Sunday, May 26, 2013

Canemah Children's Park

Canemah Children's Park is a little over a mile from my house.  It is located on the bluffs over Oregon City, the same bluffs that are referenced in my previous post.  You can't actually see Willamette Falls from the Canemah bluffs, because the trees are in the way.  But I could see the locks.  I think.

Canemah Children's Park was built on the site of the original public school in the area.  It has 2 big play structures, a swing set, a see-saw, and lots of other playground toys.  There's also a nature trail, but I haven't walked it yet.  The park is in a residential area.  There is a small parking lot.

We were there on a Saturday and we were the only ones in the playground.  Lots of people came to use the nature trail, though.

I recommend sunscreen and insect repellent.

Willamette Falls from Oregon City bridge

In the several years I've lived in the PDX area, I've often driven past Willamette Falls on Hwy 99 and found the view from the car window to be elusive and mysterious.  And some sort of visitor center was equally elusive, but surely must exist somewhere, right?


I was really shocked on my first day moving to Oregon City when I found the local newspaper in my mailbox and the cover story was about how the falls may someday soon be adopted by the state and a State Park and Visitor Center will be created.  I read the article over and over again thinking I must be reading it wrong.  That maybe they meant the existing visitor center is outdated and needs renovations or something.  But no, there actually is no public viewing area that is close to the falls.

From Wikipedia, copied today 26 May 2013:
The public can view the falls from viewpoints on the bluffs of Oregon City, from a signed viewpoint along Highway 99E, from the Oregon City Bridge, from a viewpoint on northbound I-205, or from boats in the river.

That's it!  Those are the only public viewpoints!

And let me tell you, the "signed" viewpoint along Highway 99 has about a dozen parking spaces, and is nowhere near the actual falls.  So you have to plan the trip in advance, because the parking area is riverside before the falls, so by the time you actually get to the falls you have missed your chance to park, or if you are going the other direction you are out of luck unless you decide to turn around.  Then, you have to walk along the "sidewalk" on the side of the highway until you get as close to the falls as you can.

Other web sources hint that there actually is a visitor center, opposite the falls on the other side of the river (enter from West Linn), but that it's difficult to find, no signage, and located in the industrial center.  I will investigate and report back if this actually exists, but since there has been no reference to this in the local paper, and obviously none on Wikipedia, I am skeptical.

Here is my photo from the Oregon City bridge.  From my spot on the bridge, I could also see a couple of seniors who were walking the "sidewalk" down on Hwy 99 in an attempt to see the falls.  I could see from my viewpoint that their viewpoint was lousy.  (Nevertheless, I will do it myself sometime in the future, just to double check, and because the falls are just about my favorite thing about OC.)

The Municipal Elevator

For reasons still beyond my understanding, Oregon City is supremely proud of its municipal elevator.  It's in the city logo:

And the city just got a $250k grant to shine a light on it as some sort of "art".  The city keeps referring the elevator as an "icon".

So I was kind of excited to go to the elevator the other day.

It was one of the more disappointing experiences of my life.

It's not an icon.  There's nothing remotely artistic about it.  It's just an elevator. Liiiike, the kind they have in parking structures or at the airport.

The round thing with windows is an observation deck that is undecorated and boring.  It is NOT the elevator.  The actual elevator is a plain elevator in the tube.  There's an elevator operator.  When I got inside I excitedly asked the operator to tell me all about the elevator.  He said "it's an elevator that connects uptown to downtown" and also "my shift ends in 3 minutes".  That's it.

I did find it sort of funny that in OC, "uptown" and "downtown" are vertical placements.

Since the operator's shift had ended by the time I was ready to go back uptown, I had to take the stairs.  The stairs are outdoors and take you up the hill in a mild ascent.  The stairs are actually quite pretty.  We walked past a girl getting her senior portraits taken and the photographer had brought her to the stairs specifically.  The stairs go up the hill through a natural setting (hillside) on one side, and down the hill you can look down to the train tracks at the bottom.   The hill ends at the tracks - there's no sidewalk or public area down next to the train tracks.  Which is why it is utterly bizarre that the stairs take you over a beautiful man-made fountain that ends in a pretty sculpture down next to the tracks.  We figured out that the fountain is really for drainage, to help water get from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill in an organized fashion.  The fountain/fall is only visible from a small street below.

It's strange that OC would spend money on this fountain, but in 175 years have failed to showcase the actual icon of the area, the Willamette Falls.  See next post.

The municipal elevator is less than a mile from my house.

Monday, May 13, 2013


This restaurant is in West Linn, about 4 miles from my house.

I was going on a dinner date with Mike and although I really wanted to go somewhere with a river view, I know view places often have lousy food and service.  A quick check on Yelp confirmed that I was right (for this area), so I decided to try a place that had the best service according to Yelp.  This led me to make reservations at Allium in West Linn.

The service was excellent, as I had hoped.  So was the food.  We ordered the famous duck fat and rosemary french fries for an appetizer, and were not disappointed.

For the main course, Mike had seafood paella, which he said was not rubbery or gritty as most paellas tend to be.  He said it was the best ever and he ate every bite and would gladly order it again.

I ordered the trout, which led to this funny story. My trout was served pan-fried, with tail and head.  The tail was still attached to the body, all fanned out.  The fish had been completely decapitated, but the head was artfully placed on the plate so that it appeared the fish was looking up and smiling at me.  It took me all of one second to decide that I was not going to eat my meal staring at a fish head.  I told the server, "You really didn't need to bring me the face."  And then as he was protesting that it wasn't his fault, I used my fork to scoop the fish head onto my appetizer plate and I gave it right back to him.  We had a laugh about it, and he took it back to the kitchen, where a group of 3 waitstaff were later seen leaning over my appetizer plate.  

Later, a woman at the table behind me ordered the trout.  "Just so you know," I heard the server say, "it comes with the head."  As if this was not negotiable.

"I know," she said, "I've had it before." as if it were no big deal.


I really wish I had taken a photo before I sent it back.

Gladstone Center for Children and Families

This is about 3 miles from my house.

I learned about this place from another Oregon City family.  Evidently it used to be a grocery store.  It was converted into a head start and kindergarten.  They have a playgroup that is open to the public every Thursday afternoon.  I am always looking for something to entertain my toddlers in the afternoon, and events aren't that easy to find.  Most events geared toward toddlers are in the morning.  That does NOT work in my household.

So, we went to check it out last week.  You don't have to be a Gladstone resident to participate.

This place is awesome.  I felt like we'd crossed over to some alternate universe.

In addition to the play area in front of the school that you see in the photo, there is another play area behind the school that is where the free playgroup is held.  There is an indoor play area and an outdoor play area with lots of toys, music, sandboxes, scooters, etc.  And it's all fully enclosed so it's actually safer than my own yard.  Play is for one hour and my kids did not want to leave.  Libby was literally the last one out, practically kicking and screaming as they were locking the door.

Following play time, the kids go to the cafeteria area where they are served snack.  It was apple juice and goldfish crackers the day we were there.  After that Libby played with a dollhouse while Mae went and picked up a story book from a basket.  There is a story time after snack time, where books are read aloud to the kids.  I knew my kids would not sit still or even play QUIETLY while the story was read, so we prepared to leave.  As we were leaving, a volunteer came over and reminded us to "please take a book, every child gets a free book" from the basket.  The books had been donated by Powell's.  I'm under the impression they don't do that every week.  But I was astounded by how nice (and free) everything was.

Highcliffe Pub and Eatery

Updated July 2016: this restaurant is now closed. The building is for sale and is currently being used as a film location.

Mike and I went to a movie on Friday night and it got out around 9pm.  I was in the mood for chocolate dessert, but was disappointed since many restaurants close at 9.  So, when we were almost home I was delighted to see the lights on at Highcliffe Pub and Eatery.  This restaurant is less than 1 mile from my house.

Evidently the upper floor is a full size ballroom that is available for rent.  I haven't seen it and wouldn't have guessed it was there.

So it was probably 9:30 when we got a booth.  There were a few people in the restaurant and at the bar (which is all one room) and the place looks clean and modern.

A server who seemed to be of some authority (owner/manager?) came over and told us the soup of the day, and then told us not to order it because it was 4 days old.  We thanked him for his honesty and then waited for our actual server to hang up from her cell phone before we could order.  She did apologize for the wait.  I asked for dessert and she came over with a dessert tray with various cheesecakes and chocolate desserts.

I ordered the brownie a la mode and Mike ordered a slice of cheesecake.

I believe my brownie was also in the 4-day-old category, the ice cream had ice crystals in it, so who knows how long it had been in the freezer, or possibly thawed and re-frozen.  The brownie was so dry I should have just stirred it into the ice cream.

Mike said his cheesecake was awful.

We left at 10pm as the place was closing up.  I think I'll try other places before I return to Highcliffe Pub and Eatery.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Clackamette Park

Clackamette Park is a little over 2 miles from my house.  It's a large grassy park that is riverside.  There's also an RV park and boat launch.  It's good for picnics.  There's a swingset, but no other playground toys that I could see.  Once my toddlers figured out there was a river, they didn't care about the swings anyway.

Green Grocer

(Update: Feb 2015...this store went out of business and is now closed.)

Green Grocer is a teeny grocery store less than a mile from my house.  We went in and picked up some organic bananas, also quite teeny.  Libby ate 2 in one sitting.

It appears that it used to be someone's house.  When I opened the front door I was greeted by a large cat that was sitting next to the register.  As I closed the door, he ran outside.  The cashier said it was ok.

Mike is looking to make some really good homemade ginger ale and he was told to get ginger of vietnamese origin.  The cashier said she didn't know the origin of her ginger.  I thought that was strange.

Viewpoint at mile marker 7 I-205N

From Portland to go home, I head northbound on the 205. A couple miles before downtown Oregon City there's a viewpoint over Willamette Falls.  If it's not cloudy, there's also a great view of Mt Hood.

I was on my way home from a hike when the sun was setting on Mt Hood, so I pulled over to get this picture.

Library City Park

Library City Park is just across the street from the library, and another park called Library Park.  We like Library City Park as opposed to Library Park because it has a fence around it, to keep the kids from running into traffic.  There are swings, a play structure, and a grassy area.  All the swings are big kid swings.  No baby swings.  So, we may not return for a while, because although Mae can do the big kid swings, she's still enough of a baby that she thinks when she wants to get off she can just let go.  Which she did last time we were there and she just about broke her neck.

This park is less than one mile from my house.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cornell Urgent Care

I was in need of some antibiotics, so I went to Cornell Urgent Care, which is less than 2 miles from my house.  It's next to the feed store.  I was the only patient there, the entire time I was there.  When I arrived, the medical staff was calling prior patients to see if they were feeling better.  I fear this urgent care center will close soon.  But in the meantime it's nice to have around.

Otherwise, my personal experience was kind of strange.  I was told I wasn't sick, even though I clearly was. So the doctor suggested some lab work, which would take a few days.  He gave me some antibiotics that he told me I could take if I felt my symptoms were getting worse.  I went ahead and took the antibiotics and felt much better 48 hours later.  The following day, the clinic called me, confirming that the lab work indicated I was not sick.  The whole thing is strange and I would think that my lab sample could have gotten mixed up with someone else's, except for the fact that I was the only person there...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Heavenly Donuts

This donut store is about 2.5 miles from my house. The zip code is technically Gladstone.

I'm always interested in donut stores, and now of course with donuts being the new cupcakes, they are all the rage.

We moved to Oregon City from Beaverton, where the nearest donut store was a Krispy Kreme.  I'm just not a huge fan of Krispy Kreme.  I like a more traditional yeast (not cake) donut.  Safeway actually has really good yeast donuts, but the Safeway here in Oregon City does not re-stock their donuts daily so I don't know what's up with that.

Heavenly Donuts did not disappoint.  And it's open 24 hours, as a proper donut store should be.  It used to be a Winchell's.  You can tell from the triangular sign out front.

Portland Aquarium

Updated July 2016: The Portland Aquarium is now closed. The building has been torn down and will soon be replaced with a Goodwill.

The Portland Aquarium is actually located in Milwaukie, which is 4 miles from my house.

It is not a world-class aquarium, but is well-staffed by biologists and has plenty of tanks and hands-on areas.  We visited on a Sunday, and it was pretty crowded.  They have birthday party areas and a playground/jungle gym area for kids.

Two rooms were advertised with "coming soon" exhibits: birds and otters.

I don't think I'll be likely to return until: a) the birds and otters arrive, and b) my toddlers are a little older.  They were more interested in running around than actually watching the fish.

The aquarium has fish, eels, jellyfish, starfish, several stingrays, and I saw one tiny shark.  I'm not a biologist so I may have named those things incorrectly, but in layman's terms, that's what I saw.

It's dark inside, so these are some not-so-great pictures taken with my phone.

Atkinson Park

This park is less than a mile from my house.

We parked our car on Jackson, where there is not exactly a parking lot next to the Buena Vista clubhouse (which itself looks kind of questionable).

The only play equipment is a swing set and some monkey bars.  But my kids love to swing, so that is fine with them.

Otherwise, it's grass, trees, and views.  It's a great park for dogs.

There's a large covered picnic area, which is available for rent.  We have visited this park twice in the last couple of weeks, and both times we were the only people there except for one or two people running their dogs.

It's very beautiful here.

I am curious about the clubhouse rental...

Spicer Brothers Produce

This is a small grocery store less than one mile from my house.
It's very small inside.  They specialize in local produce, as you might guess.
There was a wide variety of produce available and it all appeared to be high quality.  On the day I visited, we bought plums and hamburger buns.  Very good.

Barclay Hills Park

This park is less than a mile from my house.

It is in a residential neighborhood, with street parking only.

When we visited on a Sunday afternoon, we were the only ones at the playground.  There are 2 play structures like the one shown in the photo.  One is smaller and was better for our 1-year-old.  There is also a swing set.

The playground is set back from the street, but not far enough that we could let our guard down around toddlers.

There is also a very deep ditch that is only partially fenced off.

There are 2 grassy areas on either side of the playground, where we saw one person bring a dog to play.

There's a bench, but no picnic tables.

Our kids loved it, and we'll be back.

Singer Hill Cafe

During our first couple of weeks in Oregon City, we didn't venture out much beyond the big chain grocery stores and home improvement stores.

Our first local lunch out was at Singer Hill Cafe.  This is less than one mile from my house.

Counter service, soups and sandwiches.  Outdoor seating available on the sidewalk and also on a patio you can get to from inside the cafe.  3 dining rooms inside, as well as a 4th room with art on display.

Play area available for kids (no food allowed in play area), as shown here, in front of the vertical garden.

We went without kids.

We both ordered grilled sandwiches, which were grilled without any oil, and therefore were oddly dry. Still, pretty good food and ambience, and we already have plans to try it again because I'll be attending a fundraising event there in the near future.