Donut Dreams and Waterfall Wishes
Updated: Feb 5
In our last episode, we left off in Portland, beginning our Donut and Waterfall tour. With a full belly, we tucked in for the night, excited to get started early the next day. Sadly, while we slept, the universe was creating alternate plans.
What a gorgeous morning! We woke up early to catch the 7 am opening of Blue Star Donuts. From there we would head to NOLA and then Pips for some of their donuts, fried on the spot, and famous chai. As we rolled out of bed and into the shower, we pre-gamed with some donuts from the night before. Yep, still good. No walk of shame for Voodoo. They had passed the morning after test with flying colors. Sesame Donuts did not fare as well. I slid open the curtains as the sun was coming up and was greeted with this sign.
It made me smile, and then feel sad. It is not the Danner Boot ad but the one below it. It reads, "You have always been our heroes, and now everyone knows why." I thought, wow! Cool! Look at that a nurse sign. And then I laughed, and the laugh bloomed into anger and resentment. Heroes get billboards but not safe staffing ratios, pee breaks, and get yelled at for not taking a lunch or failing to clock out on time because they have too much work to fit into their scheduled 8-12-or 16-hour shift. Fuck your sign. Excuse my language. I will blog about this later because I am obviously having some issues to work through. Scroll down, and we will get to the good stuff, a day of donuts and waterfalls! At least that was the plan.
We had spent one night in Portland, sans kids, and were pretty comfortable in the new environs. The Portland Hi-Lo fit our style to a T. Classic minimalism with the same color palette I use in our own home, yellow, greens, and blues. I loved the funky accent pieces and wished I had more time to explore the dining options; I had read good things. There is more about the hotel in our Oregon Picks. We ghosted the checkout, which is typical for us at a Marriott. You can checkout remotely from your phone, (which is hugely convenient) and the we got on the road. I pulled up the schedule on my Wanderlog, scrolled to Blue Star Donuts, pulled up the map, and noticed something that wasn't there before. Closed Tuesdays. Guess which day it was? Right! Flipping Tuesday! Well planned, Isla.
Okay. No biggie. I pulled up NOLA on the Wanderlog. It opened at 8 am- in 1 hour. I pulled up Pips, which was supposed to open at 8 am as well. Closed Tuesdays! How could I have missed this crucial detail? I reached in the back seat of the car, grabbed the leftover Voodoo donuts, and started stuffing my face. My brain needed fuel to think this one through. We were going to miss two donut shops on the donut tour—two hugely popular must-visit shops. I was kicking myself. We drove to NOLA and sat out front intending to wait until opening. It was 7:25 am, and as the sugar slowly hit our brains, we realized how stupid stagnating a half an hour for donuts would be. We had two days on this trip, and half an hour was like a lifetime. We could check out Multnomah Falls, which was a half-hour away (and not originally on the list), and come back for donuts later. We punched it into the GPS and got back on track, lacking coffee, but we would survive. Multnomah Falls is the stuff of waterfall inspo and the envy of other tall waterfalls because, not only does it stand 189m, making it Oregon's tallest waterfall, it also has a mythical looking bridge that feels straight out of Lord of the Rings. Visiting the falls would take the sting out of missing two donut shops.
The drive was pleasant and free of traffic, the sun was shining, and the day seemed like it would be okay. Better than okay! Here we were, driving along the Columbia River, beautiful views around every corner. I wondered why I spent so much time planning a schedule. Spontaneous, that was the stress-free way to be. I noticed a cool rock outcropping ahead and wished I could have a picture. I appreciated how the misty water and sun called me, and then I saw a sign for Rooster Rock State Park. So that is what the rock was called, we had to take a detour! (I eventually found out the park had a clothing optional beach which you should be aware of if you decide to visit)
We pulled into the park and paid the five-dollar entry fee at the automated kiosk. It was windy. The doors almost blew off the hinges as Micah opened it wider to reach the parking ticket. The Enterprise rental lady would love to say, "I told you so" about forgoing that expensive insurance, but Micah's 50-year-old hands were still nimble enough to catch the door mid gust. I gathered my lenses and headed down to the river before the car was even in the park.
The wind was brutally whipping sand from the tidal bed, lashing me as I walked onto the mudflat. I had never seen a tidally impacted river before, and I was unsure if the ground was stable or smooshy. Watching too many cartoons and adventure shows as a kid gave me an unnatural fear of quicksand, a typical cinematic trope causing lifelong paranoia. I continued cautiously, Micah lagging behind a bit. I figured he was reading literature about the park, so if I needed someone to throw me a vine to pull me out of the shifting mud, I would be up a creek without a paddle.
The morning was chilly, and the low sun threw glorious long shadows. Micah caught up, and we walked further toward the Columbia. The winds were blowing at around 30-40 mph with about 50-60 mph gusts. They were strong, and you felt the nudge. It was no wonder the fires in Washington and California were spreading so fast and that we could smell them in Oregon. But we were happily enjoying the blue skies.
The detour to Rooster Rock set us back about an hour, so we decided to call this the Waterfall Adventure and skip the donuts. It would be better for our health anyway, right? We traveled onward to Multnomah, hoping to pick up some coffee as it was 8:30 am, and we were running on sugar.
You can see Multnomah Falls off the road, and it is a stunner. Micah casually suggested viewing it from the parking lot, but that was a "no-go" for me. I had to try out my new camera lenses on this waterfall. Unfortunately, I left my ND filter, purchased explicitly for waterfalls in the car, and Micah had already gone back to the car for his mask and offered to go back again, but that seemed silly. I knew we would be taking a ton of pictures at Silver Falls in a few hours. Besides, this waterfall was gorgeous with or without tech. I would make it work.
As we got closer, a man approached us. He worked at the park store/coffee shop and told us that the wind had knocked out all the power, and we were welcome to see the falls, but there wouldn't be any facilities, including coffee—a small price to pay. We wished him a speedy repair to the powerlines and walked a short distance further past the visitors center to the falls.
Wikipedia states that Simon Benson developed the land surrounding the falls. There is a switchback trail that you can ascend to get a topside view, which we did not take. I imagine the view to be quite delicious as this area is full of raw beauty, and even at 8-ish in the morning, there were quite a few visitors, a testament to the picture-worthy locale. We took a quick few pictures at the base, and then we were on the road again. GPS tuned to Silver Falls State Park and our highly anticipated 7.8-mile waterfall loop.
As we approached the town of Silverton, Oregon, the sky began looking ominous. We crested a tree-lined hill, and I noticed a white church with a cemetery in the back gleaming against a pastel-painted sky. It made me gasp and I yelled, "pull over!" Micah hates when I do that. This time he said that I almost caused him to crash the car. But when we banged a uey and backtracked to the hill with the church and graveyard, he understood why I put our lives in peril. It was a sight I had never seen in my life.
The sky looked like an Easter egg, and as the sun filtered through the tree branches, I knew this moment was fleeting. I snapped pictures with every lens at every angle, ensuring that I captured the scene as best as possible, knowing full well that it would never be as rich as the real thing. The morning gale was quickly carrying clouds across the sun, and as we drove further on toward the clouds, the sky became muted with the smoke of wildfires. The whole experience was surreal. There was a part of me that was saying, "We shouldn't be driving this way; we are going right into it." The other half said, "Keep going, We are probably just skirting the edge," for there would surely be a road closure sign or something telling us to turn back.
Some humans are drawn to the unknown. Others are drawn to danger. They are the thrill-seekers, jumping out of airplanes or driving fast cars. I am drawn to the unknown, but I am not necessarily an adrenaline junkie. I am curious and cautious. I have kids to raise and don't fancy the idea of peeing my pants in front of a lot of people on a bungee cord. I can see it now, me hanging by my feet, upside down, with urine puddling in my bra, praying that it doesn't soak through to my mouth. No thanks. I keep those sorts of adventures to a minimum. Micah, on the other hand, is a thrill-seeker. He has jumped out of airplanes probably over 30 times, he is not afraid to try anything, and the only thing holding him back is ME! So, as we drove around the cones in the road, I let my curiosity and his thrill-seeking nature get the best of me and I didn't say anything but, "Hey, do you think those cones mean we shouldn't be going this way?" Micah drove on into what only could be described as a dreamscape.
Many people on the internet have described the fire-sky as Mars-like. I can see how they would think that. Everything was orange as you would imagine life on the red planet. The air felt caustic. It felt like Oregon was trying to give me lung cancer. We drove further and further, and it became darker. We worried that the fresh scent the Enterprise lady boasted about would be replaced with something not so pleasant. The car would be returned smelling like we had lit a bonfire in the back seat. Pushing deeper into the smoke we passed downed trees with their branches littered across the road. The wind must have been fierce through this area. "Every car on the road is going the opposite direction," I mused uncomfortably. "How far do you think we are from the Park?"
"Maybe a mile or two," Micah replied.
We pulled over a few times to let emergency vehicles pass, and I became a bit more concerned. "I think we should see where this fire is. I don't want to drive into it and get trapped."
Micah suggested turning the radio station on. That only made things worse. They talked about fires, and we had no idea of their proximity to our destination or current location. Our internet was spotty, and by this time, I was wearing my mask in the car. We had put the air on recirculate so as not to bring fresh smoke into the vehicle. It was dark and getting darker, and ash had begun to fall on the windshield as we drove. Finally, we saw a fire truck blocking the left-hand lane. I said, "Ask them what is going on ahead instead of going further."
Reluctantly, Micah rolled down the window and called up to the fireman, "We were hoping to hike the waterfall trails at Silver Falls. Can we get there from this road?"
The fireman must have thought we were the most ridiculous people on planet Mars as he told us, "The park is closed, everyone is being evacuated."
We thanked him and turned around. Micah deflated, myself breathing a sigh of relief that we would not have to hike in this environment, we headed back to Silverton to try and get some food. The further away from the park we drove, the more the sky lightened, but you could feel the town's tension. We saw this adorable coffee shop, and we were so thankful that we would
finally get some coffee and breakfast. As we were parking the car, the sign was flipped from "Open" to "Closed." Micah put his head in the coffee shop door to double-check, and the shopkeeper said she needed to close. She had to drive home because they were being evacuated. He wished her well, and while we stood there talking to a gentleman drinking coffee, the shopkeeper peeled out of the parking lot and accelerated quickly toward the direction from which we had come. We eventually found a delicious little bistro where we had two perfectly brewed cups of coffee named after the waterfalls that we had hoped to see. It was making the best of a horrible situation.
The town was bracing for the worst, and you could hear customers in the bistro talking about their drive into work where one side of the road was sunny, and the other looked like midnight due to fires. The waitress told us that the restaurant would be closing early, and we asked for our sandwiches to go, but she insisted on us staying and eating in. We ate quickly. We had imposed too much already on this town edging toward crisis. Plus, we had a few hours of driving left to get to our final destination of the day, Crater Lake National Park. Road closures and detours kept popping up unexpectedly, and we were unsure if we would even be able to get to our final stop. With our waterfall wishes and donut dreams dashed, we left Silverton filled with gratitude for Oregonian hospitality and with tremendous respect for the fire teams and first responders who go into the inferno without hesitation. It has to be the most terrifying thrill of them all.
Link to our trip Wanderlog: here
When in Silverton, OR, check out Main St. Bistro. Yelp review here.