Category Archives: Visiting the Gorge

Ice Ice Baby

For those of you who have wisely chosen to stay away this past week while the Gorge pounded out its first windy ice storm of the season, I thought we’d share a whip of the tempest.

Ice in the Parking Log

The sun’s reflection on the ice that coats Rooster Rock’s parking lot.

 

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The effect of that ice.  An accident on I-84 that sent rangers scurrying home.

 

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Weather changes quickly in the Gorge. On November 7, our big leaf maples looked like this.

 

Snow and Maple Leaf

By the following week, the trees sat naked, leaves lodged in snow.

 

Ice on Cliff

Icicles form at water seeps along the Columbia River Highway.

 

Shepperd's Dell and Bridge

Trails and bridges are coated with ice . . . and will be slow to thaw in the shadows of the Gorge walls.  This is a look at Shepperd’s Dell.

 

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Shepperd’s Dell hourglass waterfall.

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The trail at Latourell is closed due to ice, but you can still admire the contrast of the icy falls and the glowing lichen from the lower viewpoint.

 

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When I arrived at Multnomah Falls (not a State Park, but a flagship of the Gorge), two visitors were beyond the fence at the lower pool side (not permitted).  While there are many reasons waterfall pools are closed, it is especially dangerous in the winter — water seeps into cracks between columns of basalt rock and then expands when it freezes . . . peeling off slabs of rock and sending them flying onto whatever lies below.

 

The Beach Is Back

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A sandy Gorge beach awaits you at Rooster Rock.

The beach is BACK . . .

. . . And it’s free of rubble

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

We see it wavin’ better come out on the double

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

The wind has died down and the sky is mostly blue

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

So come out now ’cause it’s quite a view

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

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Kiteboarders enjoy bounding from shore to shore in early season winds this year.

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Meanwhile, windsurfers take their chance to perform a river dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s true; the beach is back at Rooster Rock State Park.

As many of you know, Rooster Rock used to be the place to go for sandy river-level picnics, sandcastles, and swims—but things have changed over the years beginning with the floods of 1996 that swept massive amounts of beach downriver.  Today, a wide, rambling shoreline is a rarity.  And the perfect wind and weather window is now.  So, if you get a chance, take a drive out to exit 25, and enjoy the sand between your toes while it’s here and while it’s warm.

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Turkey Vultures are the custodians of the beach – -here, they clean up a carp carcass.

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A Great Blue Heron finds a lunchtime snack along the pole dikes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wondering what the beach used to look like?  Take a peek!

 

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Rooster Rock’s parking, c.1960.  Check out those cars!

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Rooster Rock’s beach, c.1960.  Note the clothing and hairstyles.

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Rooster Rock’s beach-goers, c.1960.  Imagine your family here!

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Hope to see you here soon!

 

Gifts to Vista House

Within a few weeks of beginning my new position in the Gorge, I received a phone call.  It was Ms. Julianna Guy calling from Bellingham, Washington.  Julianna had a special request.  She was 87 years old, and before she died, she wanted to see a plaque at Vista House recognizing her father.

Vista House on Crown Point_Grey Day

What if no one had donated land for all of us at Crown Point?

Julianna’s grandparents were Dr. and Mrs. Osmon Royal, and they had owned acreage at Crown Point (the site of Vista House) when they passed, in 1910 and 1912, respectively.  An only child, Julianna’s father, Osmon Royal II, inherited the land from his parents.

Soon after, the City of Portland approached Mr. Royal about donating the land, and on November 2, 1914, Osmon Royall II along with three others gave land at Crown Point, each for the sum of “One Dollar … in consideration of the public good and benefit … for park purposes …”  Osmon Royal II was just 22 when he made the commitment.

Although Julianna’s father passed when she was 10 years old, she said that her mother, Carolyn Merritt Royal, told her children of their father’s “donation and of the love they both had for Mt. Hood, Crown Point … and of their courtship on the hiking trails of the area.”

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Without Vista House at Crown Point, over a million visitors a year would miss out on this view of the Columbia River Gorge.

Today, nearly 100 years later, a plaque hangs in the recognition hall in the lower level of Vista House.  It recognizes a total of eight land donors:  November 2, 1914 — Lorens Lund, Mari Lund, Osmon Royal II, George B. Van Waters; January 16, 1915 — Sarah M. Cornell, Ivan R. Cornell, Edward C. Cornell, Maud Cornell.  On July 27, 2014, Julianna Guy and twenty-six of her and Osmon Royal II’s relatives will travel to Vista House to see the plaque and pay tribute to their ancestor.  And with the date nearing, I thought we all should, too.

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Nearly 100 years ago, eight individuals generously donated land for Vista House at Crown Point.

Countless individuals and groups have contributed to the Vista House that we see today.  Some, like Osmon Royal II, donated land.  Some, like Vista House visitors, have donated money.  Others, like the Friends of Vista House volunteers, donate time.  All are invaluable.

So the next time you are at Vista House, I encourage you to visit the recognition hall.  To stop, read names of the 320-plus donors, and consider what Vista House must have meant to each.  And, then, perhaps, what it means to you.


 

DO YOU KNOW RELATIVES of land donors Lorens Lund, Mari Lund, Osmon Royal II, George B. Van Waters, Sarah M. Cornell, Ivan R. Cornell, Edward C. Cornell, or Maud Cornell?  They are invited to meet the extended family of Osmon Royal II at Vista House on Sunday, July 27, 2014 between 10 and 11 AM (exact time TBD by the Royal family).

 


 

Beyond the Fall: A Latourell Loop Hike

Most of us, when we go to Latourell Falls, pull off the Historic Columbia River Highway into the parking lot, walk the 25 yards or so to the viewing point, snap a few photos, and then jump back in our vehicles to zoom off to the next waterfall.  I’ll admit, I’ve done this very thing numerous times. 

A few of us walk down to the base of the falls and then wind around under the Highway to find ourselves in some weird park we’ve never seen before and then scurry back to where our vehicles are parked.  I’ve done this, too.

Even fewer of us do what I (after rangering for nearly 7 years in the waterfall wonderland of Silver Falls) now highly recommend.  Which is this:  Park at Guy W. Talbot State Park on the north side of the Historic Columbia River Highway just west of Latourell Falls (follow a state park shield with a picnic table) – technically, Latourell Falls is IN Guy W. Talbot, but few know this or park here.  Use the very nice restroom if needed.  Follow the braided, paved path uphill, keeping right.

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Penny postcard of Latourell Falls. What has changed since this was taken?  (Besides the spelling?)

What you’re about to do is hike the Latourell Falls loop backwards.

Backwards, you ask?  Yes.  Here’s why.  If you’re willing to hike 2+ miles, it is worth it to see the upper and lower falls at Latourell – most of us, as I mentioned, only see the lower falls and miss out the upper.  Waterfalls, as we all know, are quite a treat.  So, for this (and I’d argue, all) waterfall hikes, do the work first – hike uphill in the forest first, and then, as you wind downhill, you’ll be rewarded with first the upper falls, and, finally, the lower falls.  A couple more hundred yards, and you’ll be back at your vehicle.  And a nice restroom.

I just hiked the loop backwards (having already completed frontwards) and confirmed, at least for myself, that it is the best direction.  And don’t worry, your forested hike up has a few things in store for you, too.  Take a look . . .

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Fairybells. Easily confused with a handful of other similar lilies.

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Larkspur – what a handsome flower!

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Piggy-back Plant is in the saxifrage family; one of the odd purple-brownish flowers in the Pacific Northwest forest.

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The Salmonberry flower is always an eye-catcher and typically one of the early bloomers.

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Pacific Bleeding Heart – about ready to seed!

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Our striking white Trillium flowers turn a gorgeous purple as they age.

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Fringe Cup, also from the Saxifrage family.

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Corydalis – somewhat similar in looks to a Bleeding Heart when you first learn wildflowers, these two blossom around the same time and can be find in similar habitats.

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Banana Slugs are everywhere once you train your eyes to see them. This one was about 4 inches long, but they can be over 9!

Stop and ID the Flowers

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Twayblade – This subtle little guy is actually an orchid!

A couple of us rangers are attending the PCTA Trails Skills College in Cascade Locks this weekend and couldn’t help but to stop and ID the flowers.

Near Tooth Rock Trailhead:

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Not my first of the year, but the Calypso Orchid is always a treat to find!

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If you remember your mythology, Calypso was a beautiful nymph, hidden in the woods.

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Wild Ginger was the surprise wildflower of the day! This is one of my favorite flowers to hunt for in the spring. Gently lift the Wild Ginger leaves to find this purple-brown beauty.

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Wild Ginger was all over the place above Tooth Rock Trailhead – look for the heart-shaped leaves.

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Surprisingly, Vanilla Leaf was in bloom in a few spots. You can guess what this dried leaf might smell like.

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Twayblade is so small, it is easy to cruise right by. Found this one while marking a trail – and dropped everything for a quick photo!

Wild for Wildflowers

Rangers have been hiking the Gorge on their work and free time and capturing fantastic shots of wildflowers.  

Here’s the first round from the “Crown Point of the East”:

Rowena Crest and Tom McCall Preserve

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Columbia Desert Parsley

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Buttercup

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Glacier Lily

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Gold Star

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Grass Widow

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Lupine with Water Droplets

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Prairie Star

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Paintbrush

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Northwest Balsamroot

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Lance-leaf Spring Beauty

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Shooting Star

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Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary

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Upland Larkspur

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Yellow Bell

In the Footsteps of Explorers: Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area

A few days ago, I set out to explore Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area.  Literally less than 1 mile from my doorstep, I had yet to visit this seemingly benign park in the West Columbia Gorge Management Unit.  A parking lot, a restroom, a boat ramp, an interpretive nature trail . . . I was sure 45 minutes would suffice.

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An explorer’s view! A flooded Sandy River from Broughton’s Bluff, Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area, Oregon.

2 1/2 hours later, I emerged back in civilization muddy, sweating, hand tingling from a wrestling match with stinging nettle, and glowing from the aftermath of an unforeseen adventure.  I did not walk through the parking lot, did not use the restroom, visit the boat ramp, or wander the interpretive trail.  No, I discovered Broughton’s Bluff.

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Towering walls of basalt columnar joints make up this near-Portland climbing mecca.

Broughton’s Bluff is in Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area – it’s the cliff and ridge to the east.  It’s actually the geologic dividing line between the Willamette Valley to the west and the foothills of the Cascades to the east.  And it’s named after an explorer.  Nothing to do with the park’s namesakes of 1805, Lewis & Clark, but, rather, a British naval officer, Lt. William Robert Broughton who explored the Lower Columbia in 1792 and navigated up as far as the entrance to the Gorge –  “Broughton’s Bluff” – named after him in 1926.  (He was also the guy who and named Mt. Hood – for Lord Samuel Hood, another British naval officer.)

Although not well-advertised, you can get your own explorer on and visit Broughton’s namesake.  A steep, braiding, slippery trail winds you through mossy green boulders as you skirt around basalt walls until you can make a v-line for a ridge and scramble to the top.

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No walk in the park, the trail to Broughton’s Bluff is riddled with obstacles.

Be forewarned, this trail is not for the faint of heart (or the fear of height or the young of age).  It’s steep; drop-offs are severe and unforgiving; and the trail surface includes stairs, roots, and boulders the size of small cars – all of which are coated with moss and mud.  Falling would not be pretty.

If you’re wondering about the fitness level required, know that it is most used by rock climbers.  Rather than a day-hiking trail, Broughton’s Bluff is best known for its climbing routes sprinkled along the basalt cliffs – again, not for the faint of anything – climbing equipment and experience required here!

I came out relatively unscathed, but not without waxing my knee on a rock, scraping up mud with my butt, and bracing my hand on a stinging nettle plant – never done that?  It’s like shaking hands with a wasp.

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They’re b-a-a-a-c-k! Rufous hummingbirds are in our neighborhood! Love these little warriors.

Besides the adventure and the views, spring (and the fact that it was all warm, sunny, and windless!) also made this hike.  Five different wildflowers graced the trails – early blue violet carpeting the Sandy’s banks, Indian plum hanging along the trail, oaks toothwort just opening all nestled in the groundcover, chickweed hiding among the boulders, and then a surprise red-flowering currant bursting from behind a Douglas fir.

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Red-flowering currant – always pinker than you remembered!

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Oaks toothwort – one of the first wildflowers of the season!

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Chickweed – easy to miss this tiny white flower!

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Indian plum – a sure sign that spring is on its way!

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Early blue violet – a common wildflower, but unusual for me. I usually find wood violets, instead!

For those of us who love wildflowers, each sighting is like a reunion with an old friend – remembering names, followed by big hellos and so-good-to-see-yous, recalling the last time you met, and concluding with photos ops for Facebook.  Greeting the Townsend’s chipmunk and Rufous Hummingbird was no different.  A reminder that spring is on its way, and the forest is filled with familiar faces.

Next up?  Another trip to Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area.  This time to drop by Sandy’s edge, wander the interpretive nature trail, read up on Lewis and Clark’s 1805 visit, and check out the facilities.  And perhaps pay homage to the explorer Lt. William Robert Broughton with a quick jaunt up to the base of the basalt columns.

Slight Breeze from the East

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Differences in winter temperatures cause winds to rip down from the east in the Gorge.

Well, it is a little breezy here in the Gorge this week.  Trees are falling over, limbs are ripping through the air, litter is playing tag, rangers are trapped in their vehicles at Vista House, visitors are finding (and losing) their center of gravity, and newscasters are having a heyday.

http://www.kgw.com/news/High-winds-head-to-East-County-Columbia-Gorge-241676571.html

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High winds kick up waves, and the spray can make rainbows. Is there a pot of gold in the Columbia?

It’s that time of year.  Bitterly cold, dense air from the deserts in the east is ripping down the Gorge towards the warmer ocean and replacing the warmer, less dense air in Portland.  The narrow passage between two different climates makes the Gorge the perfect place for this kind of gap wind.  Wind can be fun (I simply love it), but extreme wind is reason for extreme caution.

Check here for the weather at Vista House, Crown Point:   http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=pqr&sid=D6193&num=60&raw=0&banner=off  (NOTE:  1/24/2014:  Our wind gauge is not currently reading correctly; actual wind speeds and gusts are HIGHER.)

Our Rooster Rock webcam shows conditions on the Columbia River:  http://www.pdxgreen.com/RoosterCam.aspx

Heading out into the wind?  Here are a few things to think about . . .

Secure Your Stuff

There are two fates for the loose objects outside during high winds.  They either a) become lost or ruined or b) become projectiles injuring people, pets, or property.  Neither one of these is good.

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Rangers are dedicating hours to cleaning up after this week’s high winds. Tree at Rooster Rock.

Watch Your Face

You know that fancy backpack you’re wearing for your Gorge hikes?  The one with hip belt and chest strap?  It is out to get you.  Big gusts turn loose straps into whips and these lashes are killer on the eye.  Make sure they’re securely tucked or tied off.

Choose Your Vehicle (and Your Route)

High profile vehicles get blown around in the wind; a big gust can push you sideways, or, if your vehicle is really tall, tip you over.  Driving I-84 in high wind is stressful.  If possible, choose the slower, more scenic Historic Columbia River Highway.  And watch out for debris.  It is more than Parks and ODOT can keep up with.

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What’s RIGHT with this picture?

Park Thoughtfully

Nearly every park vehicle in the Gorge has a funky door feature—this comes from high winds ripping the door out of a driver or passenger’s hands and flying forward.  Park with the front of your car pointing INTO the wind.  And if you need to use your feet to force your way out of your car, you should probably just stay inside.  Even if you get out, you’re asking for a tumble.  It’s not cute.  And it will be recorded.

And with that, it is time for me to jump in my car and blow east!

2014 Gorge Resolutions: Choose Your Own Adventure

Well, it is a new year.  2014 has arrived.  And it is time (nearly past time) for the year’s resolutions.  Typically, resolve means to “settle or find a solution to (a problem or contentious matter).”  If you’re like me, your resolutions tend to be the same . . . and tend not to work.  So, a few years back, I went for the other definition of resolve, to “decide firmly on a course of action.” I switched from problem-solving to goal-setting.  And this year, it is all about the Columbia River Gorge. 

Want to join me?  Below is the result of my brainstorm.  Choose 10!  Or 20.  Or 30.  Feeling like a “Big Year”?  Go for all 50.  It’s time to choose your own 2014 adventure.

50 Things to Do In the Columbia River Gorge in 2014

  1. Hike 100 miles of different trails in the CRG.
  2. Visit all State Parks in the CRG.
  3. Visit 25 waterfalls in the CRG (there are over 90), at least one of each type (plunge, horsetail, fan, cascade, punchbowl, block, tier, and segmented).

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    Have you been to this waterfall?   Or talked to this ranger?  #3 and #39.

  4. Visit one Washington and one Oregon museum in the Gorge.
  5. Tour the Lewis and Clark sites along the CRG.

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    Did you know?  Rooster Rock is a Lewis & Clark site.  #5.  Check.

  6. Visit a fish hatchery.
  7. Conduct your own naturalist study—visit and document changes at one spot 20 times throughout the year.
  8. Have a “three-pronged” adventure day (bike, hike, camp, windsurf, kiteboard, standup paddleboard, bird watch, fish, swim, paddle, disc golf, rock climb . . .just pick three!)
  9. Drive (and/or bike!) all existing portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
  10. View the Gorge from the water.
  11. Hike to the highest point in the Gorge.
  12. Read the journals of Lewis and Clark.
  13. Watch a documentary on the Gorge OR a movie filmed in the Gorge.

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    If you’re up early enough for #18, you might see this flying saucer!

  14. Learn 10 new Gorge plants.  Photograph and sketch them.  Note their habitat.
  15. Learn 10 new Gorge birds.  Sketch them and learn their songs and calls.  Note their habitat.
  16. Go on a search for the rare Larch Mountain Salamander.
  17. Go on a search for the rare wildflower, Columbia Kittentails (Synthyris stellata)—only found in the Gorge.
  18. Hike to a viewpoint for a Gorge sunrise.
  19. Give back by volunteering for a day trail work, invasive weed removal, or litter cleanup in the Gorge.
  20. Stay a night in the Gorge.
  21. Attend a guided hike or educational program about the Gorge.
  22. Visit one Oregon Trail historical site.
  23. Visit one Native American petroglyph or pictograph.
  24. Find the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Gorge.
  25. Study the Missoula Floods, who was Bretz?
  26. Walk through an oak grove in the Gorge.
  27. Stand in a waterfall “mist zone.”
  28. Hear the distinctive warning call or “whistle” of a pika.
  29. Sketch a plant using the “macro” point of view.
  30. Sketch the Gorge landscape from a viewpoint.
  31. Track wildlife prints on the beach.
  32. Write a letter and drop it off at the Bridal Veil Post Office.

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    This tunnel on the Historic Columbia River Highway is only accessible by foot or by bike. Go for #40 and #9!

  33. Hug an old-growth tree.
  34. Visit the site of a sawmill or fish cannery.
  35. Step foot on the Pacific Crest Trail.
  36. Learn the legend and geological story behind the Bridge of the Gods.
  37. Research historic photos of Celilo Falls, visit the site and imagine the power of the falls.
  38. Hike to a viewpoint where you can take in both Mount Hood and Mount Adams.
  39. Talk to a park ranger.
  40. Ride your bike on a section of the Historic Columbia River Hwy.
  41. Photograph the basalt columnar joints common in the Gorge—dark, six-sided, regular columns.
  42. Watch the Tundra Swans at Rooster Rock’s Mirror Lake in the winter.
  43. Look for petrified wood near Eagle Creek.
  44. Dip your fingers in either end of the Gorge—at the Sandy and Deschutes Rivers.
  45. Spot an Amtrak train passing through on the Washington side.
  46. Watch the salmon run.
  47. Watch the dam locks give a boat passage.
  48. Watch the moon rise over the Gorge.
  49. Stargaze in the Gorge.
  50. Share the Gorge with a friend

Phew!  It is going to be a busy year.  Best get started.  Worried about finishing?  #51 is “Find Bigfoot.”

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Finish them all? Time for #51. Track Bigfoot!

Escape to Vista House!

The holiday season is fully upon us.  Shopping, traveling, cooking, eating, working, rushing, rushing, rushing, repeat.  It seems to happen every year no matter how we plan.  The holidays are simply busy.  But even amidst the frenzy, there are moments that make us pause and reflect.  Watching the tutu-clad toddler twirling down the aisle of the store.  Finding the perfect gift for a loved one.  Listening to carolers sing songs from our childhood.  Catching a whiff of a favorite holiday food.  Coming upon a breathtaking view . . .

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Vista House from Portland Women’s Forum.

This morning, one of the rangers swung up the Historic Columbia River Highway for the daily run and took these fantastic photos of Vista House.  “It’s sunny up there!” she exclaimed.  We all stood in silence, admiring the scene captured on her smartphone:  Clouds swirling around the basalt prominence of Crown Point, the tip of Vista House rising just above, sun reflecting off the green and amber opalescent glass windows.  We’ve all visited Portland Women’s Forum enough to be able to transport ourselves to the very spot where the photo was taken.  We could imagine the 3″ x 2″ screen filling our view.  We paused and, for a moment, soaked in the stunning beauty of the Gorge.

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The view from above changes the tone of a gray, foggy Oregon day.

So, this holiday season, we wish you all a moment or two like this.  A flash of the magic that is the meaning of the times.  And, if you find that the opportunity doesn’t find you, go find it!

NOTE:  Although our campgrounds are closed for the season, our parks and trails are open.  In the west end of the Gorge, restrooms can be found at the following Oregon State Parks:  Rooster Rock, Lewis and Clark, Dabney, Latourell, Bridal Veil, and Dalton Point.  Vista House will be open this winter on weekends, weather permitting; closed on holidays and weekdays.

Safe travels and happy holidays from all of us in the Columbia River Gorge!