Awesome Hiking, Beautiful Scenery
The Vancouver, Washington area (and thus Portland, Oregon) is full of amazing hiking opportunities.
1. Siouxon Creek Trail: Located just on the south side of Mt. St. Helens near Yale Lake. Lush old growth forest, many creeks, waterfalls. An all around beautiful place, just inside the western edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Also a great place for mountain biking. (shown in pic)
2. Angels Rest Trail: In the Columbia River Gorge, about 30 minutes east of Portland/Vancouver. Trail takes you to a rocky outcrop high up (over 1000 feet) on the wall of the Gorge. Views west and east are amazing, especially on a clear day.
3. Dog Mountain Trail: About 45 minutes east of Vancouver on highway 14. A tough hike but very VERY rewarding at the end. High upon the top of Dog Mountain you can see very far. Barges look like ants navigating the river below. Go in the spring and catch the stunning wild flowers in action. They literally carpet the whole upper portion of the mountain. Simply amazing.
First English Speaking Community in the West
"The Trading Post"
Fort Vancouver was constructed by the Hudson's Bay Company as part of their effort to obtain furs (mostly beaver, but many other animals were trapped as well) for the contemporary styles of Europe.
By the 1830s they had launched the first steam boat on the Columbia and Willamette River system - and one of the first steam boats to touch the Pacific Ocean.
The site remains under continued scientific investigation, as artifacts are continually dug up and analyzed. The preservation process may be watched through one of the windows of one of the buildings at the fort.
Growing up in Oregon City, the OC school system occasionally took us to Fort Vancouver as part of various history lessions. However, some of my more recent photos from 2007 are here for you to see.
"Other Vancouver Activities"
Vancouver is an actively growing suburb of Portland, with a number of restaurants and a fairly active convention center. Downtown Vancouver is undergoing rebuilding, and a new Waterfront Trail leads along the Columbia River waterfront between restaurants and condominiums and the river. A Red Lion hotel sits right at the western end of this trail, and has a wonderful view of the river (I've attended events in the dining hall there, but never spent the night).
Vancouver also has some extremely nice parks, should your children need some time out of the car. Vancouver Lake Park and Frenchman's Bar Park are located on what was once intended to be a main highway, but wound up being turned into an end. Due to the proximity of a large wildlife refuge, your chances of seeing interesting bird life here is reasonably good, with bald eagles showing up occasionally.
If you are a rail fan, the Vancouver yard is quite busy, and visible from local roads.
Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area - including many trails and some resorts
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Portland, Oregon - home of a number of items including opera and stage events, hiking in local parks, artists events, and several museums.
Some photos of Fort Vancouver
Much of what was once Fort Vancouver was destroyed in a huge fire. Today, therefore, most of what you see are reproductions of what was once here.
Naturally, the well was not burned down in the catastrophic fire, though the water crane that takes water out of it did.
How do you burn a hole in the ground?
Most of everything else did, except equipment was either metal or stone, or like the well, by nature was something that could not burn.
Many interesting items were found in the well by the archeology teams.
The well was a major source of disease at the fort, as nearby pit toilets drained waste water into the drinking water supply. It would be several decades later before the relationship between drinking water and health was better understood.
Fort Vancouver's guns were never fired in battle, but they did occasionally salute British ships as they arrived.
Today, the top of the tower is an interesting place to view the entire fort grounds, and the land beyond.
The land outside the fort was once made up of orchards that helped provide food to the fort.
"The Big Bread Ovens"
These big ovens were used to bake the bread required to feed the people at the fort.
Imagine the submarine sandwich you could make in one of these! They are not very tall, but they are extremely deep.
"The Doctor's Office"
You would not want to go to this doctor, but in the 1830s there was no where else to go, unless you wanted to throw yourself at the mercy of the local Native American healers. It may be debatable as to which one of those options had a better understanding of how to heal someone!
"The Native Trading Store"
There were two trading stores at the Fort: this one was reserved for the Native Americans.
One could get everything you would want here, if you were a Native American in the 1830s anyway: the best British guns (a major complaint of the Americans!), blankets, traps, Italian glass beads, you name it!
An outside view of the house from which it was all commanded.
Hand powered and foot powered tools, including a lathe and grinding instruments. This is where everything was either made or repaired.
A six month trip to England and a six month trip back, filled with dangers, made it imperative to have a well-equipped workshop.
"More Being Added"
As time goes on, more and more buildings are slowly added to the fort complex, as more is learned about what was where on the fort complex. Farious oulines in the ground show where buildings seem to have been in the past. Lines of beads on the ground indicate where floorboard cracks once were, for example.
Ongoing artifact documentation and preservation are happening at the fort, and you can see this in progress if you visit at the right time.
Update: November 2008: Fort Vancouver is now connected to the Vancouver Waterfront Renaissance Trail by the Vancouver Land Bridgeto provide a link between the fort and the river that connected it to international trade, and thus the purpose of its construction. As it existed in 2007 (when this text was originally written), the fort had no pedestrian connections to the south.