Sunday, March 29, 2015

PORTLAND, OREGON: COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

One of the "must dos" for someone visiting Portland is a day exploring the Columbia River Gorge. The drive begins about twenty miles outside of Portland in the quaint town of Troutdale and cuts through the Cascade Mountains
Columbia River Gorge
Called "The King of Roads," the 75-mile-long Columbia River Scenic Byway was started in 1915 and took seven years to complete. It is considered a significant engineering feat. The man who was responsible for the project, Samuel C. Lancaster, worked hard to showcase the gorgeous waterfalls and views of the area without "marring what God had put there."
Our yellow Kia Tilly handled the hairpin curves and elevation changes just fine.

There are plenty of places to park the car and enjoy the scenery, which we did whenever we needed another helping of the Lilly's Hummus and crackers we had brought along, which was about every two miles. (Okay, maybe every mile.)
While the sweeping panoramic views of the Columbia River were breathtaking, at this viewpoint the wind was so strong that I was afraid it would take the door right off the car. It didn't, but it managed to suck a stack of papers off the backseat and scatter them irretrievably over the cliffs. Another tourist there said he'd heard the winds were blowing at 70 mph.
A sign on the locked door of the Vista House, which was built as a memorial to the pioneers who traversed this gorge, told us the building was closed due to high winds. Isn't that a reason it should be OPEN?
After this viewpoint, the road drops down 600 feet to river level. A series of spectacular waterfalls draw large crowds in the summer months, but we were fortunate to be there during the slow month of January. Aside from the aforementioned wind at the viewpoint, we had pretty good weather and very light crowds competing for the best camera shot.

The first waterfall on the drive is Latourell Falls, which is located right next to a picturesque moss-covered bridge:


Latourell Falls Bridge, Columbia River Gorge
Latourell Falls has a 250-foot drop off a basalt lip, which apparently is quite unusual as most falls "tumble," or hit protruding rocks, on the way down.


Being intrepid explorers (and having several tubs of hummus to work off), we followed the damp trail to the top of the falls:
Halfway up:

The pavement turned into packed (and slippery) dirt:
At the top, we were rewarded with a view of the raging cataract (not) that feeds the falls:
As we continued on our way, we noticed thin falls on the vertical rock strata on the other side of the Columbia River.
. . . but the river was too wide to get across:
Next stop, 242-foot-tall Wahkeena Falls:
Rachael looks shorter than usual in front of them:

The granddaddy of all the chutes in the region is Multnomah Falls:
It has an initial drop of 542 feet:
. . . followed by a second drop of 69 feet:
 

We made our way to the top of the lower falls:

Rachael almost didn't escape from a carnivorous tree:
It almost looks like Hawaii, doesn't it? Believe me, it didn't FEEL like Hawaii.
Wicked Witch of the West trees, reaching for us with long, craggy fingers:
We were running out of hummus, so we made 175-foot-tall Horsetail Falls our final stop:
  
This is a wonderful drive, even on a chilly day in January, especially if you can be fueled by a container or two of hummus and some crackers.

5 comments:

  1. I visited the Vista House with Pearsons, but the trail/bridges at the falls were closed for repair. Such a stunning area!

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  2. Reminds me of the game Oregon Trail. It was a very frustrating game. If your family didn't die of dysentery you still had to get across the Columbia river at the end which was really difficult.

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  3. It is nice to have something else to do while you eat hummus.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. I'm impressed how far you got up the river, as well as up the hiking trails (must have been that hummus!). Dave and I sat a long time watching the ships move through the locks. A lovely restful afternoon (quite a contrast to your hikes!). Lovely photos--fun day!

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