Coos Bay & Portland, Oregon

Days 30-36 (August 29-September 3)
Coos Bay / Cape Arago State Park / Portland, Oregon.

“The World’s Largest Lumber Port,
the yellow hulk of Cats winding bayfront chip yards,
betting on high-school football”

–Michael McGriff

By late afternoon we reach Coos Bay, a coastal town that attracts some tourists but retains a little grit due to its history as a shipbuilding and lumber town. With a population of around 16,000 it’s actually the largest city on the Oregon coast.

The Blue Heron German Restaurant downtown Coos Bay
The Blue Heron German Restaurant, downtown Coos Bay

Although we had hoped to stay at the funky roadside Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, alas it’s fully booked and we stay at our backup go-to, the Best Western. The B-Dub has a great downtown location, so we walk to the visitor center, the riverfront, and through a couple of antique stores. Never ones to pass up the opportunity for good German food, we eat a dinner at the cute Blue Heron Bistro, pictured above.

Coos Bay was the hometown of super-runner Steve Prefontaine, who helped inspire the 70’s running movement in the U.S. This mural/memorial is downtown.

Steve Prefontaine Memorial mural
Steve Prefontaine Memorial mural

What a fantastic sign and marquis on the Egyptian Theatre!

Egyptian Theatre in downtown Coos Bay, Oregon
Egyptian Theatre, downtown Coos Bay

Before heading north toward Portland on Thursday morning, we realize that we have a little time to visit nearby Cape Arago State Park and view some marine mammals at Simpson Reef and Shell Island.

Cape Arago State Park, Oregon
Cape Arago State Park

A part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the four species of Steller Sea Lions, California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and Elephant Seals all live in harmony here.

California Sea Lions, Steller Sea Lions, and Cormorants on Shell Island Simpson Reef Cape Arago Oregon
California Sea Lions, Steller Sea Lions, and Cormorants on Shell Island

I read that the elephant seals live on the backside of shell rock, as such we don’t spot any of them from shore today.

Seal Lions & Harbor Seals at Simpson Reef Cape Arago Oregon
Seal Lions & Harbor Seals at Simpson Reef, Cape Arago

However, we do spot a whale!  I know, it’s a terrible picture, but look closely and you can see mist spraying from its blowhole.

Whale surfacing near Cape Arago Oregon
Whale surfacing near Cape Arago

Whale watching requires patience. Whale photography requires a more expensive lens than those in our camera bags.

Whale watching off Simpson Reef Cape Arago State Park Oregon
Whale watching off Simpson Reef, Cape Arago State Park

Dreading the dull interstate and big city traffic after spending so much time on blue highways, we linger in Coos Bay a bit longer and stop for some tasty Bento boxes at Tokyo Bistro. A shortage of clean clothes prompts us to overnight at the KOA in Corvallis for use of their laundry facilities.

Our early afternoon arrival in Portland the next day gives us time walk around the city for a while before dinner with friends. We are both awed and overwhelmed by the enormity of Powell’s Books (the largest independent bookstore in the country), confused by the vacancy and construction (gentrification in process?) in Chinatown, and have mixed feelings about the Pearl District. That being said, I do quite like the convenience of so many breweries and taprooms in one place.

Portland's Chinatown
Portland’s Chinatown

Having enjoyed our visit to the Rogue Brewery in Newport, we pop into the Rogue Public House for a beer before meeting our friends Nicole and Stuart for dinner at 10 Barrel Brewing. The food at 10 Barrel is good, the beer is even better, and the laughs and good company the best.

We are spending three nights in Portland with my cousin Kate & her partner Patrick.

Walking past McPeet's Portland Pub
Our favorite city activity: the long walks

Rather than visiting more of the usual tourist spots in Portland, we relish time spent hanging out, taking long walks around the neighborhood. Kate and Patrick are not only great hosts, but super-fun, most awesome people and we love spending time with them and their two cool kitties.

The historic Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon
The historic Hollywood Theatre

Within a couple of miles’ walk from Kate & Patrick’s house we find analog photography shop Hollywood Camera, which opened in 1953 at this very location and is still run by the original owner, a kind older gentleman named Ed. We purchase a some 35mm film and a 100mm lens for the Nikon F2. Warm natured and quite helpful, Ed jokes that he should have retired 30 years ago, yet one can tell that he takes great joy in coming to work every day and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hollywood Camera, established 1953 Portland Oregon
Hollywood Camera, established 1953

Kate & Patrick are both great cooks and spoil us with delicious home-cooked meals while we are here – an especially nice treat after too many cold peanut butter bagel breakfasts at camp and Cliff Bar lunches on the trail. Robert mentions his love of SPAM, and they introduce us to a Hawaiian favorite: Masubi.  Vegetarians look away…

In spite of all the things to see and do in and around Portland, fun times with friends and family are what make our Portland trip special. Thanks so much to Kate & Patrick and Nicole & Stuart for welcoming us and showing us a good time in Portland!

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