Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Astoria



The Hyatt provides a good hot breakfast, with bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits and more, but, man, the coffee is strong! I guess that's how they do it around here. It's mostly cloudy today and about 70 degrees.

The plan for the day is to drive a clockwise loop along the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway (Highway 30) and Mt. Hood Scenic Byway, stopping frequently at the scenic waypoints, and then spend the night somewhere between Portland and the coast, depending on how far we get. We'll travel through the Gorge on the south side (Oregon side) of the river.

We left the hotel about 9:30 and headed east on I-84 toward Troutdale, a cute little town in its own right and the beginning of Historic Highway 30. At the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Overlook at Chaticleer Point (that's a mouthful), we got our first look at the Columbia River Gorge. Lovely! Then we drove just a short distance to the Vista House at Crown Point, built as a memorial to the Oregon pioneers and offering more great views.

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Columbia River Gorge

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Vista House at Crown Point

After the Vista House, the road drops down closer to river level, and you pass a series of waterfalls. We stopped and admired the tall and wispy Latourell Falls; the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, where we took a short, enjoyable hike; Wahkeena Falls, visible from the highway; the extra-tall and very crowded Multnomah Falls, 542 feet, the most crowded of the very few crowded places of our trip; and the pretty Horsetail Falls.

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Bridal Veil Falls

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Multnomah Falls

Next we stopped at Bonneville Lock and Dam and took a short tour. It was very TVA-esque and reminded us of home. We've seen locks. We've seen dams. But what we hadn't seen before was a fish ladder. Now, that was interesting. I'd never been able to picture before how a fish can swim up a ladder. It's got to be pretty tiring. The best part is the fish viewing room, where there are windows below water level allowing you to watch the salmon making their way upstream. There were tons of them!

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Fish ladder at Bonneville Dam

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Salmon swimming up the ladder

After Bonneville, we continued to Hood River, Oregon, recharged ourselves at Taco Bell, and then stopped by the Hood River Event Site to watch the sailboarders and kite boarders. With the high-velocity winds whipping through the Gorge at up to 70 miles per hour, Hood River is known as the Windsurfing Capital of the World.

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Enjoying the wind at Hood River

At Hood River we turned south on the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway. Unfortunately, the clouds had been increasing all day, and the peak of the mighty mountain was obscured. We drove on up to Timberline Lodge, a hotel built in the 1930s as a WPA project and that had its exterior featured as a stand-in for the Overlook Hotel in the 1980 movie “The Shining.” It's a cool building, but what in the hell was the government doing building a ski lodge???

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Here's Johnny! Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood

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Mt. Hood concealed by clouds

I'd planned on taking a hike from Timberline, but since the weather was poor, we decided to head on west, giving us more time on the coast tomorrow. We considered staying in Oregon City, but after seeing their ad alongside the road, we decided to pass, and actually made it all the way to Astoria, the northernmost town on the Oregon coast, by nightfall. Our route took us into Washington for about an hour on the way to Astoria, as the GPS said that was the fastest way.

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Sister city to Dull, Scotland

About 8:15 we checked into the Motel 6 Astoria, formerly known as the Dunes Motel. It's a pretty old motel, but there was a king-sized bed and free WiFi, along with an indoor pool and sauna.

We at dinner at El Tapatio Restaurant, about a block and a half from the motel. It had mixed reviews on Yelp, but our meals were great! Carne asada for me and tacos and enchiladas for Tom. The salsa was outstanding!


Continue to September 2, 2015

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