Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Portland day trip idea: Waterfalls and Shirley’s Tippy Canoe for lunch

Head for the Gorge during a winter sunbreak. You won't regret it!
When the sun shines and the Pacific Northwest rain takes a break for the day, why not get out and enjoy a winter day in the Columbia River Gorge? You don’t need hiking gear to enjoy the sights. You can take a driving trip that will last you less than a day.

The Historic Columbia River Highway (Historic Route 30) turns 100-years old this year. It’s still used daily by those exploring the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. So before throngs of tourists come to celebrate, take a winter drive on the old highway.

We exited I-84 at Troutdale (exit 17) and drove through the quaint gallery district and across the Sandy River via a one-way bridge and turned right. Soon we were on the old highway and entering the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

A field full of bowling balls?
There were people fishing on the Sandy River and we passed two riverfront restaurants, Tad’s Chicken and Dumplings, and Shirley’s Tippy Canoe. The later was busy with breakfast customers and we vowed to return for lunch.

An unplanned stop along the road was to investigate a field of red and green “bowling balls.” On closer inspection we found that the farmer was growing acres of cabbage… very large heads of cabbage. In the distance we could see snowy Mt. Hood.

The highway then took us toward the Women's Forum Overlook at Chanticleer Point, which was to be our first planned stop. The stunning view looks out over the massive Columbia Gorge and Vista House. It was windy and so we jumped back into the car and followed the signs toward Crown Point and Vista House, another viewpoint stop. In the distance were snow-capped mountains and down below, the Columbia River.  Vista House is open for winter hours - 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only, weather permitting.
Vista House with snow-capped mountains in the distance

And then it was off down the hill to explore some waterfalls, which were absolutely gushing with water. We were sticking to the falls which were immediately accessible from the highway, not wanting to risk slipping on the muddy trails. Our first stop was to see LaTourell Falls plunging almost 250 feet over the cliff face.  You’ll be able to see the falls as you drive across the bridge over LaTourell Creek.

Next, we stopped to see Wahkeena Falls, a beautiful 242 foot cascading waterfall. While there are five waterfalls accessible from the old Columbia River Highway on the way to Multnomah Falls we were looking forward to time at the famous falls before lunch and before the parking lots filled up.

Multnomah Falls is always amazing but is especially
impressive with the winter water flow.
Multnomah Falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet, with a gradual 9-foot drop in elevation between the two. The total height of the waterfall is listed as 620 feet. Beautiful Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. It is amazing to behold. Visitors come from around the world to see Multnomah Falls. And in winter, you may even see a small secondary waterfall to the right as there is so much water.

Although there is a lodge and restaurant at Multnomah Falls, we had already decided to have lunch along the rushing Sandy River. So we retraced our steps along the Historic Columbia River Highway seeing the waterfalls from a different direction and arriving at Shirley’s Tippy Canoe in very short time.

Tippy Canoe, once visited by Guy Fieri and featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, is an interesting place. It has a fisherman vibe, a long bar, several dining rooms and a summertime patio.

But I recommend going there for the food. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. They pride themselves in making foods from scratch and you can find some local delicacies there like Yaquina Bay oysters.
The Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich hit the spot!

We perused the sandwich menu and noticed that you can split a meal for $3.50 extra providing each diner with a full side such as French fries or a salad. Since we hadn’t hiked in the Gorge we thought splitting a Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich and two salads would be perfect. The honey mustard dressing was house made. The sandwich was also made from quality ingredients… chicken breast, slice of Swiss cheese and ham. It was delicious and the bill for two came to $20.

We were headed back into Portland before 3 p.m., so our day in the Gorge, even though it was not a long one, afforded us some beautiful views and a relaxing lunch.

This day trip is ideal if you can get away on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Winter is an ideal time to take the drive as the waterfalls are overflowing.