The Columbia Gorge to the mountains of Utah.

9 Nov

Having driven west in such a hurry without chance to stop we hoped the ‘return’ journey would provide us with more opportunity to enjoy the road we travel while also allowing us to proceed at a reasonable pace to outwit the weather!

The drive down through Seattle was, as we had hoped, quieter but, just as wet as our previous passages. I feel sure there must be a permanent rain cloud over the I 5 in that area. We had realised that Mount Helena visitor centre was close by our intended route and made this a stopping point for Sunday night.

The visitor centre was almost deserted, we were the only two to sit and watch the short video which told the story of the 1980 eruption which blew out the side of the mountain and changed the landscape in the surrounding area forever.

It was too far to drive up to the mountain at the present time, we have however added it to our list of ‘to be returned too’, as the hikes around the mountain sounded very interesting.

Monday arrived wet and misty we once more hit the Interstate 5 as far as Portland then turned onto the I 84 which would take us along the picturesque Columbia River Gorge. Well, it would have been had it not been for the low cloud! IMG_4352



We stopped off at Multnomah falls,



and then drove on to the Bonneville Dam and fish hatchery. We watched as Coho and Chinook salmon passed through the fish ladder and were able to see from the previous days counts that, here too, the salmon have returned in record numbers this year. We had heard a report in BC that the experts are baffled why suddenly the fish have re appeared after several years of decline. We also visited the captive Sturgeon and his friends, huge fish and not too pretty either.

By the end of our day things did seem to be brightening up and drying out so we were delighted to wake next morning to blue sky, sunshine quickly chasing away the last of the low cloud. We crossed the Columbia River via a very narrow metal bridge which reminded us of our Prudhoe/Ovingham bridge so notorious back home.


but the river was beautiful


Our day continued in sunshine the mountains eventually giving way to a flatter landscape as the miles moved on.Looking back over our shoulder we had a great view of Mount Hood – the highest point in Oregon.


The east side of Oregon surprised us by being so different to the coastal strip we had travelled on our early journey in 2009, sparsely populated and quite flat, wide open spaces. From Oregon we entered Idaho, we had missed out spending a night here before so its not filled in on our state map, remedied now, we even bought some Idaho cheese and potatoes!


and had a lovely walk by the river in Heyburn, still the sun shines. Record temperatures for November are being set across the States as we experience an Indian Summer.


Looking at our maps to decide which route to take we realised how close we would be to Arches National Park. We had visited Bryce and Zion National Parks last year around this time but missed Arches. We have been told by several people we should make time to visit, so this will be our heading.

We left behind I 84 to connect with I 15 which would take us through Salt Lake City, the landscape once more changing. We have been in higher ground all day today, rising from around 3,500 to 5,000 ft and the mountains around us now towering at 10,000ft.

A well timed stop at the Utah Visitor Centre supplied us with good advice from the Ranger there to take the Legacy Parkway where no trucks are allowed. It seems this route spreads the Salt Lake traffic a bit, it was however one of the busiest areas we have passed through since Seattle and Portland.

Tonight we are at a campground next to Utah Lake just south of Salt Lake City, the scenery is quite breathtaking. The snow topped mountains shining in the sun framed the outline of the lake, with golden trees dotted around the shoreline, a little mist arose in the distance and the millpond lake surface was occasionally disturbed by fish as they jumped out of the water to take a look around.


We are keeping close tabs on the weather knowing this cannot last, the forecast is for cold air to move in the middle of next week, hopefully we can make our visit and be out of the high ground before it arrives.


One Response to “The Columbia Gorge to the mountains of Utah.”

  1. Susan November 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    beautiful pictures! Hope your weather holds for a bit longer. we had snow here in MA yesterday but it warmed up today. Sadly we are heading out tomorrow but the good news is we are going from visiting one child to visiting the other one!

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