Blog Archives

Ice Castle on Thor’s Heights

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:

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Angel’s Rest Trailhead’s new ice skating rink.

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Ice-coated trees at Rooster Rock State Park.

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Ice covered vehicles in the town of Corbett, Oregon.

Tree Over Power Lines at Latourell

Wind and ice have taken out many trees — and sometimes the power with it.

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A passenger’s view of the Historic Columbia River Highway outside of Corbett, Oregon.

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The road to Vista House on Thursday morning.

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The view to Vista House from an icy Portland Women’s Forum.

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A melting ice castle. Vista House on Crown Point.

Wondering what the winds and temps are like at Vista House?  You can click here to check our weather station:

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

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 . . .

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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.

 

Haunted (Vista) House

October at the Vista House is always an interesting month . . .

From the shift in weather and beginning of the winter winds, to the outside weather (rain) making its way inside, to the shorter hours that the building is open, everything changes.  And this last change, being closed more often to the public, means that the local “residents” of Vista House have more time to be in their building alone.   Besides the mice, one of these local residents is (I believe) the ghost of the building’s architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

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Who resides at Vista House when all of the visitors go home?



Many staff who have worked in Vista House late night in the fall have reported feeling the presence of Lazarus.  I have felt it before, too.  However, I have never been scared of it.  It is a nice, almost nurturing, presence to me.  I feel that he is just there watching over his building.  Happy that we are there, too, keeping watch and taking care—which is why I think I don’t find it scary.  If I was causing damage at Vista House, it might be a different story.

One of the ways Edgar Lazarus makes himself known (other than just the “feeling” that he is there) is by playing with the elevator or “lift.”  The lift is situated in the basement level of Vista House—volunteers in the rotunda level push toggles and buttons to raise and lower the lift.  The control box at the main level desk is the only way to operate the lift.  That said, I have had times when the lift is completely powered off, I am in the building by myself in the hallway in the basement when the lift door will start to open and close.  Or times when I’m upstairs and can hear the lift door opening and closing even though I can see with my own eyes that no one’s hands are on the control.  At times, it is just the outside door opening and closing; at other times, both the inside and outside door start opening and closing.

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Vista House architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

I have always attributed this lift movement to Lazarus.  When the renovations were made on Vista House in 2004, we kept everything original (or at least as originally designed) EXCEPT the addition of the ADA elevator or “lift.”  This was the only “modern” addition to the building.  I do not think that Lazarus is upset by the lift, more than he is interested in it.  I think Lazarus, being an architect with a quizzical mind, is intrigued by the lift—curious about how it works—and that he is simply playing with it.

I had always attributed the change in the temperature/weather as the sign that strange-ness was coming to Vista House.  However, upon further research, I recently found out that Edgar M. Lazarus died on October 2, 1939 after a bitter dispute over his fees for the design and construction of Vista House.

Is it just a coincidence that Vista House’s ghost-play starts in October?

Or does the spirit of Edgar M. Lazarus begin making his rounds each year on the day he died, taking up residence in Vista House—the building he is best known for and one he felt he was never fully paid for?

 

(Special thanks to Ranger Mo Czinger for this ghostly account.)

Snowmaggedon 2014

Well, it’s been heck of a month for weather in the Columbia River Gorge.  You probably saw last week’s snow in the news and at your own doorstep.  Here’s a peek of how things looked from our boots.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

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Snowbanks lined the (plowed!) East Gorge trailheads.  As a kiddo, I would have found these to be the perfect base for a snow fort.

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A little bit of snow didn’t keep the hearty visitors from playing along the West Trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail!

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However, at the West Gorge, the light, fluffy snow, with a nice Gorge breeze made for drifts high enough to block entrance to the Rooster Rock office.

Monday, February 10, 2014

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Overnight sleet turned the parking lot at Angel’s Rest into an ice skating rink.  2018 Winter Olympics, here we come!

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Any guesses as to the medium of this piece of winter art?
It’s snow!  Swirled with grit and filling the outside stairwell to the Friends of Vista House winter office. Gorgeous . . . until it melted!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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Rangers returned to work on Tuesday to drifts up to four feet tall — it took the whole team, manger included, to clear the way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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By Wednesday, passenger vehicles finally had access Rooster Rock. . . . And our light, fluffy winter wonderland began to turn to dirty brown mush.  Until next time . . .

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!

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.