Ah … summer in the Pacific Northwest! It just doesn’t get any better than this—or so it seems. The traditional “June gloom” on the West coast is nowhere to be seen this week. I’m no fool, and so I took off for a mini vacation to the Columbia River Gorge, one of my very favorite spots to hang out. The area is a mecca for traveling tourists or for just anyone seeking adventure. Take your choice of traveling along the gorge via highways in either Washington or Oregon; there are plenty of bridges to cross over to either side. Also, choose between the lush, green side of the west end or the drier, desert side of the gorge on the east end … or enjoy both! Each has its own fascinating and beautiful, scenic topography. I chose to enjoy both.
My first stop along the way was the Columbia Sternwheeler at Cascade Locks, Oregon. I wanted to take a sightseer cruise, but I found out that the boat was sold out. So much for planning. It’s best to make reservations for this excursion. So I continued on into the eastern end of the gorge. My next plan was to visit the The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center – Wasco County Historical Museum, located in The Dalles. I had never visited it before, even though I had passed by it many times. If you are not in a hurry, I strongly suggest you travel on the the Columbia River Gorge Historical Highway on the east end of the gorge. Exit Interstate 84 at Mosier and follow the road up to the top of the gorge to get a breathtaking view at Rowena Crest. Along the way, pass by rural, fruit orchards and vineyards. There’s very little traffic here, although it’s popular with bicyclists.
As I was photographing, all of a sudden a boat comes around a corner of the gorge bluffs. I had to take a double look. Lo and behold, it was a tall ship. What luck! In fact, there were two of them. I had found out from talking to a couple of locals that they had heard in the news that a couple of tall ships were to be traveling up the Columbia River this week, making stops at a few ports along the way. The ships were the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. Very cool!
Continuing my journey along this part of the historical highway, I followed the road down to the Discovery Center. It’s located right along the river. The center is a large building with wing partitions. One section has rooms and exhibits detailing the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Native Indian history. There is also a live raptor demonstration. In another wing of the center is an excellent county historical museum. Make sure to stop by the excellent gift shop, as well. Around the outside of the building are walking trails and exhibits. Below are some photos of the center, along with surrounding views.
After an afternoon well spent at the Discovery Center, I made my way through the city of The Dalles and crossed over the river to Washington State. My plan was to stay overnight in the city of Goldendale to try to get some sunset photos of Mount Adams. Goldendale sits in a rural valley with a fantastic view of the mountain. But first, I would have to climb the bluffs of the gorge to get there. At this end of the gorge are some beautiful, undulating hills that make for scenic photos. There are also wind power farms that have been springing up over the years. Some people feel that they spoil the landscape. I think they are fascinating and beautiful, in themselves.
I patiently waited for sunset to see what colors would be present in the sky. There weren’t very many clouds to speak of, so not too much drama that night. There are two mountain peaks viewable from Goldendale: Mount Hood and Mount Adams. The sun sets very close to Mount Adams and that’s where the small amount of sunset color was.
© Peggy A Thompson