Some places just feel comfortable, like home, even if you’ve just arrived. We recently returned from a week in Portland and the Willamette Valley. This being our first trip to the Pacific Northwest, we were not quite sure what to expect; we imagined constant rain, coffee snobs and hipsters sporting their skinny jeans and ironic t-shirts. While some of that does make an appearance here, the impression we were left with was that of nature at its most beautiful and people at there most unique and creative…pretty impressive.

We spent one morning escaping the city for a hike in the Columbia River Gorge, only 45 minutes from downtown Portland. We walked the Eagle Creek trail up to the high bridge and back(about 8 miles round trip).

The Columbia River Gorge has all the charm of moss, ferns and lichen…which is to say, a lot of charm.

Morning light through the tree’s flowing off the north slope of Mount Hood

What is a hike without a beautiful spot where you could potentially fall off the mountain. Tracy is posing next to just such a treacherous drop-off.

The beautiful and semi-famous Punchbowl Falls. I am pretty sure that some people jump in from the top of this 75 foot cliff…I am not one of those people.

Little green ferns, lots and lots of little green ferns!

Thanks to impressive engineering and aggressive use of dynamite by Italian engineers in 1910, this hike maintains a gentle grade through the jagged valley making it a world class walking trail.

The view looking up Eagle Creek, taken from the bridge shown above.

Loowit Falls(I think) makes me wonder how much more impressive these falls are in the rainy season.

We passed many friendly people and their many friendly dogs while walking Eagle Creek Trail. It was such a pleasant surprise to see dogs welcome in a state park, the Midwest is such a pet un-friendly place!

In just 45 minutes we made it from downtown Portland(a city with over 2 million people in the metro area) to a gorgeous trail in a famous wilderness area…and if we had driven 90 minutes in the other direction we would have been on the Pacific coast. Not a bad little corner of the country.