This coming Saturday, September 24, is national “Bike Your Park Day.” But before you start flipping through your mental files of favorite parks for one last fall ride, we’d like to suggest something different.
How about a ride through the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge on the newest section of State Trail in Oregon?
We cordially invite you and your family and friends to join us on Saturday, September 24 from 10 AM to 12:30 PM as we dedicate the newest segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail: a 1.2 mile, car-free stretch from Starvation Creek to Lindsey Creek.
Be among the first to experience the graceful design of this new paved trail, with its stone walls, overlooks, picnic nooks, and new bridge that all mirror the elegant Historic Columbia River Highway.
The official ceremony begins at Viento State Park (I-84 exit 56) at 10 AM. Following the dedication, you can pick up a “passport” and tour from Viento to Starvation Creek to Lindsey Creek, visiting information stations and collecting stickers along the way. At the turn-around, be sure to grab a selfie as we ceremonially break ground for our next project—three more miles of trail.
Bike Your Park Day: Gorge Style
BEGIN: Take I-84, exit 56 for Viento State Park. Arrive by 9:30 AM for good parking.
CELEBRATE: State Trail dedication begins at 10 AM.
RIDE: Approximately 2 miles one way, paved and car-free from Viento State Park to Lindsey Creek.
ALONG THE WAY: Meet with key players and collect stickers for your Passport. Take photos of the Gorge’s newest trail!
TURNAROUND: At Lindsey Creek, take part in ground-breaking for the next 3 miles of trail, then head back 2 miles to your vehicle!
WANT TO SEE MORE? Head west to exit 44 for 6.5 miles of paved, car-free riding from Cascade Locks to John B. Yeon Trailhead OR head east to exit 64 for 4.5 miles of paved, car-free riding from Mark O. Hatfield West Visitor Center to the East Trailhead.
BONUS: This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Historic Columbia River Highway. You will literally be traveling through time!
LEARN MORE: About the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
(Special thanks to Kristen Stallman of the Oregon Department of Transportation for this feature. ODOT encourages you to share your story: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The 100th anniversary of the dedication of Historic Columbia River Highway this year provides an opportune time to remember what life was like along the Historic Highway back in the day (1916 – late 1950s) when this was the only road between Portland and points east.
It is certainly hard to imagine this bucolic life today as we speed 65 mph on I-84 and to imagine only seventy or so years ago, all the car travel through the Gorge was forced to the narrow, two-lane, scenic highway. It must have been an incredible 30 mile per hour drive punctuated with breathtaking views and dotted with roadside cafes, souvenir shops and service stations. However, it wasn’t always stress-free. Stories of getting car sick, terrible weather, and flat tires were quite common and add to the lore of this historic road.
Mike Johnson (Vancouver, Washington) and his cousin George Johnson (Hood River, Oregon) surely remember what life was like along the Columbia River Highway. Mike and George’s grandparents operated Johnson’s Café and service station located on what is now the parking lot at Vista House at Crown Point. They spent their childhood at Crown Point. Mike and George shared their stories with Kristen Stallman in Troutdale on July 25, 2016.
The Johnsons family’s black and white photos dated as early as 1926 fill albums made of black paper pages bound together with string. These pages document a family history linked to the Columbia River Highway. In fact, George lived in the basement apartment below the store with his mom for the first several years of his life while his dad fought in Pacific during World War II. Mike’s baby album is so organized and thorough it was as if his mom was doing her best to capture every stage of her new-born baby’s life to share with his proud dad upon his return from the war. These meticulous photo albums celebrated generations of Johnsons which included snapshots of their thriving businesses and a host of characters along the Historic Highway.
These small black and white photos feature the Johnson family at holiday gatherings, neighbors such as the Hendersons (Crown Point Chalet) and Dimitts (Postcards), favorite customers (State Highway Patrolmen, truck drivers), locals and staff, not to mention the famous pets such as “Muggins” the famed café cat. The pages of photos document the many epic weather events that were truly unique to living and operating a business at Crown Point during the winter months. Photos of ice encrusted Vista House and piles of snow were common as were traffic accidents. A long truck didn’t do so well as it tried to make the famous figure eight curves east of Vista House. Could 60 mph gale force wind be to blame? The familiar rock walls and Vista House’s circling steps are featured in these historic family photos. It is easy for one who is familiar to with the site to pick out the same locations todays and step back in time.
George Johnson and Mike Johnson have a love of the Columbia River Highway and the Gorge. Their stories and photos make the highway come alive for all of us who appreciate its history and beauty. They did leave us with one mystery. The albums portray the Columbia River Highway bear. Stephen Kenney, a local historian, shared similar story to of a bear shackled at a gas station near the Stark Street Bridge, but the photos make it appear like it was someplace at higher elevation. If anyone has information on the Columbia River Highway bear please share!
Last Friday night, Vista House and all the visitors within experienced a first: A classical music concert on a full-sized Steinway grand piano in the center of the Gorge’s iconic rotunda.
The free event was part of Oregon pianist, Hunter Noack’s efforts to bring classical music into the kinds places that inspire it. Hunter’s series, “In a Landscape: Music in the Wild” is taking place from August 20 to September 1 in some of Oregon’s special places: Crown Point, Timberline Lodge, Tryon Creek, Hoyt Arboretum, Hagg Lake, and more – the only venue with tickets still available is Portland’s Director Park. http://www.hunternoack.com/
And the concerts are just what you might imagine – a grand piano sitting unexpectedly in a magnificent landscape with a young musician at the keys sharing his passion while a hundred or so visitors listen on and, in the case of Vista House, admire the timeless view of the Gorge at sunset.
As if the music of the talented, gracious Noack wasn’t enough for the evening, Hunter invited two special guests to join him. Vocalist China Forbes of Pink Martini joined Noack for a few songs, and then pianist Tom Lauderdale of the same joined China for a couple. Looking around the building that night, it was clear that everyone – musicians and visitors alike – was mesmerized by the pull of music reverberating between the rotunda’s limestone walls, marble floors, and opalescent glass windows.
It was a night like no other, and a reminder like no other of what Oregon’s special places sound like.
Events this summer
More than 700,000 visitors each year stop at the iconic Vista House at Crown Point along the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Hailed “King of Roads,” Historic Route 30 was officially dedicated on June 7, 1916, with a dazzling affair that drew the attention of the nation and the world. This summer, we invite you to explore and rediscover the historic highway and the beautiful Columbia River Gorge it traverses. Take a drive, hike or bike ride. View magnificent waterfalls and vistas and stop by the communities along the way–many are hosting events to celebrate the centennial. Here’s our guide to four new experiences you can have in the Gorge this summer.
1.Music in the Gorge. This summer brings opportunity to attend some not-so-traditional concerts in some unexpected venues.
- Sing-along, play along, or just sit back and enjoy the Song Circles at Vista House at Crown…
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On June 7, 2016 (and during the months that follow) the Columbia River Gorge will be celebrating. Our favorite traveling companion is turning 100! And what a long, winding road it has been.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH). Begun in 1913 and fully completed in 1922, the scenic byway was dedicated on June 7, 1916 with celebrations at both Vista House on Crown Point and Multnomah Falls. And in recognition, this year the entire Gorge is hosting a series of events throughout the summer months. And you’re invited.
Want to learn about the Highway? Visit the Troutdale Historical Society or Maryhill Museum to delve into the “King of Roads'” historical past. Want to revel in the Highway? Attend one of the summer’s many HCRH-themed festivals. Want to experience the Highway? Take a leisurely drive or, better yet, bike or hike one of the reconnected HCRH State Trail segments. Want to breathe the Highway? Sign up for one of the many Gorge runs and rides. Want to see the Highway through the eyes of yesteryear? Come out to watch antique autos parade by as they caravan from Troutdale to The Dalles on the July 23, 2016.
For a list of tours, rides, runs, festivals, and events visit the Oregon Department of Transportations’s website: HCRH Centennial Events
For a sneak peek into the July’s antique auto tour, take a look below at some photos from our January test-drive!
‘Tis the season, and rangers and volunteers in the Gorge are feeling holiday spirit!
Last week, rangers changed the light bulbs on “Thor’s Crown” from all white to red and green. And over the past week, rangers and Vista House volunteers have been working on decorating Vista House’s first ever tree! As always, it’s been a team effort to make the holidays happen.
- To the Olcott Christmas Tree farm in Corbett, Oregon for donating the perfect tree.
- To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Development Committee for donating ornaments and helping to decorate.
- To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Coordinator for donating a train for under the tree.
- To the Park Rangers and Vista House Volunteers for keeping the lights on and the tree watered.
Don’t have your own tree yet? Check out this guide to local tree farms from the Pamplin Media Group:
Winter storms have hit early and hard this year in the Columbia River Gorge. Wind gusts are consistently in the 70 mph-range and ice still coats the trees, roads, and buildings around Crown Point. Temperatures are slowly rising and winds have crept down from the 80s. And Vista House’s Crown Point — once called “Thor’s Heights” — has lived up to its stormy name.
Here’s a look around the west end of the Gorge:
Wondering what the winds and temps are like at Vista House? You can click here to check our weather station:
Of course, if the wind gauge is iced over (like it has been for the last two days), it will look like there is no wind at all . . .
In October of this year, visitor Linda Hill rode her bicycle from Portland, Oregon to The Dalles. One of our Park Managers had the pleasure of meeting Linda at Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead outside of Hood River and asked that she share her story. Kindly, she did.
I spent 4 wonderful days in early October 2015 cycling a hundred miles from Portland to The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway. This was my dream ride to celebrate my 61st birthday and I savoured every moment.
The location of the small towns along the route let me slow down to a very enjoyable rhythm of 20 to 35 miles per day. This pace gave me time to stop when I wanted to chat with people and enjoy the views, waterfalls, tunnels, plateaus, and a few of the many trails along this stunningly beautiful bikeway.
Even though there are plenty of campsites along this route, I decided to stay in a few of the many motels in Troutdale, Cascade Locks, and Hood River. This decision meant that I didn’t have to carry much gear and I had a comfortable bed to sleep in each night.
By traveling weekdays instead of on the weekend, the traffic was very light on the portions of the historic highway that are shared with cars. The ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks is probably the most beautiful day of cycling I have ever had.
The decision I felt best about, though, was to make use of the Columbia Area Transit (CAT) Dial-A-Ride Service to get around the yet-to-be re-connected 10 mile stretch from Wyeth to Hood River. After watching the ODOT videos about the plans for the final 10 miles of trail, I had no interest in attempting to share any part of the I-84 Freeway with huge trucks hurtling along at 80 miles per hour. I was especially worried about the narrow section around Shellrock Mountain that is described by Park Rangers as ‘frightening’ and ‘harrowing.’
What a relief to find out about CAT and their bicycle friendly busses. I simply called 541-386-4202 a couple of days ahead and booked an early morning ride from Cascade Locks to Hood River. Then after being shuttled around the scary part, I hopped on my bicycle and spent a wonderful day riding up the easy 5 percent grade to the West Mark O Hatfield Trailhead and then on to the famous Mosier Tunnels, the town of Mosier where bike racks are works of art. I climbed up and up some more to Rowena Crest and then rode the swooping loops down toward The Dalles.
At the end of my trip, I caught the scheduled CAT bus service from The Dalles back to overnight in Hood River and then the next morning I caught the bus back to Portland.
ABOUT THE HISTORIC COLUMBIA RIVER HIGHWAY
The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed by Samuel Lancaster and constructed between 1913 to 1922. Its purpose was not merely to offer an east-west transportation route through the Columbia River Gorge, but to take full advantage of every natural aspect, scenic feature, waterfall, viewpoint and panorama. When bridges or tunnels were designed, they stood by themselves as artistic compliments to the landscape. The Columbia River Highway served millions of travelers and became one of the grandest highways in the nation.
When transportation needs required faster and larger roads, sections of the old highway were bypassed. By 1960, a new interstate highway had replaced nearly all the older road. In the 1980s, new interest in the old scenic highway began to resurface. Lost sections of highway were identified, unearthed and studied for potential renovation. Ambitions restoration projects began. Since the 1987, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been charged with working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the State Historic Preservation Office and Travel Oregon to preserve, enhance, and reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Much work has been accomplished since that date. 63 of the original 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway are now open to travel either by motor vehicle (by Highway or connecting county roads) or by foot and bicycle (State Trail.) Only 10 miles are needed to complete the connection.
To learn more about cycling the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, check out our website:
Due to extensively dry and hot conditions, Oregon State Parks everywhere have banned fires.
The ban covers all open fires, including those in designated fire rings. For parks in the West Gorge (between Troutdale and Cascade Locks), it also includes briquettes. (Propane stoves are okay—check with your destination park to confirm.)
And visitors are not the only ones affected by the ban. Even park rangers are scratching their heads now that they cannot burn charcoal briquettes for their annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ.
At a loss for what to do without the grill? Here are some ideas.
If you’re like me, this is one of the first places your brain went when you heard the words “fire ban.” Cold cuts, lots of spreads, a variety of cheese, garden-fresh veggies . . . the options are limitless with a good old-fashioned sandwich. Everyone can build his or her own to his/her own liking. But. Sandwiches can be somewhat, well, boring.
Here’s the twist. Instead of loaf of bread, try:
- Bagel sandwiches
- Loaded pita pockets
- Flavored wraps
- Multiple gourmet breads cut and sized for multiple mini-sandwiches
And if your brain tracked like mine, soon after sandwiches you thought of trays. Trays full of delicious finger foods. Again, it’s bound to be a crowd pleaser as you’re sure to have something for everyone.
A few twists on the ol’ veggie tray:
- Fruit kabobs
- Veggie kabobs
- Cheese and sausage kabobs
- Bread or cracker platter with a various sweet, spicy, and tangy dips
Thinking outside of the box and depending on where you’ve planned to hold your picnic, you might have access to regular old electricity. Our picnic shelters and our improved campsites have power. What can you do with power? Plug in your kitchen appliances!
A few appliances and picnic suggestions:
- Electric Skillet + Power = Grilled Cheese Bar
- Electric Skillet + Power = Sandwich Melt Madness
- Crock Pot + Power = Chili Bar
- Crock Pot + Pre-Baked Potatoes + Power = Baked Potato Bar
- Fondue Maker + Power = Fondue Party
- Toaster + Power = Toast Bar
- Blender + Power = Smoothie Station
OTHER BAR-IFFIC IDEAS
The build-your-own or bar-method of food is always a solid one.
In addition to the above, here are a few every-day and “outside-the-bar” ideas:
- Salad Bar: Spice this staple up with nuts, chopped meats, crunchy toppings, fruits, and different kinds of greens.
- Cool Pasta Bar: Use a range of flavors and shapes of pre-cooked noodles; sliced and diced veggies, meats, and cheeses; variety of dressings.
- BLT Bar: Assorted breads, veggies, spreads, flavors of pre-cooked bacon. Include a “toasting station.”
- Nacho Bar: Use the crock pot for cheeses and meats; switch up your chips for more choices; think of the Baja Fresh array when planning your salsas.
- Trail Mix Bar: Go nuts with unusual dried fruit; candies like gummies, Mike & Ikes, and coated chocolates; crunchy grains like pretzels, chips, and cereals; and, of course, nuts.
- Cupcake Bar: Various frostings and creative toppings.
- Ice Cream Sundae Bar: You know the drill. Call your local grocery store to see about dry ice for the cooler.
- Ice Cream Float Bar: Mix it up with unusual sodas and frozen creams.
- Ice Cream Sandwich Bar: Exactly what you think it is. Fun!
All of this sound too complicated? For a few extra bucks and a lot less hassle, you can always order your hot food from a local restaurant or store and then supplement with your own sides and desserts. Simply order ahead, and then take your take-out outside.
Have an idea you’d like to share? Please post below!
Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special childrens’ sing-along event with musician and educator, Jory Aronson!
Bring your favorite young people and a couple of chairs for a lively evening filled with songs, instruments, skits, and puppets.
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We have been hosting (and, at times, leading!) a series of singing events in the Gorge this year.
At Rooster Rock State Park, it has been monthly song circles on the waterfront–singing songs of yesteryear as swimmers romp around in the Columbia, barges plod through the channel, and the sun sinks slowly over Washington in a crimson wave.
At Vista House, it has also been monthly song circles, but within the magical sand and limestone walls of the rotunda as visitors flock to capture the last moments of the sun’s rays falling across the Gorge, birds soar towards their final resting spots for the night, and the Columbia rolls on for as far as the eye can see.
Although they are not widely advertised, we are also bringing song back to the campground with “Old-Fashioned Campfire” events at Ainsworth State Park on the first and third Fridays of the month. These programs, as you might imagine, are a bit different. There are fewer instruments, Ranger Patrick and I sing far less well (although Ranger Jami can hold a tune!), and the songs are less formal. Instead, we stomp and clap and lead skits, we beg and plead until campers come up to sing for us, and the songs less than sing-y are more, well, campy.
Our last old-fashioned campfire at Ainsworth was hands-down our best. Sure, we rangers are getting our shtick down. But what really made the night so wonderful was that before the 8:30 hour even rolled around, a little camper was up on the stage declaring that she would like to sing the first song. We could hardly say no. And without a moment’s hesitation, she started in on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Not one song later, she was marching up to the stage again, this time with her cousin in tow. They performed “The Alphabet Song,” complete with the elemeno p. Five minutes later they were back. Something from Frozen, although they couldn’t agree on what until another young camper from another family jumped up and in to help the group settle on “Let It Go.” This other camper also led us in a handful of her favorite camp songs, from “Apples and Bananas” to “Bazooka Bubblegum.”
Besides we rangers, only one other adult dared lead any part of any other song. It was really the kids jumping up and leading unabashedly that made the night a roaring success. It was a reminder of both how fearless kids can be and how important singing is to us in childhood. Learning a song as a child was a big deal, something to be celebrated . . . by singing it repeatedly. And which of we did not use the alphabet song to learn our letters? Many of us teach it to our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews today. In some ways childhood and singing are inseparable.
Which brings me to our next event at Vista House on August 28: A Children’s Sing-Along with Jory Aronson, a musician and early education trainer. Jory blends song with puppets, skits, and instruments for a fully participatory musical experience for children. Besides being fun for the whole family, there is sound benefit to music for children:
“Music is an intelligence in and of itself. It also uses some of the other 6 intelligences in various ways. Songs are linguistic, rhythm is logical, dance and using instruments is body kinesthetic, musical interpretation is interpersonal, etc. Thus, by being involved in music, a child becomes in tune with many aspects of the self.” – Dr. Howard Gardner (The Theory of Multiple Intelligences)