Friday, July 27, 2012

Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge

A view of the Columbia River Gorge.

During the last Ice Age (12,000 to 15,000 years ago)  the Columbia River Gorge was indelibly etched into the landscape.  A massive ice sheet from Canada dammed rivers with up to 2,000 feet of glacial snow creating huge lakes across Idaho and Montana.  The largest of these was 3,000 mile square glacial Lake Missoula, half the volume of Lake Michigan.  Rising waters undermined the ice dams causing tremendous floods which swept across the land and down the Columbia River scouring elevations and creating the Columbia River Gorge.

The Gorge is a canyon up to 4,000 feet deep stretching over 80 miles through the Cascade Range and forming the border between Oregon and Washington.  It furnishes the only navigable route through the Cascades and the only water connection between the Columbia River Plateau and the Pacific Ocean.

We spent a week in the area visiting Hood River, hiking trails, and seeing many local sights. One of the hikes was the Mosier Twin Tunnels East.

The tunnel was part of the historic Columbia River Highway.  Between Mount Hood and Mosier, a right-of-way conflict with the railroad forced the designer to create tunnels through steep basalt bluffs.  The 17 foot wide Twin Tunnels were able to accommodate two way traffic by Model T's for a time, but larger vehicles created accidents even after widening the road to 20 feet and  adding signals to regulate it to one way traffic.  Also, waiting vehicles were vulnerable to rock slides.  

Sections of the tunnels were created from wood.

Other sections show the rock underside.  

Windows were cut into the rock wall to allow light in and also a view of the Columbia River.

With construction of a water grade thoroughfare in the 1950's the tunnels were closed and filled.  Thanks, in part, to Senator Mark Hatfield, the tunnels were restored as part of a hiking and biking path in 1995.

Along the trail, much of the original brickwork is still visible.

Along with beautiful views of the Columbia River, you can see a railroad line and the current interstate along the water edge.
We stayed at Memaloose State Park which has a view of Memaloose Island.  The word Memaloose is derived from a Chinook word which means "to die". The Indian people of the Columbia River wrapped their dead in robes and deposited them in canoes that were placed in the woods on islands in the river. There is one lone monument on Memaloose Island and it is the grave site of Victor Trevitt who was a friend of the Indians who asked to be buried there.  When the Bonneville Dam was constructed they had to relocate the Indian graves during the 1930's, and today, this is the only grave that remains.

We visited Multnomah Falls which is quite the tourist trap in summer.  An estimated 2 million people visit it a year and I'm sure most are there in the warmer months.  The place was hopping and we had to climb to the top of the falls in order to get onto another trail we wanted to hike.

The falls is 620 feet high and quite beautiful.  The climb to the top is one mile over 11 switchback trails.  Getting through the crowd, which included crossing the bridge above, was a feat in itself.  

Eight of the switchback trails you climb up and the last three you descend.  The path was crowded with people and everyone seemed to be in a rush.

As we reached the top, the 11th switchback had collapsed in several sections.  Crews were working with jackhammers to create a new trail as people passed next to them heading up or down the switchback.  Most of the workers were college students who had to walk a mile up and down the trail each day to do their job. 

After reaching the top we were able to follow another trail which took us higher up and around the mountain.

The rock overhang was amazing.

We saw other waterfalls along the way.

Once again, it was like being in a tropical rain forest.

After two days of strenuous hiking we decided to take it easy and drive up to Mount Hood.  The day was overcast so we didn't expect to get any great pictures, but you never know..........

Mount Hood is over 11,000 feet in elevation but the captain decided since we weren't going to be hiking we could get away with shorts and sandals.

We also wanted to see the Timberline Lodge which is at the 6,000 foot level of Mt Hood and was built in the 1930's by the WPA and CCC during the Great Depression.

It's a magnificent building that is still in use and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wow, did we look stupid in our short pants and sandals when everyone else was in skiing garb!  Turns out you can ski on Mount Hood year round and many athletes use this area for training in the summer.  Luckily, I had a jacket in the car.....the captain didn't. 

We were at the 6,000 foot level and you couldn't see much up from that.  There is a ski lift that goes up another mile where the snow must be really deep. 

The main lobby of the Timberline Lodge. 

The walls are stone buttress with massive timbers to withstand the winds and deep snows.

The Blue Ox Bar had a sign made of leaded glass.

The bar area inside The Blue Ox.

Doorways were built through the thick stone walls.

All the stairs and railings are original to the building.

The ceilings are tall with heavy timbers which were taken from local forests.

Artwork on the walls is made from tiles.

This is an old ping pong table that was used years ago. 

Another view of the tile work and walls.

This ceiling light fixture is original to the building.

We also thought this bench was pretty neat, too.

A few miles down from the Timberline Lodge was a town called Government Camp.  It was in full swing with people walking around with their skis and other warm weather paraphernalia.

We also stopped at Jonsrud Viewpoint in Sandy, OR, to get this pretty picture.  You can see the cloud cover we had that day.

The next day was sunny and clear so we drove up McCall Point and took this picture of the old Columbia River Highway.  They truly followed the curves of the ridge. 

We also climbed another mile up to the top of McCall Point for another scenic view.

Here it is.......the beautiful Mt Hood on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge

And this is the beautiful Mt Adams on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

More panoramic views.

Later that day, while sitting on the porch of the Memaloose Winery across the river in Lyle, Washington, we were able to see where we climbed to the top of McCall Point.  And also observe the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.  Now is that cool, or what.........

You won't see many changes in the gorge area in the last 25 years.  Thanks to a group called the Friends of the Gorge, the area has been protected by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act which was enacted in 1986.  It designated 292,500 acres on both sides of the Columbia River extending 85 miles to protect the scenic, cultural, recreational, and natural resources of the gorge. That means development is only allowed within the 13 existing urban areas of the gorge to sustain the economic health of the region.

Tourism is huge in this area because of all the activities available year round.  Windsurfing and kite boarding were in full swing around Hood River.

Every day we were there the gorge was crowded with activity.

And don't kid yourself.......the water is not warm.

But it sure didn't stop the crowds. 

Other things we did included going to a Lavender Day Festival, the Bonneville Dam and Hatchery, and shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables along the 30 mile 'Fruit Loop" around Hood River and other towns.
The lavender smelled wonderful.

And there was an abundance of other flowers and plants.
Cherries were in season and plentiful.  We were purchasing them for $1.50 per pound.

This is a close-up of a cherry tree in the area that was still full of fruit.

I was stunned at how many cherries there are in just one bunch.  This tree was laden with bunches and there were thousands of cherry trees everywhere you looked.  So how come they are so expensive on the East coast???

We also spent a little time at the Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center looking at the history of the area.  They had some pretty amazing artifacts.

The larger skull in the back is of the extinct short-faced bear versus today's modern brown bear skull in the front.

The skull on the left is from an extinct beaver versus the smaller one of a current beaver.  It's hard to believe the size of the animals that roamed the northwest many years ago.

At the hatchery we saw many rainbow trout.  They were very large and colorful.

This is Herman, a ten foot, 800 pound sturgeon who lives permanently at the hatchery.  He is sixty years old.

I think I finally got to see a salmon climbing up a fish ladder at the dam heading for it's spawning ground.  

We were in a room under the water where we could watch the fish swimming up the Columbia River.

There were also lamprey eels sticking to the glass of the fish ladder.  I thought they were pretty strange looking.

One of the marvelous things about Oregon is the changes in the climate.  Some areas are tropically moist while others are almost a desert.

Hood River has a warmer, sunny climate, and a lot of trees everywhere.  This is a view of the bridge from Hood River to the Washington side. 

Thirty miles west of Hood River there is much more rain and heavy forests.

Thirty miles to the east of Hood River the hills are barren and desert-like.  A resident in this part of Oregon can have almost any climate they wish just by getting in their car and driving a few miles.
And, sadly, it is now time to say goodbye to the wonderful Columbia River Gorge.  And what better way than to have drinks and dinner at the Full Sail Brewery in downtown Hood River.............

...........sitting on a covered deck, enjoying the sun, and overlooking the beautiful Columbia River on a Monday afternoon. As the captain would say, "It don't get no better than this". 

 Our final stop in Oregon is the town of Astoria on the coast right across the Columbia River from Washington.  The highs are only supposed to be in the low 60's so it is time to bundle up again.  Brrrrrrrr !!!   Peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment