Portland, Oregon couldn't have been more different from New Orleans and the south. It was like arriving in another country, the landscape, climate, people, their views and culture were totally different but it was really interesting to have such a contrast.
Portland itself was a gorgeous, modern, clean, green city. It had a nice hippy vibe, everything was about sustainabilty, environment, being outdoors etc and was lovely to just hang around in. Thanks to top tips from Sam and Kirsty, we spent a good few hours in Powells (biggest independent book shop in the US) and managed to get in to happy hour at the bar 30 floors for cheap cocktails and the most amazing view.
After two days in Portland we picked up a car and began the drive through Oregon down to California, via the scenic route! The first stop just outside Portland was the Columbia River Gorge, a 70 mile historic highway which tracks the Columbia River which in turn divides Oregon and Washington. What felt like every 10 minutes there was a stunning vista or waterfall - it was absolutely beautiful. Not all the photos have appeared on this photo album so I would recommend looking at them here http://www.flickr.com/photos/byerin/collections/72157625116497716/
We also stopped at the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam which has a fish hatchery attached and we got to see salmon as they went through the dam on the fish ladder (mimicing the natural journey fish make up river), hence all the pictures of fish!
After spending the night in Hood River, we left the River Gorge to drive inland to Mt Hood, one of the most beautiful and dominent peaks on the Oregon landscape. Mt Hood is 12,000 ft high, we took the road as far as possible up to 7000 feet which ends with Timberline Lodge, otherwise known as the location for The Shining film. It was slightly eiree, even though it's now gone back to it's day job as a ski chalet.
After descending Mt Hood, we spent the night in Bend, central Oregon before driving on to Crater Lake National Park. I was a bit worried that Crater Lake wasn't going to live up to our expectations, having been aiming for it since we left Portland 48 hours beforehand, but I needn't have worried - I think the only reaction anyone can have to Crater Lake is to gasp, it's simply phenomenal.
Crater Lake, as the name suggests, is a lake, 6000 feet high, formed 7700 years ago when the volcano errupted and then collapsed inwards creating a huge crater which has since filled with rain water and snow. It's 30 miles in diameter and 2000 ft deep, and because the water is only rain, it's remarkably still and very very blue. I can't quite explain what a sight it was, we stayed there for a good couple of hours just staring at different points around it's perimeter. None of the Crater Lake images have loaded on the photo album here so definitely check them out on flickr... http://www.flickr.com/photos/byerin/collections/72157625116497716/
From Crater Lake, we spent the night is Ashland (home to Oregon's year-long Shakespeare Festival and like a mini Stratford upon Avon) before driving into California the next morning.