June 7, 2007
Kelso, WA to Wood Village, OR
We started our day with a pretty and relaxing drive to the Pacific coast. It seemed like every other house on the winding two-lane road had huge rose bushes with blooms galore. It augured well for the rest of our day. After collecting two counties in Washington, we crossed a long bridge and causeway over the mouth of the mighty Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon. We had a quick lunch at Dairy Queen. The Blizzard of the month, caramel waffle crisp, was pretty good. As we drove toward Portland on U.S. 26, I put in a concert CD by Oregon native Todd Snider. It was a perfect choice since the show featured several songs set in the area including "Tillamook County Jail" and "D.B. Cooper."
Our timing was bad for the roses in Missoula and the lilacs in Moscow, but the roses at the International Rose Test Garden in Portland's Washington Park were perfect. In fact, we arrived for the centennial celebration of the Portland Rose Festival. My wife grows roses, but I consider myself only a casual fan. Regardless, I was awestruck by the multitude of blooms. The garden boasts 10,000 plants of 550 varieties (the numbers vary from source to source) covering 4.5 acres, and all were in full bloom.
I'll apologize for posting so many rose photos. As it is, these are less than half of those I took. And you have to admit, they're all pretty.
This rose is named Gemini. I didn't get the names of the others.
My only disappointment was that we couldn't see Mount Hood. Normally, the rose garden offers an outstanding view of Portland's downtown buildings with Mount Hood rising in the background, but I had to settle for just the buildings.
After walking through the gardens and visiting the giftshop, we headed east across the city. I wanted to spend some time in the Columbia River Gorge since I had missed much of it during my previous visit to Oregon in 2003 (the year I visited all 48 states in the continental U.S.). We stopped in Wood Village to get a room along the way so we could get a discount before the cheap rooms were sold out. My wife suggested a nap, but I didn't drive all the way to Oregon to sleep. There were only a few hours of daylight remaining, and I didn't want to waste them with my eyes closed.
We followed directions to the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway, which twists and turns through a string of state parks with fantastic waterfalls. I usually research our routes ahead of time, but I had to wing it this time. I think we hit most of the highlights between Troutdale and Cascade Locks, though I wish we had more time. Had I been alone or with a more dedicated hiker, I could have spent an entire day in the gorge.
Our first stop was at the oddly named Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. I saw the words " Portland Women's Forum" and drove past -- it sounded like a meeting place -- but when my brain processed the rest of the name I turned around and went back. Here's the view, although the weather wasn't the best:
Our next stop was Vista House for the obligatory gift shop and simply to admire the restored building. It first opened in 1918, and the restoration was completed in 2005.
The Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway is known for passing a high concentration of outstanding waterfalls. The massive river has carved such a deep canyon that any creek draining into it pretty much has to include a waterfall. The first, Latourell Falls, was only a short hike away from the highway.
This is a picture I wanted to take at Mount Rainier yesterday but missed. The way a tree can grow out from the side of a hill and then upward to the sky fascinates me.
I also photographed the concrete bridge over Latourell Creek.
Bridal Veil Falls was a longer and more difficult hike, but my wife was willing to do it. She assured me that the falls would be worth the effort because she had seen a postcard at Vista House. The falls were indeed beautiful, and the hike was invigorating.
Unfortunately, that was my wife's limit for hiking. When we reached Wahkeena Falls she opted to stay in the car. Since the sun was sinking fast, I didn't hike very far myself but it's a beautiful waterfall.
And finally, we came to Multnomah Falls, the most famous and impressive of all. I managed to talk my wife into getting out of the car for this one, though I suspect the promise of a gift shop inside the lodge helped.
Here's a picture of only the lower falls.
A short trail links Multnomah Falls to a parking area on I-84. This photo is taken from the interstate parking area.
The sizeable gift shop had the perfect shirt for my mom, but not in a size she could wear. I was disappointed. We thought about having dinner at the lodge but the food was too upscale for my tastes (not to mention my wallet). We continued east to Cascade Locks, but we didn't stop to see anything. We were both a little tired, and it was getting dark. We turned around and drove I-84 west toward Portland in the twilight. Near our motel, we stopped for gas at a truck stop. In Oregon, as in New Jersey, motorists don't pump their own gas.
My wife had some weird obsession with doing laundry, so we went straight to the motel instead of going out to dinner. A new restaurant, The Bronx Eatery, had just opened in the motel, so we decided to give them a try once the laundry was done. My lasagna arrived tasty but cold inside. The cook took it back to microwave it some more. It had great flavor, but parts were overcooked and too stiff to chew. Since the staff was so friendly, I'll restrain myself from giving them a Bronx cheer. I suppose once they get the kinks worked out it will be a good place to eat.
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