (yes, you are now in a Mark Twain novel). Nearby Green Canyon and Trillium Lake offer car-friendly camping (read: busy), the former nestled along the Salmon River and the latter known for its postcard view of Mt. Hood.

Dougan Falls; photo by Nicholas Wheeler

Dougan Falls: Even the most prolific Instagrammer couldn’t have dreamed up the scene at this Washougal River swimming hole. Toe-dipping shallows above surge into 100-foot-wide falls that froth among jump-enticing rock ledges, then empty into a number of deep, crystal-clear pools nestled among the surrounding pine forest. Smooth rocks provide prime space to practice your tan chi, or set up a refreshments spread (we had soft pretzels and Caipirinhas). It feels blissfully remote, but at about 40 miles from downtown Portland, it’s in the same close-in league as busier spots like Sauvie Island and Rooster Rock. More wildlife, less “wildlife.”

Bike Sellwood:
Pedal down the east bank of the Willamette River toward an afternoon of Americana, Portland-style. Your first stop is 107-year-old Oaks Amusement Park for a double scoop of nostalgia. (The carousel at this old-fashioned “trolley park” is on the National Register of Historic Places). After braving the Looping Thunder Roller Coaster and the concessions stand, let your stomach settle on a treasure hunt at Sellwood Antiques Collective (8027 SE13th Ave.; 503-736-1399). If corn dogs and cotton candy weren’t for you, walk a block to Sellwood Corner Food Carts (7875 SE 13th Ave.) and have the $6 Jamaican jerk chicken with coleslaw at Eclectic Eatery BBQ. Just remember, you still have to bike home.

Skidmore Bluffs; photo by Andrew Edwards

Skidmore Bluffs: Now an acquired city park — complete with posted hours and an open container ban — the grassy cliffs technically called “Mock’s Crest” have officially been discovered. But that doesn’t mean they have sold out. Their unique view of the Willamette and Forest Park over the yards of industrial Northwest will always be one of the most thrilling in the city. Summer sunsets bring crowds, and for good reason; you’ll want to bring your sweetheart and a picnic basket. But don’t worry if you’re stag — the crowd is generally of the queer-friendly variety. We wouldn’t call the park cruisy, but your next make-out buddy could be just a tattered wool blanket away.

Mazama Rambles: Looking for an unconventional way to see the city? Just need some exercise outside the gym? Look no further than the Mazamas Street Rambles. The Mazamas is a “nonprofit mountaineering education organization” (mazamas.org) that offers hikes and climbs across Oregon, as well as classes and activities for outdoors-people of any age and skill level. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the urban hikes leave from REI in the Pearl (NW 15th Ave. and NW Johnson St.) and typically head to Washington and/or Forest Parks. On Wednesdays, they trek from Mazama Mountaineering Center (SE 43rd St. and SE Stark St.) up to Mt. Tabor Park. Rambles begin at 6 p.m., last two hours, and offer varying distances, paces and group sizes. Maybe it’s time to cancel that gym membership. (www.mazamas.org; 503-227-2345).