Through My Lens

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3 Days in Oregon’s Tualatin Valley: Where to Eat, Drink and Explore

The Tualatin Valley comprises the vast area of land between Portland and the Oregon Coast. Among its rolling hills and sparse forests sit many amazing adventures including wine tasting, berry…

The Tualatin Valley comprises the vast area of land between Portland and the Oregon Coast. Among its rolling hills and sparse forests sit many amazing adventures including wine tasting, berry picking, and bike riding. Amie and I got a chance to spend three days there, and we collected our favorite spots in the below list of food, drink, and activities. Be sure to watch the video to see all of these spots and more in action and check out the Tualatin Valley yourself next time you are in Oregon.


Here is a video I made of my time exploring the Tualatin Valley.


Tualatin Valley is full of great eateries scattered around the many towns along Highway 26. We tried a bunch of spots while we were there, here are our favorites.

Helvetia Tavern

Home to the jumbo burger, an old-school style cheeseburger that people drive from all over to try. Helvetia Tavern is a fun spot that seems like it is far from civilization with a relaxed atmosphere and hats hanging from the ceiling.

I recommend the jumbo burger here and the half and half onion rings and fries if you have someone to share them with (there are a lot of them).

Syun Izakaya

One of the top Japanese restaurants in the surrounding Portland area, Syun Izakaya is always busy, and it is easy to see why. The sushi here is inspired and top notch with excellent presentation and fresh fish. They also have lots of specials that change weekly, and that feature dishes like shrimp stuffed shishito peppers. It’s a small restaurant but it is worth the wait.

Oyatsupan Bakers

Oyatsupan Bakers is a Japanese breakfast spot with a selection of pastries that you pick yourself. You can find many of the traditional foods here like red bean paste and matcha inspired pastries, but you can also find donuts and croissants to go with them.

Cornelius Pass Roadhouse

Cornelius Pass Roadhouse was probably my favorite restaurant to visit in the area. The massive historic farmstead features many old barns and even a large farm home. It is two minutes off the freeway but it feels like a world away, and when you are there sitting by the fire and drinking whiskey from the Little White Shed Bar in the back you will forget you are still 5 minutes from a major city.

Be sure to plan some time for your visit here as there is a lot to explore and good food to be had at the restaurant, especially the appitizer green beans.

Ridgewalker Brewing Company

Ridgewalker Brewing Company was my favorite food spot in the area, with a menu of unique options and lots of great beers to go along with it. The interior is open and inviting with metal tones and a massive wooden table down the middle that was from one continuous cut of wood. I recommend getting one of the burgers, but my wife got the fish and chips with sweet potato fries and loved that as well.


Insomnia Coffee

Good coffee is easy to find in Portland, but it is satisfying to know that the Tualatin Valley has some as well. Insomnia is a gem in the area with fantastic lattes and great black coffee as well. We went many times during our trip and were not let down. Plus it is a cool spot to hang out, work a little or just relax.

Wine Tasting

With over 100 wineries in the area there are lots of great ones to explore, but here are a few of our favorites. Each of these wineries have fantastic views, which is what made them so great.

Alloro Vineyard

This winery feels like something you would find in Italy with a large home and views that stretch over the vineyard. It’s one of the smaller tasting rooms, but there are lots of spots outside to sit and relax with a bottle of wine.

Hawks View Cellars

Another favorite winery, Hawks View has a tasting room situated on a hill and surrounded by vines. I especially liked looking out and seeing the red barn in the distance as it was a beautiful spot for a photo. Great wine here as well with a carbonated red that was unlike anything I have had before.


Ponzi is the most famous of the wineries in the region, but it has earned that reputation through amazing wines. Ponzi was the last one we went to, and it was a great way to end our day of exploring with beautiful views and endless amounts of good wine. I imagine this being a fantastic spot at sunset especially (if they are open).

Sake Tasting at SakeOne

Not to be outdone by the wine, there is also a sake tasting room in Tualatin Valley. I can honestly say I have never given sake much thought in the past, but I enjoyed being able to learn more about it and find a few I liked during my tasting. It is not for everyone, but I recommend doing a flight here and seeing if you find any you like.


The Tualatin Vally is an outdoor playground, with one of the best bike trails in Oregon running through it. Even without that though there are still many fun adventures to be had in the area, here are a few of my favorites.

Brew Methods Class

Dapper and Wise is the company that owns Insomnia Coffee, and they have a room for classes right next door. We took the brew methods class when we were there where they brewed the same coffee through five different methods, and we got to try the subtleties of each. It was a lot of fun to learn more about coffee and confirm my favorite method for making it. They also have a latte art class that I would love to take in the future as well.

Smith Berry Barn

Since the area is known for its fruit, be sure to head out to one of the u-pick farms. We went to Smith Berry Barn and enjoyed picking fresh strawberries (the only fruit in season when we went).

Don’t forget to feed the goats on the property as well and you do not want to leave without having a fresh berry milkshake.

Bike the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

The Banks-Vernonia Trail is 21 miles, and it was created after the removal of an old railroad line. I only biked 7 miles of it, but it was terrific with lush green trees lining the path and old train trestles you could ride over. If you get a chance, be sure to check it out and head to Banks Bicycles to rent a bike to take on the trail.

Top Golf

Top Golf has become a popular attraction around the USA, but I hadn’t done it before we came here. It was a blast, and I wish California had one as I would love to go more often. If you haven’t been, basically it is a driving range with large targets, and you compete against your friends to see who can hit the balls into the goals and score the most points. You pay by the hour and it’s a blast to play.

Rice Museum

The Rice Museum was the last attraction we went to in the area, and it is a museum of rocks, but don’t knock it until you visit. This museum is part of the Smithsonian network and it has a crazy amount of cool rocks and fossilized trees. I was blown away by how many unique rocks they had here ranging from gemstones to crystals. The fossilized trees also have a unique range of colors, and styles as well and you will want to plan at least 45 minutes to walk around and explore it all.


I stayed at the Aloft Hillsboro when I was in Tualatin Valley, a brand new hotel that is only a year old. It was a beautiful spot with large relaxing rooms and an excellent location next to many of the above spots (2 minutes from Insomnia Coffee). If you are looking for a beautiful place to stay, check it out.

So there you have it, my favorite spots in the Tualatin Valley. If you are in Portland, then be sure to get out and explore some of these places and let me know what your favorite spot is that I left off in the comments.

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Eight Spots to Explore in Central Park

Central Park is one of the best things about Manhattan. The sprawling green space in the middle of the busy city is a welcome retreat during any time of the year. There…

Central Park is one of the best things about Manhattan. The sprawling green space in the middle of the busy city is a welcome retreat during any time of the year. There is something special about walking through Central Park in the summer though and if you get a chance to do it, here are the eight spots you should make sure you see.

Belvedere Castle

Located next to the Shakespeare Theater, the Belvedere Castle is just a fun place to see in the middle of Central Park. The castle sits on the edge of the turtle pond, and you can even go inside of it when it is open. I like hanging out on the top and looking out over the park.

Bow Bridge

Central Park’s famous Bow Bridge is one of the most photographed attractions. It is worth the visit to see it, but there is almost always a dozen or more people sitting on the bridge taking selfies and just enjoying the spot. It’s a great place to watch the boats on the lake as well.

Turtle Pond

While most people like to sit at the Great Lawn, I love visiting the Turtle Pond area right across the path. This is a quiet spot which makes it a great place to come and get some work done while you are in the park. Also, you can watch the turtles swim by in the water below the castle while you are relaxing.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

This vast reservoir right in the center of the park is a great place to run or walk as there is a massive trail that goes completely around it. There are also park benches and other spots just to sit and relax while you look out over the water and buildings behind it.

Conservatory Water

This small lake is a personal favorite of mine. It is where the Hans Christian Andersen statue is which is a favorite reading spot for children, but the lake itself often has small sailboats on it during the summer. These boats move along with the wind, and it is fun to see them gliding across the water while relaxing.

Bethesda Terrace

Bethesda Terrace is the central meeting ground in the park. There are always street performers here, food vendors and people just taking it all in. The large fountain has been the backdrop for many movies, and there is seating along the water. This is also where one of the main public bathrooms is in Central Park, which is important in and of itself.

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields is the memorial that honors John Lennon. It is another trendy spot in the park as people love posing with the mosaic in the ground that says “Imagine” after his famous song. There is usually circular flowers that frame the sign here as well.

The Mall

The Mall is the place you most often see in Central Park photos. This long paved path is covered in trees, and it is a picturesque spot in the park. There are vendors and street performers that line the walkway and its one of those places where you walk, and everyone seems to be having a good time.

Honorable Mention – Balto Statue

I wasn’t aware of Balto, the dog that saved a bunch of people, before I went. My wife, however, was excited about seeing this statue though so I figured it was worth including in case anyone else wife loved the famous dog as well.

So there you have it, my favorite spots to explore in Central Park. Be sure to let me know what yours are in the comments.

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Columbia River Gorge: Nine Places to Explore on Your Drive

The Columbia River Gorge is a fantastic area to explore in Oregon with a countless amount of adventures. Everything from waterfalls to dams to breweries can be experienced along this…

The Columbia River Gorge is a fantastic area to explore in Oregon with a countless amount of adventures. Everything from waterfalls to dams to breweries can be experienced along this stretch of road. Here are my nine favorite stops along the Columbia River Gorge, let me know what yours are in the comments.

Vista House

This building is over 100 years old, and it is a fantastic first stop on your way into the gorge. The views are unprecedented, and you can see why they chose this location to build the famous house. You can get a great view of it from many viewpoints around the area, or you can walk up to the second story deck and look down on the gorge. Read more about it here

Multnomah Falls

I am sure you have probably heard of the famous Multnomah Falls before, and it is worth the acclaim it receives. This two-tier waterfall is incredibly impressive in person and the old bridge that was built to give you a closer view adds to the majesty.  Be sure to go on a weekday if you can because it can be packed on the weekends.

Horsetail Falls

Located only little ways up from Multnomah, Horsetail Falls is another trendy waterfall because you don’t have to do any hiking to see it. The waterfall is about 50 feet from the parking lot, but it is still impressive and worth a quick visit.

Elowah Falls / Upper Mccord

Elowah Falls is the second tallest waterfall in the Columbia Gorge area, so it is a great stop along the drive. The waterfall is accessed by a 1 mile each way hike, which stops many people from visiting it. I have been at the waterfall by myself before, and you can’t do that at many of the other popular spots. You can extend this hike by another mile and go up to the Upper Mccloud Falls as well, which are not that tall but are still impressive.

Wahclella Falls

This waterfall is one of my personal favorites. It is accessed by a 2-mile hike as well, but the waterfall has a lot of unique viewpoints to look down on it from. It has been getting a lot more popular recently from Instagram, but on the weekdays you can still have some solitude on the hike.

Bonneville Dam

While you may not think that a dam sounds like a fun stop, this historic dam is well worth it. Seeing the powerhouse and the massive spillway is not something you see often and add to that the visitors center which has underwater windows for looking at the fish and the area becomes a unique and worthwhile stop. Hopefully, you will see the creepy lamprey fish when you are there as well, but be warned, they may give you nightmares.

Bridge of the Gods

In the Cascade Locks area of the gorge, the Bridge of the Gods is an impressive man-made attraction. You can drive across it into Washington for $2 or just park below it and look up at the imposing old bridge.

Hood River Breweries

When you get to Hood River, be sure to stop by one of its three breweries to try some craft beer. The biggest is Full Sail, but I like Double Mountain Brewery since they have good beer and great pizza. If beer is not your thing, then check out one of the many coffee shops. My favorite is Stoked.

Hood River Bridge

This is another impressive bridge on the drive. It is at least four times as long as Bridge of the Gods, and you can drive it over to Washington as well. There are a few trails down by the water that let you see the bridge from below while stretching your legs.

Rowena Crest

For my last recommendation on this drive, be sure to head over and see the famous curved road at Rowena Crest. This is another spot that has become popular because of Instagram but is still fun to see in person. There is a viewpoint that you can park at and look down on the road. I was there for a while and watched deer cross the street as well which was pretty cool. There are hikes you can take in the park, and it is a popular biking spot, but most people just look at the view.

So there you have it, ten recommendations for exploring in the Columbia River Gorge. What did I leave off this list? Let me know in the comments.

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Canyon Overlook Trail at Sunrise: Zion National Park

Over the winter I got the opportunity to spend a few days in Zion National Park, you can read all about the parks best attractions here. During that time I…

Over the winter I got the opportunity to spend a few days in Zion National Park, you can read all about the parks best attractions here. During that time I was determined to find the best spot for sunrise and after a few attempts I finally went to Canyon Overlook Trail, which is clearly my favorite spot for sunrise in the park. Here is all the details so you can see / photograph it yourself.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-9


  • 1 mile round trip
  • 200 feet elevation gain

Getting There

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From Springdale I would recommend leaving about an hour before sunrise. It takes 20 minutes to drive to the spot and another 20 to hike to the viewpoint, plus you want to make sure you are there early enough set up. After driving up and out of the East entrance to Zion National Park you will pass a long tunnel, immediately after the tunnel there is a small parking lot on the right where you will park for the hike.

The Hike

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From the parking lot you will cross the street and then immediately head up a series of steps. Be sure to bring traction devices if you do this in the snow or ice.

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The trail flattens out and the hugs a cliff side for the next .15 miles. This area has a decent drop but there is a guard rail beside you for most of the way.

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The trail then heads across a platform that was built into the rock wall itself and that allows you to pass what would normally have been a sketchy area.

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It then heads under the rock before continuing up some more stairs.

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From here the trail is mostly over and it just heads straight over a flat path until it drops you at the observation point.

Canyon Overlook

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The payoff for how easy this hike is immense. The views of the canyon itself and the road you took to get up are stunning.

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When you see the first light come over the hill behind you and hit the mountains in front of you it will take your breath away. Here is what it looks like about 45 minutes after first light too.

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It was incredibly windy and cold when I went so it wasn’t great for waiting around but I had a lot of fun and saw only 4-5 other people the entire time.

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If you are looking for a great spot for sunrise or just a fun hike in general then check out the Overlook Trail. 

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Panoramic Point in Kings Canyon National Park at Sunrise

At a quick 5-10 minute drive from Grant Grove, this viewpoint is one of the best places to stare down into Kings Canyon from above and one of the best places…

At a quick 5-10 minute drive from Grant Grove, this viewpoint is one of the best places to stare down into Kings Canyon from above and one of the best places to see and photograph the sunrise. I got the opportunity to spend some time here recently and here is everything you need to know about sunrise at Panoramic Point.


  • Two mile drive uphill and a less than .5 mile hike to the lookout point
  • Arrive around 30 minutes before the sunrise is scheduled so that you can hike and set up

Panoramic Point-10

The drive itself is one and a half lanes most of the way, but at sunrise there is never much traffic so you shouldn’t have much issue getting to the top. Do watch out for deer and bears though, we saw a lot of deer and one small bear while driving up.

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From the parking lot you will take the short paved road and follow the signs for Panoramic Point. The path is a gradual uphill but it is not very difficult, when you reach the first plaque you can set up here or proceed uphill.

Panoramic Point-9

Personally, I would recommend proceeding uphill to the area near the second plaque as this area has a better view of Hume Lake below so it adds some contrast to the sea of trees.

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After setting up you will just be waiting for the sun to start doing its thing. I like to take pictures before, during and after so that you can see the progression of the light.

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Here are a few photos from my time up there, I mostly shot with a 24-105 lens and loved being able to have the zoom range that it provided to craft my shots. I had a wide angle with me as well but it took away from the view.

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Panoramic Point-4

As you can see this is a fantastic place for sunrise, it is one of the better ones I have seen on my travels in California and I can easily say that it is worth the effort to set your alarm and get out of bed. Heck, you might even make a new friend while heading down the path.

Panoramic Point-11

If you have another spot you like for sunrise be sure let me know and read more about my time in this National Park at my other blog

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Delicate Arch at Sunrise: Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-known attractions in any park in the United States. I would put it up there near Half Dome and Devils Tower as…

Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-known attractions in any park in the United States. I would put it up there near Half Dome and Devils Tower as one of those spots everyone has seen, even if they don’t know where they saw it at. I got a chance to check it out myself and I have to say it should be on everyone’s bucket list as it is even more amazing in person. That being said it can be busy and I would recommend visiting at sunrise to miss the rush. I sat at the arch with 15 other people on a busy 4th of July weekend and on the way down after sunrise I passed 150 people coming up the trail. Here is all the info if you want to do what I did.

delicate arch sunrise-1


  • Need to get to the trailhead about 45 minutes before sunrise as it is a 1.5 mile hike with 500 feet of elevation
  • Small parking lot so early is better to get parking
  • Bring a headlamp

Sunset is the popular time at this attraction and it is easy to see why, the colors dance all over the arch. Sunrise is not as majestic, but you have fewer people so it can be more relaxing to experience, especially if you are not a professional photographer.

Delicate Arch-1

I was staying at the Motel 6 in Moab so I checked Google Maps the night before and realized it would take about 45 minutes to get to the arch parking lot in the morning. Knowing that it was a 1.5 mile uphill climb I left about an hour and a half before sunrise. I was in the parking lot walking towards the arch in the pre dawn light. It was a full moon so I didn’t need a headlamp but you should bring one just in case.

Delicate Arch-2

The hike to the arch this early in the morning is not too memorable as you are just trying to get to the destination. It does head over single track most of the way, then you are just walking up a large sandstone slab towards the end, be sure to follow the cairns in this section.

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Once at the top of this hill you will proceed through small trees and brush till you reach a small slab of trail that hugs the side of a mountain.

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From here do not forget to make it up to frame arch, which is a perfect spot to view Delicate from as it is framed within the arch. It requires a small scramble but you can see it from the trail.

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After this you will proceed around the last bend and see the first view of Delicate Arch. This view will probably take your breath away as it is awe-inspiring. 

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In the predawn light the arch is beautiful as it is still fully shaded. As the sun goes up it will slowly light the arch up from the top down. I stayed for the entire lighting process and just sat at its feet taking it all in. 

Delicate Arch-9

Many people came and went during this time but there was never more the 15 people at the arch with us, it was fantastic. 

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After that we proceeded down the hill and like I said, passed over 150 people, including two tour buses full of tourists. I cannot stress more how amazing it is to be here for sunrise and even though the light is not as good as sunset fantastic, the experience of fewer people at this famous spot is not to be missed. 

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