Tag Archives: Columbia River Gorge

Hood River OR: Windsurfing Capital of the World

Windsurfing, Hood River OR, Columbia River Gorge

TRAVEL THERE: HOOD RIVER OR, WINDSURFING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This past summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is Hood River.

Windsurfing Capital of the World

Hood River is the name of a river, a town and a county.  If windsurfing is your thing, it’s got better breezes than the Windy City itself.  Enthusiasts from all over the world flock there for the thrill of a lifetime.  It was late on a Sunday afternoon when we rolled into town, almost sunset, in fact, but the windsurfers were flying high.

Like the lock and dam I wrote about a few weeks ago, I quickly realized that Hood River was something my husband Windsurfing, Hood River OR, Columbia River Gorgewould enjoy.  He’s not a windsurfer, but he’s got a huge kite that windsurfers train with and flying it is one of the joys of his life.  I made sure he packed it for the trip.

As I researched the area for the trip from my desk in Dallas, I was frustrated that none of the websites I found or books I read were very specific about where all this windsurfing took place, but I was determined we would find it.  Come to find out, there’s no way to miss it.  As you draw near to the town, the sky is full of sails on the river side of the car.

We parked the car near the confluence of the Columbia and Hood Rivers and found a seat in the grass to enjoy the spectacle.  If there were this many windsurfers on the chilly end of a Sunday afternoon, I can only imagine what it’s like during Windfest, the local Windsurfing Festival.  Soon watching wasn’t enough, so Bill dug into the trunk and pulled his kite out of the luggage.

Flying Bill’s kite is a two-person endeavor, so it’s something we get to do together.  I help him unfurl the sail, untangle the strings and launch the kite.  Then I observe until he loses the wind and the kite dives into the ground.  To be fair, Bill has tried many times to get me to actually fly the kite, but I’ve seen him lifted off the ground during his flights and I like to have my feet firmly planted on the ground.  I’m also the information specialist.  People usually gather around to gape as Bill flies the kite.  He’s not content to keep the kite steady in the air.  He has it swooping and diving all over the sky and crowds always form.  Usually someone in the crowd wants to try it and then Bill is euphoric.  He loves sharing the experience.

Mount Hood, Panoramic Point, Columbia River Gorge, Hood River OR

Mount Hood from Panoramic Point, Columbia River Gorge, Hood River OR

Though you might not realize it, there’s a lot of physical exertion required to manhandle the kite in a strong wind.  After about half an hour, Bill’s ready to roll up his kite.  I had one more thing to see before we called it a day:  Panoramic Point, our first opportunity to glimpse Mount Hood, our destination for the next day.  The sight was glorious.

Do go to Hood River.  If you’re a water sports enthusiasts, go sooner rather than later.  Also, go if you like quaint little towns with great shopping opportunities or if you like backroads with lots of fruit stands.  We didn’t have time for any of these and I sincerely regret it.  We had to get on down the road to The Dalles and I’ll tell you about that next week.

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Starvation Creek – Columbia River Gorge

Starvation Creek, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Starvation Creek

TRAVEL THERE: STARVATION CREEK RICH WITH BEAUTY

Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This past summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is Starvation Creek State Park.

Something Unplanned

I like to brag about my vacation planning skills, but the truth is that every trip depends somewhat on luck.  The day we drove the Columbia River Gorge Highway, it felt like luck decided to hitch a ride with us from Portland to Hood River.  Time and time again we arrived at just the right place at just the right time and I can’t take an ounce of credit.  That’s how it was a Starvation Creek.

Bill usually needs a quick cat nap in the late afternoon, especially when we’re traveling.  After eighteen years of marriage, I’m well aware of this fact, but that doesn’t keep me from wishing it wasn’t so or trying to ignore it every once and a while.  When we’re stationary with a hotel nearby, it may slow me down, but it’s no big deal.  When we’re between destinations, it can be a problem.

I took over the wheel when we headed west from the Bonneville Lock and Dam, but in just a few miles Bill wanted to take a nap without the wheels whining in the background.  The next exit just happened to be Starvation Creek and even though it was nowhere on my itinerary, I pulled over.  To entertain myself while he napped, I pulled out our new camera and decided to play around with it and get a feel for it.  Bill’s the primary photographer and I usually handle the post-trip scrapbooking, but from time to time I need to be able to get the shot.

Visiting Starvation Creek

I moseyed into the park and started reading all the signs, trying to figure out why the area was called Starvation Creek.  Starvation Creek, Columbia River Gorge, OregonCome to find out, a train wreck occurred during a blizzard somewhere nearby.  It was during the winter holidays and the passengers, stranded for an extended period of time suffered hardship and privations, but no one starved.  That didn’t prevent it from being a media sensation and the name Starvation Creek stuck to the area.

It’s a nice park with restrooms, picnic tables and nature paths.  I saw a lot of people dressed for hiking climbing over a hill and disappearing, but I stuck the the area close to the parking lot since my real goal was to practice with the camera.  And practice I did. I got up close and personal with individual leaves, took a myriad of shots of a split rail fence and tried various settings beyond my usual favorite, automatic.

Starvation Creek, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

My National Geographic Shot

Along the way, I took my National Geographic shot.  You know National Geographic. I’m well aware of my amateur status as a photographer.  I know the people who create the gorgeous art filling those yellow bordered magazines would laugh at my attempts, but when I take a really great shot – the kind you only get to have maybe a dozen times in your life – I call it a National Geographic shot.  The problem is, I rarely know exactly how I got the shot.  Part of what I like about this one is the way the left side fades away, like I’ve happened up on some fairy threshold and I’m one step away from a fantasy, but I don’t know how I did it.

But back to reality.  Starvation Creek is lovely and if you’re rolling along the Columbia Gorge Highway, there’s no reason not to give it a little of your time, especially if you need to stretch your legs or catch a few z’s.  When Bill’s catnap was over, he wanted to take a gander at the park.  Over the hill was a gorgeous lake.  No wonder so many people had ventured over the hill.  He glanced around at the scenery, listened to my tale of non-starvation and media sensations.  Then we headed on to Hood River.  Come back next week and visit the Windsurfing Capital of the World.

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Bonneville Lock & Dam

Bonneville Lock and Dam, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

TRAVEL THERE: LOCKS AND DAMS, IT’S A GUY THING

Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This past summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is the Bonneville Lock and Dam.

Something for Bill to Enjoy

Ladies, when you plan your vacation, don’t forget that guy you’re traveling with. My husband is uber-patient with all the museums and historic homes I drag him to, but I try to throw in things every once and a while that I think he’ll enjoy.  Sure, he loves gorgeous scenery as much as I do, but he’s really excited by industry, architecture, navigation and that sort of thing.  So, the Bonneville Lock and Dam sounded like something he might appreciate.

Me?  Not so much.  Hoover Dam was jaw-dropping, but we merely drove over it on our way someplace else.  The last time I visited a dam, on purpose, was the electrical power plant in Augusta, Georgia.  My fourth grade teacher took us there on a field trip.  I don’t remember much about the facility, but I do remember how often the teacher scolded Walter Pendelton.  He was the class bad boy with a grin I’ll never forget.  And I did run onto some antique locks just outside Stratford-on-the-Avon which were pretty interesting, but this lock was all about Bill.

Visiting the Lock

Luck played games with us throughout the trip to Oregon.  The air travel had been just short of disastrous, but then we’d ended up in Portland for the Rose Festival without planning it that way, so chance wasn’t completely against us.  Good luck showed up for this stop along the Columbia River Gorge, too.  We found the visitor’s parking lot, took a stroll across the lock and peeked into an enclosed observation deck with a few relevant exhibits.  That would have been the end of it were it not for a crusty old guy who told us a boat was just around the bend.  We hung around to watch the show.

Sure enough a stern-wheeler, reminiscent of the old Mississippi River steamboats, came into view and navigated into Sternwheeler, Columbia Fiver Gorge, Oregonthe locks.  The vessel was tied up in the lock and large gates closed behind it.  Then someone pulled a plug and the water drained out of the lock – lots of water.  According to the Corps of Engineers site, the lock is 86′ X 675′ and the average lift is 60′.  Multiply that all together and you’ve got 3,483,000 square feet of water and watching it drain out in ten minutes is something to see.  Add to that the festive tourists hailing you from the stern-wheeler and you’ve got a nice break from the highway.

Bonneville Dam & Fish Ladder

Before we got back on the road, we went over to the dam and enjoyed three floors of exhibits.  This is not a must see, but  if you’re there, you might as well take time for it.  If nothing else, the restrooms were very clean.  The place was full of kids all agog about hydroelectricity.  Any minute I expected Mrs. Lanham to hollar, “Walter!  Walter Pendelton!  You quit that and come stand here next to me.”  (Rumor is that Mrs. Lanhamwas committed to an asylum the summer after she taught me.  I’m not sure whether it’s my fault or Walter’s.)

Something that was pretty interesting about this particular dam was the fish ladders for salmon.  That’s something Hoover Dam and the Augusta Power Company didn’t have to worry about, but on the Columbia River salmon is king.  They might do without ship traffic and electrical power, but the salmon must spawn.

So, when you’re traveling the Columbia River Gorge, do stop by the Bonneville Lock and Dam.  With any luck you’ll get to see some water-going vessel make it’s way through the locks.  At the very least, you can learn a little bit about locks and dams and fish ladders at a very well-maintained restroom facility.

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Vista House and The Falls

Vista House, Crown Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

TRAVEL THERE: VISTA HOUSE & THE FALLS ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is Vista House and the incredible waterfalls you’ll find along the Columbia River Gorge.

Vista House, Crown Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Tourist pulling into Vista House on a fine day.

Vista House

Last week I introduced you to Sam Hill and his vision of a roadway along the Columbia River Gorge.  He didn’t just imagine a road, he imagined an adventure with scenic stops for refreshment all along the way.  Vista House at Crown Point certainly fulfills that vision.

Americans love their cars, their cameras and their road trips.  As soon as Sam Hill’s road opened up folks started driving to Crown Point and taking pictures of the gorgeous scenery.  Things haven’t changed much in the last century, folks are still stopping by Crown Point in droves.

Vista House, Crown Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Bikers enjoying the view at Vista House

Vista House is an iconic sight along the Columbia River Highway, but most of the attraction is outside.  You can go in, but the interior is pretty much your usual government building decor.  There are nice ranger type folks on the main floor to give you information and answer your question, but outside looks a lot better than inside.  Downstairs is a gift shop, a little cafe and an interesting but not compelling display of information.  Upstairs lets you out on the balcony and that gets a little more interesting.  In fact, that’s where Bill took this photo of all the bikers visiting Vista House.

Waterfall World

The view is spectacular at Vista House, but one of the reason all these

Horseshoe Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

A peek at Horseshoe Falls

people show up is just a little further down the road.  From Vista House, instead of heading back out to the main road, you take a perilous trek down a stretch of road creeping down the side of the hill.  There you enter Waterfall World.

The road below Vista House would be one you wanted to take, even if there weren’t any waterfalls. The narrow roadway was lined with trees and spatters of sunshine bounced off the car and windshield.  I was reading from some pages I’d downloaded from the internet about the falls.  All along the way are small parking lots for trail heads.  I had my hiking boots in the car and threw lots of enthusiasm into my reading, but Bill was not buying into hiking.  Finally, we arrived at Horseshoe Falls, which you could actually see from the road.  Bill got out and started taking pictures, while I changed into my hiking boots.

You can’t see it from this picture, but Horseshoe Falls cascades down from a split high  in a cliff and at one point divides, making a horseshoe.  I was dying to climb the mile or so worth of switchbacks to the top.  Bill wasn’t, but he was willing to wait, so I  charged up the hill.  At the top I posed and waved to someone who was taking pictures, but it wasn’t Bill.  There is no proof I climbed to the top of Horseshoe Falls, but I did.

A little further down the road, we came to the famous Multnomah Falls.  The falls are one of the top tourist attractions in the state, so there’s no question they are wonderful to behold, but they’ve been described so many times you don’t need me to do it again.  I’ll let our pictures do the talking.  Then you come back next week and we’ll go further down the road on the Columbia River Gorge Highway.

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Entering the Columbia River Gorge

 Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Beautiful Columbia River Gorge

TRAVEL THERE: WHERE IN THE SAM HILL ARE WE?

Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is the start of the Columbia River Gorge.

Sam Hill and Oregon

How many times have you asked where in the Sam Hill you were with out knowing who Sam Hill was? I certainly have. Wikipedia gives top billing for the likeliest legendary Sam Hill to some drug store proprietor in Prescott, AZ, but after my recent visit to Oregon, I think Wikipedia chose the wrong Sam Hill.

Sam Hill was an Oregonian business man and visionary, who dreamed up the idea for

 Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

What a perfect day for a drive along the Columbia River Gorge.

the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway and then directed the full force of his rather driven personality to compel the building of the road.

After leaving McMenamis Edgefield Resort Bill and I continued west on Mr. Sam Hill’s highway, stopping in Corbett to peek at some art galleries and a little later to watch a fly fisherman enjoy one of the smaller streams in the area.  The day was absolutely perfect for a drive and we’d had enough food to hold us for a while.  We almost zoomed past an overlook on the left side just outside of Corbett, but we’re so glad we turned around.

 Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

One of the many informative signs around the overlook

Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The overlook is called Chanticleer Point.  Signs around the parking lot tell you it was named after Chanticleer Inn.  Sam Hill is about the only reason anyone remembers Chanticleer Inn.  See, Sam Hill realized what great real estate Oregon had and he knew if he could just get people up there they’d love it, but no one was going to come hack a trail through the forest to see it.  Sam Hill realized they had to build a road and along that road they needed to build places for the tourists to make rest stops.  He rounded up a group of like-minded men and sold them his idea.  Thank you Mr. Sam Hill.

Chanticleer Point is a perfect introduction to the Columbia River

 Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Too gorgeous to miss!

Gorge.  The story of the area, since before history, is encapsulated on one of the signs, but the results of Mother Nature’s work are all around you.  Mention is also made of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which explored the area in the early 1800’s, but Sam Hill is the guy that stuck with me.  As I describe our adventures of the next few days, you’ll hear the name Sam Hill a few more times.  He’s part of everything that is the Columbia River Gorge today.

There’s a lot more to see along the Columbia River Gorge, but I’ll save it for later.  There are many beautiful drives in our nation, the Road to Hana on Maui, the rim of the Grand Canyon, Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley, but thanks to Sam Hill, you and I can easily enjoy the wonders Lewis and Clark explored so long ago.  Next week we’ll start at Vista House and see how far we get.

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