Columbia River Gorge, Day 1 (March 23)

The Columbia River Gorge…An amazing river system, barreling down from the Cascade Mountains, through foothills and canyons, to the Pacific Ocean, dividing Washington from Oregon along its way. It’s a wildly beautiful area, with the rushing river, towering cliff walls, forested foothills and multitudes of cascades, which, as a result, is also highly-utilized. When you take something as useful as a large river, line it on both sides with timberland, and squeeze it into a beautiful, narrow gorge, the result is quite high-density!

I had to laugh, as I looked at the now-broad river, created by a series of dams which provide electricity and flood control for all the towns and cities downstream, now functioning as a great water-highway supporting a steady flow of river-traffic for tourism, recreation, fishing, and commercial transportation…And on each side of the river-highway, two lines of railroads accommodate long, double-stacked trains ferrying goods back and forth through the mountains…And alongside of that, four-lane highways transport truckers, commuters, tourists, and other various-assorted-multitudes on their merry way! 

Our hotel was in Hood River, kind of in the middle of a variety of scenic areas, so on our first day, we decided to explore the Oregon side, backtracking to the west and then working our way back to the hotel. Our first stop was Multnomah Falls, which I think is one of the best-known scenic attractions in the area. It’s a 600-foot waterfall, the 5th largest in the U.S., and has been a tourist attraction basically since the time it was first discovered! As soon as there were access roads developed along the gorge, a lodge was established here at the base of the falls, and people have been flocking here ever since! 

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It is spectacular, flowing down in two major stages, with terraces at the bottom, a stone viewing bridge above the lower fall, and another viewing platform up top.

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The old stonework construction of the lodge continues along the trail with stone walls, stairs, and terraces, and gives the whole place a lovely historic feel…

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(Photo courtesy of Spencer)

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Asher captured the beauty in his field journal…

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And Spencer photo-journaled…

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The trail from the stone bridge to the top of the falls was only 1 mile, and all paved, and we just thought that if you can climb to the top of a waterfall, you ought to! We wandered through a series of switchbacks overlooking the river, stopping from time to time to explore the basalt cliffs…

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And to appreciate the little nodding twin-flowers that were blooming all along the hillsides…

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And just to rest! (Look at that hat-hair!)

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At the top of the trail, we detoured upstream to enjoy the rapids, to splash and play and rest our legs…

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The delightful roar of the water, the cool spray in the air, and the smooth pebbles underfoot were completely refreshing! Oh happy ferns and clovers and trilliums, ever in the sweet mist of this rushing stream!

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And my oldest boy can never resist getting right out into the middle of it…

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I don’t know where he gets that from 🙂

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Rushing water is best enjoyed up close, where you can’t hear anything else, where you can stare into the infinitely-rising bubbles, appreciate the faint turquoise tint of the clean water, admire the rich beauty of river-washed stones, and relish the feeling of standing stock-still as the whole world rushes by at break-neck speed!

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And Spencer got to enjoy taking pictures of the river-pebbles on the bottom of the stream, thanks to his new waterproof camera!

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Happy children at the top of the falls!

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Happy Mommy, too! (Photo courtesy of Spencer)

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The view from the top was well worth it, that wonderful sense of perspective looking down on the tiny-dot people below, where we had recently been standing…

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The glorious rush of abandon as all those speeding waters take the plunge down to the valley below…How fun! And for Spencer, it brought home a science lesson…”It’s a cycle! The water falls down, but more water comes, and then that falls down too!” Science. It’s everywhere.

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On the way back down, we stopped once more along the bridge to enjoy the cool mist on our faces…

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One last look up at the high waterfall, surrounded by towering trees, and backlit by a blue sky…

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And then a good walk was best followed by a late lunch at the lodge in the shadow of the waterfall! (Vivi does not have the mumps, that’s a peppermint 🙂 )

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So it was a thoroughly enjoyable visit, although Joe did overhear another visitor who summed the whole thing up rather neatly: “It’s really beautiful, but I just still feel like it’s kinda crowded…” :/

Rooster Rock State Park is named for a towering basalt monolith which, I think, is very popular with climbers. For us, it was just a nice riverside location to enjoy an afternoon leg-stretch.

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(Photo courtesy of Spencer)

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It was a quiet and peaceful and green little place at the foot of the tower…

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With only the sounds of the birds in the treetops, and a couple of these little nibblers along the path…I’m not entirely convinced that they are wild bunnies, exactly, but there were at least two of them meandering about the park!

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And then, just on the other side of a small bank, was the Columbia River, a platinum ribbon beneath a silver sky in the pale afternoon sun!

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And this is what my face looks like when I’m taking a picture of a lovely riverscape! Hmmmm, actually I think that maybe this is what my face looks like most of the time…I would say this might be my “mom” face, hahahaha! (Photo courtesy of Spencer)

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We followed the scenic byway back to our hotel, stopping at Vista House for a panoramic view…

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And then, unable to resist, at Latourell Falls for another waterfall stroll…

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This time, we were satisfied to enjoy the short walk to the base of the falls, although Asher did say he would be okay with hiking up to the top, if we wanted to, now that he was “rested”!

The trail was cool and damp and beautiful…

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It was thunderously loud in the basalt basin, and the basalt columns in the rock face were very dramatic!

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It was so tall that it was hard to capture in one shot…

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Unless you shoot on the diagonal! (Photo courtesy of Spencer)

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Wow, was that enough beauty for one day? It turned out that it was…We made our slow way back for dinner and a movie in our hotel room and called it a night!

 

 

 

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