Columbia River Gorge Part II – Biking, Breweries & Waterfalls!
Well all that bragging about the weather was bound to catch up with me sometime. This is the Pacific Northwest after all, and it’s very green for a very good reason. Rain is the norm here and the sun is but a precious gift, to be worshipped and adored. Just to make that point clear, for the past 3 days it’s been pouring non-stop with temps at a chilly 50. It’s Mother Nature’s way of letting me know I shouldn’t get too full of myself…tsk, tsk…
But this intrepid nomad is not daunted by such petty items. When rain falls, the brewery calls, and when trails are wet, the waterfalls are perfect. All this is simply a diversion, with the added bonus that we get a free leak-test for the RV. See, there’s a reason, place and time for everything!
So we’ve embraced the rain, braved the cold and enjoyed what comes our way, which brings us quite neatly to the second part of our Gorge adventures. Here we go….
1/ Biking The Gorge
I got wind of the bike-trails in the gorge from blog-reader Paul and a few googles later I discovered the Columbia River Gorge Bike Map showing the entire Gorge can be biked from Portland to The Dalles. Awesome!! Even better certain portions of the trail (Mosier to Hood River, and Cascade Locks to Bonneville Dam specifically) are pedestrian/bike only and tower above it all with fabulous views all-around. Now, that’s my kinda bike ride!
Before the weather turned ugly hubby and I dragged out the wheels and motored to the parking lot** to do the trail…wind and all. And believe me, it was windy! Whooo Weeee! We pedaled like mad hamsters at around 1 mile/hour all the way to Hood River and then turned around and let the wind sail us back in 1/10 of the time. But the views were delicious and the thigh burn totally worth it.
** To get to the Mosier->Hood River pedestrian/bike trail take exit 69 at Mosier. Turn left at Rock Creek Road, pass under the highway and then drive ~1/4 mile up the hill to the parking lot.
2/ Hood River Breweries
We never drink beer, ever. The reason is not that we don’t like the stuff, but rather that we’re gluten-intolerant and it produces…how shall I say it politely…gaseous creations. So, we’ve given it up and vowed never to touch the stuff again. Understood?
Now it just so happens that Hood River is some kind of beer brewing mecca. In this moderately-sized town of ~7,000 inhabitants there are no less than 4 local breweries, and at least 7 pubs. The lure of beer is stong, and you know it’s the good stuff too. Hmph! So when the rain assaulted us 3 days ago and grey skies loomed dark and heavy…well…we cracked under the pressure.
I blame my years in England (or the cats), but either way the net result was we found ourselves in the lovely Full Sail Brewery overlooking a gloriously grey view of the Columbia River with a full “taster” selection of beer in front of us. Oh MY!! It was tremendously good, and the food matched the quality too. Totally worth the results…even if it did involve a wee bit of gas. And I swear it will never happen again.
3/ Waterfalls, Waterfalls, Waterfalls
You didn’t think I’d write a blog about the Gorge and not talk about waterfalls, did you? For many folks the waterfalls are THE reason for coming to the Gorge. The deeply forested, moist, cliff-sculpted Western stretch of the gorge is the perfect spot for cascading water and it is simply bursting with waterfalls -> more than 75 on the Oregon side alone!! From the massive 620-foot Multnomah falls (the 2nd highest year-round fall in the US) to the hexagonal basalt rocks at Latourell Falls to the intimate Bridal Veil Falls, you can see just about every shape, size and type you’d like.
Most of them are accessible right off Historic Hwy 30, but there are a bunch more hidden in fabulous hikes that will take you well away from the crowds. There are so many options that I was kind of at a loss where to go, but we decided on 2 hikes -> the ~4 mile round-trip hike to Punchbowl Falls and a 3 mile-loop from Horsetail Falls, taking us UNDER Ponytail Falls (the most awesome thing) and across a bridge to Onenta Falls. BOTH hikes were amazing in their own way and since we did them mid-week (in the drizzle) almost no-one was there. The first took us on dizzying cliff-edges with stunning views, while the second had us walking under an old lava flow with the water thundering beside us. And of course everything is pooch-friendly!
If you come to the gorge there is no way you can miss this. Take a day, bring the camera (it’s tough taking good shots, but worth it anyway), drag along pooch and do the entire Hwy 30 from Dodson to Portland. And of course, stop along the way at Crown Point for a panoramic view and a bit of history.
And so ends our short, but amazing time on the Gorge. Our 10 days here gave us but a peek into everything this place has to offer. We barely scratched the surface…just a few outings and all of them on the Oregon side. We didn’t go windsurfing (a major activity in the gorge), didn’t see the Bonneville Hatchery and didn’t even touch the WA side! All I can say is this place has exceeded our expectations and we’ll certainly be back.