Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Columbia River--Portland to Kennewick

The Columbia rolling down from the Canadian Northwest
Looking East from Chanticleer Point
Taken 6/19/07

Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through
Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew
Canadian Northwest to the oceans so blue
Roll on Columbia, roll on

--Woody Guthrie

In my last epistle, I wrote of the drive along the Suislaw River, ending with a late night in Portland. With this post, I’ll talk about the second day of my drive, June 19th, 2007, on which date I drove through the Columbia Gorge, and spent some time in The Dalles, Oregon.

Getting a late start from Portland (due, no doubt to the lateness of my bedtime the night before), I drove east out of Portland on I-84, heading for The Dalles, Kennewick, Washington, and points east. In the olden days, I would have driven directly from Portland to Missoula, taking about 10 hours for the trip. But I’m no longer under strict schedules, and can enjoy the journey as much as, if not more than the destination.

Approximately twenty miles east of downtown, I left I-84 to drive the Historic Columbia River Highway. The sign pictured below should have been my first warning. But I do love a challenge, and what’s a 10% grade, especially if you’re going uphill in something more modern than a Model T. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to take the road uphill or down in winter driving conditions. Nor would I want to have one of the houses hidden in the deep foliage, living in constant fear of having someone’s SUV landing in my sun room. The sign warned of a one and a half mile ascent, but I didn’t clock it. I can only say that once I came out on top, I was in suburbia, with beautiful homes, large yards, fences, and narrow, twisty streets which lead eventually to Chanticleer Point, or The Portland Women’s Club, which may be the same thing. The signs were confusing. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Portland Women’s Club was responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the Chanticleer Point Overlook. But that’s only a guess. The photo at the top of this page was taken looking east, up the Columbia, from the overlook. In the distance you can see the Vista House which turned out to be my next stop.

You have been warned
Corbett Hill Road, Corbett Oregon
Taken 6/19/07

A few (OK, many) twists and turns later and the road deposited me at Vista House, the next major tourist overlook on the highway. And actually the last overlook as immediately after Vista House, the road dropped quickly to river level. Vista House was somewhat frustrating in that I saw lots of folks walking around with grande lattes, but saw nowhere to buy one for myself. Grande lattes do seem to have become the drink of choice for Americans in what I refer to as the Seattleization of the World. I wandered around Vista House, taking photos inside and out, and then turned the Saab loose on the old road.

For the next several hours I drove at 30 mph or less, stopping at Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls, and Horsetail Falls. I hiked many of the short trails leading to these falls, but only at Wahkeena was I tempted to continue beyond the base of the falls itself. Meeting a pair of what Gary would call “Women in sensible shoes,” I asked if the trail circled back down to the parking lot. They weren’t sure about that, but told me that it did go to the top of the falls. Now personally, the only reason I can think of to go to the top of a waterfall is to throw yourself off. You can’t really get a good perspective of the falls from the top. So, semi-reluctantly, I turned around and followed the women back down the trail I had just climbed.

At Multnomah Falls I was put off by a bus load of fundamentalists, and decided against visiting either the gift store or the restaurant. I do recommend the Sunday brunch at Multnomah Falls, however. Many’s the time I’ve headed home from Portland with the idea of having my first meal stop here. All you can eat for a reasonable price and quite a choice as well, with both breakfast and Sunday dinner options available. In fact, why not just eat it all. Life’s short.

A brief stop at Horsetail Falls, led me to try and get a good close up. Instead, I found myself at risk of falling into the pool, and my acrophobia kicked in. Unfortunately, most of the shots I did take were ruined by sunspots as I had reached the time of day where the sun was directly behind the falls. Horsetail Falls is just a couple of miles from my favorite Columbia Gorge campsight, Ainsworth State Park. Before I discovered the nighttime pleasures of Portland, I would camp in Ainsworth and spend a day at Rooster Rock, a clothing optional state park right on the river. There’s no camping available at Rooster Rock, and Ainsworth was the closest park with tent sites. The downside of camping anywhere in the Gorge is that the flat area is so narrow that you’re camped right next to the railroad and the trains run all night long. The upside is that you’re in an absolutely beautiful area, so you ignore the trains rumbling by just outside your tent. I’ve camped with tent and with camper, and Ainsworth even has spots for motorhomes. If you’re at all into camping, I recommend the park which can be reached by taking exit 35 and heading west about half a mile.

I wanted to stay off the interstate as long as I could, but it proved to be impossible east of Ainsworth. The first road I took was a dead end. The second paralleled the freeway for a few miles then became an on-ramp. Even though there were other chances to get off the highway, I continued east on I-84 to The City of The Dalles. (That’s its actual name.) Along the way I saw some fantastic sights, including one fellow windsurfing with a parachute. The wind caught him and lifted him at least twenty feet in the air. Unfortunately, I was driving 65 mph on I-84 and had no place to stop and take some shots of his acrobatics.

Once at The Dalles (the common name for the city), I had some geocaches to find, and exited I-84 at River Road. You can read more about my impressions of this seat of Wasco County by visiting my travel site, . I ended up spending much more time than I’d planned, largely because while I found two caches, the second required some hiking up a trail south of town and I had entered the co-ordinates incorrectly in my GPS unit. I got close, but no cigar, when I decided to check what was going on. Once I had the correct co-ordinates, the cache was relatively easy to find. However, having found it, I next found that I had no pen with which to sign the log, and I was unwilling to use my Swiss Army knife to draw blood for my signature. I took some bad photos of me at the cache, holding the cache, showing the cache in position, etc., and figured I could always mail those in as proof of having found the darned thing.

See, I found it! I found it!
Eagle Falls Geocache, The Dalles Oregon
Taken 6/19/07

This sure looked like good rattlesnake country, and the rocks I was climbing did have me a bit concerned about what could happen. I was at least a mile away from my car (and therefore my cell phone). No one knew where I was. No one was really expecting me to show up anywhere at any specific time. And I saw no one else for the entire time I was on this particular quest. Who knows how long my lifeless body would have lain there before it was found, or eaten by coyotes. One of these days I have to learn to carry that darned cell phone with me. And by the way, hiking back from the cache I turned and saw a spectacular view of Mount Hood on the horizon—but the lighting was wrong to get a good pic. Not sure why I missed it hiking in.

Back to the car, which I’d parked in front of a house as directed by the instructions on The pickup truck in the driveway had a license plate frame that read "," so I figured I was in the right place. As I approached the car, I saw a man working in the yard, so I stopped and asked if he were responsible for the cache I’d just found. He seemed surprised that I would make that assumption, but I pointed out that having people park in your front yard was a dead giveaway. He called his wife out of the house. She was the one who actually had placed the cache. We talked for a while, and I thanked them for introducing me to a new section of The Dalles, new to me, that is.

There are lots of geocaches in the area. I had set out to find four and actually found two. After the fiasco finding the Eagle Falls cache, I decided not to try for the second cache hidden in the same general area, but did drive back to Fred Meyers to look for one hidden near the interstate. Alas, even though my GPS unit said I was right on top of the cache, I never found it. Guess that means I have to go back. I did find one along the newly constructed Riverfront Trail. This trail is ten miles long and is an excellent place to get out, stretch your legs, indulge your inner rollerblader, or just get on your bike. There are lots of caches hidden along the trail as well, so make sure you have your GPS unit with you.

The Skyline behind The Dalles.
Doesn't this look like good rattlesnake country?
Taken 6/19/07

Leaving The Dalles, I filled the Saab and my tummy at Biggs Junction, returning to the Shell Station/Linda’s Diner where I’d stopped back in April. Instead of continuing on I-84, however, I crossed the Columbia on US 97, then turned east on Washington 14. I’ve written about this road as well, and recommend it highly as an alternative to I-84. The trucks I was following turned north at Paterson on Washington 221, and I followed suit. This road led us through the Horse Heaven Hills, and past field after field of corn, peas, beans, wheat, mint, I don’t know what all else. The smells coming through the car were intoxicating. Nothing like acres of peas to really make you hungry.

The northern end of 221 is Prosser, the seat of Benton County, about twenty-five miles west of Kennewick. This is wine country—Benton County being the second largest producer of wine in the US. Napa County California is first. I was pleased to note that the monoculture taking over Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties in California is not happening here, at least not yet. Still I was struck by the evidence of extreme wealth side by side with that of poverty. Huge mansions are being built on the hillsides overlooking shanties and trailer parks on the flats. I didn’t see much evidence of middle class America in this region. Rather disheartening, I think.

Usually I come into Kennewick from the south. This time I approached from the west and promptly got lost. Kennewick is a much larger city than I previously thought, and the signs seem to be there to direct people who know where they’re going. Those of us from out of town, or out of state, just have to guess where we want to end up. Eventually I found my way to Inca, my favorite Mexican restaurant, where I enjoyed my dinner of tostada de ceviche de pulpo (Raw Octopus Salad). Having decided that I was going to drive no further, I also enjoyed Inca’s special margarita, served, to my surprise, with three cocktail olives. For dessert I had their version of fried ice cream, scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream served in a hot fried tortilla, and drizzled with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Ymmmmm. My impressions of Kennewick can be found at

Dinner done, I checked into my motel, and collapsed for the evening—spending time on line getting plenty of geocaches ready for the rest of the way east. But that’s a story for another day. You can see a selection of my (mostly unedited) photos from the day's drive on Picasa


Carl said...

Very nice pictures on Picasa, awesome falls! I agree about hiking to the top of falls, unless you can get a side view of the massive amount of water spilling out into space. It's really breathtaking.

hotproof said...

Bryan, I wanted to compliment you on the photo you captioned "The Skyline behind The Dalles". I am fascinated by your choice of perspective showing the grade of the hillside & having the skyline with the rock formation situated thusly. I also like the fence post close in the foreground on the right, giving a comparative depth of scale. Nice job.

This posting was fun to read, especially when you peppered it with the line about the only reason to go to the top landing of the falls is to jump off. That remark invoked a chuckle.

I'll be so bold as to add this info I read about The Dalles: Google started building a data center in 2006 along the Columbia River at The Dalles, called Project 02. That center allegedly is supposed to house 10,000 computer search servers. I read that on Wiki, under the search topic "The Dalles" and also "Project 02".

As far as rattlesnakes, I've luckily never encountered one. I'll admit I don't know much about them, other than not to pet them or choose them as a pet. And I'm not fond of ordering one from the menu.