Posts Tagged With: Columbia Gorge

Cruising the Columbia River

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

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.

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe, Columbia Gorge

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe

The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.

Old Items in the Visitor Center, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Old Items in the Visitor Center

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!

Paddles, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddles

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.

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David

Inside the Sternwheeler, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Inside the Sternwheeler

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.

Snack Bar, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Snack Bar

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.

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods

Under the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Under the Bridge of the Gods

One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!

Paddlboarder riding the wake, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddlboarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarders Riding the Wake

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.

Native American Fishing Docks, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Native American Fishing Docks

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?

Hermiston Rock, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Hermiston Rock

Bonneville Dam from the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Bonneville Dam

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.

Captain Michael Cain, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Captain Michael Cain

Wheelhouse, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Wheelhouse

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler

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.

Gorgeous Views, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Gorgeous Views

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.

 

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Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Historical, Oregon, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Uphill Both Ways – Latourell Falls, Oregon

Family at Latourell Falls

Brandy, Josh, and Anden at Latourell Falls

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.

Let's all take pictures! (Anden, Brandy, & Jason) Latourell Falls

Let’s all take pictures! (Anden, Brandy, & Jason)

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…

Unofficial Lookout Point, Latourell Falls

Unofficial Lookout Point

View from Unofficial Lookout Point, Latourell Falls

View from Unofficial Lookout Point

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.

Josh behind Latourell Falls

Josh behind Latourell Falls

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

Categories: Historical, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Crowning Jewel – Crown Point and Vista House, OR

Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon

Vista House

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.

Crown Point View East, Oregon

Crown Point View East

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.

Vista House, Crown Point, OR

Vista House

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.

 

Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon

Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon

Head up and you will come out on the balcony surrounding the entire dome, and giving you an even higher view of the gorge.

Crown Point View West, Oregon

Crown Point View West

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.

Vista House Restrooms, Crown Point, OR

Vista House Restrooms

Vista House Gallery, Crown Point, OR

Vista House Gallery

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.

Vista House Shop, Crown Point, OR

Vista House Shop

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.

 

 

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washington State’s Own Stonehenge

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Stonehenge at Maryhill

Stonehenge in England is surrounded by theories and speculation. It’s fun to try to think about what the circle of stones really meant and why it was created. But Stonehenge in Maryhill, Washington has a definite known reason and purpose.

This full-size replica of the stone structure was built by Samuel Hill, a businessman, and was finished in 1929. It is however, not made out of stone, but out of concrete. Its purpose is to honor those who died in World War I. The names of soldiers from Klickitat County are engraved on markers. It is also the very first Memorial to World War I Veterans in the entire United States.

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Hill had heard that the original Stonehenge was thought to have been created as a sacrificial place, so he envisioned the Maryhill Stonehenge as a tribute to those who were sacrificed in war.

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There are 40 stones on the inside circle and 30 stones on the outside. As the original Stonehenge marks the solstice, so does the Maryhill one. The Altar Stone is aligned to the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

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Altar Stone in the center

Standing in different parts of Stonehenge the sun throws shadows that look both beautiful and intriguing. It’s interesting to stand there for awhile and watch the shadows move with the sun.

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Shadows

Maryhill Stonehenge sits high on a bluff above the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge. The view is spectacular every way you look. On the beautiful spring day we were there, the sky was deep blue and the grass was still green, not having turned brown yet from the heat.

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The Columbia River and Gorge

With no mountains to block the view, you can see west to Mt. Hood.

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Sam Hill Memorial Bridge and Mt. Hood off to the left

Looking down on the river you may see fishing boats, speed boats or even barges and tug boats transporting their goods upriver. You can see the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge crossing the Columbia River to the town of Biggs on the Oregon side. In a time-warp feeling of old vs. new, wind turbines can be seen on the Washington hills north of Stonehenge.

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Wind Turbines

There is no cost to visit the memorial and it is open from 7am to dusk.

Directions: On the Washington side of the Columbia River, go east on Hwy. 14 and follow the signs to Stonehenge.

On the Oregon go east on Hwy. 84 to exit 104 and the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge at Biggs, Oregon. Take it north, crossing onto Hwy. 14 and continuing east following the signs to Stonehenge.

 

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction, Uncategorized, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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