Category Archives: Oregon

Best of 2017 (in photos)

Previous years: 2009, 2010, 2011,  2012201320142015, and 2016.

The Best Of 2017

Saddle Mountain

This year was spent pretty evenly split between South Korea and the US, though I did little traveling other than that. I was able to get to beautiful places like the redwoods and the coast and Seoraksan and Mt. St. helens.

This was a year of enjoying friends and family and local nature. Next year, perhaps, will be a  bit more adventurous.  (I also need to get a better camera–currently using my 2013 phone and it isn’t exactly killing it on the photo front.)

January 2017

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January – One reason I love Seoul is for it’s habit of constantly rewards aimless wanders with the unexpected. On this snowy winter day, nahid and I found a giant trash pile on top of a mountain (next to an exercise area and a path to the peak, naturally). What’s the story here? Who knows!


February 2017

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February – Despite visiting quite a few temples (& working at Hwagyesa for a year) and frequently going to Insadong, I was late to discover Jogyesa. Which was pretty dumb of me. It’s got a lot going for it and is great to wander through during all four seasons.


March 2017

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March – In March I came back to the US. Korea is of course known for  벚꽃 (beotkkot, cherry blossom) but spring in Portland is no slouch either. This walk on the Willamette, with my sister and brother, was very reminiscent of visiting Yeoido in Seoul only with a fraction of the crowds.


April 2017

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may 17 6April – A double picture month! The first one was taken on the Long Beach peninsula in Washington, where we did our best to recreate a photo from the summer of 1995.

I had to include that. But the trio of tents was a celebration of another anniversary–my 30th birthday hike with Craig and Garrett along Lake Chelan. We hoped to recreate that with another decent hike but logistically couldn’t. Instead we camped between the redwoods and the beach, which wasn’t too bad a compromise.


May 2017

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May – Already summer in Korea, I took several long walks.  This picture is from a long walk with my friend Luka, where we began at Olympic Park and then walked 20k along the river.


June 2017

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JuneHwaseong Fortress is not all there is in Suwon, but it’s always been my favorite part of it. This time I went to meet my friend Praveen. We walked around the fortress walls before eating Indian and then heading to his place for a board game.


July 2017

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July I have been to Seoraksan many times and it’s long been my favorite place in Korea. This trip, with Nahid, Praveen, John and Alison (the latter three who had never been before) was during the soggy monsoon season. Very wet, yes, but the fewest people I’ve ever seen there as well.


August 2017

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August– Back in Portland just in time for the Soapbox derby. You can’t help but like the creative DIY that leads to entries like the Catbus.


September 2017

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September – Staying on Tabor,  I snapped this view of the reservoir on a walk with my brother. We met my sister at Quarterworld after and played some epic Mario Kart.


October 2017

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October – Sauvie Island is a gloomy place in the mist and I like that these scattered pumpkins have a ghostly feel to them.


November 2017

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November – Sure, it’s just a traffic cone in an over-ambitious mud puddle. But a) I was on my way to hang with friends Craig and Martina at Orycon and b) this part of the month is that perfect liminal state between fall and winter.


December 2017

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December – Walking to meet my sister and mom at the Portland Night Market, I was able to get this shot of the wintry sunset.

 

 

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Yeti Hikes: Rocky Butte

A long, long time ago (15,000 BCE) and for about 2000 years, floods that started in what is now Montana blasted all the way through everything in their path until they hit the Columbia River Gorge. (On their way they stole a lot of rich topsoil from places like Eastern Washington, leaving them fairly barren even today.) These floods weren’t hardly fucking around; what is now Portland was then under 400 feet of water. A lonely four volcanoes poked out from that swath of de-facto ocean. Those volcanoes are now known as Mt. Tabor, Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, and Rocky Butte.

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View of Mt. Hood from Joseph Wood Hill Park, top of Rocky Butte

Those floods pushed a lot of rocks into the northside of the Butte, granting the mountain its current (obvious) name. In the early 20th century, Portlandersr built a prison and quarry there, which lasted for a few decades before being demolished to build the only thing more American than a jail: a freeway. (The rocky northeast side of the butte is still used for climbing, with over 150 routes.)


The views from Rocky Butte are grandiose. In addition to St. Helens, Hood and the top part of Jefferson, there are views of St. John’s Bridge, the West Hills of Portland, the airport, the Grotto, and the river. There is a radio tower and actual parapet walls.

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Legit castle, right?

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The few final steps

Mt. Tabor has admittedly been one of my favorite spots in Portland for almost twenty years. Powell Butte, likewise, is a nice place to hike, what with forests down low and open expanses on top. Council Crest/Washington Park have exceedingly nice views too. I haven’t been to Kelly Butte, (never even heard of it, to be perfectly honest) but of the three I’ve seen Rocky Butte has the most  most beautiful views.

While it seemed most people drove up, a handful of people biked up a rather steep incline. I didn’t see anyone one else walking, but even with steep windy curves, it never felt unsafe to ascend on foot. The path began in suburbia and then wended its way through a forest and a tunnel.

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A little more climbing and then it evened out, going past some nice houses and trees just beginning to promise some glorious fall foliage.


The top was mostly empty on the sunny October afternoon I reached it.  Planes left the airport and ascended directly in front of Mt. St. Helens, which seemed to content to sit and observe, head blatantly bare.

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Castle Walls, perhaps to ward off marauding floods?

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Rocky Butte in a nutshell.

It was the kind of place you could just sit and chill for hours. As this couple did, having brought up a hammock.

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These guys had the right idea–but I don’t envy them the bike ride up!

The way down was very nice as well, with periodic views of Mt. Hood.

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The road on the way down

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Some of the cliffs made by that flood all those thousands of years ago. People climb up these now.

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October for Humans, sure, but these berries are clearly still living in August.

The road goes by a church/college that worships one of the vengeful skygods before eventually reaching the town again. From this side, SE 92 leads to gateway (and is quite walkable/bikeable) or you could turn and take Fremont, which is inconsequential here but becomes quite cool in 20-30 blocks.

All in all, it was probably an hour and half to climb up, hang out on top, and come back down. I’m shocked I never came up here before but relieved I have a place to hide away next time a flood from Montana blasts into town.

Yeti Eats: Rudy’s Pizza

My sister kept excitedly mentioning a place called Rudy’s. I didn’t really care–we already so many places to go to, both old favorites and new places to try. But her enthusiasm would not be denied, so one Sunday, she and her boyfriend and I drove halfway across the city and tested out this place.

It’s about as unassuming as can be from the outside.20170326_163026

But the inside is cozy, the servers are friendly and well-informed (if not actually vegan themselves) and there are signs with all kinds of vegan information.

Not everything is vegan, but there is an impressive array of options. You can choose Follow Your Heart or Daiya cheese–I don’t really know the difference but they’re both good.

 

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We showed absolutely no restraint and ordered vegan wings, cheese bread sticks, pesto breadsticks, and a half-and-half pizza. A lot of food and all of it awesome.20170328_001644

The vegan wings were not something I would have ordered but they were tasty. And it comes with a choice of vegan Ranch, Vegan Blue Cheese, Vegan Creamy Sriracha,
or Vegan Garlic Butter.20170328_001708

The pesto breadsticks only came as a mistake but were maybe the best part of the meal.20170328_001736

Finally the pizza! With 3 people there were dissenting opinions, but we went with my sister’s dream of taco pizza (which had beans on it, in proper fashion) and Vegan BBQ-Ru. Other than a lot of black olives there were no complaints at all.

Not having had pizza for a couple of years, I was really jonesing and this place was perfect. I think it leapfrogged Sizzle Pie and HUB as my favorite portland pizzeria. I’ll definitely be back.

Not always probable, or likely

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Alis volat propriis

It’s a fifteen minute walk from my sister’s to Fred Meyers, that bastion of Oregonian grocery stores. Each day I go there, I pass squirrels jittering across the street, crows cawing from dead winter trees, rusting basketball hoops and evergreen trees. There are signs of modernity for sure–two different ganja dispensaries, a hip coffee shop filled with people on their laptops, an escape room. This is the Oregon of hipsters and yelpsters, of Portlandia fans and transplants so fresh they pronounce Couch Street like it’s furniture.

But most of the area around my sister’ house probably hasn’t changed for decades. The weathered auto repair shop, with the name spelled out on the door with fragments of duct tape. An appliance store. A combination Chinese restaurant/dive bar with a sign advertising their 5 dollar breakfast special. Burly men in baseball caps who probably wouldn’t ever be the inspiration for a Portlandia character. This is the Oregon of the past, of small towns and farmers and descendants of those who came over on the Oregon Trail. These things–even though they’re in the same city, are found next to each other on the same block–belong to a different, slower world than the modern Portland.

It’s probably true that Portland is no longer a little big city. It has grown up and grown out and grown across and is now just a city. Perhaps it’s not just any city, but most long-term residents agree that it has lost most of that je nais se weird that defined the city for so long, left with the dichotomy of small town, blue collar detritus floating beneath, partially supporting, the decadent layer of hipster institutions.Sure, she flies with her own wings but it’s not just her up in the sky anymore.

What does this all mean? I’m not sure, other than as a reminder that it’s not very useful to stereotype or generalize. But it’s interesting to me, to see these two oregons, these two times, blending together. Does that happen everywhere? Regardless, I think portland has reached the end of an era. And yet the older era is still here.  There’s a lot to think about, but my fifteen minutes is up. I have reached my destination and so thoughts on the nature of reality can wait until next time.

 

 

 

10 Reasons I Can’t Live in America again

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here. I’ve been writing and developing games and running an RPG here in Seoul which claimed much of my free time. Plus I think all bloggers go through a point where they wonder if the hours spent blogging might be better used on … almost anything else. But this is a subject that has been percolating in my mind for a while now.

Before I go any further, I’ll clarify by saying that the reasons I do have to go back–family and friends (and burritos)–outweigh these. Okay, Mom?

 

Consumerism: buy buy buy

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This has been covered before just about everyone, but the longer I live out of the US, the harder it is to come back to the bombardment of “buy X=happiness” messages that make up so much of day-to-day life. (The part of the world I live now is arguably just as consumerist, but not speaking the language or belonging to the culture makes it feel far less so.)

Buying into the culture gets harder too–“new” things like uber and Spotify and smart phones and well who knows what gaining popularity since I lived in the US lead to a disenfranchising feeling. (For me at least.) On the flip side, going back is often a process of discovering a new culture, which I do appreciate.

Over-Regulation and Bureaucracy

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Renting an apartment requires background checks and credit checks and promises of first-borns. My mom moved for the first time in years and was shocked at all the hoops she had to jump through. From checking into a hotel to registering for school, everything is so needlessly complex.

This might be more an Oregon thing, but it insane to me that a thirty year old person cannot necessarily buy a beer if they don’t have their ID. A non-ending series of permits are required for far too many things, from opening restaurants to painting your house. Everything is needlessly more complicated than it should be, and that’s no way to live.

Gun Culture

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See the guest post from 2015 by liberal anarchist and gun enthusiast Bob Swan to demonstrate that even educated people can hold very bad ideas. Selling guns in stores and online is, if the rest of the world is any sort of system to judge, a bad idea and a key ingredient of a toxic culture.

 

 

“I Deserve” Entitlement

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This one is harder to articulate–it’s a more a “I know it when I see it.” But it permeates everything; the decadent “I deserve” mentality and the counterpart, the prevalent “you should sue” mindset. This is a refection of rampant consumerism and while there’s nothing objectively wrong with those attitudes, they are pretty much 180 degrees from how I live my life.

Undereducated Populace

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Socialism is still a bad word. People don’t know it’s not the same as facism. I should note this does seem to be changing now, but there are still plenty of people who think that socialism=lazy people asking for free stuff. This goes far beyond the political. It’s a society that glorifies money and fame for their own sake.

 

Driving Culture

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The ultimate symbol of freedom in America? A machine that kills or injures over 2 million people a year, and includes costs for insurance, gas, repairs, and registration. Even Portland, famous for bikes and public transportation, requires a car to get anywhere out of it. Intercity options like Greyhound are stigmatized and inefficient for anything other than big cities.

Politics

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They suck everywhere but in the US they are a special flavor of suckiness. (And I wrote this sentence a year ago, well before this year’s singular madness of an election process.) I haven’t commented much on the election this year, but I’ll say this. For me, the candidates rank like this. Bernie Sanders (he’s not actually as liberal as I’d like but still the best by far candidate), and then Green Party candidate Jill Stein (better than Sanders but with even less of a chance), then a tie between Trump and Hillary (both of which are disasters) and then Cruz (the worst case scenario).

But part of me wants to see Trump in the White House. He is the president that “Honey-BooBoo”-watching, mass produced pop listening America deserves. The mirror image of the culture. And it would make for way better comedy shows. (Inherent in this opinion is that he wouldn’t be any worse for the people of the world than Clinton.)

Anyway, one of the problems in my opinion is that the US is too big and too diverse and the solution of splitting into separate countries  still seems too radical.

Measurements

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I actually defended our wonky system for years, but I can’t do it anymore. It would be hard to go back to funny old Fahrenheit and miles after the nice conciseness of the metric (almost) everywhere else in the world. It’s the 21st century and a system based some English King’s foot probably isn’t the best system imaginable.

Fear culture

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The USA is good at big portions, and that includes the buffet of fear-mongering options that citizens chomp down on with glee. Fear of other countries. Fear of germs. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the other. Fear of the Other. Fear of Republicans and cyber-predators and flying and terrorism and so many other ungrounded fears.

Even in relatively safe places like Portland, people knocking on doors is a cause of fear. And yes, a fearful populace is a more easy to control but is that all there is to it? It would be exhausting to be afraid all that time and, quite frankly, I’m afraid to be that afraid.

Portland is a Hard Place to Live

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Most of the reasons on the list are philosophical. This is purely practical though. It’s so hard for me to find a job in Portland. I have applied in my life for several hundred jobs in Portland (over a period of almost 20 years now) and heard back from fewer than 20. I’ve been rejected from Powells 3 times. And I only apply to jobs where I fit all the criteria. I always thought it was just hard to get a job in Portland but my sister has no problem doing it so maybe it’s just a me thing. It’s definitely discouraging to come back and be *lucky* to get a job temping or in a grocery store.


So that’s my thinking. From afar all of those things seem kind of terrible. But as I said, with so many good friends and family there, I probably will come back.

 

 

The Best of 2014

I’ve been doing this for  2009, 2010, 2011,  2012 and 2013. How does 2014 stack up? While not without blips, it had some of the highest highs (literally).. When I look back on this year though, however, I will remember another amazing year on the road.

2014 will be characterized for me by the hospitality of so many people who took me in, cooked vegan dinners, showed me around their home towns, and just were genuinely nice. It’s a year that I’m very grateful to have had.

January 2014

Life of Pai

Life of Pai

Pai is one of my very very favorite places in the world. For me, it’s nearly a perfect town–filled with vegan cafes, surrounded by nature ( waterfalls, gorges, and hot springs) and moving at an easy pace of life. If I could move there tomorrow, I just might.

February 2014

Back to Kuala Lumpur

Back to Kuala Lumpur

February was a great month for me. I saw Ayutthaya and Sukkothai, spent some time on the resort island of Langkawi, and rediscovered Bangkok. The return to KL, where I stayed at my home away from home Agosto Inn, though, is what I’ll remember the most. KL is my favorite city in Asia and it remains a great place to wander for hours.

March 2014

The High Himalaya

The High Himalaya

The hardest hike of my life, but so incredible. 3 weeks in the Himalaya, with highlights including Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Ri, and thousands of Yak sightings.

April 2014

Kathmandu Tattoo Convention

Kathmandu Tattoo Convention

While not quite as low-tech as Burma, the Kathmandu convention does experience several power cuts a day.  It’s also great to walk out to the posh Yak & Yeti hotel, where international businessmen give the stink eye to the scroungy backpackers who trek in one weekend a year. I was lucky enough here to work with Nic Pretty Ink, who designed and delivered an Ent tattoo in less than ideal working conditions.

May 2014

The tea plantations of Bali

The tea plantations of Bali

Though I didn’t really enjoy Indonesia, there are a lot of beautiful places there. I didn’t really have a camera during this time, only a 1 megapixel phone camera. So this picture does not do the reality justice. Another thing I do love about Bali is the preponderance of Hindu temples everywhere. They’re beautiful and unlike other temples I’ve seen.

June 2014

The almighty Trolltunga

The almighty Trolltunga

My first weekend in Norway was close to midsummer. My friends and I drove to the west coast in one of the most beautiful road trips I’ve ever been on. After some stealth camping on the side of the road, we got up, mountain biked to a hiking trail, hiked to a cliff, climbed a via ferrata up the rock wall, and then made our way to the Troll tongue (long one of the places in the world I most wanted to see). Just an average weekend for the hardy Norwegians, but for me truly one of the best experiences of my life.

July 2014

Rocking at Roskilde

Rocking at Roskilde

I’ve raved about the festival already, but it was a chance conversation with a Canadian and a Dane at about 13,000 feet up in Nepal that brought me there. Not only did I see bands like the Rolling Stones, Jack White, Stevie Wonder, Outcast, and Les Claypool, but I made so many awesome new friends.

August 2014

The Streets of Stockholm

The Streets of Stockholm

Of course, I shouldn’t have even been there. My plan was to go to the UK, Ireland, and France. I even had flight tickets and places to stay.  UK Immigration had other plans though and to be honest more time in Denmark and a chance to meet with friends in Sweden was a pretty awesome backup plan.

September 2014

Autumn in Portland

Autumn in Portland

I had just been back in Portland last summer, but lacking a proper autumn for years made the pumpkin crazy time so nice. Portland is so walkable and always changing and though I don’t get to NE that much, I do enjoy that area quite a lot.

October 2014

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

A grand road trip has to culminate with the Grand Canyon right? Though I saw Zion and Vegas and the redwoods and Lassen and Shasta, the Grand Canyon was damn impressive. I wasn’t really expecting it to be so vast and incredible and I’m so lucky to have finally seen it.

November 2014

Hiking the kalmiopsis with Mom and Storm

Hiking the kalmiopsis with Mom and Storm


 
A good deal of my time in the States was spent at my mom’s place in Southern Oregon, where we cooked, baked, played games, and went on lots of walks. This day, a hike with Storm the Wonderdog, was one of the best as we had chickpea salad sandwiches and dill pickle chips plus the day was so clear and beautiful.

December 2014

Olympic Park in Winter

Olympic Park in Winter

December should have been my first month on a 9 month contract in China, but I had to call an audible and ended up back in Seoul. Catching up with old friends and realizing that Seoul is sort of a second home to me–plus finally getting a real winter after years in SE Asia–made December a great month.

A Quick and Dirty Guide to the City of Roses

I wrote this for a friend of mine who was visiting Portland, but I thought it was worth expanding on. And so here is a quick introduction to Portland, OR.

The 5 quadrants

The 5 quadrants

Portland is basically a four part grid, with the Willamette River and Burnside Street splitting it into 4 quadrants– Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast. (There’s a fifth part, called North Portland, but I haven’t been up there much and as it’s not walkable from everywhere else, it sort of doesn’t count.)

Each area has something to be said for it.

Brewery Sampler
Northwest is the home of the Pearl District–lots of outdoor stores, cafes, parks, etc. It’s a bit yuppy, a bit corporate but a nice place. Lots of the “big” stores in Portland are here. Powell’s Books is the largest bookstore in the world, and you could easily spend an entire day (or more) there. Deschutes and Rogue Brewhouses are both nearby, and both worth some sampling.  More breweries are opening all the time, or you could just go to Henrys and sample over 100 beers on draft.

 

Downtown

Southwest is basically downtown–which is not the highlight of portland. It’s worth walking around, visiting Pioneer Square as well as all the food carts. The waterfront is very nice in the summer but might be rainy and chilly in winter. You can get food from about anywhere in the world for not too much money.

NE

Northeast is a huge area, but streets like Mississippi and Alberta are some the best in Portland. Lots of cool places to eat, drink, shop, people watch, etc. The Bye&Bye is one of my favorite pubs, but you can’t really go wrong anywhere.

SE
And then Southeast is sort of the portlandiest part of Portland. Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, Clinton, are all close together and have more bookstores, pubs, microbrews, teashops, brew and views than you can shake a stick at. Apex Brewpub on Division has a lot of tasty beers and you can get cheap & tasty mexican food from the place next door.

That’s a pretty basic overview. Biking is easy–you can bike just about everywhere. There are a couple of bike only trails as well; these will be easy to find.

More importantly, hiking.

URBAN.

Washington Park

You can take the bus or max to WASHINGTON PARK, which connects you to more than 30 miles of trail in Forest Park. It’s nice up there, and there is a tree arboretum with redwoods and other cool stuff.

Mt. Tabor

In SOUTHEAST, it’s an easy climb up to MT. TABOR, but it’s one of the greatest places to view the city.

There are quite a few urban hikes available–the city is half forest and it can be quite easy to get out of civilization.

OUTSIDE THE CITY.

Portland has three great outdoors areas within an hour drive.

Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast is beautiful and the town of Astoria (where Short Circuit, Goonies, etc were filmed) is great. There are tons of great hikes out there; some flat coastal, some mountain climbing, giant wandering elks, misty mountains.

Columbia Gorge

Even better than the Coast is the COLUMBIA GORGE. The famous destination here is the Multnomah Falls (which could very well be frozen over in the winter). But there are hundreds of hikes in the area. All of them are at low enough altitudes that you can hike them year round. Salmon Creek is nice, and Latroull falls is as well, to name a few.  Take the old highway and just stop at any hikes that look nice. A lot of them are pretty much the same–some climbing through forests, some waterfalls, and then loop back to the parking lot.

Mt. Hood

But the best place to hike in the Portland area, in my opinion, is MT. HOOD. The hikes here are out of the world. However it might be too snowy to get up in the winter. Nonetheless, a visit to TIMBERLINE LODGE (exterior shots for the Shining) would be a great day.