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Posts Tagged ‘Columbia Gorge’

I went out on my first 50+ Hikers’ hike for 2010. It was pouring rain in Vancouver and Portland but got steadily dryer as we drove East. Our first hike was Hood River Mountain – just past Hood River, Oregon.

Just across from the trail head was this gate. I think this could be called a chain of locks.

Here’s the topo of the trail:

As hikes go, this was an easy one — only 3 miles RT and a mere 600 ft elevation. As the map shows, the elevation gain was initially steep but it leveled off to a very pleasant ‘table’ with sweeping views of agricultural fields and orchards.

The spring wild flowers were just coming on. The most notable of which were the Balsamroot:

Lupine vegetation was lush but not quite blooming yet. Here’s the Indian Paintbrush :

We also saw Larkspur, Glacier and Fawn Lilli’s, Brodiaea hyacinthina, Service Berry, Big-Head Clover, Fiddlenecks and lots, lots more.

Here’s a field of Butter Cups seen on our down-hill return:

After lunch we took a second jaunt at the Rowena Plateau — a square mile nature preserve on the bluffs overlooking the Columbia River. Again, fields of wild flowers and sweeping views.

Just below this cliff we spied this very healthy looking coyote.

And last, but not least was the ice cream stop at Route 30 Cafe in Mosier, where Umpqua ice cream was served. Here’s the big picture:

See: Grant’s Getaways – Rowena Crest Wildflowers from Travel Oregon on Vimeo.

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Soggy day … Dry hike

We’ve had a major storm! I was woken up during the night by the thrashing and beating rain. The prospects for a dry hike did not seem good. Today’s Forever Young Hikers’ goal was the 5 mile paved section of the old Columbia River Highway that runs through the Mosier Tunnels.

All along the drive to the trailhead our car was battered by driving rain. But as soon as we arrived at Hood River, the rain let up. We came in 2 vans and parked one at each end of the trail. The 2 teams of hikers each walked the whole trail end to end in opposite directions.

It was brisk but not cold and there was no wind! Spacious vistas opened to our left — moss-laden cliffs rose to our right. Below is a view of Eighteenmile Island.

The actual tunnels are preceded (from the west) by a long open breeze-way.

There are two sets of wood-lined tunnels.

We were treated to several rainbows as we neared the trail’s end and the sun grew more brazen.

We drove on to the Dalles, OR for lunch at the Baldwin Saloon. This was worth the entire drive alone! Be sure to check it out if you’re in the area. See Yelp reviews here.

The easy sociability of these hikes is a huge part of their appeal. Conversations arise naturally on our parallel (or serial) pursuits of the trails. The physical effort is eased as a random topic takes hold of our mutual attention. Besides the comradeship, I’m getting all kinds of tips on everything from other hiking groups and restaurants to repairmen and stores. I’m networking, baby!

The best views of the gorge came on the drive home.

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Forever Young hikers went up the gorge to hike the Herman Creek Pinnacles.
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It was about 6 miles round trip with a 1,000 ft. elevation gain. It was another lovely hike with varied landscape with falls, rivers and views.
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There was a substantial bridge over Herman Creek.
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It provided a lovely river views.
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We trekked across two large talus slopes.
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The trail climbs immediately and then veers west along the side of the slopes — offering occasional views of Cascade Locks, the Columbia river and Washington.

We came across this striking Lobster mushroom
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These “Rattlesnake Orchid” leaves poked through the leaves and mosses.
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This climate is moss nirvana! I think we have an encyclopedic array of specimens. Just goes to show that every climate makes something happy! Those are baby Licorice Ferns poking through.
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This was a really nice hike with just enough challenge to satisfy. We were all a little slap-happy on the drive home and sang along to the falsetto refrains of “Sherry Baby” … in an assortment of keys.

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Gillette Lake, WA

The rain has let up for a few days and a hike was scheduled. It was brisk but dry — if a bit windy on the gorge. The Forever Young Hikers were off for a short hike to Gillette Lake — just north of the Bonneville dam.

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The trail was narrow and felt much longer than the 5.8 miles RT posted. But it got me huffing and puffing. The Bigleaf Maples and Vine Maples were in full color.

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Gillette Lake was more like a pond.
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We came back along the service road where we came across this large rock waiting to be hauled to some bank or office building … okay, maybe a park.
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Nearby we found this large “funnel”. We were quite uncertain just what this was. It was at least 10 feet high and looked much like an open scoop on the back end — whether by design or decay.

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Our hike took longer than we’d expected, but we made it to Mark’s Place for lunch in Stevenson, WA by 2:30. We were delighted with the tasty food, generous portions and our amazingly competent and cheerful waitress. Try it!

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Gorge-ious Playground

Hatchery02(blog)My de rigueur fist stop for every guest is the “mighty” Columbia gorge – which might include Crown Point, Beacon Rock, the Bridge of the Gods and/or the Bonneville dam and hatchery.

It never occurred to me that the dam would be so tranquil this time of year (end of summer … before winter rains … in a drought year). There was only mild overflow activity.

Take a look at these sand bars in the Columbia just off Cape Horn, WA. They’re a first for me!

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We dallied awhile at the fish hatchery. These little fingerlings were being weighed and transferred from one pond to another through a tube of water.

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This sculpture in front of the gift shop (see window inset above) nicely framed Mt. Hamilton on the Washington side of the river.

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It was a lovely day to be a tourist.
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Playing Tourist

Inn01(blog)One of the nice things about having guests is that you get to do things you aren’t as likely to do by yourself. My sister (who was working) recommended a nearby inn that had been featured in “Twilight“.

It was a bright and brisk fall day. The large stone fireplace was welcome and inviting. While the decor was formal, the atmosphere was easy and casual.

The View Point Inn was a delight that I’m sure I will revisit.

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The menu, like the inn as a whole, was both chic and casual. We had the most delicate crab cake appetizer I’ve ever tasted. On the other hand, the burger and slaw were tops! (awesome bun too)
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True to its name, there were sweeping views to the West of the gorge. To make sure guests were comfy indoors and out, there was a basket of warm lap blankies.

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Outdoors, there was a large lawn with chairs and a lovely herb border leading to a pond and small plaza. It was nice to rest and gaze after our ample repast.

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Eagle Creek Trail

A friend and I hiked the Eagle Creek trail. Don’t go there if you want solitude! It’s very popular. But it offers a steady gentle grade, continual views of waterfalls and swimming holes.

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This is a well maintained trail that’s broad and flat in many places. Portions of the trail were blasted out of the rock face and are quite stony and uneven. I was glad I was wearing boots.
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Many of the college kids on vacation were hiking in bathing suits and sandals — heading for the first swimming hole turn-off. The canyon echoed with Yahoo!’s and ker-plunks.
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There were several ponds. Some hiked the creek bed from pond to pond.
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This is the famous Punchbowl Falls:
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This is Loowit Falls:
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Our destination was the “high bridge” — some 100 ft above a narrow chasm.
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This is looking straight down:
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We’d gained about 600 ft and hiked some 7 miles round trip.The forest shade protected us from the 90 degree heat. But we were pretty hot on the return trek.

We spotted this loon just before the trailhead:
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The de rigueur ice cream stop in Cascade Locks was more than welcome!
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Two great links with more history and  info on Eagle Creek: Wikipedia and Portland Hikers’ Field Guide.

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