Back to Portland

The DesertOur trek from Glacier National Park back to Portland was rather uneventful, and yet satisfying.  We drove all the way through, only stopping in Coeur D’Alene for lunch (which was a completely unexpected yet beautiful city in Idaho).  Again, somewhere in Montana we hit a giant hailstorm of bugs.  We seemed to literally drive through a wall of them with some as big as your fist.

As we drove through the dry areas, we watched the outside temperature gauge in the car reach as high as 106ºF.  Rachel wanted to know what that feels like, so at 70Mph we opened the windows and stuck our arms out.  It felt just like a blow dryer, and closed went the windows.

Dust DevilAlong the way we saw a ton of dust devils, which is kind of neat as I don’t remember ever seeing them this large before.  They look like mini tornadoes, and they seemed to tear across the skyline with a fury.

After crossing into Oregon we followed the Columbia River along I84, a large section of which we had taken before.  As the sun set, we were provided beautiful views of Mt Hood clear as day right over the river.  The most beautiful sight however was as we were passing Multnomah Falls and the sunlight was peaking through some clouds so only the falls were lit up.  It almost made us turn around, but we pushed on.

Mt Hood over the Columbia River

We arrived at George and Stacie’s with just enough time to show them some pictures and then head to bed.

Even just driving through, the scenery out here is beautiful and fulfilling.

Columbia River Gorge (east end)

Our original plan for Sunday morning was to head to the west side of Mount St Helens.  However; after checking the weather report, it seemed like it might be a bit useless.  Overcast throughout the entire region for the whole day.  No matter, one of the greatest things about this area of the country is if you head an hour in any direction you’ll hit a different climate zone.  So that’s exactly what we did.  When we went out to the Columbia Gorge last we were a bit rushed and didn’t get a chance to check everything out that we wanted to.   This time we took I84 straight out the gorge and didn’t take any detours until we passed route 35 (the farthest out we made it last time).

Rowena Crest Panorama

We happened upon a few good viewpoints along the way (such as those at Ruthton Park) but our luck severely turned when we chatted briefly with a Ranger at the Twin Tunnels Trail.  She told us a little history about the road we were on and how the rest of it was closed to all but bikers and hikers (with a permit).  She then told us about an excellent viewpoint, called the Rowena Crest, coming up along the Historic Columbia River Highway and gave us directions.

Rowena CrestThe Rowena Crest is one of the best overlooks of the Gorge that we’ve seen.  To get there you start heading east and it gets drier and drier the farther out you go.  This makes for some dramatically different scenery.  This was perfect for today as it was overcast and damp in Portland.  Once we reached the Rowena crest, we spent a little while walking around the trails and getting shots of the curvy roads we’d have to take.  Then we headed back to Portland to visit with the Hamalainens and the new Heath family for one last get together before everyone headed home.  We only stayed for a short while before heading on to our next stop, Bend Oregon.

What little we saw of Bend was very pretty.  However; Bend was really only a halfway point for us to make the drive to Crater Lake tomorrow shorter.

Mt Hood and Columbia River Gorge

Mt HoodOne of the things on the must-see list in the Portland area is the Columbia River Gorge. A large group decided at dinner last night to meet up and head out for that at about 10am. Because we’re relatively early risers we thought we’d get a head start, do the Mt Hood loop and meet them out. It’s a good thing we did!

Multnomah FallsIf you get a chance to take the Mt Hood Scenic byway DO IT! That being said, we did. We saw the Oregon trail at laurel hill, the Salmon River, the White River and some fantastic views of Mt Hood. We also got some sweet cherries for a cool $1.50/lb at a local fruit stand. They cost more than $4/lb at home!

From there we met the group at Multnomah Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway where a few of us hiked to the top. Getting to the top is quite a workout, 15 switchbacks and a mile later. The group headed back from there but since we hadn’t gotten a chance to see the Vista House, we stopped there for a vista and what a one it was.
vista house view
The whole loop : Highly suggested.

An awesome first day.