Leaving our overnight rest stop at sunrise there wasn’t a whole lot to see until we hit the beginning of the Columbia River Gorge. Having previously driven this at mach 10 in the hire car in the middle of the night, all we saw was the blinking red lights from the obscene number of wind turbines. During in the day this is a pretty impressive drive.
As you exit the High Desert in western Oregon (yes, they have a desert!) you’re suddenly plunged into the gorge with stunning views, which then proceed to change as the drive progresses. Eventually you exit the desert and begin to enter the forests which form the majority of east coast Oregon. Having more time to take in the sights this time around, we opted to cross the river to the northern bank back into Washington at the #97 bridge crossing to take the less trafficked #14. They say there’s only two season’s in North America – winter and construction (road works). This was no exception, and our hopes of a cruisey, quiet road, with elevated views into the gorge (compared to the southern route) were left in tatters when we ran into miles of freshly laid tarmac and one way traffic. Mother Nature compensated us with an avian display of feathered awe, as an eagle with a 5ft wing span took off and glided immediately across the front of Porkchop (the van).
Taking the north route you can head towards Trout Lake along the #141, with Adam’s Peak lurking in the distance, to visit an Ice Cave. The cave was the source of the local towns ice for years before eskys were invented. Driving up to the clearing in the forest, we were feeling slightly out of season dressed in winter thermal gear, but even in the middle of summer it only took a few paces down the steps to realise the advice we were given to rug up was well heeded. It was bloody freezing. Being sure that we had very sturdy and grippy shoes, we explored the various caverns and ice formations which we had to ourselves. We note that it would be better visited in the winter for obvious reasons (huge stalactites of ice form throughout the cave), but it was still a pleasureable and unique adventure.
Heading back to the Columbia Gorge, we took a moment to watch the numerous kite and wind surfers relishing in the waves at Hood River with the ever impressive backdrop of the snow capped peak of Mt Hood. With year round snowboarding available on its slopes, we also took a moment to think about moving here! If you are ever in the Portland area, please do take the time out to the explore the gorge, owing to it’s 77 waterfalls (on the Oregon side that is) that are so easily accessible from the easily driveable Historic Columbia River Highway.
We opted to spend our time at only two, one being way more adventurous than the other. Scrambing over what seemed like a two store high log jam within moments of entering the Oneonta Falls trail, we soon came to the realisation that what initially appears to be a peaceful gorge, every so often becomes natures garbage chute for anything not firmly rooted upstream. Recalling promises of the returning hikers that we would get soaked, we hesitantly dipped our shoes into the water (bring dry spares, you’ll need them), soon wading through it at below chest height with our backpacks and cameras balanced tentatively above our heads.
Reaching the falls the soaking was more than worthwhile, as the Oneonta Falls is located at the fare end of the gorge, plumitting in a thin stream into a lush pool surrounded by ferns. Again we had the place to ourselves as several people behind us baulked at the chest deep water (wimps!).
As we cruised along the I-84, a dragonfly was sucked into the car smacking Sarah right in the boob. That takes her total tally to three – a hornet got sucked into the front vent and hit her on her bare stomach, causing her to forget she was supposed to be driving the car, and a bee got disorientated and ended up in her hair whilst she was driving. Hopefully these things only come in threes and don’t get any bigger or she’ll be hit by a stray bird next!