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In Her Own Words: Cycling the Historic Columbia River Highway

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.

 

1 Leaving Portland

Linda Hill leaving Portland for her 100-mile ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway

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.

3 Heading down to the Waterfalls

Heading down from Vista House to the waterfalls.

4 Horse Tail Falls

Horsetail Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

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. 

5 Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.

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.

6 West Mark O Hatfield Trailhead

Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead, outside of Hood River.

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.’

8 Rowena Loops

Coming down the Rowena Loops on the Historic Columbia River Highway between Mosier and The Dalles.

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.

9 Columbia Area Transit

The Columbia Area Transit bus.

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:

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/HCRH/pages/trail.aspx

 

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“Wild” for the Gorge: Upcoming PCT Talk

As many of you have heard, Cheryl Strayed’s popular book Wild about the author’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is coming out in movie-form on December 5, 2014.  What does this have to do with the Gorge and Oregon State Parks?  Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.

 

WILD_movie_poster

“Wild” comes to movie theaters on December 5, 2014. Look for shots filmed in the Gorge!

 

Wild Book

Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild” is about her personal journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, Strayed completed her hike of the PCT at our very own Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge.  The Bridge of the Gods is the PCT route’s through the Gorge.

Second, it is a little known fact that Oregon State Parks manages the Cascade Locks Trail Head right under the bridge.  And although it is not officially part of the PCT, many thru-hikers take the Eagle Creek canyon route to get to the Gorge — completing their final miles by walking the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to Cascade Locks.

Bridge of the gods trailhead

The Cascade Locks Trail Head — PCT thru-hikers pass through here en masse between the end of August and the beginning of September each year.  It also happens to be a lovely spot for a view of the Bridge of the Gods and the Columbia River.

 

Third, parts of Wild were shot in the Columbia River Gorge.  If you thought you spied Reese Witherspoon in the Gorge last fall, you just might have.

 

PCTA Wild Article

The Pacific Crest Trail Association has a new “Wild” webpage — along with resources, it features essays written by thru-hikers.  In this essay, I shared the aftermath of my trek.

http://www.pcta.org/wild/

 

And finally, in 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  I started on April 30, 2012 and finished on September 27, 2012.  151 days, 2660 miles, more than 6 million steps.  And this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story here in the Gorge.

 

Bridge of the Gods

I completed Oregon, passed into Washington, Canada-bound on September 3, 2012.

 

Please join me for a talk on the Pacific Crest Trail, “The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgettable” on Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 2 PM at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, Bradford Visitor Center.

 

PCT Talk Flyer_Bonneville Dam

In 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks  to hike the Pacific Crest Trail . . . this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story . . .