One of the neatest things about living in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon is the variety of topography and climates. There’s a little of everything for everybody….from coastline to mountain to desert. If you don’t like the rain in the western part of the state, then get in the car and drive to the eastern part of the state. Of course, this can be a bit tricky during the winter season navigating the mountain passes, but in the summertime, there are no worries… and the drives are just breathtaking!
Yesterday, I did a whirlwind tour of the Columbia River Gorge. Rather, “I went down to the gorge,” as locals here would say. I’ve pretty much scoured most touristy spots in the gorge over the years, so these days I try to make it a point to hone in on a particular site or two to visit for a one day trip. The Columbia River Gorge offers so much to see and do and really requires some days to get aquainted with this vast stretch of area that makes up a large portion of the boundary between Oregon and Washington.
I traveled to the eastern end of the gorge, the desert side, to take in some sun and dry heat. Mind you, this area gets quite toasty in the summer, but as it turned out, temperatures were quite comfortable on this day….only in the mid 80’s. I hung out at Maryhill, WA for a while, perusing an arts and crafts show held on the grounds of the Maryhill Museum of Art. The view of the gorge is spectacular from here! Check it out!
And while in this tiny gorge community, it’s a must to stop by the Stonehenge Memorial that is perched on a bluff overlooking the gorge (Exploring the Columbia River Gorge – Part I). Also, the dry, undulating hills of the gorge are dotted with wind farms that contrast with green vineyards that are ample along the gorge, making for interesting landscape photography.
On my journey back home, I decided to travel the eastern portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon, which I had not done before. If you have ever visited any of the popular waterfalls along the Oregon side of the gorge, then you have driven the western portion of the historic highway. My decision to take this particular route was much rewarded. The drive includes a 700 ft climb to the top of the gorge to a viewpoint called Rowena Crest. The panoramic view will literally take your breath and hat away! Wind gusts are persistent here, so beware! In fact, I should mention that it can be very windy on many days in the gorge, even at sea level, as it was this particular day. As well, there is a nature preserve located at the site along with trails.
How does one get to Rowena Crest? If driving eastbound Oregon I-84 from Portland, take the Mosier exit; if driving westbound I-84 from The Dalles, take the Rowena exit. These exits will get you onto Hwy 30, which is the Historic Colombia River Highway. Need to get from one side of the gorge to another? Not to worry! There are several bridges that criss-cross the gorge at major locations…some with tolls, some without.
My latest trip to “the gorge” has shown me that there are so many exciting things to do and see that are just waiting to be discovered along one of our nation’s most beautiful national scenic byways. Come see for yourself!