Thursday, October 18, 2012

The scenic Columbia River Gorge

October 18 -
Today was our day in Hood River and surroundings; per plans dedicated to the Columbia River Gorge scenic drive. After a decent breakfast at the Riverside grill (included with our stay), we stopped at the Hood River visitor booth to get some maps of the area and look up the falls and nearby hikes. There was some good info to be had here since I didnt find anything similar online.

View of the Vista House from the Womens Forum Viewpoint
The best part of the scenic drive is between Portland and Hood River. We didnt explore the Washington side and did not venture out to The Dalles. We drove west on I-84 till exit 22 to state hwy -30. The first stop on this route going east from the town of Corbett is the Portland Women's Forum park. This scenic viewpoint offers spectacular views of the Columbia River, the vista house and the surrounding mountains. It was extremely windy when we stopped here and we could barely stand there to take even a few pics. In any case, its a definite stop on this route since the views are totally worth it. The next stop is the Vista house but the part of hwy-30 leading up to this spot was closed down for construction, so we had to skip it. A fork in the road (going right) leads up to Larch Mountain from where one can see the peaks of several mountains. We didnt go the 6-7 mile route, so cannot comment on the views but I am sure its stunning as well. We drove back the way we came, headed west on I-84 and took exit 28 to Bridal Veil falls. Once we got back on hwy-30, we headed east till we reached Latourell Falls. This was our first glimpse of a Columbia River Gorge Falls. I had my fill of photography from the lower vantage point. We then hiked up to the top of the falls - the hiking trail continues way past the falls but we we didnt venture out very far. From here we started out west - our next stop was Dell's Sheppard. This is a much smaller but more scenic waterfall. Its just a short climb from the highway and the bridge around the waterfall would probably offer a stunning picturesque photo if the light is right. I didnt quite get it since the Sun was in my face (and camera) and I couldnt quite avoid it no matter what angle I chose. An HDR might have worked but everyone was losing patience! :P

The "other" view near Bridal Veil Falls
Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls. This is a bit of a hike down from the highway - so hike down to the falls, then hike back up. The location is very beautiful with a small wooden bridge amidst green forestry leading up to the actual falls. Lots of photo ops! :)

Wahkeena Falls is next (going east) and visible from the highway but we did not stop here. We headed on to the most famous of the falls along the route: Multonomah Falls. By this time the family was hungry. The result of not packing a picnic lunch was spending extra $$ on average food at the Multonomah Lodge restaurant at the falls. Its ok and a savior if you are starving since there isnt really anything else along the route unless you head out of the area. After doing to necessary "pet-pooja", we walked towards the falls. As cliched as the pics of these falls are, one cant resist getting that "money" shot with the same view/look. I got several one of which I am hoping will be hanging in a frame some day! :D

My money shot of Multnomah Falls!! :)
The climb up to Benson bridge is short - 0.2 m - worth it since the views from there are quite nice. The hike to the top is about 1.1 m - DH very enthusiastically climbed all the way up and pretty much sprinted down. He thought the climb was very much worth it as well. The falls is very pretty and even though I'd read it was over-rated, I would not recommend missing seeing it or hiking to the bridge/top.

Next on our drive east was Oneanta falls - which is a 1m hike from the road. We skipped this and went to the next one: horsetail falls - visible from the road. We got some pics here but take the trails to the several falls accessible from this location (including Oneanta Falls).

This little guy was actually posing for me!
We headed back on I-84 and took exit 44 to Bonneville Dam, with the intention of seeing the fish ladder and migrating salmon. Thought this might be interesting for DS. Unfortunately the place closes at 5pm. So we ended up strolling the fish hatchery and surrounding garden. Its nothing special but for a photo enthusiast, there are hidden treasures everywhere. We got to see some rather interesting fishes, ducks, flowers and fauna. Of course, I was wielding my camera everywhere! :P

By the time we reached Hood River it was time for dinner and DH found a hidden gem in the downtown. The 6th street Bistro is on 6th street off of Cascade Ave. We enjoyed our dinner here: coconut red curry, teriyaki stir fry, pear-walnut salad... the house soup - potato leek - was also excellent! So was the desert! We stayed with vegetarian options and everything was yummy. Definitely recommended.

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