What To Do If You’re Coming To the Wine Bloggers Conference — A Local’s Guide

So this blog idea has been bouncing around in my head for…well, weeks.  But when your life becomes consumed by work (hi 41*-60 hour work weeks, haven’t seen ya in a while…now I remember why I loathe you so), things get shoved to the back burner.

*I’m full time at my real-life job, so 41 hours reflect weeks where I haven’t had a choice in staying past my allotted 40 hours for the week*

Anyway, so you’re coming to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, huh?  Yeah, we’ve got tons of great wine ’round these parts, but there’s *so* much more.  We’ve actually got a little bit of everything…really.  The NW is a great family-centric vacation destination.

For the nature-lover:

Mt. St. Helens.

Where were you on May 18th, 1980 at 8:32 a.m.?  I can tell you that I was 17 months old.  I was with my Mom and Grandma going to watch hot air balloons take off. How do I know this, being I was only 17 months old? Well, my Grandpa wasn’t home that weekend. If you’re at the Wine Bloggers Conference and we talk, ask me about my Grandpa’s story on that day. It’s quite amusing.

Why is that date so significant?

In the words of the late David A. Johnston, USGS Vulcanologist:  “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”

Mt. St. Helens on May 18th, 1980

Image courtesy of http://www.universetoday.com

Yep. That happened on that day. And in the 32 years since then, there’s been…well, in all honesty, a scientific wonderland. The devastation that Mother Nature caused that day left scientists wondering if *anything* could ever come back. The devastation left the scientists wondering…could Mother Nature repair herself without help? And if so, to what degree?

Mt. St. Helens now

The Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument has literally been left to heal itself. Since the eruption, wildlife and foliage have both come back to what is known as the blast zone (roughly a 5 mile radius of the massive crater, which is the viewpoint from the picture above). A state route has opened through the Toutle River Valley…and each visitor’s center along that state route tells a different story, ranging from the corporate view of the devastation and how they recovered to the scientist’s view.

And the start of State Highway 504, or the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, that takes you on a journey of the mountain’s destructive path, is roughly an hour from Portland at exit 49 off of I-5. Roughly 5 miles from the exit is the first visitor’s center called Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake. Stop, pay the $8 for a Monument Pass, take the time to go through the Visitor’s Center and keep going east. The views get more and more impressive as you go.

My personal favorite Visitor’s Center? The Forest Learning Center.

Warning, this *is* an entire day trip. It’s foolish to think that you’ll spend two hours driving, go “Oh, cool”, turn around and come back. Oh no. You’ll easily spend all day entranced by the sheer beauty and force of mother nature. As you drive along the north side (where the blast zone is), you’ll see downed timber from that day the closer you get to the mountain.

If you’re not up for a drive to Mt. St. Helens (but who wouldn’t be????), there are plenty of options. The Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland on I-84 is a wonderful day trip, especially if you take the Historic Columbia River Highway. The drive is spectacular!!

One of the many streams/waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge

Still not up for a drive, but want a dose of nature? Well, Portland is home to Forest Park.

For the history buff

Nature not your thing? Alright, we’ve got some options to work with.

Cross the river. No, not the Willamette, dammit (it will rhyme if you say it right). The Columbia River, silly! Come on over to the FIRST Vancouver. The REAL Vancouver. No, not the one in BC. Look at an effin’ map for cryin’ out loud! Is Canada directly across from Portland, OR? NO!

Okay, now that we’ve got *that* straightened out…Vancouver, Washington is home to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Fort Vancouver is not just one site, but it’s really four sites in one.

Vancouver Barracks

From 1849 until just a few months ago, the US Army had servicemen & servicewomen stationed here. Yes, the later years of the US Army involvement at the Vancouver Barracks was US Army Reserve, but they still deserve our respect, as they paid their dues and wrote that blank check to our country.

The Vancouver Barracks provide us with a glimpse of base living…but not current base living. The Barracks provide us a glimpse of base living in years past.

Vancouver Barracks

Officer’s Row

From I-5 to East Reserve St., Evergreen Blvd. is a quaint, tree lined street with historic houses lining the Boulevard to the north and the Parade Grounds to the South. Near East Reserve St. sits the Visitor’s Center for Fort Vancouver.

Tree lined Evergreen Blvd. through Officer’s Row

Officer’s Row is just what the name implies. The grand houses were the homes of the Officer’s serving in the US Army. Two in particular stand out…The Grant House and The Marshall House.

The Grant House

Named after Ulysses S. Grant (yes, that Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States), the Grant House now houses a restaurant and bar. While Ulysses S. Grant never lived in the house that was renamed to bear his name, he did visit it quite frequently while stationed at Fort Vancouver as the quartermaster. The house was renamed due to his accomplishments in the military and in politics.  The Grant House is the first house that was built on Vancouver’s Officer’s Row.

The Marshall House

The Marshall House, on the other hand, was the residence of General George C. Marshall and his wife, Katherine, from 1936 to 1938. General Marshall lived in this Victorian home while he was the commander of the Vancouver Barracks and the regional Civilian Conservation Corps. It now houses a museum with antiques from the 1880’s (and free admission!).

The City of Vancouver has more information on these two historical masterpieces and is where I gleaned my information. (Just because I live here doesn’t mean I remember *all* of my local history lessons! Give me a break!)

Pearson Airfield & Museum

Pearson Airfield

Calling all aviation history fans! This is a *MUST* visit. If you want to be able to say that you’ve been to the oldest operating airfield in the US, the only airport that is entirely within the boundaries of a national preserve and/OR be on the same grounds where the first non-stop, transpolar flight landed, you need to go here.

Pearson Field is all of those.

Pearson Field opened in the early 1900’s. The first recorded aircraft landing there was a dirigible piloted by Lincoln Beachey in 1905. This flight was the first aerial crossing of the Columbia River.

Pearson Field saw it’s first airplane in 1911. From 1923-1941 it was home to the US Army Air Service. In 1937, the first non-stop, transpolar flight landed at Pearson, piloted by Valery Chaklov, a Russian test pilot who developed several figures of aerobatics. Chaklov’s flight has historical significance because his flight path carved the way for modern day aviation routes to Europe from not only the Pacific Northwest, but the West Coast in general.

And Vancouver named one of the streets that is now part of the biggest clusterf*** intersection after him. Oh. Sorry. It’s just that I have to drive through that intersection on a daily basis and deal the nimrods that don’t know how to read in order to not only get to work, but to go home from work, too!! (annnnnnnnnnnnd, end my bitchy, PMS-y, I-hate-my-daily-commute moment…)

Admission to the Museum at Pearson Airfield is $7 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17 and free for those li’l ones under 6.

*On 2/5/13, the National Park Service decided to be a bunch of jackasses and gave the people who operate Pearson Airpark’s Museum 24 hours to move all of the exhibits and closed the museum.  From all of Clark County to you, National Park Service, here’s a loving message:  Kindly go F*** yourself with a broken bottle for screwing with a big piece of Clark County History.*

Local media coverage:

Pearson Museum Packs Up Exhibits (retrieved from The Columbian, columbian.com on 2/5/13)

Pearson Air Museum Without a Home After Contract Dispute (retrieved from KATU News, KATU.com on 2/5/13)

Fort Vancouver

Entrance to Ft. Vancouver

Fort Vancouver initially started as a trading post for the Hudson Bay Company. From there, it served as a post for the United States Army. Now, it’s a historical and educational gem. You can walk onto the grounds of Ft. Vancouver and easily forget that busy Interstate 5 is less than a mile away.

Before walking into the walls of the Fort, you have the opportunity to walk through a garden. Not just any garden, though. Oh no. The biggest thing with Fort Vancouver is giving you an accurate representation of what life was like when the Hudson Bay Trading Company utilized the grounds, which means you’ll walk through a representation of what a garden was like back then.

Admission to Fort Vancouver is CHEAP, too! $3 for anyone over 16 to get into the walls of the Fort site itself. It’s free to visit Officer’s Row & the Barracks.

And, oh, yeah, for the record, the first wine grapes in the state of Washington? Grown here on the “wet side” of the state at Fort Vancouver in 1825.

What else is there to do?

Oh lord…there are a million things to do in the Portland area! Enjoy a summer day at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Do a FREE (tips are appreciated, though) walking tour of downtown Portland with Secrets of Portlandia. Take in one of Portland’s many great restaurants, breweries or urban wineries. Shop to your hearts content, as there is NO SALES TAX in Oregon! Go visit Packy the Pachyderm, who was the first elephant born in captivity in the western hemisphere, at the Oregon Zoo. Get your nerd on at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. And that’s just the beginning!!

Need more ideas? Visit the following:

Travel Portland – Things to See and Do

Visit Vancouver USA – Things to See and Do

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2 thoughts on “What To Do If You’re Coming To the Wine Bloggers Conference — A Local’s Guide

  1. Alina – great post. I’ve lived in PDX for 3 years and my partner for close to 15, and there are things here that I don’t think either of us have explored! Will definitely check some of these out. Cheers, and I look forward to meeting at WBC, if not sooner.

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