Despite the unusually hot weather during our visit, the Columbia River Gorge proved to be a wonderful spot to spend the week. There’s so much to do here that we would have to spend way more than just one week to experience it all. I think we’ve done a good job of getting a little taste of what the area has to offer. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
A Visit to Mount Hood
Our first full day in the area we took a drive on a portion of the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. This route travels through farmland, mountains, and waterfalls from Hood River, around the south side of Mount Hood and then west to the outskirts of Portland. Since we didn’t want to spend the entire day driving, we only went from Hood River to Mount Hood then turned back.
The first part of the drive took us through the Hood River Valley where the landscape is dotted with orchards, vineyards, and farms (more on this later). As we headed up the road the farms and fields gave way to dense forest and then the most perfect snow capped mountain came into view. That would be Mount Hood. There are numerous hikes in the Mount Hood area. Including many that hike around, or to, lakes and waterfalls. We chose the hike around Trillium lake because it promised to be an easy flat stroll with views of the mountain. These days if we are taking Phin on a hike it needs to be flat and easy for the old guy to make it and still feel okay after.
As you can see Trillium Lake is a very popular spot, especially on a warm, blue sky filled Sunday.
Most people were hanging out on the shore fishing and picnicking though, and as soon as we got on the trail the crowds thinned out somewhat. It turned out to be a very nice stroll around the lake, through the woods, and past a marshy area at the far end of the lake.
The Columbia River Gorge area is famous for its waterfalls. Legend has it that there are 77 just on the Oregon side.
We only visited two, but they were pretty grand. The first was Horsetail Falls which is conveniently located right off the historic Columbia River Hwy. As an added bonus there was a nice shallow pool at the bottom where Phineas enjoyed some splashing around time.
The second was Multnomah Falls which is the most visited off all the waterfalls in the gorge. It is also the highest with a drop of 620 feet.
From the bottom of the falls we walked up a steep, short set of switchbacks to the bridge that separates the lower and upper falls. Here we both are at the upper falls.
It would have been nice to visit more waterfalls, especially some of the ones that require a hike. Unfortunately, it was too hot to leave Phineas in the Airstream and too hot for the old guy to go on any hikes so we were a little limited on our waterfall viewing.
The Fruit Loop
Remember that fertile, farm-filled valley I was telling you about on the way to Mount Hood? That is part of the Fruit Loop which is a 35-mile scenic drive through orchards, farms, and wineries. On our way back from Mount Hood we stopped at one of the farms on the fruit loop and picked up some fresh produce. When I saw the sign for pick-your-own peaches I knew that I would have to come back.
The place we stopped was called Draper Girl’s Farm. It’s about 15 miles from the town of Hood River with a fabulous view of Mount Hood from the orchards. When we stopped on Sunday the parking lot was jammed with cars and the produce shop filled with customers.
Later in the week when I returned to do some picking it was very quiet and I received the most delightful customer service from the two women who were working in the shop (maybe the Draper sisters?). They gave me the rundown on all the fruit that was available for picking and what stage of ripeness it was in. After discussing what I wanted to pick one of them got me a bucket and a wagon and took me on a tour of the stone fruit trees. Before she left me on my own to pick she said the magic words, “Feel free to taste as much fruit as you want.” Thanks!
After a very short amount of time, my bucket was full of three different kinds of peaches, two different kinds of nectarines, and a dozen or so gorgeous Italian prune-plums. I ended up with 22 lbs of fruit! That’s a lot of for us to eat and store in our tiny home. Luckily I have some ideas for how to use this fruit including peach salsa, peach BBQ sauce, peach and nectarine muffins, prune-plum apricot & apple tart, and who knows what else. Too much fresh produce is never a problem around here.
About 10 minutes from our home base of Memaloose State Park lies the small, riverside town of Hood River. Like so many other Oregon towns Hood River has a certain charm to it that’s hard to put into words. There something about the combination of cute hillside town, a gorgeous and well-maintained waterfront, a thriving local food scene, and a friendly local population that draws me in every time. One of the things Hood River is known for is water sports. The Columbia River has a tendency to be very windy, which means that windsurfing and kiteboarding are well received One windy afternoon we went down to the waterfront to check out the scene at the waterfront park.
We were amazed by how many kiteboarders were out in the water. There must have been hundreds out in this one area alone. How they didn’t run into each other is a mystery to me. We strolled around the shore and watched the huge, colorful kites for a while.
While Phineas enjoyed splashing around in the waves on the shore.
Eventually, we wandered over to a big open grassy area and Tim broke out his own kite. It was perfect kite flying weather.
The other thing Hood River is known for is beer. In this small town of around 7,000 people there are four breweries in town alone, not to mention a few on the outskirts. We felt an obligation to visit at least one before we left town. On our last night in town, we snagged an outside, street-side table at Double Mountain Brewery where we enjoyed a huge Greek salad, some delicious thin crust pizza, and of, course beer. It was very good and we only wish we had more time to visit the rest of the breweries. We were too busy enjoying our great food and beer to document the event with photos, but here’s one of the outside seating area.
Thee you have it. One week of fun stuff to do on the Columbia River Gorge. Next time we hope to explore some of the gorges on the Washington side, but right now we are heading south to Bend for a few weeks.