It has been a weird summer here in lumberland. The skies have been cloudy and the temperatures only in the 70’s, while the rest of the nation is sizzling in heat. People think of Portland as a cloudy and rainy place, but our best kept secret is Portland’s sunny, warm and breezy summers with no humidity. So I have been a little whiney about the cool and clouds. Nonetheless, Oregon has plenty to do no matter what the weather. Cloudy and cool in the summer always means hiking to me and it has certainly been a great summer for hiking.
Today we decided to give Whipple Creek Park a try. Located in north Vancouver, it is about a 25 minute drive from Portland. There are over four miles of hiking trails here that can lead to many delightful destinations including an old grist mill, an tattered gazebo, a meadow with buckets of succulent black berries. The trail is mostly flat with an occasional gradual hill. It can be a bit muddy in places but this is mostly very pleasant terrain. At one point, on the way to the gazebo, we found ourselves walking through a field of mint. It was surreal. This was another fabulous hike just footsteps from Portland.
I have a confession to make. I love eavesdropping on the conversations of people in bars and restaurants. It is endlessly entertaining. Over the years I have become quite skilled in diagnosing dating disorders. Judging by the couples I observed tonight at Radio Room Restaurant and Lounge, there is a dire need for my expertise. Today a young adult male enters the restaurant alone and seats himself. Our attractive server with ample breasts brings him a menu. The guy zooms on her breasts and tells the server how much her likes her sweater-ya right. He cannot keep his eyes off her. He attempts to keep up a conversation with the server until she excuses herself. Five minutes later, in walks his actual girlfriend. Now when the server returns, the boyfriend makes no eye contact with her whatsoever and his darling petite date has no idea what her swine of a boyfriend did behind her back.
Let me get a piece of this guy! Isn’t it my civic duty to be the righteous martyr for betrayed lovers? Time for a little relationship carefrontation. The heartache I could avert with my motherly advice! Unfortunately, my husband restrains me as I attempt to leap to the girlfriend’s aide. He offers me the only thing known to deter my super hero impulses: a juicy Ste. Julie’s Gimlet. I settle back down in my chair and revel in the the hibiscus flower gin and rhubarb bitters. The world can wait; dating disordered couples everywhere will have to figure it out without me because it is Happy Hour at Radio Room and there is just so much this so much one woman can do. For only $6 I order Radio Cakes. I receive two moderately portioned seared mascarpone and polenta cakes with a smoked paprika cream. I love the flavor of smoked dishes. It is the one thing that almost makes me want to be a meat eater. The Radio Cakes are quite yummy.
The ambiance of Radio Room is great. We are sitting outside on a cool summer day, but there is an outdoor fireplace that keeps us toasty. Radio Room also has a heated outdoor roof patio that looks equally pleasant. The service here is great. Not only was our server beautiful, but she was charming and witty. Much too smart for the cad at the other table who was hitting on her earlier.
Whipple Creek is a perfect geezer hike and I suspect little known in PDX. I found it serendipitously searching for a hike near the ‘couve. As I have mentioned I do not think about going north of the Columbia river for hikes, I suppose it is my fear of the Krakens that lurk under the I-5 and 205 bridges.
Sitting between farmland and N Vancouver housing developments, it is a surprising collection of trails and old forest.
Warning. Google, for the first time ever, gave faulty directions to a south entrance that is not functional. The real entrance, with parking lot, is on the North side of the park at 17202 NW 21st Ave, Ridgefield, WA 98642. I used the name of the park rather than the address in Google for my faulty direction.
About 30 minutes North of Portland, it has about 6 miles of trails meandering over hills and along a creek. Warning two: the signs and maps along the trails are not the best. Take a photo of the map at the trailhead. The park is small enough it would be impossible to get lost, but backtracking dead ends is not my idea of fun. It is deep, shaded forest for much of the hike, perfect for a hot day, and, except for sections that are being improved, the trails are wide and well maintained.
Besides a nice hike through old forest (see photos below) the park has some curiosities. For one short section is a field of pungent mint; where and how mint got there is unknown. Bring your own sugar and bourbon for a julep. There is the remains of an old mill, a gazebo slowly being consumed by ferns and moss, and time of year (July) blackberries for a light snack where the park borders the farms. I swear blackberry plants are sentient, like the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz, and actively reach and scratch when you are picking berries.
My youngest son always wonders why we hike. Why walk without golf he asks. On the hike, in the middle of the park, was an old Titleist. It said it was wound (who wants a squawe golf ball?) so we know it contains at its center the worlds strongest acid. Or so I was told as a child.
After a hike comes food. We had tried cocktails at Radio Room and wanted to try the food and the bar is on the way home from the ‘couve, a short left off off I-5.
Before we were there late at night when it was crowded and loud, a bachelorette party having a good time.
This time was late afternoon, 4 pm, and we sat in the patio for a leisurely happy hour. Or two. Radio Room is celebrating its 8th anniversary and they have a special menu of all their drinks over the last 8 years. I had both the Minsky’s Manhattan (Elijah Craig 94 proof bourbon, sweet vermouth, Burlesque and Angostura bitters served over a big rock with an orange twist and a bordeaux cherry) and another that I will be damned if I can remember, failing to take a photo of the menu so I could recall the drink later. A warm day on a patio after a hike plus a Manhattan equals amnesia.
The happy hour menu provided truffle fries and fried chicken legs, both excellent examples of the genre and slightly pimped up. The chicken legs were huge, mutant gams about 3 times the size of the legs I buy at the store. I suppose those free range chickens must do a lot of running from predators to develop such big legs. Delicious, but weirdly large.
For dessert the beignets. Not as good as mine, but then few are.
Good service, good food, good drinks, good weather. PDX doesn’t get much better.
Whipple Creek. See what you are missing.