September 23, 2004

Camping Along the Columbia River Gorge

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:37 pm by diandy2004

On Saturday we headed to the Columbia River Gorge and spent the next five days slowly heading west along it towards Portland.

Our first stop was in Maryhill, WA. We stayed at the state park (Maryhill State Park) right next door to Peach Beach RV Park (Jim and Chris’ old stomping grounds – watch out guys we are hot on your trail!). From this base camp we visited Stonehenge and the Maryhill Museum, and we relaxed on the riverbank and watched the huge barges going by. Even though we’re in a desert, this is a big area for wineries and fruit orchards which create interesting patterns of green on the brown slopes.

At Stonehenge

At Stonehenge

We also took a nice bike ride along Deschutes River at the State Recreation Area on the Oregon side.  The mostly flat, gravel trail was an old railroad bed that ran along the river in a desert canyon.  The hills were mostly gold grass and volcanic rocks.  Some of the rocks had interesting sunburst patterns.  While we took our lunch break at an abandoned rail car, we examined all the miscellaneous iron parts and wondered what Dan Klennert would’ve seen in them.  We weren’t as creative as he is!

Biking Deschutes River

Biking Deschutes River

Biking Deschutes River

Biking Deschutes River

Sometimes changing locations requires some time to adjust.  It was a dramatic change to be back in an area with small bushes, brown grass and tiny flowers after coming out of such big, bold parks such as Grand Teton and Rainier.

Heading west to our next stop near Hood River we started to notice a change in the scenery. More trees! Our new base camp was the Bridge RV Park in White Salmon, WA. The biggest drawback in the Gorge is the fact that there are highways and rail lines on both sides of the river. So you can’t avoid the noise. Unfortunately this pretty little RV Park was so close to the tracks that the train almost blew us out of bed at night. Losing one night of sleep was the most we could sacrifice to be in this nice area of the Gorge. We did pay extra for a late check-out, though, in order to see more before heading further west.

Our first afternoon we took a scenic drive up to Rowena Crest and did a short hike out onto the Tom McCall’s Nature Preserve. The 25-35 mph winds made it a little hairy to be close to the cliffs, but the views up and down the gorge were pretty.  I was also surprised to find, what I would call, two oasis on the plateau – with lakes, trees, and birds – plopped in the middle of a desert.

The Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge

In order to keep the Old Columbia River Highway at a 5% grade, they built in lots of curves. It was a lovely drive.

Old Columbia River Road

Old Columbia River Hwy

We checked out downtown Hood River visiting shops and taking a detour to Big Horse Microbrewery with a nice view of the river and windsurfers and kite surfers.

The next day we took a bike ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. We biked the portion closed to vehicles between Hood River and Mosier. The old highway is halfway up the cliffs with great views, it is paved and hilly, it is shaded with trees, and this portion has the Twin Tunnels – all of which make this a great ride.  The biggest challenge on this ride?  The changing temperatures.  Riding from the sun into the shade felt like a 20-degree temperature difference.

Biking the Historic Columbia River Trail

Biking the Historic Columbia River Trail

After leaving Hood River we headed to our next base camp, Ainsworth State Park in Oregon. We finally get to put an Oregon sticker on our map! From here we visited the Bonneville Dam’s fish ladders. In order for salmon, sturgeon, and other spawning fish to navigate the dammed Columbia River, they’ve built fish ladders to help the fish get up and over the dams. Interesting. But I think salmon are ugly fish, and sturgeons are even uglier! Salt-water fish are so much more appealing to look at – makes me miss scuba diving.

Viewing Port at Fish Ladders

Viewing Window at Fish Ladders

The Fish Ladders

The Fish Ladders

The next day Jennifer came to visit us and spend the day touring waterfalls. The old Columbia River Highway between exits 35 and 22 is lined with waterfalls. We’ve never seen so many in one small area. We started at Horsetails Falls with a short hike to the top…then we continued to Oneonta Falls…then a couple said that Triple Falls was just up ahead on this other trail…needless to say two hours later we finally found the right trail to get back to the highway for another short walk to the correct parking area where our car was parked.

Here’s the problem though…it was the first time ever we did not have water, or snacks, or anything with us besides one camera. For those of you who know Andy and/or Jen you can imagine how quickly the whining started when the lunch hour came and went. Hell, even I was hungry, thirsty, and grumpy. Ha!

Jen and Diane

Jen and Diane

Oneonta Falls

Oneonta Falls

After chowing down lunch at Multnomah Falls Lodge, we hiked that area. We hiked to the top (we have a picture for you Gail) and further up to several other falls. It’s a beautiful area which must be even more beautiful in winter when the falls become iced over.

Multonomha Falls

Multnomah Falls

View from top of Multnomah

View from top of Multnomah

After Jen left for home, Andy and I decided to finish touring all the falls along Route 30. But since our hikes with Jen totaled around 8 miles, the rest of the afternoon were short hikes.  We also stopped at Vista House on the drive home.  This was an old way station built in 1917 – resplendent with stained glass windows and tile roof.

Vista House

Vista House

We made it into Portland this morning and we’re looking forward to seeing Jen, Rene, Jen B and all significant others at dinner tonight.

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