Friday, June 19, 2009


Wednesday was Odel’s first workday since we came home, and after a morning bike ride to patrol the trail (blowing needed!), we spent 4 hours in the visitor center going over the opening procedures, handling annual and day passes, closing procedures and reconciling our revenue.  As soon as he is comfortable with the visitor center responsibilities, we will split the 4 hour shift so we each can spend time on the outdoor duties.  Odel blew the trail in the afternoon while I caught up with our OTHER volunteer job, the Boomers!

3 foot bull snake on bike trail, soaking up the early morning sunshine. First a quarry, then a fruit dump (and favorite spot for the bears) for the local orchards, now a lake along the bike trail.

Thursday was a different story.  Once again, the coordinator for the Friends of the Vista House (the National Historic Landmark building on Crown Point, along the Historic Columbia Highway in the Gorge) arranged a trip for us (remember last week’s train ride?).  This time, we headed out on the Columbia River on the sternwheeler Columbia Gorge.

The sternwheel Columbia Gorge coming into the dock at Cascade Locks

This is a tourist attraction I can whole-heartedly endorse!  As you can see in the photo, we had great weather for the trip, and we – along with the other volunteer hosts I met on the train last week – enjoyed the sunshine on the top deck during the entire 2-hour trip.

The sternwheeler travels both up and down river from Cascade Locks, the tiny town where it is docked.  The captain narrates the cruise, providing tidbits of current and historical information – Lewis and Clark’s passage through the area, the area’s Native American tribes, the building of the dams (Bonneville and The Dalles) and subsequent flooding of the rapids that had bedeviled explorers, trappers, traders and and Oregon Trail pioneers.

The big wheel keeps on turning...  rollin', rollin' rollin' on the river.

According to the captain, the ship is entirely powered by the big stern wheel – no auxiliary engines.  Standing on the back of the deck, looking down on the huge paddlewheel, this is entirely believable! Lots of noise, cascades of churning water, plenty of spray… it is a giddy experience to watch those big paddles whack the water.

Our two hour Sightseeing Cruise normally costs $28/person (thank you, Friends of Vista House, for picking up our tab!) and it would be worth the fare for this beautiful and educational tour (especially on a sunny day).  They also offer a Dinner Cruise, a Champagne Brunch Cruise and a once-a-week, 5-hour “Landmarks of the Gorge” Cruise – all more costly, and probably worth it.

Between Hood River and Portland, about 50 miles, there is only one place to exit the Oregon side of the Gorge – the Garden of the Gods Bridge from Cascade Locks, Oregon, to Stevenson, Washington.  Native American fishing platforms on the Washington bank.  Four Indian tribes have year-round fishing rights in these traditional fishing grounds, where the rapids were flooded as water rose behind the dams.After the cruise, we crossed the bridge to the Washington side of the Gorge and headed east, back to next bridge over the river, from White Salmon/Bingen, Washington to Hood River.  It seems to us that we encountered unusually heavy traffic heading towards us (west), and the backup at the bridge toll booth heading into Hood River was extremely long.

In Hood River, it was total gridlock everywhere! We’re talkin’ about a small town, so this was a baffling surprise to us.  The cause?  A hay truck caught fire heading west on Interstate 84 between Hood River and Cascade Locks, leaving two choices for westbound travelers: cross the bridge at Hood River and head west on the narrow, two-lane road on the Washington bank, or head south on Highway 35 and swing west on Highway 26, on the south side of Mt. Hood.  Consequently, all roads through, north of, and south of Hood River were JAMMED with traffic being detoured off the interstate. 

After finishing a few errands in Hood River, we crawled along with the rest of the 1-mile per hour traffic until we reached our turn and headed home up the loops of the Historic Highway.  The experience gave us a not-to-be-forgotten lesson on the importance of this little town in the grand scheme of travel through the Cascade Mountains and the Gorge.

1 comment:

  1. Laurie, we did the Wednesday lunch cruise on the Columbia Gorge last year, and are scheduled to go again this year. A bunch of us volunteers from Bonneville Lock and Dam are going together. The cost is reasonable and the food last year was great. We can highly reccomend it. Reservations are required.
    The hay truck held up one of our volunteers for over 4 hours the other day.
    Ain't this Gorge volunteering great?