Portland, The City of Roses, 2013

Above, the “Portland” sign in Old Town welcomes you to the City!

The two day Amtrak Train trip across the U.S. Northwest was not without purpose.  Our goal was to visit Portland for a few days.  A train just seemed like a great way to get there…  I had never been to Portland before last week and after years of hearing what a great city it was, I decided to see for myself.  I must say, all in all, I was very impressed with the City. It was remarkably clean for a big city and the public transportation system is among the best I have seen anywhere in the world, to include Western Europe!  The food options in Portland are endless, from nice sit-down restaurants and the many brewpubs to literally hundreds of food carts.  I was never disappointed with my meals during our 4 day visit to Portland!  People were quite friendly and helpful on the streets.  I was particularly surprised at how courteous drivers were to pedestrians, always stopping to allow you to cross the street and rarely did I hear a vehicle horn!  Not to mention, there really is lots to do and see in the “City of Roses,”  so many museums, live entertainment venues and city parks that offer a wide range of options for visitors.  I know I am sounding like a travel-writer but I really was very impressed with the wonderful quality of life in Portland!  I now know why so many people really like the city.  My only concern during my visit was the high number of homeless people in downtown Portland, of all ages, panhandling all over town!  I am not judging them, and I am sure many of them have fallen on hard times…. but…. from a visitors point of view, it is a real distraction when you are constantly being asked for money while walking around the city!  One day a young man, perhaps in his late 20s, asked me for money 3 different times at 3 different locations!  As I mentioned before, my overall experience in Portland was very positive, it’s refreshing to see a large U.S. City so well managed!  I think Portland is a case of U.S. tax-payers getting what they pay for!  Well done Portland!

Below are a few images of my recent visit to Portland,

Above, one of the many steel bridges at dawn, spanning the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.

Below, two friends battle one-another in a highly competitive chess match at Director’s Park.

Above, one of the many antique drinking fountains found throughout Portland!  Free water is great!

Below, the World Forestry Center, a non-profit center where visitors can learn everything they have ever wanted to know about forests and the forestry industry worldwide.

Above, Powell’s Book Store, a must see in Portland.  Three stories of floor to ceiling books… if a book is in print, it can probably be found in Powell’s!

Below, the Oregon Maritime Museum on the Willamette River in Downtown Portland!

Above, a young-teenage-hippster texts on his smart phone as a young girl contemplates running through the fountain on a beautiful sunny afternoon at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland.

Above and Below, a few pictures of the local icon, Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland.  The shop host some very bizarre but also very tasty doughnuts at their brick and mortar location and also from their mobile doughnut shop on wheels!  Definitely worth a visit…. the maple-bars are great!



Amtrak Empire Builder’s Train Route 2013…

Earlier this month my Mother and I traveled aboard the Amtrak Empire Builder’s Train from Chicago, Illinois to Portland, Oregon.  I realize how fortunate I am to still be able to travel with Mom!  Neither one of us is getting any younger and we try to spend a few weeks traveling together every other year.  We have been on some pretty cool trips over the last 6 years.  We took a river cruise in Russia in 2008,  a trip to Greece in 2011 and now the American Pacific Northwest aboard Amtrak in 2013.  The trip began on a Thursday afternoon in Union Station in Chicago and ended at about 10:30 AM Saturday morning in Union Station in Portland.  The Empire Builder’s Route goes from Illinois through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Washington and ends of course in Oregon.  Along the way the train stops briefly in about 30 cities to pick-up and let-off passengers.  I have traveled a few times in Europe on day trips aboard trains and once overnight but this was the longest I have traveled by train to date.  All in all it was a pretty cool experience!  We were very pleased with the food aboard the train and the service was great!  We both had our own “roomette” which made the trip really nice.  Be warned, the roomettes are really small.  With the two bottom chairs folded down into the sleeping position, there is only about 12 inches of room between the edge of the bed and the cabin door, which makes it challenging to stand up much less change clothes.  The best scenery during the trip was on the last morning, from Spokane to Portland.  The train follows the Columbia River Gorge all the way to Portland and the views are spectacular.  The river was full of hundreds of fishermen in small boats trying to catch their limit of salmon.  Probably the biggest disappointment of the trip was the fact that the train going West goes through Glacier National Park at night and there is nothing to see from the train in the dark!  Another passenger had taken the Empire Builder’s Train from West to East and said that route was better because you go through Glacier during daylight!  Keep that in mind if you decide to travel the route!

Above, the Amtrak Empire Builder’s Train in Minot, North Dakota.

Below, a view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Washington State side of the river.



Wilderness First Responders Course, NOLS / WMI, 2013

My Wanderlusting, whether for work or pleasure, often puts me in some pretty remote places.  Places where medical assistance is at best hours away, and at worst, non-existent.  Last February, while sitting on-top of a volcanic mountain, in a small West African Island nation, waiting for some friends to join me at the summit.  I began to imagine what I would need to do if someone became injured!  Earlier that day, durning the ascent up the mountain, one of my friends had suffered a mild case of heat exhaustion and had turned back to wait for us at the base.  What if someone got really hurt?

I thought of lots of possible scenarios, like a venomous snake bite… or an open fracture from a 30 ft fall off a cliff… to mention a few…

I had basic first aid training years ago, but was concerned that I might not be up to the task of properly aiding someone in need with a more serious medical issue.  So I decided then, I would seek out a wilderness first aid course when I got back to the USA.  Years ago, a backpacker buddy of mine mentioned the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Wilderness Medicine Institute.  He said they had some great first aid courses geared toward outdoor industry professionals.  After a quick internet search a few weeks ago, I learned that “Landmark Learning” in Cullowhee, NC was hosting a Wilderness First Responder’s Course at Brevard College.  I contacted them just a few days before the start of the course and unfortunately for me, the course was full!  I asked to be put on the waiting list and as luck would have it, 2 days later I got an email that there was one last seat in the course.  Evidently someone had dropped the course at the last minute.  It was only 2 days before the course started, but since I am  pretty much a “spur-of-the-moment” guy anyway, I decided to attend.  I have never spent time in Western North Carolina and was excited to not only attend the course, but also hike the Pisgah National Forest near-by.  The NOLS-WMI Wilderness First Responders Course was a 9 day, 80 hour intensive course of instruction.  The focus was on assessing injuries in the wilderness, and providing basic first aid.  I can’t say enough about how wonderful the NOLS Wilderness First Responders course was!  From start to finish the course material was relevant, up to date and presented by 2 great instructors (Rob and Kevin)!  Fitting an 80 hour-long course into 9 days made for some long days, but it was well worth it!  I met some really great people during the course, ranging in age from 19 to 62 and with very diverse backgrounds!  The best part of the course was the fact that all students, and both instructors, were motivated to be there.  That really made the course great!

Now as a “Wilderness First Responer” or “WFR”… I feel a bit more prepared to provide first aid, in a remote setting, in a time of need!

Thanks Landmark Learning Instructors, Rob and Kevin and The National Outdoor Leadership School / Wilderness Medicine Institute for hosting such a great course!

Above the Wilderness Medical Institute / NOLS patch.
Below, a few pictures from the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.  
Fortunately, I was able to do a few great hikes in the evenings after the course!