In Search of Wild Places

Oregon is known for its mysterious, misty woods and the beautiful Cascade Range that cuts across the landscape. Portland and the surrounding area are neatly located between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, giving the pine trees a lush jungle feel and dotting the landscape with rivers and waterfalls.

When I moved to Oregon, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to get my boots damp. I was prepared to hike through the drizzle, explore the deep and wild places the way Lewis and Clark did long before me.


From my childhood, I recalled a pleasant visit to Multnomah Falls, one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks. It had been a decade since my last visit, but I was eager to see it again and explore its mossy old bridge. I wanted to stand in front of the falls and feel the spray of this massive, tall, beautiful natural wonder.

I prepped, packing warm clothes and wearing my adventure boots. I made hiking granola bars, jam-packed with energy-sustaining deliciousness. I was ready to face the wild.


Instead, to my deep disappointment, I was met with crowds upon crowds of people in rainjackets, braving the 35 degree foggy weather with lattes clutched to their chests. It was a sea of neon windbreakers, families clustered near the scenic photo spots posing with selfie cameras, ignoring the imposing, thundering falls behind them in favor of their photographs.

I was disappointed and let down. I stared up at the falls, feeling myself get jostled among the tourists who were looking at Multnomah Falls as a checkmark on their list, an Instagram post trending #waterfall.

Is anyone looking? I thought, staring up at the 600 foot wall of churning water. Flashbulbs were going off around me. Somehow, the crowds made the falls feel small. I was frustrated.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

Wholeheartedly, Isaac agreed. We had a backpack full of hiking food – homemade granola bars, fresh coconut water. We had no appetite to eat it here. There was no hike, no exploring, just crowds clutching balloons.



We drove away, leaving families and strollers in our wake.

Driving aimlessly, looking only for a lone backroad or forgotten trail, we lost ourselves deep in a state park. It was the opposite of the falls – completely deserted and cold. The wind had picked up, the temperature had dropped to near freezing.

Still, determined not to be deterred, we left the car and hiked out onto a jetty that stuck out into a huge body of water. White-capped waves splashed up against icy black stones. This was the polar opposite of our last encounter.


“Shall we?” I asked. It was freezing out. Our faces were chapped and fingers going numb. Almost out of spite, as if to prove this was really what nature was like, we spread out a blanket on a fallen log. We pulled out our provisions, the homemade granola bar of gargantuan size and a young, white coconut.


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I hadn’t split the granola bar into individual pieces. In the cold weather, it resisted separating in my hands. Isaac hacked at the coconut with a large hunting knife, yielding sweet, fresh coconut water unaffected by the cold.

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And so we sat as the wind howled, eating our granola bar, drinking coconut water, laughing at how ridiculous the scene must look. There were no latte stands around. There were no gift shops selling ponchos or postcards. In fact, I’m fairly certain hardly anyone has ever stood in the spot we found ourselves.


I felt a little hypocritical as I snapped pictures of our setup. I had just been lamenting everyone who went to beautiful places for the sake of photographs.

But there was something coldly beautiful about the scene. It was deserted, the conditions uninhabitable. Still, we were there, picnicking in midwinter weather along an empty jetty. I had no intention of hashtagging it online to check off of my list. I wanted to live it, full and real and raw. The photographs were a reminder to myself – you sometimes have to seek adventures of your own, abandoning the footsteps of others. The wild places are the ones least photographed. That’s where the adventure begins, when you leave the trail.



We rolled up the blanket with numb hands. Piling back into the car with rosy faces, we cranked the heat up and breathed in the still air of the car.

“Worth it?” I asked.

“Worth it.”


Wholesome Adventure Bars:


¼ c peanut butterIMG_8298 - Copy

1 c oats

½ c honey (preferably local)

¼ c cranberries

½ c chocolate chips

Nuts optional – almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc.



  1. In a pot over medium heat, melt peanut butter, stirring well.
  2. Stir in oats, honey, nuts, cranberries and/or ¼ c chocolate chips. Stir until the mix clumps together – there should be no dry oats. If necessary, add more honey. The mix should be damp and able to cling together.
  3. Remove from heat, let cool until just warm enough to handle. Form into a large rectangle.
  4. Let cool. To speed the process, use a refrigerator.
  5. Melt ¼ c chocolate chips. Spread over the bar. (This acts as a “glue” for crumbly parts of the bar as well as making it delicious.) Stud with nuts, extra chocolate or berries.
  6. Let cool completely, allowing chocolate to harden. Refrigerate if necessary.
  7. Cut into smaller squares if desired. Pack on your next hike and enjoy!

To A Tea

A cup the size of a thimble was nudged in front of me. Its contents yielded, much to my surprise, a pale yellow liquid that tasted uncannily like heavily steeped dried seaweed.

It was a Japanese green tea from Jasmine Pearl, a Portland-based tea company priding themselves on a plethora of incredible, intricate teas.


“How did you learn about all of this?” I asked our showman/tea bartender. He was busy serving us whatever tea our hearts desired, steeping them in a tiny quartet of pots, pouring them into small ceramic tasting cups. His explanations were loaded with more facts than my brain could process all at once, sounding more like an intriguing lecturer than anything else.

“For the first two or three months, we get extensively trained,” he explained. “I used to be in coffee here in Portland, but… I don’t know, tea is pretty exciting.”


I surveyed the quiet room, described by several polite little signs as a tea sanctuary, where use of electronic devices was heavily discouraged. Tea lined the walls, gadgets filled the shelves. Small tins, held magnetically to an angled frame, held sniffable samples of various teas.

One side held herbal teas, floral and pretty. The tins revealed tiny flowers among a dried forest of green leaves and stems. It looked like potpourri and smelled like perfume.



The other side held black and green teas, their leaves curling in dark, exotic spirals.

Jasmine Pearl offers the unique experience of tea tasting, and you are free to sample to your heart’s content, guided through the experience by a bartender of sorts. Ours was a welcoming, plaid-clad gentleman named Bruce, who was more than enthusiastic when offering us various teas and facts.

“Here, smell this one.” He opened a black tin and held it under our noses. “Straight campfire. Right?”

He was right. It smelled like tobacco and hickory smoke.

“Can I sample the sticky rice one?” I asked. The culinarian in me was intrigued by the idea of a food-nuanced tea.



He grinned and pulled out a little box of tiny pucks.

“There’s an aroma of sticky rice to this,” he said. “Totally different plant than actual rice, though. It smells and tastes like sushi rice, but is completely unrelated. We have a tea made with brown rice, and you’ll get the same flavor note from both teas– this one, though, is it’s own plant.”


He was right. It smelled like sticky sushi rice. It was faintly sweet and starchy. The taste was nearly identical to the smell, and for the first time in my life I fell in love with a tea. It wasn’t overly floral or sweet, it was savory and deep and undeniably starchy. It would warm the soul and fill the belly.

I couldn’t bring myself to leave without a bag full. It was sold in pucks rather than loose leaves. Apparently these leaves can be re-steeped several times, meaning they’re practical and wonderful, lasting a long time provided you don’t let them mold. Plus they’re wrapped in exotic, oriental squares of parchment sealed with a square sticker.


I left, nearly an hour later, full of various teas and newfound knowledge. To visit Jasmine Pearl is truly to experience Portland at its craft-culture best.