Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

Olympic ~ Hurricane Ridge

From the Mountains to the Sea

Olympic National Park spreads across almost 1 million acres at the westernmost edge of the state of Washington, an area referred to as the Olympic Peninsula. It is unique in that it encompasses a vast range of ecosystems from glacier-capped mountains and old growth rainforests to 70 miles of coastline. Traveling north from Astoria, it felt as if we were going back in time and entering a completely separate region not at all connected to the Washington where we had once lived. There were tiny towns dotted all along the winding route — most providing just the basic services. It made us wonder how the residents manage to get all the things they need. Do they have to make long excursions for supplies? Or have they just figured out how to live without so much stuff?? I’m sure they grow and raise much of what they eat, but it seems even that would be limited in this area that receives much rain — an average of 56″ per year. We chose the right month to avoid those frequent downpours and were really able to appreciate nature’s beauty and diversity.

We began our visit to the ONP in Port Angeles where the main Olympic Park headquarters are located. We took advantage of a full array of resources there — maps, souvenirs, and information from the various park rangers who were very helpful and certainly enthusiastic about their park. There were also interesting exhibits regarding the park’s natural and cultural history. I had done much online research, but it was nice to actually inform ourselves in-person in real time. Due to the pandemic, many facilities throughout the park are either closed or minimally staffed and accessible so it’s important to get the latest information.

We settled in to a small house for our three-day stay in Port Angeles. We love to travel this way because we can make ourselves at home, truly relax, and prepare our own meals. Like many other small towns and out-of-the-way places, the pandemic has taken its toll on services and supplies in Port Angeles as well as other Olympic communities resulting in suspended ferries to Victoria, restaurants closed or forced to close early for lack of food and/or staff, and grocery shelves sparsely stocked. However, this was no problem for us with our self-catering accommodations and our provisions from home.

We launched our exploration into the park at Hurricane Ridge about 30 minutes outside of Port Angeles. Arriving around 7 AM, we avoided the crowds providing a serene and peaceful experience. Stepping out of the car, we were immediately hit with a frigid blast of wind causing us to wonder if we had dressed in enough layers. At an elevation of 5,246 feet, the ridge gets its name from the frequent hurricane-like winds that can blow up to 75 miles per hour. As much as 35 feet of snow falls here each year remnants of which can be seen even in the summer. Directly off the parking lot just beyond the visitor center, you can already take in beautiful views like the one below. These are the Olympic Mountains including the tallest, Mt. Olympus, rising to 7,980 feet. Also visible is Blue Glacier which, like so many others, is rapidly retreating with the effects of climate change.

We hiked a short distance to the Overlook instantly rewarded with views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Port Angeles. That’s Canada on the other side. Moving on, we followed the Cirque Rim Trail where once a glacier receded creating a circular edge into the valley.

Next we connected to the High Ridge Trail and climbed to some spectacular views. Though there were few other hikers, we were not alone. On the way, up we heard a strange sound that we learned was the call of an Olympic Marmot. We were able to spot him perched on a rock down the slope in the distance. The most common marmot noise is a chirp, which is a brief blast of piercing sound similar to a bird chirping. Frightened marmots increase the speed of these chirps into a series called a trill. When extremely scared, a marmot call can even sound like a human scream. The closer the danger, the shorter the call. Presumably, this is because the animal has less time to make noise and wants to beat a hasty retreat. There’s even a marmot sound called a chuck, which has led to yet another nickname for the animals, “rockchuck”. There were also plenty of chipmunks scampering around and a plethora of birds.

Intersecting with High Ridge is a dead end spur trail that leads to Sunrise Point where we could see far and wide in every direction. Here we encountered a family of grouse.

Completing the High Ridge loop takes you back to the visitor center which you can see here in the distance along with those majestic Olympic mountains.

As you can see, we had a great time out on the trail…

One thing to remember when you are hiking is to notice the small things. They can be just as impressive as the magnificent vistas.

Next up in our discovery of the ONP — Lake Crescent. Stay tuned!

Astoria Revisited Pt. 2

Maritime and Memories

The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria tells the dramatic and inspiring stories of a mighty river, a vast ocean, and the generations of people who have made their living plying the waters of the region. The Museum is home to the largest collection of maritime artifacts in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the most significant and dangerous aspects of navigation along the Columbia River involves the Columbia River Bar. This is where the enormous, swift-moving river collides with the immense power of the Pacific Ocean creating the worst wave conditions on the planet. The potential for disaster is ever-present. Some of the best Maritime professionals in the world are responsible for making the passage of the bar safe. Nevertheless, since 1972 approximately 2,000 vessels have sunk at the Columbia River Bar earning this area the title of “Graveyard of the Pacific”. With this is mind, it is awe-inspiring to learn about the variety of ships that have successfully navigated this part of the Columbia as demonstrated through the various displays in this museum.

The Lightship Columbia once guided ships to safety at the mouth of the Columbia River. Docked in the harbor just outside the museum, it offers an opportunity to hop aboard and see for yourself where the sailors would cook, eat, sleep, and work. It functioned as a floating lighthouse to mark the mouth of the Columbia River from 1951-1979.  Since the lightship was essentially a small town anchored 5 miles out to sea, all of the supplies for the crew had to be on board.  The lightship had a crew of 17 men who worked 2-4 week rotations, with 10 men on duty at a time.  Life on board consisted of long periods of monotony punctuated by fierce storms, particularly in the winter.

Once we completed out tour of the Maritime Museum, we had one more important stop to make. Probably the most recognized attraction in Astoria is the Astoria Column. Standing atop the 600-foot Coxcomb Hill at a height of 125 feet, it’s impossible to miss. The murals on the intricately decorated column depict significant events in regional and state history.

Inside the column you can climb the 164-step spiral staircase to an observation deck at the top. However, even on ground level, you get a pretty spectacular view of the Astoria Bridge as it passes over the Columbia into the state of Washington.

The reason this was such an important stop for us is because it was one of the places we visited on that 2001 road trip. That day we had quite an elaborate picnic on Coxcomb Hill.

As you can see, things in Astoria look pretty much the same, but we have changed a bit in the past 20 years.

Still smiling… and yes, it’s August and we are wearing wool scarves!

Now we are ready to cross the Astoria Bridge and make our way to Olympic National Park where we will spend the rest of the week. We’ll be taking lots of photos and I’ll be making notes along the way so I can share this adventure with you after we return home.

Astoria Revisited Pt. 1

Coffee and a Cannery

Following the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the early 1800’s, John Jacob Astor dispatched both land and sea parties to establish a fur trading post in this northwestern territory. The post, named Fort Astoria, was built in 1811, making it the earliest American settlement on the West Coast.

During the War of 1812, the British war-sloop HMS Racoon came to take the fort, proclaiming it Fort George in honor of King George III… hence, the name of the aforementioned brewery. As we know, that didn’t turn out so well for them and by the mid-1840’s, with pioneers from the Oregon Trail filtering in, the town was renamed Astoria.

We always like to start the day out at a local bakery. Our Astoria friends recommended a couple of places and Coffee Girl turned out to be just the right choice — charming & historical plus location, location, location. In order to get there, you have to drive out on an old, narrow wooden bridge where you arrive at the West’s oldest cannery building located on Pier 39 adjacent to the Columbia River.

The cannery was home to none other than Bumble Bee Seafoods of tuna fame for almost 50 years beginning in the 1930’s. The original “Coffee Girls” served coffee to the cannery workers.

These days there are a number of different businesses housed in this building including the Coffee Girl cafe. While enjoying our coffee/chai and bagels, we had a marvelous view of the Columbia as various fishing vessels set out on the river for their daily catch. 

After breakfast, we took in the small museum there dedicated to the history of the cannery containing an interesting collection of items large and small.

Old gillnet fishing boat

With most of the day still at our disposal, we decided take in some more Astoria history by visiting the Columbia River Maritime Museum. See you in the next post for that experience.

En Route to ONP

While Norman and I have visited many national parks, we have never managed to make it to Olympic National Park in Washington even though we have been within easy driving distance on many occasions during our lives. After college in the late 70’s, I lived in Seattle for eight years and Norman, coincidentally and unbeknownst to me, lived in Pullman for the same period of time. In 2001, we made a six-week 6,000-mile western parks driving tour and still didn’t get there. We’ve now been living in Oregon for four years — less than six hours away from the ONP, and we thought it was about time we included this park in our travel itinerary.

These days we don’t have the stamina nor the inclination to make 6, 8, or 10-hour daily drives in order to reach our destination. So for this trip, I planned a week-long adventure. I generally look for opportunities to visit other places along the way. At the northernmost edge of the Oregon border, Astoria is a reasonable 3 1/2 hour drive from Eugene and seemed like the logical first stop. The last time we visited Astoria was during our 2001 western tour and we had always wanted to return to learn more about it. In addition, we have friends in Astoria that we have been hoping to visit for awhile. 

First, however, just south ofAstoria we made a quick side trip to Seaside, another iconic Oregon beach town. Much like Santa Cruz in California, the main downtown area is filled with kitschy shops and various entertainment arcades including a carousel. Santa Cruz has its Boardwalk whereas Seaside has its Promenade, better known as “The Prom” which is currently celebrating its Centennial. Midway along the Promenade is the Turnaround where you will see a statue of Lewis and Clark labeled “End of the Trail”. The monument commemorates their 18 month, 4,000-mile journey from Saint Louis to the Oregon Coast.

As you can see, it was a typical Oregon summer day at the beach — cool and cloudy preceded by a little bit of rain. 

You can’t make a trip to the coast without thinking about getting some seafood. We stopped in at a Seaside classic, Bell Buoy, with its vintage neon sign. They offer some prime canned fish that is difficult to find elsewhere. We figured this would be a good addition to our traveling pantry so we picked up a selection.

Finally, it was time to become reacquainted with Astoria and find out how it has changed in the past 20 years. Among other attractions, Astoria has a couple of very well-known breweries. One of these is Fort George located in a building erected in 1924 which started out as an auto service station. It stands on roughly the same site as the original Fort Astoria. We enjoyed a couple of delicious pints sitting out on the upstairs deck with a great view of the mighty Columbia River. Then it was time to settle in to our AirBnB, relax, and prepare for a full day of exploration in Astoria. 

Northern Oregon Coast

Most of the places on the Oregon Coast that draw tourists and hold a true beach appeal can be found north of Florence, our easy coastal point of contact from Eugene. We have traveled that direction several times since we moved here four years ago visiting Yachats and Depoe Bay where you can find some of Oregon’s 5-star hotels such as the Whale Cove Inn and the Overleaf Lodge. We also enjoyed a stay at the Heceta Lighthouse B & B near the very scenic Cape Perpetua.

This summer, we decided to explore a little farther afield starting with Cannon Beach, the location of one of Oregon’s most familiar landmarks — Haystack Rock, a basalt sea stack that rises 235 feet above the water. The area is also renown as the setting for a number of novels, television programs, and movies such as The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, Point Break, and Twilight. Here you will encounter a real walkable sandy beach no doubt one of the many attractions for filming.

As most of you will know, I am not a camper. I need my creature comforts, but I do like to get a taste of the outdoors. When Norman and I first got together, he was sorting out his things and trying to decide what to bring with him. He told me that he had a lot of camping gear and asked me what he should do with it. I immediately replied, “Don’t bring it here! We won’t be using it.” We’ve had a running joke for all these years that my idea of camping is staying at the Marriott. And so it is!

For this trip, we stayed at a small but well-appointed cabin that felt just a little bit like camping (to me anyway). Located amongst a small group of beach homes just off Highway 101 in Arch Cape, we were only a few minutes from all the places we wanted to visit. Sitting next to this picture window surrounded by huge trees for an afternoon snack was just perfect!

Just outside our doorway was this immense tree trunk that reminded you who or what was in charge every time you left the cabin.

A short walk across the highway took us on a path down to the beach with a dramatic entrance. (That’s Norman walking toward the waves.)

Upon exciting this natural tunnel, we were rewarded with a pristine sunset beach scene where we watched a fleet of pelicans diving for their dinner.

The following day, we set out for Ecola State Park which stretches along nine miles of coastline just outside Cannon Beach. I did my research (or so I thought) and found an intriguing trail I figured we could manage without too much difficulty. We parked at the Indian Beach Trailhead with a beautiful view overlooking the ocean and set off on Clatsop Loop Trail, a 2.5 mile roundtrip. Easy peasy, right? Well, we immediately found ourselves climbing up a steep hill and the incline didn’t let up until we reached the top. Turns out the elevation gain for this trail is 785 ft. Whew! No problem for Norman. I was the one struggling, but I made it! Don’t I look happy here? I had no idea what I was getting into. Ignorance is bliss perhaps?

The incentive for making this climb is to get a view of “Terrible Tilly”, or the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse — the most expensive lighthouse ever constructed on the west coast. However, when we arrived at that viewpoint, this was all we were able to see. They forgot to mention that it’s often socked in with clouds or fog.

On the return, farther down the trail there are some great views of the sea stacks to the south… along the edge of one very steep cliff. You have to be careful not to lean too far to get your shot.

In the end, it was quite a challenging hike for me, but it was satisfying to know that I accomplished it. Not too bad — I’m still smiling.

Just as you realize you have almost arrived back at the parking area experiencing some relief, you come upon a bench where you can sit and take in the splendor of Indian Beach. What a treat! A rest stop with a view. The sea stacks you see in the distance appear much larger and more impressive in reality than what any photograph reveals.

Lastly, we found a shaded picnic bench where we enjoyed a snack we had brought along and then ventured down to the beach to cool our tired feet.

This was definitely a successful Day at the Beach!

Gold Beach and Beyond

After spending some time at Shore Acres State Park, we made our way back to the 101 and continued south to Gold Beach where we stayed with our friends, Adam & Hong, for a couple of days. It was really great to catch up after so many years. One evening, we made a sunset visit to the tiny wharf of this rather tiny (pop. 2300) Oregon coastal town which sits at the confluence of the Rogue River. Despite its size, you have to admit that it’s quite photogenic. Gold Beach derives its name from the fact that hundreds of placer mines extracted gold from a nearby beach in 1853. The town holds the interesting distinction of being one of the last two remaining rural mailboat locations — delivering mail upstream since 1895 to Agness, an extremely remote community.

Sunset on Gold Beach Wharf

Aside from the ever-popular jet boat tours on the Rogue River (which we experienced way back in 2001), there is very little to do in Gold Beach. However, it makes an excellent launching pad for visiting several spectacular scenic locations farther south along the Oregon Coast. The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor offers a multitude of landmarks to explore with craggy bluffs, secluded beaches, and offshore rock formations that can be accessed by a variety of trails. This 12-mile stretch along Highway 101 is replete with breathtaking vistas.

For those (like me) who can’t negotiate more challenging trails, there are many turnouts where you can enjoy some of the area’s beauty from the side of the road or within easy walking distance.

Arch Rock

One of the best viewpoints in the park can be found at Natural Bridges, a series of seven iconic arch rocks and blowholes. A short but very steep trail leads to a narrow bridge you can actually walk over if you are brave enough. Even though Adam has lived in Gold Beach for five spring/summer seasons, he had never had the opportunity to go there and was anxious to experience it with us. We set off on the path together, but I soon realized this was not a safe adventure for me. The trail was uneven, rocky, and potentially dangerous requiring more dexterity than I happen to possess at this point in my life. So I turned back and happily waited on the overlook platform for Adam and Norman to appear atop the bridge and eventually, they did! Norman wasn’t bothered by the height and thought it was really cool. He did have to scramble quite a bit to get there and back though. Better him than me!

Adam & Norman Conquering Natural Bridge

Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor affords striking panoramic views. Driving through a dense forest of Sitka spruce once you turn off the 101, you arrive at one of two expansive parking lots situated over 200 feet above sea level. Looking south, you can see almost 50 miles toward Crescent City, California… on a clear day, of course.

During this brief trip, we learned that the Southern Oregon Coast offers a myriad of opportunities to take in the wild and rugged side of nature. And it’s not far from home! Hopefully, we will return to make some other discoveries.

Next up… time to head north!

Southern Oregon Coast

Recently we discovered that some friends from our years living in the Palm Springs area of southern California had purchased a second home in Gold Beach, Oregon. They have a custom ceramics business and spend much of the year traveling to various art festivals mostly on the west coast selling their wares. To escape the heat, they decided to spend half the year in a much cooler locale. It was high time to catch up with them and take the opportunity to discover the southern Oregon Coast along the way.

We live in a rather central location in Oregon conveniently located just off the I-5 corridor. From Eugene we can easily head to the mountains, the desert, or the ocean which is just one hour and 15 minutes directly west to the city of Florence. We have ventured that direction many times. It may sound enticing, but reality is — when you get there, it’s very difficult to find the beach. You will find rocky shores or sand dunes with some effort, but no place you can really park your beach chair and soak up the sun for the day. If you have any prior beach experience i.e. California-style… you will declare, “This is NOT the beach!” You have to head north or south and even then it’s a challenge.

I was determined to find an inviting place for this southerly adventure where we could enjoy the scenery and views for a bit en route to our friends. After some research, I chose Shore Acres State Park near Coos Bay and though it was a bit off the beaten path, we were not disappointed. This property was once the estate of timber baron, Louis J. Simpson and extended to Cape Arago and Sunset Beach. The latter is now the home of Sunset Bay State Park which which we passed by on our Highway 101 “detour” to Shore Acres. We were thrilled to see that it hosts a “real” sandy beach surrounded by grassy lawns, picnic tables, and many camping opportunities… if only there were a Marriott. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a future adventure destination for us.

Sunset Bay

Shore Acres is a combination of mansion and formal gardens with rugged cliffs overlooking an ever-churning ocean. The mansion is now an observation building for those cold, blustery days (of which there are many!) when you couldn’t possibly stand outside to enjoy the view. Fortunately, we were afforded a gorgeous day. There are hiking trails in both directions along the coast offering some spectacular vistas. The unique formation of the huge rocks jutting out from beneath the waves is really intriguing.

In the formal garden area, you can enjoy a very well-maintained Japanese-style garden with a lily pond…

Such variety in plantings produces an abundance of blooms all year round. We encountered a team of gardeners who told us it’s a non-stop job taking care of this place. I can just imagine!

We loved this giant, craggy tree root that has been left along one of the trails. It immediately became a jungle gym for a group of children who arrived shortly after we did. It was delightful to see them use their imaginations to turn it into a magical playground.

The rugged geography of this location reminds me very much of Point Lobos in Monterey, California… minus those iconic Monterey Cypress of course. However, there’s plenty of other local Oregon vegetation to set off the beauty and offer a myriad of photo ops.

That’s a Beach!!

While we didn’t make it down there to that beach, it was such a pleasure exploring this area and experiencing the draw of the ocean. Peace and tranquility at its best!

Bend – Oregon’s Playground

This spring and summer we have been on a quest to become more intimately familiar with our new home state of Oregon — something we intended to do after we returned from our last trip to Europe in 2019. However, that plan was unfortunately interrupted and we had to put travel on hold for awhile. It was finally time to explore (albeit cautiously) once again and in June, we chose to travel to Bend. After Portland, Salem (the capital), and Eugene (where we live), Bend ranks 6th in population. It has experienced quite a boom in the last 20 years growing from 50,000 to over 100,000 inhabitants during this period. It may be the most popular and well-known city in Oregon due to the fact that it has developed into a veritable outdoor playground. Where people used to only frequent the area to ski in the winter, now all seasons of the year attract tourists for a variety of adventures.

Bridge over the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District.

In Bend, you can play at almost anything you can imagine and often the adventures are right downtown. It was unusually warm during our visit and many people were already taking advantage of the beautiful Deschutes River that runs through the center of the city. There were kayaks, floats, and all manner of water locomotion out and about enjoying a fairly lazy afternoon on the river. We also have a famous river running through our city, but it’s not accessible like this. We really loved the inviting atmosphere the Deschutes creates in Bend.

One unique feature created right downtown is the River Wave. So, if you’re a surfer you can get a quick fix. Apparently, this is nothing like ocean surfing and is even quite challenging for the pros. Nevertheless, they certainly make it look easy and fun!

Bend is one of only four cities in the U.S. featuring an extinct volcano within its city limits. It’s a popular hike but rather steep so we chose to drive to the top of Pilot Butte which rises to almost 500 feet. From there you get a 360-degree view of Bend and the surrounding mountains which is truly spectacular and much better in person that any photograph conveys.

In fact, there are so many huge mountains that can be seen from this point in Oregon, it’s very difficult to keep track of which one you are looking at. You are literally surrounded by dormant (you hope!) volcanoes. Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, the Three Sisters — they’re all here and with the help if this compass located in the center of the viewing platform, you can pick them out. Without it, however, I just happy to see so many gorgeous snowcapped mountains.

Of course, you can’t visit Bend without taking a drive through the Deschutes National Forest to the famous Mt. Bachelor. At 9,068 feet, it is the only major volcano in the Cascades with a chairlift to the summit — open for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.

And this stellar summit is Broken Top… I think.

Last but not least, you are guaranteed to run into Sasquatch many places in Oregon and Bend is no exception. However, he can be a little intimidating!

After three days, it was time to say “Farewell Bend” (as originally named by the pioneers). On our way to Bend, we took the more northerly route passing through some of the worst devastated areas from the fires of 2019. They are still actively clearing lumber and debris as well as landslides along this highway greatly disrupting the traffic flow. Even now, it was a sad sight to see. There is still so much work to be done.

For our return trip, we decided to take the southerly route and ended up discovering a real treasure. For sometime, I had heard about the incredible beauty of Salt Creek Falls and all of a sudden we realized we were going to pass right by the entrance. We couldn’t resist the possibility of seeing one more spectacular Oregon waterfall so we made a quick detour. Was it ever worth it! We will definitely be back for a longer visit to this one with all our camera gear in tow and perhaps a fancy picnic lunch.

And… I’m sure we will visit Bend again. In fact, we already have plans for a trip to some of our favorite Oregon locales in October to enjoy the fall color and try to capture it through the lens of our DSLR. We are not exactly an outdoorsy couple (especially me), but the beauty and tranquility will bring back.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Geared up for another day in the Gorge, we headed off to Bridal Veil Falls State Park. This is my kind of park — nice parking lot, picnic tables and grassy area, plus “real” bathrooms! As most readers know, I’m not up for camping or roughing it in the outback, but I do love nature and am willing to enjoy it comfortably so this is a perfect place for me. There are two short trails available here. The first is a 2/3 mile interpretive loop that passes through wildflower meadows and camas fields with three vistas of the Columbia River. The second is a 1-mile round trip trail to the falls. We chose the latter and were immediately immersed in a lush green landscape full of moss-covered maples and Douglas Fir. One thing you learn in photography is to look not just in front of you but in every direction — to move your body as well as the camera. At every turn on this trail, there was some new angle to photograph.

In the 1880’s, large-scale commercial logging and lumbering at the western edge of the Gorge began at this location so there are remnants of the mill pond, log flume, and other structures. However, the myriad local flora have pretty much taken over the area. 

After following the steep but not difficult trail full of switchbacks, we came to a bridge passing over Bridal Veil Creek — our first stop for a few prize shots. 

Just beyond the bridge, Bridal Veil Falls came into full view. Though just 120 feet high, these falls are no less impressive than the others. They are the only falls where the basalt rock formations so prevalent throughout the Gorge aren’t visible underneath resulting in a solid flow of white water which makes them all the more enchanting.

You might wonder why we didn’t hike the second trail as well. Upon returning to the the main entrance, we considered it but decided against it for a couple of reasons. We were sure the vistas would be amazing, but we had already seen a few and that sort of thing is much better appreciated with the naked eye than through the lens of a camera. It’s very difficult to capture all the details your eye can see and photographs can be disappointing. Also, you have to keep in mind that we are each hiking with heavy packs of camera equipment and, well… we’re not so young anymore. There’s always next time.

At the entrance to the park, I discovered this quote on a sign and couldn’t agree more…

Water, in its many forms, provides some of the earth’s most beautiful landscapes. Rivers, lakes, and coasts all offer images of scenic beauty, but undoubtedly waterfalls are the most impressive.” ~ Gregory A. Plumb, A Waterfall Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest, 1989

During the past four years, the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge has been repeatedly devastated by natural disasters — first by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017 which almost consumed the renown Multnomah Falls Lodge and more recently by this year’s severe winter storms causing flooding and active landslides which have closed many trails and obstructed the historic highway. We were fortunate to finally be able to enjoy at least some of its bountiful beauty… looking forward to many return visits.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for our Columbia Gorge Photo Gallery that will be posted once we’ve processed all the images we shot with our Nikon D810.

The Gorgeous Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge was carved out about 15,000 years ago during the last ice age when a glacier that held back an ancient lake melted and released its water into what is now Oregon and Washington. The pressure and high speed water flow from this event created the Gorge as we know it today. Over time, the geology of the area has produced an abundance of waterfalls and other scenic sites that are mainly situated along the Historic Columbia River Highway for about 15 miles. It is extremely popular with tourists, especially hikers who can enjoy an array of interconnecting trails and photographers like us. When possible, the old highway is the easiest way to visit the five main waterfalls out of some 77 falls that exist in the entire area. However, due to recent active landslides, about half of this route is closed. The much more modern Highway 84 runs parallel to the old highway and provides intermittent access to the various sites with exits that often exist on one side of the highway but not the other making it necessary to follow a somewhat convoluted course to get from “Point A to Point B” or rather, from waterfall to waterfall. You find yourself traveling west and then east to go just a few miles down the road. Nevertheless, it is totally worth the effort. First stop, the ‘big daddy” of them all.

Heralded as the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest with over two million visitors each year, Multnomah Falls is constantly fed by underground springs, rainwater, and snowmelt creating a spectacular year-round attraction. We have been anxious to see it ever since we moved here so that’s where we began our exploration of the Gorge.

In order to get to Multnomah Falls from our cabin, we traveled back over the Columbia River this time crossing at the Bridge of the Gods. This is a toll bridge operated by the Cascade Locks and one of only three ways to cross the 75-mile Gorge. Fun Fact: In 2014, the bridge became ever more popular after the release of the film Wild, a biographical adventure drama about a young woman’s experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail resulting in a toll increase to $2 each way. The Bridge of the Gods is the lowest point on this 2,653 mile trail that runs north-south from Canada to Mexico through Washington, Oregon, and California.

We arrived early at Multnomah Falls before the crowds and almost had the park to ourselves which is the key to success here. Reputedly the tallest waterfall in Oregon at 620 feet, the falls, named for the Multnomah tribe, did not disappoint. It’s a very short hike on a paved pathway to the base of the falls making it an experience everyone can enjoy. Farther up the trail at the division of the two-tiered falls, you reach Benson Bridge in honor of Simon Benson, lumber baron and benefactor who donated the land. At this point, the spray from the falls makes everything a bit slick and wet including the viewer, but we were prepared for that with rain jackets and camera covers. We had fun capturing some great images using our new CamRanger2 setup plus quite a few more both still and video using our phones. 

Multnomah Falls

Not satisfied experiencing just one waterfall, we decided to continue on to another… Latourell Falls, the second highest at 249 feet. We did, indeed, have to drive west then turn east to get to it. No loss since along the way there were some vista points to enjoy. The first was Chanticleer Point sponsored by the Portland Women’s Forum an organization active in preserving the beauty of the Gorge and providing for donation of the land. From there you can see the next landmark off in the distance — Vista House, originally constructed in 1918 as a rest stop and observatory of the Columbia River. It is essentially a small rotunda with an octagonal floor plan housing bathrooms and a gift shop and was considered by many at the time to be an over-priced outhouse. Unfortunately, due to COVID, it’s currently closed so we were unable to partake of the facilities. However, I loved seeing the Art Nouveau architectural style and, of course, the views.

Chanticleer Point with Vista House in the Distance (shown below)

Eventually arriving at Latourell Falls, we made another short hike to the pool at the base of the falls. Latourell is unique in that it drops straight down from an overhanging basalt cliff rather than tumbling over like most of the others. Accented by a wall of lichen, it’s just GORGEous!!

Latourell Falls

These huge waterfalls are really impressive, but it’s important not to miss the small things…

And this guy — hope he survived his slow trek across the trail!

We were slowing down ourselves so it was time to return to our cabin and prepare for Day 3. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs on the menu and more beautiful views of the Gorge from our deck made the end of a perfect day.

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