Camas, Washington ~ a small town gem

Camas, Washington ~ a small town gem and a great destination for a quickie weekend getaway.

welcome to beautiful downtown Camas

welcome to beautiful downtown Camas

A short 25 minute drive from the burbs of Beaverton takes us across the Columbia River into Washington State, land of legal pot for anyone who’s so inclined.  We weren’t there for the legal buzz but, by the end of the day as we wound our way back home we were definitely high on life and small town adventures.

Around 20,000 people reside in Camas and these lucky folks enjoy the best of both worlds – living in a small town within easy access to the big cities of Portland and Vancouver.  It’s about a 20 minute drive to the Portland airport and and easy drive east on Highway 14 takes you further into the Columbia River gorge for all manner of outdoor activities, art festivals, resorts, and wineries.  As they say in real estate – location, location, location.

Last Saturday morning, hubs and I headed out to stretch our legs and shake off the work week (me, not hubs the professional retired gentleman as his newly minted business cards proudly proclaim) with a leisurely seven mile stroll around Lacamas Lake, conveniently located just a few miles from the heart of downtown.  If I lived in Camas, I would definitely own a canoe!  While we walked, we enjoyed watching the lake come to life as the sun warmed the air and weekenders came out to play.

summer fun on Lacamas Lake

summer fun on Lacamas Lake

Kayakers paddled slowly and silently, hugging the waterlily lined shore while happy kids whooped and hollered as they hit the wake behind buzzing speed boats.  A few fisherman tried their luck and even a sea plane got into the act and skimmed the water for a graceful takeoff.

the trail meanders around much of Lacamas Lake

the trail meanders around much of Lacamas Lake

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the path with so much going on but we managed to avoid any walking accidents and made it back to the park and parking lot exercised, entertained and ready for lunch and a self-guided walking tour of downtown Camas.

First, lunch!  We headed to Nuestra Mesa (Our Table) where we savored a leisurely, al fresco Mexican lunch complete with cervesa for hubs and a pomegranate marguerita for moi.  We enjoyed authentic, well-prepared food in a lovely atmosphere and met the owners, Todd and Tania.  We chatted with Tania who shared their story of meeting in Sayulita where Todd, a surfer dude from the US, had opened a restaurant with his buddy and Tania, who grew up in Mexico City, was working in a family-owned business.  It’s a long way from a small beach town in Mexico to a small river town in western Washington, but we’re glad they’re here and we will definitely be back for more delicious tacos and tortas.  And next time I’m trying the grapefruit marguerita.  Olé.

Our bellies happy, we set out for a walk and window shopping along Fourth Street which appeared to be the main drag in downtown Camas.  It’s a beautiful tree-lined street with lots of lovely shops and a few more interesting restaurants worth a stop.  We could have spent way too much time fondling the treasures tucked away in Camas Antiques, but we moseyed on – past the beautifully restored Liberty Theater and poked our heads in for a peek at the charming B&B Camas Hotel.  What a fun place for an overnight getaway!

this shop is an antique hunter's dream

this shop is an antique hunter’s dream

enjoy the first run movies without the multiplex crowds

enjoy the first run movies without the multiplex crowds

A charming little place to tuck in for the night

A charming little place to tuck in for the night

Camas was once a mill town and a large paper mill still sits at the west end of town.  A good wind in the wrong direction and your nose will let you know it’s still in operation!  All was clear on our Saturday visit.  These days, however, although it is a short commute to the “big city”, several high tech companies like Hewlett-Packard and Sharp Microelectronics have set up shop nearby.   Camas is definitely growing.  Let’s hope it manages to keep it’s small town charm.

Sometimes we get so focused on traveling to far flung places and foreign “bucket list” destinations that we forget to explore the hidden treasures right in our own back yard.  Small towns like Camas are perfect destinations for day trips or weekend getaways and they dot the highways and back roads all over the Pacific Northwest.  What are your favorite small town gems?

See you on the road.  Let’s meet up for a glass of vino.  Hubs is buying!

Cheers,

Nancy

Lookin’ for a Quickie? ~ as in quick overnight escape

 

Wheeler Oregon

Wheeler Oregon

A great adventure can be found anywhere.  

One of my favorite things to do is throw our PJ’s and toothbrushes into a bag, jump in the car and head out to see what we can find no further than two hours and a tank of gas away from home.  We’ll head out early on a Saturday morning and be back in time for dinner on Sunday night.  Easy, (relatively) cheap and always entertaining. My new goal is to plan at least one of these little “quickie getaways” every month.

Gas prices in Oregon have dropped 40 cents/gallon.  It’s time to hit the road again!

A while back, on one of our quickie escapes, Hubs and I explored the quaint and charming village of Wheeler, Oregon.   Wheeler is tiny (pop. 414).  It’s an easy 1 1/2 hour drive from Portland and sits at the edge of the Pacific Ocean on Nehalem Bay.   In the early 1900’s Wheeler was a bustling railroad depot.  Trains delivered lumber and seafood from the bay into Portland.  Today tourism is the main industry.  Bustling?  Not so much.  It’s not much more than a dot on the map along US Highway 101, but whether you stop for lunch, some serious antiquing, or an overnight stay like we did, Wheeler is definitely worth your time.

Old Wheeler Hotel

Old Wheeler Hotel

We checked into the Old Wheeler Hotel – an eight room beauty with stunning views of the bay.

Lovely historical details like an old bellhop uniform display

Lovely historical details like an old bellhop uniform display

Like the town itself, the Old Wheeler Hotel is a tiny gem.  Full of charm, it’s complete with creaky wooden floors, well appointed rooms, lots of light, comfortable beds, quality linens and interesting antiques.  Many rooms have private baths, but a few have a bath “down the hall”.  Not to worry, they provide fluffy robes and the bathroom is “all yours” while you are there.   These folks are all about service and special touches. WheelerHotelDoorsign

At the end of the hall on the second floor is a common room with comfy couches, a small kitchen area,  a spectacular view, lots of board games and a large library of DVD’s.  If you hang out for a while, you are sure to meet some very interesting people.  We brought our own wine and cocktail snacks and enjoyed a sunset happy hour in the lounge.  That’s where we met the “ghost chasers”.  Adventure?  You betcha!

the "lounge" perfect for cocktail hour, breakfast or board games.

the “lounge” perfect for cocktail hour, breakfast or board games.

When we checked in, we were advised that the room I had originally reserved was not available and we were upgraded to another room.  Same spectacular view, but larger and with a spa tub.  We also noticed a lot of unusual activity for such a tiny hotel, but didn’t think much of it until we starting chatting with some folks over cocktails in the common room.  Turns out we had decided to spend the night at the Wheeler on the same weekend as a well-known paranormal investigation team was filming.  Yes, they had earlier tested the rooms for “activity” and our original room seemed a likely candidate for spirits.  We were spending the night in what had once been the Rinehart Hospital and, of course, not everyone left through the front door.  According to the investigation crew, the building was humming with interesting paranormal energy.   Nothing visited us during the night.  Perhaps the snoring from one particular side of the bed kept them at bay.

the spa room

the spa room

Twenty-Four Hours in Wheeler ~

This is a sleepy little place.  You park your car and walk.  Less than 10 minutes in any direction and you’ve covered it.  We still found plenty to entertain ourselves.  We wandered through two large antique stores and ogled beautiful art and handmade craft treasures at lovely little stories like Trillium.  Across the street from the hotel is a small marina offering boat and kayak rentals.  What a great way to explore Nahalem Bay.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time on this trip.

the "main drag" in Wheeler

the “main drag” in Wheeler

There were so many great photo ops. Thank goodness I had my camera.   Across the bay is a wildlife viewing area where, if you are lucky, you will spot blue heron, eagles and herds of elks that routinely inhabit the landscape.  We just missed a herd of elk!  Or…maybe they say that to all the visitors.

morning view from our room

morning view from our room

I’m not always a fan of small town food, but we discovered an absolutely delightful and delicious restaurant called the Rising Star Cafe where we managed to slide into the last available table for a gourmet dinner.   Great food. great people. Great wine. Great fun!  There is also a fun pub and a quaint cafe within a half block of the hotel.

Wheeler is well located for exploring the North Oregon Coast.  It is a gorgeous 30 mile drive from the Tillamook Cheese Factory to the art galleries of Cannon Beach   Wheeler lies right in the middle.

We loved our overnight in Wheeler.  Sometimes great things really do come in small packages.

See you on the road!

Nancy