Lewis County churches may be more historically important than you ever imagined. Did you know we have the oldest church building still standing in the state of Washington? Or that we are the site of the first church building and first permanent mission in Western Washington? [more…]
Did you love trains as a child? Maybe still do? Do you know how you can ride the rails in your own vehicle? Check out NORCOA, North American Railcar Operators Association. Driving through Centralia on a recent I saw splashes of color out of the corner of my eye. As I passed over the railroad tracks on Main Street, I saw a row of colorful little “cars” stopped on the tracks. I quickly pulled over to find out what they heck they were.
Everyone was very friendly, willing to give information and let me look over their cars. NORCOA is a non-profit group of people who just love the old “railroad motorcars” (also known as “speeders”) that were used at one time to inspect railroad tracks for areas that needed repaired. Each car is privately owned. NORCOA arranges excursions around the country, renting lines from the owners. The trips can be as short as 10 miles or as long as several thousand miles, and run throughout both the U.S. as well as Canada.
NORCOA has about 1,700 members around the world. There is a cost to participate, from $10 up to nearly $2,000 for the very long excursions. Any member/owner can go on any excursion that they want, however, they do have to pass a certification test.
Owners trailer their cars to the beginning destination of the excursion. Each person is then responsible for their food and accommodations. Some stay in hotels, some go on excursions that take them near family or friends that they can stay with. Jerry and Karen Wagner of Eagle, Idaho, took this particular trip because they were both originally from Centralia and still have family in the area. They are very proud of the lovely hand-painted eagle on their car, created by local family member, Dale Harris.
Excursions are slow, leisurely events, stopping for sightseeing and food/restroom breaks. While the cars could go about 35 miles an hour, they typically only go 15-25 miles an hour. If you like traveling on Amtrak, this is an even better way to see different views of the countryside in an up-close and personal way.
So if you ever see these little cars out and about, be sure to stop and talk to the owners. They are more than happy to share their story. And if you do decide to check out the NORCOA website, be careful when you start poking around on it – there are motorcars for sale! Before you know it, you may have a new hobby!
Is it a river boat? A paddlewheel boat? A paddle steamer? A sternwheeler? A boat operated by paddle wheels appears to be known by all of these names. But on the Columbia River, it’s referred to as a sternwheeler. I’ve always wanted to take a ride on one and finally we had a chance on the Columbia Gorge, based in Cascade Locks, Oregon. My mother-in-law’s birthday had been earlier in the month and since we prefer to give experiences rather than “stuff,” we wanted to take her on this cruise.
As we drove into town, traffic was bumper to bumper. Then we notice the sign on the side of the road – “Sternwheeler Days.” “Oh, no, I hope we’re not caught up in a parade!” I quickly pulled out my iPhone and looked up the celebration. Whew! The parade must have just ended. We crawled along for just a few blocks until we spied the well-marked sign to the turn-in for the boat, at the Cascade Locks Marine Park. We easily found a parking spot, and headed into a small building, the Visitor Center and Locks Cafe. Inside was the ticketing desk off to the left, a small food area to the right, and behind that was a gift shop.
The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.
We already had our tickets but stopped at the ticket desk to ask if we were OK wearing sandals (we were) and if it was OK to take the camera on the boat (yes we were, as a matter of fact it was highly encouraged!) Then we stepped outside on the deck to enjoy the view until the boat came back from its trip upriver. It runs about ½ hour downstream, turns around, comes back to the dock and lets some passenger off and others on, then goes upstream about ½ hour and again returns to the dock. So there are different lengths of cruises you can take, as well as dinner cruises. We were taking the two-hour cruise.
When the boat came back to the dock, it was moving pretty rapidly. David and Josh were debating between themselves if it was truly operated by the paddle wheels or if it had supplemental power. Later we would find out, yes, it was truly operated by the paddle wheels! And its name was – Columbia Gorge!
Before getting on the ship, there was a sign that said for safety reasons everyone had to have their picture taken. We wondered if this was because we would be going close to the dam. Group pictures were allowed so we had ours all taken together. I did have to wonder later if it really was for safety reasons, because later, staff took all the pictures around to the guests and people could choose to buy one if they wanted. We had already planned and pre-paid for two pictures anyway, so we got ours.
Inside the vessel was gorgeous, a combination of antique looking decor with modern amenities such as a restroom and snack bar. There was a lower dining area for the lunch dinner cruises, and seating upstairs where the snack bar was located.
As we pulled away from the dock, looking north we were awestruck to see the scar on the land where a massive landslide happened hundreds of years ago. The captain, Michael Cain, explained how this landslide had completely blocked the river, backing it clear up to Idaho. Eventually the river broke through underneath, creating a natural land bridge, named, “The Bridge of the Gods” by local Native Americans. Crossing under the new steel Bridge of the Gods built to replace the natural bridge that eventually collapsed, we were taken back in time as we thought about how we were re-enacting a trip Native Americans might have taken under the natural bridge.
One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!
Strong winds blasting up the Columbia River were a welcome relief from the heat of the day, even though the sky was overcast. On both sides of the river were odd-looking docks. The captain explained that Native Americans used to fish the falls in the area before the dam, and now use these docks to fish.
We continued on up near the dam, passing a rock that the captain told us was named, “Hermiston Rock.” Apparently rocks are named after the boats that crash on them! Yikes, let’s not have one named “Columbia Gorge Rock” OK?
We went as far as we could then turned around and headed back upriver. I overheard someone say, “Anyone can go in the wheelhouse” so of course, we headed in. Inside was the captain and two young men, crew members. The captain was more than happy to answer all of our questions, and then the dream of a lifetime – let Josh steer the boat! He was thrilled! He did it for quite a ways, until we got back closer to the bridge, then the captain took over. We finally left the wheelhouse but Josh just stayed in there, visiting and asking questions until we docked again.
We waited while the other passengers boarded, then headed upriver. By now the sun was coming out, the clouds were disappearing, and it wasn’t near as windy going east. The views along this route were more rural with lots of beautiful hills and trees. By the time we turned around and headed back, I think we were all relaxed as Jell-O. I didn’t want to get off the boat, I felt like all stress had drained away into the river, and all that was left was thoughts of the here-and-now.
We highly recommend this little cruise. The price is extremely reasonable, with different rates for different lengths of trips. For prices, check out their website at http://portlandspirit.com/sternwheeler.php.
We have a tendency to think of Sunriver Resort in Oregon as being an all newly-constructed development. But did you know that it has an old building with architecture reminiscent of the Old Faithful Inn? You may have attended a wedding, conference or other event in it, perhaps thinking it was simply built to look old and blend in with the rustic surroundings. But the Great Hall was actually built in 1944 by the Army Corps of Engineers on the land there that was once home to Camp Abbott. The hall was only used for about six months, as a cafeteria, then the war ended and the beautiful building constructed from local trees was abandoned and sadly fell into disrepair. At one point it was even used for a cattle barn. Fortunately for all of us, it was saved and has been totally restored and updated into a premier meeting space, while reminding us of the history of the area and the beauty of the natural resources used.
The log building features high ceilings with exposed beams. A massive stone fireplace burns a cozy fire, and a balcony of limbs surrounds you like welcoming arms– all of which can’t help but make you think of the Old Faithful Inn.
Replica fixtures illuminate the interior in a soft warm glow. Hallways adorned with historical pictures and stories lead the way to modern and comfortable meeting facilities. There is space just to sit and relax where your eyes are drawn out the large windows to an open field and expansive sky. You’re sure to see some sort of woodland wildlife if you are patient.
Events can be catered by Sunriver restaurants, as ours was this day at the Northwest Travel Writers Conference. The beauty and ambiance of this grand old building and the creativity of the dishes served and displayed made for a deliciously memorable experience.
If you are ever in the market for an event space, or simply want to stop in and pay respect to the history and architectural skill of the time, don’t pass up the chance to check out the Great Hall at Sunriver Resort.
For more information, see Sunriver-Resort.com.
It’s 125 feet tall. And you can climb up the inside of it on a metal spiral staircase. Your legs will burn, you will be very glad for each landing where you can stop and take a breather and rest your legs. But once at the top – you will have one of the best views on the Oregon coast. “It” is the Astoria Column, built in 1926 as a monument to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Typically, Astoria is usually a bit cloudy if not down-right rainy, so the view is hit-and-miss. This abnormally beautiful April day, the skies were completely clear, like nothing I have ever seen. We could even see Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge as we headed from the Washington side of the Columbia River to Astoria.
It’s fairly easy to find the column. You can easily see it and just head towards it and eventually you will see a white column icon on the roads that lead to the column. It’s a short winding drive up the hill, then there is plenty of parking, restrooms, and a small gift shop where you pay your $2.00 fee.
Even without going in the column the view is beautiful. To the south you can see Saddle Mountain and it’s obvious why it was named that. You can look down and see the area where the replica of Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s home for a short time, is set. You can’t help but look at that beautiful river and want to take a kayak on a long, slow cruise.
Before you go into the column, notice the writings and the drawings depicting the expedition, on the outside, going all the way up. Then you enter the column through a door at the bottom and start your climb up. It’s a long climb, but there are landings every so many steps where you can step out of the way of others and rest your legs and catch your breath for a minute. Once you come out on top there is a 360 degree walkaround to take in every bit of the view.
Off to the north is the mighty Columbia River. Maybe you’ll catch sight of a container ship, so large it dwarfs the houses down below.
To the northwest is the Astoria-Megler Bridge looking so long you think, “I came across that huge thing?!”
To the northwest and west, looking endless, is the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Looking south again is the even better view of Saddle Mountain.
The eastern view will reveal the dense northwest forests that the area is known for.
The Astoria Column puts the beauty of the northwest Oregon coast on display for all who choose to visit. It really is a fitting tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Getting there (from http://astoriacolumn.org/visit/hours-fees-and-directions/): The Astoria Column is located at 1 Coxcomb Drive. Directional signs can be found on 14th and 16th Streets.
Hundreds of years ago, before horses, Native Americans did something quite ingenious in order to feed their families. They would find a herd of buffalo and the fastest runner would start chasing them. Now, you might wonder, what on earth did they think they would do with a buffalo if they caught it? But they had no intention of catching it – their intention was to make the buffalo commit unintentional suicide. That’s right, they expected the buffalo to kill themselves. Again, you may wonder, what on earth would make a buffalo kill themselves, and how could a buffalo possibly kill themselves?
The answer is, by running over the edge of a cliff. Oddly enough, the herd would simply run and follow the leader and when the first one accidentally ran over and off the edge of a cliff, many more bison would simply follow. It was a long fall to the bottom of the cliff and the fall would kill the buffalo. That did the majority of the hard work for the Native Americans and all they then had to do was go to the bottom of the cliff and prepare the dead animals for their families to eat.
There are several of these places in the American west and Midwest and they are now known as “Buffalo Jumps”. Several years ago we visited a site that David had been too many years previously. This particular one is at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, south of Three Forks, Montana. It’s awe-inspiring to see, this high steep cliff, and imagine buffalo basically falling off of the cliff. You can easily see how it would have killed them.
This site has an interpretive display with information telling all about the site. Before we checked it out, we decided that we wanted to hike out to the cliff. So off we went. Luckily we brought water because while it seemed like a simple, quick hike, it was further than it looked, and it was an extremely hot day. We needed every drop of water.
We hiked the trail that got steeper and steeper, until it was almost straight up. I can’t do straight up. However, David, whom I call my old mountain goat, saw the cliff as a simple challenge. So Josh and I waited while David climbed up to the very top. He said the view from up there was unbelievable.
Heading back down was a little treacherous. The trail was dry and it was easy to slip and lose grip on the ground. But we made it safely back down and took refuge in the shadow of the interpretive center so we could cool down.
While it was fine to see the site from a distance, to really get a taste of the steepness of the cliff and understand how it could kill the buffalo, you really need to hike out the trail to the cliff. From there you will feel sad for the buffalo falling to their deaths but you will also appreciate the ingenuity that the Native Americans had to use the natural landscape and physics to make their lives easier and allow them to feed their families.
The Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National park has been welcoming visitors in rustic style with elegance for 100 years. It was completed in 1904 and is still as grand and beautiful as it was then. Designed by Robert Reamer to fit in with the natural landscape of the area, it cost $165,000 to build – today that would be 4.45 million dollars!
The Inn is stunning on the outside, and welcomes you like a giant log cabin.
Then as you step through the doorway, you can’t help but stop as your breath is taken away by openness, the size, the fireplace, and the strangely shaped wood everywhere. Seven stories high, the center piece is the 65 foot high ceiling with a massive stone fireplace holding a clock that is 14 feet long.
Craftsman style is everywhere and the gnarled tree branches as bannisters are the most unusual architectural details you may ever see. The logs are all hand-hewn and locally-sourced. Expect to stand there with dropped-jaw, thinking about the people who built the Inn, how much work it had to take, but how it is so beautiful they must have been very proud when finished. The gnarled trees look like people standing with their arms upright.
Visitors can sit comfortably in front of the fireplace and truly do “nothing.” Beautiful old Craftsman-style lamps and Craftsman style furniture are placed all throughout the building for guests to sit and relax.
We never visit Yellowstone without stopping in the Inn and having a much-anticipated delicious dinner. This trip the boys hit the buffet but don’t think it is like any typical buffet. I decided to try the Quail with a Cherry Glaze and substituted mashed cauliflower for the potatoes, and of course, a refreshing glass of wine. The ambiance of the old dining room, the excitement of trying different food that is a reasonable price, and of course, the wonderful company, made the entire meal one to remember.
After dinner, there was time to wander around and admire the craftsmanship more before Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt.
You can amble up the stairs to landings and enjoy the view looking down at the main floor.
This night music was playing lightly in the background, adding to the romance of the Inn.
After relaxing and enjoying our time inside, we headed out to covered balcony. It was pouring down rain this day but we stayed warm and dry under cover and still enjoyed the eruption.
The Inn has a coffee shop and gift shops that you’ll want to be sure to hit up for those family souvenirs. The inn began with 140 rooms. Back then only the wealthy could afford to stay, but wings have been added and today there are now 327 rooms available to rent, some with private baths and others with shared baths, at varying costs that the average family can afford.
The Old Faithful Inn makes a great base camp to stay within Yellowstone and explore the surrounding area. Reservations need to be made well ahead of time (like a year) at http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/lodging/reservations/ or if you can’t stay, at least enjoy an amazing meal. Reservations for dinner are strongly suggested and can be made online at http://www.xanterra.net/forms/pub/yellowstone_dinner.php, or calling 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375) or 307-344-7311.
We stop one more time outside the old building to soak it in, sad at the thought of leaving. But we know that we will come back some day and we will always have the Old Faithful Inn on our agenda.
We love our small town celebrations, and this year we were finally able to hit the Apple Harvest Festival in Onalaska, Washington. Ironically, we always seem to stumble in on extra special celebrations, and this was one of those. Onalaska was celebrating 100 years as a town!
We arrived too late for the parade but in plenty of time for many other activities. There was a community dinner happening in the school gym. $12 for steak or chicken, and it looked like there were plenty of takers.
Vendor booths lined Carlisle Avenue, the main road in front of the schools. Live music was happening on stage (excellent performers, by the way!) Of course, you know there had to be a booth with all things apple! And of course, that’s where we spent most of our money! Apple butters, apple pies, apple bars, and on and on. This booth was all donation based and the money is going to an orphanage in Mexico.
On down the road was the “food court” and wine and beer tasting. One local “entrepreneur” family set up their own “Redneck Beer Garden.”
Then David and I saw a simple little sign that said, “Onalaska History Room” and had to check it out. And this is where we struck gold!
Walking up the short driveway we were delighted to see a beautiful old house. It turned out to be the “Carlisle House” built in 1915. As we entered the front room which took up the whole front of the house, there was a poster board with old photos on it and around the table. Several older Onalaska citizens were sharing their memories of the town. We started talking to them and they had amazing memories!
Onalaska was once a company town. The Carlisle family had the lumber mill in town and almost everyone worked there. Kids even worked there in the summer, but when school started, Mr. Carlisle insisted they all get back in school. There was even company “money”. If you took a draw on the 15th of the month, you received company money and could only spend it in the company store, but if you waited until the end of the month you received a check.
We were treated to stories of old businesses that used to be in Onalaska. One establishment was a pool hall, which also had its own “money” to use within the business.
It sounded like Onalaska really had everything a person could need and there was little reason to go elsewhere. One gentleman did tell us though, of memories of going into Chehalis once a month. They would leave very early on a Saturday morning, get to Chehalis and get what they needed, then returning home they would have to camp at “Forest” before heading home the next day. (We’re assuming Forest is now somewhere around Napavine as there is a “Forest-Napavine” Road.)
So what happened to the big mill and this company town? Apparently there was a strike many, many years ago and when it was over the company was told they would have to pay back wages. Rather than do that they sold everything and left the area. But the small town persisted and is still known as one of the best towns in the area to raise a family. When we hear that a kid was raised in Onalaska, we know that they are down-to-earth with a good work ethic.
We thoroughly enjoyed the celebration of apples and our impromptu history lesson! Have you ever stumbled onto something unexpected like this at a fair?
One Saturday recently we went to Oregon with my daughter, Brandy, and her family (son Anden, boyfriend Jason). We intended to go on a hike around Multnomah Falls. We didn’t think to check any website to see what might be going on that day. Apparently it was the 100th anniversary of the building of the Benson Bridge that crosses over the lower Multnomah Falls. How many visitors show up when it’s the 100th anniversary of this iconic bridge? Hundreds, maybe thousands. How many parking spots are there are Multnomah Falls for these hundreds, maybe thousands of people? Much less than that.
Now, I will say that I’m glad the falls gets so many visitors, but sad it was on the day we decided to go. So we headed west on the Historic Columbia River Highway hoping to find someplace else to hike and then suddenly we see a parking spot with a sign that said “Latourell Falls” and there were a couple of parking spots! We needed two, so we grabbed them. We saw a walkway heading downhill that looked like it went to the lower falls, the one we could see from the road, and so we headed down it. It was a nice, short walk, and the falls were beautiful! It was a short walk back to the parking lot, short enough it just gave us a taste of hiking and we wanted to go more.
So we decided to head to the upper falls. Now, looking at the map, to me, it’s never very clear how far or how strenuous the walk is, but what the heck, right? So off we headed – uphill. Steeply uphill. Both ways. OK, kidding – sort of. Brandy, Jason, Anden, and Josh took off ahead of me and David. Bless David’s heart for staying with me and my slow pace. I think he just didn’t want to have to carry me out of there…
The trail kept going. And going. Through a lush green Pacific Northwest forest, with that woodsy smell you associate with camping – and s’mores. That smell alone will keep you going. Finally, the rest of our group came back to meet us. They figured we were still at the parking lot (now why would they think that?) and they didn’t think there were more falls, but we assured them there was. Hours and hours later (kidding again, but it was a bit of a hike) there they were! The beautiful upper Latourell Falls! We made it! Of course, so did a lot of people with small children, but hey, it’s hot and we’re delicate.
Time to head back down and it’s a loop so just follow it, right? Yep, right up until there’s a side trip to a sort-of look out. It dead ends so obviously that’s not the way back so we head back up the trail on around the loop. But it keeps going up and up! See, I said it was uphill both ways! We figure that can’t be right, we’re supposed to go down to the parking lot, so we turn around and go back by the lookout and down another trail there. It becomes obvious very quickly that it’s not right either because it’s not maintained. Oh, and it’s a dead-end. Back the other way again. Uphill. Again. Finally, we see the trail below us and know there is hope. Suddenly it does quickly head back down and we end up, alive and well, at the parking lot. We were all hot, sticky and exhausted, but felt we had a great workout and it was beautiful scenery. So even though we intended to hike Multnomah Falls, we were glad our plans were changed for us and we were able to see the two falls that we might not otherwise have taken the time to stop and see. It turns out it really was only a 2.4 mile hike.
If you like hiking to waterfalls, you need to check out the book, “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon: A guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes,” by fellow travel writer, Adam Sawyer. He refers to himself as a “Professional Gentleman of Leisure” but I refer to him as “one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.” Adam’s book just came out this July and he is busily working on another one for Washington. You can find it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Hiking-Waterfalls-Oregon-States-Waterfall/dp/0762787279/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407106247&sr=8-1&keywords=Waterfall+hikes+of+Oregon
Whether you look east or west, you’ll see beautiful greens and blues for miles. The deep blue of the Columbia River with a barge floating upriver, the dark green forests and fields, and the summer blue skies. These are the views you will see from Crown Point sitting 733 feet above the Columbia Gorge.
One a recent perfect July Saturday we headed down to take a hike in the gorge. After an exhilarating and exhausting hike we wanted to go up to Crown Point to show my daughter, Brandy, her boyfriend, Jason and my grandson, Anden, because none of them had ever been there. David, Josh, and I have been there but not when the building located there was open. This time we were in for a treat, it was open! The building is called the Vista House and was built in 1916-1917, about the same year that the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway was built. It was meant to be a place of rest and great views for gorge travelers. It has an octagonal shape and like an iceberg, much of it is underground.
You can enter the building from one of four doors, stepping into a large domed room. There are some tables with information set up and park staff available for questions. Two sets of stairs are almost hidden next to the walls.
Head up and you will come out on the balcony surrounding the entire dome, and giving you an even higher view of the gorge.
If you head down the stairs from the main floor, that’s where you will be shocked by the size of the building! There are several small galleries, large ornate restrooms, a small gift store and another small store with souvenirs and snacks, all very reasonably priced. Ice cream sandwiches were the hit with our little group on this hot day.
Back outside, Anden was excited to see telescopes so we scrounged up two quarters between us so he could take a look up and down the gorge. He was impressed that he could see the words on the side of the barge that was heading upriver.
The Vista House has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It was dedicated in 1918, restored between 2001-2006 and rededicated in 2006. The property is over 305 acres in size and is an Oregon State Park. According to a survey visitors were asked to complete, 70% of visitors are not local, most coming from over 800 miles away. Conflicting reports estimate the number of annual visitors range from 500,000 per year to nearly one million per year.
The Vista House is open 9am-6pm daily, weather permitting. (David was there one time when it was so windy that he was able to lean into the wind and it held him up!)
Getting there: Take exit 22 off I-84/Highway 30 to 40700 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR 97019.