Blog Archives

Bike Your (NEWEST) Park Day

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.

And new.

Brand new.

How about a ride through the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge on the newest section of State Trail in Oregon?

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Be among the first to check out this view!  (Photo credit:  Ken Denis, Friends of Columbia Gorge)

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.

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Scout out all the rest places to share later with friends!  (Photo credit:  Ken Denis, Friends of the Columbia Gorge)

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.

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Beat your co-workers to the view of Warren Creek from above!  (Photo credit:  Ken Denis, Friends of Columbia Gorge)

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

 

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

 

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.

 

Shepperd's Dell

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 Secret Season

I still remember my first spring in Oregon.  I was surprised by (and called home to report about) three things: 

One, Oregonians mow their lawns if it has been rain-free for a mere few hours, and they do so in their rubber boots.  As kids, we all had to mow our corner lot back in Iowa.  And, according to Papa’s rules, you did not mow unless it had been dry for at least 24 hours – 48 was preferred.  “Papa!  They are mowing during something called a ‘sunbreak!’  And they’re wearing galoshes!”

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A “preseason” rainbow – from January 2014!

Two, the weather is completely unpredictable.  It will be sunny one moment, sprinkling the next, spitting hail for ten minutes, and then turn sunny again.  I had two near-bouts with hypothermia during spring longs runs out in the Willamette Valley countryside before I figured out that I had to dress in extreme layers.

Three, there are more rainbows (and double-rainbows) out here than I have ever seen in all the years of my life.  I remember when my college friend, Jack, came out for a visit.  We went to the Mt. Angel Abbey on a beautiful spring day.  It sprinkled, then it hailed, and then sprinkled again.  “Just wait,” I whispered, “This is rainbow weather.”  And, sure enough, a rainbow appeared as the sun broke through a hole in the clouds.

It was spring.  And, in the Valley (and the Gorge), spring means Rainbow Season.

Here are some recent beauties taken by rangers and friends in the Gorge area.

Rainbow at VH_March 17 2014

One of the benefits of cleaning Vista House – a double-rainbow from Crown Point.

Rainbow Over I-84

If you look carefully, this double-rainbow over I-84 E is reflected in on the roadway. (Have your passenger snap this!)

Rainbow Over the Sandy

Slice of heaven.  Double-rainbow over the Sandy River between Lewis and Clark and Dabney State Recreation Areas.

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.

What's RIGHT with this picture?

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!

Winter in the Wonderland

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Mirror Lake at Rooster Rock is nearly frozen over. If you’re in the Gorge, bundle up and keep an eye out for frozen waterfalls!

Well, winter has arrived.  I know for most, this is a reason for concern.  Temperatures are dropping, winds are picking up, visibility is low, and roads are getting slick.  It is the first snow of the season; and it’s a good day to stay home with a book, a blanket, and a hot drink.  And to check extreme conditions from the safe comfort of home.

Here’s what it’s looking like at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge:

It is windy.  And cold.

As of 8:27 AM, temperatures at Vista House on Crown Point were +1 degree Fahrenheit with the wind chill.  That wind was gusting up to 53 miles per hour.  Interested in seeing this data for yourself?  Check out our NOAA Weather Conditions at Crown Point:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=pqr&sid=D6193&num=60&raw=0&banner=off

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Snow makes for Class A wildlife tracking!

It is snowing.

What was flurries on I-205 in Portland is turning into snow on I-84 heading east.  It’s one of those days where an unexpected gust can slide you sideways a bit, even if you’re only going 35 mph.

It’s also freezing.

And has been for days.  Yesterday, the Tundra Swans were feeding in the center of Mirror Lake at Rooster Rock, rumps up in the air.  Today, they were ice skating.  Joining them in the performance were:

  • Hooded Merganser
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • Bufflehead
  • Song Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Black-capped Chickadee
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Tundra Swans call Mirror Lake home in the fall and winter seasons. With a camera up to the binoculars, you can just make them out!

Winter is a time of subtle beauty in the Gorge.  If you want to see it for yourself, just come prepared for extreme winter conditions.  Check the weather and the roads, bundle up, pack a little extra of everything, and play it safe.  If, like today, it’s unsafe to drive, wait a day or two.  The Gorge will still be here, waiting with a windy embrace.