Before we hit the road in earnest, we needed a jumping off point for phasing out of full time work, moving out of our house, working through the house rental process, and handling a variety of other activities that tied us to Portland for the month of July. We had a difficult time finding a place to stay for the entire month, but my partner found us a great site along Highway 26 just west of Mt. Hood at the Mt. Hood Village RV Resort, which is part of of the Encore RV Resorts/Thousand Trails membership, though you don’t need a membership to stay there. This is a great place to stay, and we lucked out with a shaded spot, close to the center of the park with trails leading to the Wildwood Recreation Site, which backs up against the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness.
Having a place just an hour from Portland meant some long days in the car, but also delicious eats at local restaurants, access to loads of local hiking, and slightly cooler temperatures during what continued to be a hotter summer for the area. Here are the highlights of our time in Welches:
- Our first live music performance in well over a year! 😀
- The Wildwood Recreation Site
- Day hikes in the Mt. Hood and Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness areas
- Saying goodbye to our jobs…for now
- Spending time with friends before we left
Like I mentioned in my last post, we try to balance my love of cooking with my husband’s desires to eat out, and these are the places we enjoyed while in the area.
If you have a hankering for a beer and a burger, this place delivers. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, our burgers were delicious, served on locally made buns from Grand Central Bakery, and a nice selection of local brewers and nationwide brands alike. On Sundays, they also host a farmer’s market.
With a nice back patio area and delicious pizza and drinks, what’s not to love about this local gem? There are umbrellas for hot, sunny days, refreshing drinks such as mojitos and limoncello, and mouth-watering pizzas with excellent, seasonal combinations. I highly recommend this place if you are in the Rhododendron area, especially after enjoying any variety of outdoor activities around Mt. Hood.
This pub offers both indoor and outdoor seating options, has friendly staff that serves up fresh greyhounds, a nice variety of local brews, and an excellent burger. They are conveniently located next to multiple local amenities, including a post office, gas station, and grocery store. This would be a great stop after a hike along the Salmon River.
In Zigzag is a great BBQ place that has a beautiful patio area and LIVE entertainment! We saw our first live performance in over a year there on a lovely Friday evening in July. However, this place is usually very busy, so don’t arrive when you are already famished as you will likely be waiting for 45 minutes to an hour for a table. But, your patience will be rewarded with a relaxing outdoor atmosphere, good drinks and excellent food. We saw a band local to the Pacific Northwest that calls themselves Free Creatures and bill themselves as a folk rap group. Here is a small sample from the performance we saw. I would definitely see them again, so please check them out.
We were so spoiled having trails leading directly from the RV park to the Wildwood Recreation Site. There was so much to explore that we never got bored running around either the RV park or the trails. There are numerous paved trails and picnic sites near the Salmon River and an underwater viewing chamber wherein you can see a glass walled section of a stream and the ecosystem within, including crayfish, salmon, bottom feeders, mollusks, etc. Across the Salmon River bridge, there is a boardwalk that takes you through the wetlands. It’s a great place for bird watching and seeing more water creatures, such as newts, snails, slugs, and hatching frogs. Toward the farthest end of the boardwalk is trailhead access to the Boulder Ridge Trail (more on that later) which takes you up into the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness. There is a group area with a large covered space for gatherings, plus an adjacent field with badminton nets, basketball hoops, a baseball diamond, kickball area, and more. Finally, off of this group site area is another small trail loop that takes you to an old mill site. Overall, there is a lot to explore and it’s a great place for people of all ages. There is a small fee to get in, but the area is well groomed and I believe it is well worth the cost to park there.
There are a plethora of day hikes and backpacking options for all ages and strengths in both the Mt. Hood and Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness areas. People enjoy time in the nature for different reasons, so here are our experiences.
My husband and I had the opportunity to backpack the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood last year, and feel rather fortunate we completed it when we did, as there was a large wash out soon after that along one section of the trail, making the original trail impassable for a 2 mile stretch and now it requires re-routing to complete the entire loop. Additionally, Mt. Hood has really suffered from the drought conditions most of the western states have been experiencing over the past several years. Conditions on Mt. Hood on one side of Highway 26 compared to the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness on the other side of the highway are surprisingly different. Mt. Hood is typically much more crowded and currently feels like a tinder box with nearly every step being very dry and dusty and a lot of trees in the area that look like they will not survive or are already dead. This is the trail we hiked recently, but there are many to choose from around Mt. Hood. It is an incredible area to check out, and under milder weather conditions I highly recommend visiting, but it will also likely take a long time for the area to recover from the current drought conditions.
In contrast, the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness is infrequently visited, and there are so many back country trails you can enjoy for overnight dispersed camping or some challenging day hikes with breathtaking views at the top. I enjoyed the flora and fauna spotted along the way, the quietude, and trail conditions. However, for a more casual hike, you can walk the Old Salmon River Trail or part of the Salmon River Trail. We also hiked the Salmon Butte Trail and I explored the Boulder Ridge Trail more than once, given it is rarely frequented by other hikers. Note that the site says the trail isn’t accessible due to a bridge being out, but the creek was easily passable this time of year. It may vary in the spring with greater water flow, so be sure to scout it out before planning any hikes from this location. However, you will be rewarded with several nice views of Mt. Hood along the way. Given how popular hiking is in Oregon, it is rare to enjoy having a trail all to yourself, but odds are with you if you want some quiet time in the woods checking out the trails in this area.
Along with all of the great hiking near us, my partner turned me on to a new app called Seek that integrates with the iNaturalist community. It can help you identify plants, fungi, insects, arachnids, amphibians, mollusks, fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. It can be addicting if you are curious about the flora and fauna in the area and there are even several challenges you can accept to find specific types of species and engage more or provide learning activities for children. I’ve learned more from this app than any book on plants I have tried acquired, so recommend it if you are a nature nerd like myself.
Working in the Trailer:
Though necessary to finish our full-time jobs before heading out on the road, working from the trailer was not my favorite. Ours is not an ideal setup for a home office, at least not with two of us needing private space for video conferencing for hours on end and no separate space to actually accomplish this, which meant a lot of outside time by one of us during meetings so the other could concentrate and tip toeing around to get food, warm clothes, a power supply, etc. as needed. The internet accessibility was decent where we were, but as we have been experiencing so far, it is often spotty at best if you are traveling to more remote places.
I tried to put away my work station every night so it wasn’t taking up up a lot of space, but it would not be realistic for each of us to have a work station setup on the road, if I’m being honest. Space is at a premium and clutter becomes your enemy. If you can manage it financially, take the time off to step away from work and enjoy your travels free from the obligation of being cooped up inside in a less than ideal, not to mention completely non-ergonomic, workspace.
However, it was sad to say good-bye to the wonderful folks I have come to know through my work, but I am thankful to have had so many interested in following along with me on my adventures. It was difficult to leave because of the amazing character the people at Grand Central possess, but my journey has taken me on a different path that I simply cannot pass up.
Our fabulous friends from Portland:
We were fortunate that when we moved to Portland six years ago, we met a group of friends from the start. It is not often you find friends or know people already in an area and can build out such a great social network of fantabulous people from the get go. If we find another place to live, we may not be so lucky the next time around. While we are excited to take this opportunity to travel across the country, we will miss them all dearly!
Thank you all for being there for us during the pandemic and providing times of comfort, many laughs, times for reflection, hangs in the park, walks around the neighborhood and support through the good times and the tough ones. Your snarky texts, online hangouts, air hugs and eventually real hugs have kept us going! Though this picture doesn’t include everyone of our wonderful friends, this picture turned out great and was used with their permission. Thank you again for being so awesome!
Welches/Wemme/Zigzag/Rhododendron (aka Mt. Hood Village):
These stats on the Mt. Hood Village area are not completely accurate, especially regarding the commentary, which is more applicable to the Portland Metro Area and not this area. However, it is a small community with about an hour commute into the city of Portland, and the locals have been welcoming to visiting tourists and the multitude of outdoor sports enthusiasts that frequent the area.
Personally, I would not live here if I had to work in Portland and commute every day. That being said, if you love being close to the mountains, love being outdoors and having a bit more privacy, check it out! There aren’t a lot of affordable places to live near the gorge that offer such fantastic outdoor activities and breathtaking views, but this is one of them. The area covers a mixture of political views, and though it still has more gloomy days than the national average that the Portland Area is known for, the temperatures are more moderate than the national averages. It is not super bikeable or walkable, but access to public land is hard to beat.
We are off on our next adventure, but will be back to this area if given the chance to visit.