Strolling the streets of Portland after an ungodly amount of time driving up the California and Oregon coasts, I watched a face-tattooed, ripped-denim-clad crust punk adorned with a giant Lemmy Kilmister patch on his back tear off the vacuum-sealed, 21-tooth cap on a beer bottle with his bare teeth. It had been less than a second since my friend Paige had handed him the bottle.
Just as quickly as he appeared and asked for money, the young crust punk vanished into the warm Portland night, down a street that smelled faintly of urine.
Not all of my time in Portland was spent marveling at people using their teeth as bottle openers: The large array of food carts near the river served great food for prices that, in Berkeley, could get you a half-eaten granola bar at best.
Powell’s City of Books, a bookstore that features nine color-coded rooms with more than 3,500 different sections, was nothing short of heavenly. The selection was unparalleled; it’s a must for anyone who likes reading.
Aside from metropolitan Portland, there are many places in California and Oregon that are worth going to, especially for those seeking to get out of the Berkeley bubble.
Willow Creek, a census-designated place that is too small to be called a town and is secluded in the forests of Humboldt County, seemed to have an obsession dominating the area: Bigfoot.
Bigfoot Rafting, Bigfoot Steakhouse, Bigfoot Days, a Bigfoot museum — almost everything referenced Bigfoot in some capacity. I later learned that in October 1958, a road crew worker made a plaster cast of a huge footprint found near Willow Creek, hence the Bigfoot theme.
Two men sitting across from my friends and me at the Bigfoot Steakhouse were having an absolutely unintelligible conversation, completely incoherent except for one sentence I caught at the beginning: “I put a scope on my .44 yesterday.”
Willow Creek is next to Trinity River, which is perfect with inner tubes and beer. At least, that’s what my friends and I thought until one of them accidentally dropped all our beers into the river.
Fortunately, the river was clear and the beer was sealed tight, so the river beers were found and quickly consumed while floating lazily down the rapids.
The Airbnb we stayed at in Willow Creek was a pseudo-farm with five cats, three dogs, a chicken coop, a garden and a red-tailed hawk. The cats were the best part.
In Oregon, about an hour away from Portland, there’s a hot spring called Bagby in Mt. Hood National Forest. The water is naturally heated underground and filtered up to the surface and into wooden barrels. It’s about a mile and a half walk to them, and they’re incredibly relaxing.
There’s a small basin along the hike to the hot springs with a small rocky outcropping above the water, which we decided to jump off of on our way down from the hot springs.
Of course, the water was absolutely freezing, and after much screaming, cursing and regret, we got out of the water and continued on the hike down.
Big cities such as Portland are worth visiting, sure, but I learned not to overlook the small stops along the way.