Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Columbia River Gorge

Brian and I rarely explore the Portland area. I am not sure why, but most of our adventures take place on the Puget Sound – in and around Seattle and Tacoma. I saw this weekend on the calendar and figured it was a perfect time to take a road trip outside of Portland to one of my favorite places, the Columbia River Gorge.

We packed a picnic lunch and we headed east towards the old Columbia River Gorge highway.

The first part of the old highway takes you through the heart of Troutdale. This city has a historic downtown with antique shops, an art gallery, a quilt store, two historic museums, and is the western gateway to the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Our first stop was at Vista House on Crown Point, one of the most photographed sites along the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is a memorial to Oregon's pioneers as well as an observatory. Samuel Lancaster, the Highway's chief engineer, believed that this outcropping of land, located atop a 733-foot sheer cliff overlooking the Columbia River, was one of the most spectacular vistas in the world. He knew that it was the ideal site for "an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite."

Brian bought me a Portland hiking book a few weeks ago and I remembered driving past Latourelle Falls a few years ago, wishing I had time for a hike. Saturday we had the time! Perfect! One of several waterfalls along this Byway, these beautiful falls lie hidden in the forest's deep green. Brian loved climbing down close to the falls to feel the energy from the cascading waters.

After the hike we continued along the highway past Sheppard’s Dell, Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls.

With the construction of Bonneville Dam in 1936, many portions of the original scenic highway became impassable and later, with the construction of I-84, other sections of the original highway were bypassed or covered over, and tunnels were filled with rocks or destroyed. Dedicated individuals have worked to have some of these old sections of the highway restored. Too narrow for modern vehicles, they are now open to hikers and bikers as the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

We hit I-84 eastbound and continued to Hood River, OR a town that I have only been to once or twice but would really like to explore someday. Hood River is known as the 'windsurfing capital of the world,' but the fishing, hiking, and skiing are also excellent. This town, named after both Mt. Hood and the Hood River, is also one of Oregon's major apple-growing areas.

I had a great idea to stop by the tasting room at the Full Sail Brewery. Brian and I had a sampling of their brews before resuming our journey to The Dalles.

We crossed the Columbia River into Washington and drove another 19 miles east to MaryhHill Winery, one of the most picturesque places along the Columbia River Gorge and award winning maker of some pretty good wines. We ate our picnic lunch and tasted their wine selection of the day along with some reserve wines. We could have sat on their patio all afternoon – we chased the sun east (finally) and then found ourselves ready to head back home.

We traveled 238 miles on Saturday, a fun road-trip and a great “Portland” adventure.