Destination: Cannon Beach & Portland, Oregon

Hello, bloggers!

This summer, I went on a road trip with my family to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Hitting both the big cities of Portland and Seattle and the national/state parks, it was a refreshing week away from home…without being too far from it!

Visiting the Pacific Northwest was our first time, which is surprising since we live not that far away from the region (just a state away). In any case, I was really excited to get out for a short while, as well as dip my toes into an unexplored part of the country which I call home.

That said, we left on a Saturday, waking up at the golden (more like pitch-black) hour of 4:00 to catch a taxi to the airport. Our flight to Portland was at 6:00 and after a 40-minute delay (smh), we took off and in two hours landed in the major city of Oregon, known for its liberal, progressive atmosphere and notorious hipster culture. However, we didn’t stay in Portland for too long after landing, since we had plans to drive to Cannon Beach, about 90 minutes west. We would spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon there before returning to Portland to sight-see and stay for the night.

We rented a red, compact car from the airport’s car rental services—seriously, the car was so small we had to really duck our heads to enter the vehicle! Wasn’t too bad, though, since it made for convenient parking in some of the tiniest spaces in the city (I’m looking at you, Portland and Seattle…). Signing off on our rented car, we soon sped off towards Cannon Beach.

Along the way, I was immediately struck by how green it was. There were so many trees, all lush and spruced up, as if ready for Christmas (in June!). Driving on the freeway in California, and all you get are vast, open deserts, which I would say isn’t as appealing compared with the healthy abundance of trees and presumable rainfall that the Pacific Northwest gets in return. It was certainly beautiful, almost hypnotizing as we continue towards the coast.

We arrived at Cannon Beach around 11:30. Parking was tough to find, as it took us a solid 30 minutes to find a spot in the residential areas (some houses even putting up “Do Not Park” signs on their lot—damn!). Eventually, we found a spot, and proceeded to head towards the beach, famous for having been one of the stops during the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and a popular filming location for movies like The Goonies and Twilight. 

What we checked out, though, was Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock, located not too far from shore and is actually accessible during low-tide. Nearby are the Needles, which are two, needle-like rocks protruding from the surface. Given the rather dreary skies that day, the large rocks appeared quite ominous from where we stood.

Haystack Rock.

The day we visited Cannon Beach happened to be a busy one, packed with locals and tourists alike—some even parked their cars on the beach itself! Apparently, that weekend was the annual sandcastle-building contest, which sounds neat, but it certainly didn’t alleviate the noise on the shoreline. We’d been hoping for a calming, therapeutic retreat, but it wasn’t the case!

We got lunch in town, where we had some “gourmet sandwiches” at a hotel cafe. I got a sweet potato burger, which was entirely vegetarian (I’m not, by the way) and all right, albeit on the bland side. Returning to the beach for one more shot of Haystack Rock, we left Cannon Beach by 14:00 to head back to Portland. The beach turned out to be rather underwhelming, but I did appreciate its small-town, local atmosphere that reminded me somewhat of Cambria in central California, which is one of my favorite coastal resorts to visit.

Arriving in Portland close to 16:00, we had some trouble again finding the entrance to our hotel, since the street it was on was blocked off for construction. Eventually, we made it, checked in, and headed out to explore the city.

Having heard about its super-progressive culture (rather, counterculture) through TV shows like Portlandia, I was not too surprised (yet still surprised) while walking downtown. Definitely saw a lot of the iconic hipsters gracing the sidewalks, with their tattoos, thick-framed glasses, and bright snazzy clothing to boot. Everything was so eccentric that even I, who considers myself rather liberal in Los Angeles, felt quite conservative. Its *unofficial* motto, “Keep Portland Weird,” is certainly not an understatement!

Our first stop was at the Pioneer Courthouse Square, aka “Portland’s living room.” It’s in the heart of downtown Portland, and of course, aside from seeing the eponymous courthouse across the street, we also saw the milepost sign in the center of the square, with tons of arrows pointing towards nearby destinations (“Vancouver,” “Columbia River Gorge”) and others far away (“Kaoshiung,” “Great Wall of China”). I found the signs pretty cool, but aside from that, I didn’t find anything particularly striking about the historic square.

Milepost sign.

Next, we headed to Voodoo Doughnuts, which was pretty much the only reason I wanted to visit Portland. Having seen it featured on TV several years ago, I knew that I had to go there for the sake of trying those interesting doughnuts…and satisfying part of my food bucket list! I knew that the line was going to be long, and it was, but it actually went by fairly quickly. We ordered eight doughnuts and were utterly shocked seeing just how massive they were as our cashier packed them up for us. With quirky names such as “the Voodoo doll” and “the Old Dirty Bastard” (I’m not kidding!), those doughnuts took us three days to finish, just because it was so much. They were pretty good, albeit extremely sweet and heavy—glad to have crossed it off my list!

Line outside Voodoo Doughnuts.
Voodoo doughnuts!

We made our way towards the waterfront, passing through the historic quarter’s Saturday outdoor markets, which sold everything from food to jewelry. We also happened to be in town during its Pride Week, which made my queer heart so happy—definitely saw a lot of people going out with spirit!

Rainbow flags everywhere!

Our final stop in downtown Portland was at Powell’s City of Books, which is considered the largest independent bookstore in the world. It occupies several floors of a building, with book genres divvied up into sections based on different colors. Admittedly, we didn’t stay too long in there, since by then we were getting quite tired, so we just checked out a few shelves (of rather overpriced books) before heading back to our hotel to crash for the night. In fact, we were so tired, we just had Voodoo doughnuts for dinner (also still being quite full from lunch that day) and turned in for the night.

Outside Powell’s City of Books.
Inside the bookstore.

Overall, I have to say that our first day of vacation proved to be lackluster. Brutally honest, I know, but I found Cannon Beach too crowded that day and Portland rather underwhelming with things to see and do, particularly in the downtown area. Plus, the atmosphere didn’t make me feel comfortable, for there were a handful of homeless people and overall just very strange characters (not all who were good). It was a shame, since I had been looking forward to it. However, we were glad to have checked it out in the first place and get a feel for what it was all about—we would be heading more north and seeing more of what the Pacific Northwest had to offer, and I can tell you that things got better!

More to come soon! Next up: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon!

— The Finicky Cynic

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2 thoughts on “Destination: Cannon Beach & Portland, Oregon

  1. Pingback: Destination: Seattle, Washington – The Finicky Cynic

  2. Pingback: Summer 2017 Recap! – The Finicky Cynic

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