Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Days 7 & 8

Day 7 - Tuesday, October 23rd
The LaRowe's had one last excursion on their wish list: a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge and Mt Hood. Again, the forecast was for clouds and some rain while Mt Hood had already received six inches of snow overnight. We got started around 9am knowing we had a lot of driving as well as plenty of stops to make throughout the day.

Our first stop was the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. Basically this is a parking lot with a few informational signs and a nice view of the gorge to the east. We spent a few minutes here before continuing on the historic Columbia River Highway.
looking to the east from Portland Women's Forum viewpoint
I had already checked online for the latest road closures as I had read about an ongoing construction project to repair and replace deteriorating viaducts and retaining walls and to restore sections of the highway. As it turned out, the road was closed from just beyond the scenic viewpoint all the way to Latourell Falls. Our only options were to detour back to the interstate or take a back road off of Larch Mountain. I thought it would be more scenic to take the back road and had the assistance of the GPS on my iPhone to guide us in the right direction.
a typical stretch of the Columbia River Highway
The inherent danger in relying on GPS is that it doesn't always tell you the condition of the roads. Our route down the mountain was actually an old one-lane gravel road! Dave, who was driving, wasn't thrilled about continuing on this path, but I was confident that it would eventually meet back up with the historic highway past the closed section. And we did make it without incident although I'm sure Dave & Linda were on edge the whole time!
Alex Barr Road - our shortcut (calling this a road is generous)
Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls. As the rain was holding off, I thought it would be nice to take a short hike. The signage indicated the trail was fairly steep but I had never seen these falls before and again convinced Dave & Linda that it was probably worth the effort.

From there we continued east to the requisite stop at Multnomah Falls. Probably because it was a weekday and the weather wasn't ideal, there weren't too many visitors and we were able to enjoy the short walk up to Benson Bridge for an excellent view of the upper & lower falls.

We finished up the drive on the historic highway and reconnected with I-84 heading east to our next stop, Bonneville Dam & Fish Hatchery. At the right time of year you can see thousands of salmon and other fish making their way up the fish ladder at the dam, but in late October it was pretty quiet. We toured the exhibits and then headed over to the hatchery to say hi to Herman the Sturgeon, a 70+-year-old monster of a fish.

It was already 1:30pm by the time we stopped for lunch in Hood River. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to eat at Full Sail Brewery (and I was ready for a beer!). I would have liked to take the free brewery tour again (I enjoyed doing this with my mom & step-dad in June) but our timing was a bit off (tours are on the hour) and I was afraid it would take up too much of the remaining daylight (the tours last about 45 minutes).
We briefly debated whether or not we should continue around Mt Hood (the long way home) as the rain seemed to be setting in. But again, I figured we had come this far already and wanted the LaRowe's to get the full loop experience. As it was just past the peak of fall harvest season, we stopped at Draper Girls Country Farm to browse the fresh produce and see the goats. On a nice day there is a beautiful view of Mt Hood from their orchard, but the clouds had completely enfolded the mountain on this gray afternoon.

We continued on Hwy 35 towards Mt Hood and soon reached the snow line. The road had been plowed and there wasn't much traffic; we even saw someone cross country skiing! Again there was a discussion as to whether we should turn back but the road was open and we were already closer to Portland coming from this direction. So I convinced Dave to turn off at Timberline Lodge.

As it turned out, the road was only plowed for the first few miles; the final stretch was still covered with snow! We only saw a couple of cars on the way up and we took our time climbing the final 2000' elevation to the lodge (which is at 6000').

not plowed
Normally, after checking out the exhibits on the main floor, I like to take a break and have a beer while sitting by the huge fireplace and gazing out at the mountain's peak rising just past the lodge. But we couldn't see anything but the trees about 100 feet beyond the windows plus it was already 4pm and we still had an hour or more of driving to get back to Portland.

on a clear day, the top of Mt Hood is visible through this window
So we slalomed our way back to the main road and proceeded (in the rain) to our apartment where we picked up Greg for dinner. Our choice for the "last supper:" Apizza Scholls, where we ordered two mixed pizzas: Apizza Margherita + Sausage & Peppers and Bacon Bianca + Pig & Pineapple (which guaranteed that Greg & I would get the leftovers!).

Day 8 - Wednesday, October 24th
We said our goodbyes to Linda & Dave after dinner last night as their flight was at 10:55am this morning and they would need time to eat breakfast, pack and drop off the rental car before checking in for their flight.

We had a great visit, which I will sum up (in their words & mine) in my next post. Again, I have embedded the link to all of my photos in this post's title.

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