Mountains & the Columbia River Gorge (Oregon and Washington)


Day two of our trip the Pacific Northwest brought another early rising and another breakfast at our hotel. The Palm is the restaurant at The Benson in downtown Portland and other than the prices there is nothing to complain about. Service and good are excellent. I just like to try different places.

As another first for us, we arranged transportation through Uber to get to our rental car pick-up spot which was out near the airport. Uber was super easy to set-up on my phone — very intuitive.  The driver was at our hotel 2 minutes after we ordered the car. Alex, our driver, gave us some tips about driving in Oregon (yes, u-turns are legal) and some recommendations for places to stop in our travels.

Once we picked up the rental car, we headed out of Portland toward Mount Hood. Our final destination for the day would be Stevenson, WA. If we went directly there, we could have been there in about 45 minutes.  But we wanted to see what we could of Columbia River Gorge and surrounding area.  Leaving Portland in the rain was the usual suburban traffic but within a half hour or so we were out of town and enjoying the view in the sunshine.

Our first real stop was at Mount Hood which has a height of 11,249 feet and is the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Mountain Range.  When we stopped at the area where the run off from the glaciers comes to the highway, the sun was shining and there were no clouds near the mountain top. Within 20 minutes, the top of the mountain was clouded in and we were on the road again.

Mount Hood

We continued north to town of Hood River which is right on the Columbia River, the USA’s second largest river.  Hood River is a major recreational area and we were able to see lots of water sport enthusiasts on the river.

We continued following the Columbia River on Highway 84 through to The Dalles. The drive through the Columbia Gorge is fantastic. Mountains and water – what more could you ask for! I wish I was one of those bloggers who can describe in wonderful words how beautiful the scenery was but unfortunately I’m not.  But trust me, it was worth the drive!

Along the Columbia River Gorge

The name “The Dalles” intrigues me.  The official website for the city doesn’t give an explanation for the name but other sites I looked at say that it’s a translation from French meaning either gutter or flagstone.

From The Dalles, we crossed The Dalles Bridge into Washington and headed back west on Highway 14. More beautiful scenery along the Columbia River Gorge.

The Dalles Dam

I had read about some ice caves that we could visit at Gifford Pinchot National Forest so we detoured off Highway 14 onto Highway141 and headed north for Trout Creek.  Did I mention we had not done a lot of research for this trip?  When we arrived and read the materials at the ranger station, we decided we were not equipped for the the hike through the caves.  We didn’t have appropriate footwear, head protection or lighting.  But it was continuation of our wonderful drive and we were able to stop in BZ Corner to watch the kayakers on the White Salmon River.

Kayaker on the White Salmon River

When we arrived in Stevenson, we were surprised to find a number of the places in town were closed for the season already (it was only early October). Our reservation though was for Skamania Lodge which was 100% full. The front desk was turning away people when we arrived. The view from the lodge is fantastic – mountains and the river. There is a beautiful seating area outside to just sit and watch the view. If you’re in the area, I suggest you stop by just to check out the view if nothing else.

A Nice Place to Relax at Skamania Lodge

While I was attending my work conference for the next two days, Al went exploring on his own.  The first day he took back roads to the east side of Mount St. Helens to Spirit Lake.  Both Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood, had been named after a British naval officer.  Because he was so in awe of what he saw there, we decided we would visit the west side of the mountain before we headed off to the Oregon coast later in the week.

View of Mount St. Helens from Spirit Lake

The second day he visited Conboy Lake National Wildlife Reserve.  Unfortunately, he didn’t see any wildlife there but he enjoyed his hike through the area.

Although we were staying in Stevenson for a work related event, we did have an opportunity to view the fish ladders on both sides of the Bonneville Dam and take in the talk about the fish ladder on the Oregon side. The talk by the guide was quite interesting and he made it very entertaining.

In this area, you cross the Columbia at the Bridge of the Gods which is a toll bridge about 4 miles up river from the Bonneville Dam.  The name Bridge of the Gods comes from Native American lore.

While still at Stevenson, we did a chartered dinner cruise out of Cascades, OR on the Columbia River Sternwheeler. It’s a beautiful way to see the river and it’s surrounding area plus enjoy a lovely dinner.  Dinner was a choice of mushroom ravioli, steelhead trout or lamb.  My lamb was cooked perfectly and served with fabulous garlic mashed potatoes.  This was possibly the best meal we had on our trip.  Plus I was able to finish it off with a nice dessert and a shot of Amaretto.

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

We left Stevenson via Highway 14 and the took I-205 to the cutoff for Mount St. Helens. The drive through to the Johnston Ridge Observatory was great. We had views of Mount St. Helens as well as Mount Adams.  After taking in the views of the mountains from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, we then retraced our route back to I-205 and headed off to Astoria, OR to begin our trip down the Oregon coast which I will tell you about in my next post.

Mount St. Helens






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