Looking for the sunshine!

14 May

There is only so much rain a pair of travellers can take. We were hoping for an improvement in the weather over the week end. We had booked three nights at Champoeg State Park (say shampooee) where there seemed to be nice walks and cycle trails. it was also Founders week end and events were advertised for Saturday afternoon we thought may be interesting.

Friday was a day of sudden downpours and blustery wind, when Saturday arrived it was still grey and cool, we spent the morning indoors but planned to walk to the pavilion for 1ish where the events were published to run from 1 – 3pm. I thought they would on going all afternoon – wrong – we got there around 2.25 to find almost everything bar the coffee and cookies was finished!

Champoeg is the historical site of the birthplace of Oregon. In the 185o’s the settlers of French and British decent numbered very few in the Willamette valley but they realised that if they did not organise some sort of  government for themselves the ‘American’s’ would come in, take over and do it for them. A meeting was held at the pavilion (now within the State Park) where a vote of 52 for and 50 against decided to establish a State Government. The final points were argued out for sometime after but this is the day Oregonians celebrate as being the official birthday. What we missed was a re-enactment of the meeting and vote.

We had a brief wander around the old town site and found the marker which showed the high water mark of a great flood in 1861 which wiped out the buildings, homes to over 200 people. From here we walked to the visitor centre and toured the museum to glean more information about the native Indians and early settlers. During our walk I had spotted some pretty blue flowers I was not familiar with. I enquired from one of the volunteers and was told they were Camas, a plant which the Indians used to collect the roots and grind into a type of flour. the blue flowered ones are edible, white are not and in the spring the Indians would go out and dig up any white flowered roots to ensure that the following autumn they could not be mistakenly used. I had not seen any white ones but on the return walk I spotted one!


but many more blue ones!

We had thought our next stop would be in Portland, I hoped to visit the famous Rose Gardens. With the cold wet spring it became increasingly obvious that the roses would not yet be in bloom. On reflection we thought about what else we would like to do in Portland and decided we could get better value for our time missing out the two days in the city. We would head east down the Columbia river and into the gorge.

The Historic Columbia River Highway sits on the Oregon bank of the Columbia River above the Interstate 84. Its a slower more scenic passage along the river than the fast and furious Interstate. maybe a little more challenging for our larger vehicle but still do- able and for us the best option.

The road was the vision of Sam Hill who with engineer Samuel Lancaster were the prime force behind its construction which began in 1913. Sam had the idea that building a road joining the highlights of the gorge would bring visitors and much needed revenue to the area. How right he was when he said “We will cash in year after year on our scenic beauty, without depleting it in any way”  Our first stop along the road was  Vista House at Crown Point. This being a lovely sunny Sunday after all the rain we shared the views with plenty of other visitors.


P1270345This building with its beautiful Art Deco styling was built as a memorial to Oregon pioneers, it was originally going to be a simple way stop for travellers until the civic planners stepped in deciding something a little grander was more suited to the task. P1270352

We meandered along the highway passing Bridal Veil and Multnomah falls for today asP1270416 we had visited them previously. Our camp for the night was at Ainsworth State Park where we would have easy access to the trails taking us back to Oneonta Gorge and the falls there. Setting off next morning with blue sky again we were looking forward to our hike. There is easy access to Horsetail falls from the roadside car park and for anyone unable to take the hike these falls would not disappoint. We of course had to be a bit more adventurous and wanted to get to the upper Pony Tail falls and Triple Falls






Arriving at the upper falls we were surprised to find the water cascading over a rock over hangP1270389 the trail went right underneath.


Luckily because of the volume of water very little was running backwards to wet us but we got some spectacular views. So I suppose all the rain we have suffered these past few weeks was worth it after all?




Some sections of the trail held little challenges for us but mostly it was a pleasant if slightly rough path giving us a good work out.

When we reached triple falls it was great to sit in the warm sunshine to rest and enjoy the spectacle before us.  Water gushing over the rocks at this point has cut three channels which cascade down the rock face for around 70ft





To return we took the Oneonta Gorge section of the trail which turned out to be a much easier route than the Pony Tail falls path, we were soon back at road level where for about a mile you walk beside the highway most of it on a path of sorts.






As the gorge walls recede at the eastern end of Historic Road 30  the old road and the new have combined in some sections. We zoomed along the Interstate next day stopping off briefly at Cascade Locks where the Bridge of the Gods spans the river.


At the town of Hood River we parked in the day use area to hike  to the Mosier Twin Tunnels. This part of the road is closed to all but cycle and foot traffic, it sits high aboveP1270425 the river with fantastic views at points along the way. In contrast to the previous days hike this was a black top path so easy on the feet mostly shaded with trees, so not too warm, a great afternoon excursion.



In places the right side of our route was lined with rock walls. Clinging to the sides were succulents and small plants thriving on the water dripping from above. In other areas the woodland opened out into small clearing where many plants took advantage of the light leaf cover to produce their flowers.







P1270436This is such

a pretty time

of year!










On reaching the tunnels we first had to walk through a modern structure built to protect the road below and, those who use the path, from falling rocks from above. We had read that this was the first of its type and developed especially for this location a modern feat of engineering so in keeping with how the road was developed originally. The engineers in the early 1900’s had to face many challenges while completing it, without the earth moving equipment and techniques available today.


Hewn out of the rock the two tunnels are lined with wood – the second has two viewing port holes along its length which we eagerly approached to look out. An amazingly strong wind was blowing back at us and we did not spend many minutes looking before the afternoon heat was totally sucked from us.

We spotted some writing scrawled in a flat piece of rock. I am not sure if it is original or graffiti but, if it is to be believed, it stated that the writer had been stranded for two days in the tunnel in a snow storm in 1927 (we think it read) a cold scary experience I would imagine.

After a night at Deschutes State Park we crossed the mighty Columbia on highway 97, leaving Oregon behind we entered eastern Washington State. On our map we had spotted ‘Stonehenge Memorial’ but not known anything about it, as the road climbed up from the river I spotted a stone circle off to our right.


Here was our opportunity to find out!

P1270476What we discovered was that Sam Hill ( the visionary who helped bring about the construction of the Historic highway 30) had owned land here. During a visit to England around the time of the first world war he saw Stonehenge and was told its significance was all to do with human sacrifice. This struck a cord with Sam with regard to the human sacrifice of those being killed in the war. He erected the likeness of Stonehenge as a War Memorial to those men from his own County who died fighting for their country. The names of the men are displayed on plaques around the huge pillars of stone. The tomb of Sam Hill also stands just 50 ft from the monument high on the hill overlooking the road he brought into being on the opposite bank.




We ate lunch in this exceedingly windy spot looking out at the river where barges were bouncing along on the rough water, in the distance was Mount Hood covered with snow and glowing like the moon in the sunlight.


The days end point was to be the town of Zillah with a Harvest Host but not before we travelled a little further along route 97 and were treated to magnificent views of some of the other large Washington Cascade mountains.

Mount Adams


Just 2000ft lower than Mount Rainier which is Washington’s highest point at over 14,000 feet.

Cloud covered the top of Mount Rainier when we arrived at Porteus Winery in Zillah. We enjoyed a tasting session of some very good wine with Matt and met with Paul Porteus.  The evening was cold but, bright enough for us to enjoy our view across the vines. Next morning however I was met with a beautiful view when I lifted the front screen. The early sun lit up a cloud free Mount Rainier to our right with Mount Adams to the left of it – spectacular!

As the day warmed up we took a walk around the fields accompanied by the winery dogs P1270527who faithfully guided us all the way.

Apart that is from when gophers were more interesting!



Not to worry – she was not stuck and apparently does this regularly!

A second Harvest Host in Zillah, Bonair Winery, accommodated us for the next night after we sampled their wines. Once more a lovely location parked with views of the mountains beside the vines and in a small lawn area. Thank you again Harvest Hosts!



One Response to “Looking for the sunshine!”

  1. Mike and Dee May 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Hi there, you two! I didn’t realize that you were still in the States. When do you head home? Great post with wonderful photos. Making us drool to see more of the US.

    We are getting settled into our summer base camp and even have a n addition to our family. A Maltese puppy called TimBit. He is very cute and keeping us busy with his antics.

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