Invigorating Outdoor Fun -Columbia River Gorge part 3

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Interspersed with our scenic drives were outdoor activities that we like to do when available in areas we visited. Indeed there is an abundance of recreation opportunities at the gorgeous Gorge that should not be missed. The Gorge is the playground for windsurfers, white-water rafters, and hikers from all over the world. It also happens to be one of the nation’s premier road biking destinations. We got it made!  We are so thrilled that we can do our favorite outdoor activities with sunny days and awesome weather to boot.  So what did we do?  We hiked, we biked, we went wine and beer tours. How about that! Continue reading

Gorgeous Gorge – Columbia River Gorge part 2

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Traveling through and around the Gorge is easy, and to really experience the Gorge is to drive  from east to west or vice versa depending on where you originate from.  It should also be driven following State Route 14 on the Washington side and the busier highway 84 on the Oregon side, or much will be missed.  The breathtaking beauty of the Gorge and surrounding areas are full of remarkable views depending on your direction, time of day and weather.  State Route 14 (a.k.a Lewis and Clark highway ) and I-84 are both scenic highways, and driving them completes the Gorge Loop and one must stop along the way to take in the various sights and towns.

We arrived at the Gorge from the east, Washington side on State Route 14, and what we saw from there were sweeping views of the Gorge, gigantic rock formations, quaint towns, vineyards and Mt Hood.

Rock Formation, Columbia Gorge

Rock formations and vineyard

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

The Dalles Bridge

The Dalles Bridge connects Murdock, WA to The Dalles OR on the eastern side of the Gorge

The Historical Columbia River Highway (Oregon) is another option to travel back in time circa 1913,  a winding road amidst lush green trees and stonework construction.  On the east end we took the 9 mile scenic route paralleling I-84, climbing to the Rowena Plateau and stopping at the Rowena Crest Overlook which is the eastern companion to the Crown Point Overlook on the west.  The dramatic views of the Rowena Loops and the dry eastern landscape are not to be missed.

Columbia River Gorge

Rowena Crest Overlook

View from the Rowena Crest Overlook

Historic Columbia River Highway

The Historic Columbia River Highway towards the Rowena Crest

Rowena Loops, Columbia River Gorge

Rowena Loops

On the west end of the Historical Columbia River Highway, our drive took us to the many beautiful cascading waterfalls and lush greenery that we described in part 1 of this post.  We began the drive  at Chanticleer Point which has astounding views of the river and the Gorge that can be seen from the tops of cliffs.

Highway Columbia River Highway

Lushier Highway Columbia River Highway on the westside

Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge

View from Chanticleer Point with Vista House on the foreground

Continuing down the Byway, we arrived at the Vista House at Crown Point, one of the most photographed sites along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  In 1913 Samuel Lancaster, the highway’s chief engineer, believed that this outcropping of land located atop a 733-foot sheer cliff overlooking the Columbia River was one of the most spectacular vistas in the world.  We agreed.  It was a view to behold.

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge looking east

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge looking west

Vista House, Crown Point

Vista House, Crown Point

Tunnel on Highway 14, Columbia River Gorge

One of the many tunnels on State Route 14, the lowest height was 12’9″

On another day we drove the Mt Hood Scenic Byway (approx. 145 miles) and the entire trip is picturesque with Mt Hood as the focal point.  At 11,245 feet, Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon, the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Range and one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks.  Starting from the west we came into  the timberline and this byway lead us through classic Oregon scenery.  At the end of this drive we made several stops in the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic driving route that takes you around to several local farms where you can pay a small amount for U-pick fruits and other goodies.

Bridge of the Gods,Cascade Locks

Bridge of the Gods, connects OR and WA at the west end of Cascade Locks

Mt Hood, OR

Background of the fruit loop

Lavender Farm, Columbia River Gorge

Lavender Farm

Hood River Bridge,White Salmon, WA to Hood River, OR

Hood River Bridge, connecting White Salmon, WA to Hood River, OR

We took a quick detour from SR 14 (WA) and drove up Old Highway 8 where we enjoyed more outstanding views of the Gorge and some good wines at the local wineries.  Oh yeah, we bought a few bottles too!

SR 14, Columbia River Gorge

Looking down at SR 14

Garnier Vineyards, Columbia River Gorge

Garnier Vineyards in the morning haze

We were advised that this area is beset by mountain fires this time of the year.

fires at the Columbia River Gorge

This fire covered the gorge with smoke for several days.

So have we covered and seen everything?  Despite a week stay here, there are still nooks and crannies in the gorgeous Gorge to be explored.

Holy Smokes! Central Washington

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After the Customs officer at the US border confiscated some vegetables we had purchased in Kelowna, we went straight to a gas station and filled Betsy up.  The diesel price as we know now was a tad higher as we travelled south but much cheaper than Alaska or Canada.  The change in scenery is quite dramatic, reminding us we are back in the Lower 48 with Washington state as our gateway.

As we drove along the highway we noticed the mountains are dry, with parched forest, dry brush and grass. Interspersed are acres of orchards and vineyards. Remember, red delicous apples from Washington – that’s where they are grown.  Nearing our destination we noticed smoke and fires coming from the mountain tops and noticed that a haze was already covering the valley.

Central Washington


We decided to forego our original destination, Alta Lake State Park, as it was really close to the wildfires and the area was already smoky.  We drove further and found Lakeshore RV park at Lake Chelan and fortunately they had a site available for us.  Lake Chelan is a pristine 50.5 mile glacier-fed lake, is 1.5 miles at its widest and 1486 ft. at its deepest point making it the third deepest in the U.S. behind Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe. The Lake Chelan valley is nestled in the North Cascades National Forest.

Lake Chelan

Smoky, Lake Chelan


Quaint downtown of Chelan, blanketed in smoke

The haze was quite visible around the town and lake.  Despite that we followed  their Riverwalk Trail around the lake and downtown area.  We learned that Lake Chelan is a destination resort as it is known for its 300 days of sunhine and lots of things to do all year round.  The sunset by the lake while we were there  was beautifully enhanced by the smoke and dust in the atmosphere.

Sunset at Lake Chelan

Sunset at Lake Chelan. the sun is behind the mountains not clouds.

After three days we decided to move on for the smoke was getting thicker and we could really smell it.  But then after continuing for more than a hundred miles, the smoke still covered the mountains and valleys. We learned that the fire started on Sept 7, caused by lightning and the fire still has not been contained.   The smoke is blanketing much of central Washington as wildfires remain uncontained with the dry conditions and no rain in the forecast.  The highways we were on were supposed to be scenic and  picturesque with the view of the eastern Cascades and the peaks of  Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, but visibility was low.  We arrived at Yakima with a layer of smoke lying over the city.

Highway 97 S WA

Highway 97S

I90 East, WA

I-90 East

Washington ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind  California.  Here in Yakima is where 40% of it is produced.  In addition, the Yakima valley produces an abundance of agricultural products where the famous Washington apples and cherries are grown.  We went wine tasting in one of the wine appelations here, the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, where we  noted acres of orchards and vineyards enterwined in the land. Various fruit stands were also visible on the highways and byways.

Orchards and Vineyards,WA

Orchards and Vineyards

Washington Apples

Delicious Washington Apples

We also visited the neighboring town of Toppenish located within the boundaries of the Yakama nation and is quite rich with Native American history.  We did a short walking tour to view and to admire some of the 73 murals around the city.  This is the town where walls  can really talk for each mural has its own introduction.  Below are few of interesting mural stories.

Indian Stick Game, Toppenish

Indian Stick Game

Ruth Parton , Toppenish

Mural shows Ruth Parton’s fame in rodeo, racing and relays


Rodeo, recalls the early Toppenish round ups where cowboys and ranchers get together.


Yakima also boasts their 10 mile paved pathway called Yakina Greenway, which parallels the Yakima river and in some stretches parallels the highway and overpasses.  We enjoyed this walk/hike while our Honda was in for some maintenance work.  At the end of the walk we burnt 1200 calories, yeah!  And the best part was that the RV park had a nice pool and Therapy Pools (as they called it) where we could dip our tired and sore muscles for a while.

Yakima Greenway Trail

Yakima Greenway Trail

Yakima Greenway Trail

Off we went despite the smoky haze

Yakima Greenway Trail

Heron taking a rest from his flight

Yakima Greenway Trail

Cat’s Tail

Yakima Greenway Trail

Smoky Hills

And here is Steve’s good deed for the day.

Yakima Valley

This poor woman was inexperienced and ran into a utility post with her trailer when she arrived late at night (see the utility post on the lower right).

Damsel in distress

Steve helping the Damsel in distress who is traveling by herself with 3 dogs and ended up with a flat tire.

So we will move on now, hopefully to where the air quality is much better.  Columbia Gorge, here we come!

Yakima Valley

Our (slow) trip around San Juan Island

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Our next stop took us to Anacortes, the gateway to the many  islands  in the Pacific Northwest.  Among the many things to do and islands to visit,  we chose to ride the ferry and and hop to San Juan island.

We decided to check out San Juan Island on Friday the 25th, since it appeared to be the nicest weather day.  We’d been wanting to take a nice bike ride, so my brilliant idea was to give it a shot on our bikes.  “We’re in no hurry, so we’ll make a day of it, bring our lunch along and save money by not taking the car on the ferry”, I said.  Yeah, how tough could it be?

Well, I had my answer a few hours later.  Wow, what a hard ride!  We rode over 28 miles total and faced several brutal hills – not at all what the web sites I had checked out reported.  We were exhausted at the end of the day, but we made it and what a beautiful ride.  We checked out Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, the alpaca farm and the Lime Kiln Point State Park Lighthouse to watch for Orca whales.  It appeared they were taking the day off, since we looked for them for over an hour as we rode down the coast and I saw only one very briefly.  Even the whale watch tour boats couldn’t locate them on that day.  And the best news?  Mona Liza lost two pounds from that one grueling ride!  Funny, she doesn’t seem very excited about doing it again…despite burning 2546 calories.

Nearby our park was a very nice and popular Tommy Thompson trail which we used for our walk. The real beauty of this trail is a mile long  trestle which can be accessed from the park.

Here are some of  our biking pictures and nearby beautiful views.

The evergreen state, lush and wet

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Washington State was not given the monicker “the evergreen state”  for nothing!  And it should also be  called “the wet  state”!  By this time in CA where I came from the hills are already brown. But here, everywhere  you look is very lush and green, and wet.  It has been raining now for several days, and I mean pouring rain.  Of course we were not surprised, I’m  just whining a bit. But that did not stop us from being tourists and visit Seattle, Tacoma and drive to Point Defiance park. We performed the usual tourist duties by posing in front of the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center.

Its raining !

Steve does not like using an umbrella but  this day is an exception in Seattle.  Walking in the rain with the one you love made our mile+ walk from the Space Needle to our lunch at the Crab Pot restaurant easy and relaxing.

Pacific Science Center

We had a good walk along the waterfront for about an hour from the Space Needle to Pike Place Market, building an appetite for our lunch. We had a scrumptious lunch  of fresh yummy  seafood at The Crab Pot of Seattle.

This is indeed a very fresh and delish feast of seafood !

It was that good!

The trip would not be complete without shopping and buying from the Pike Place Market.  We were in heaven seeing all those smoked salmon, beautiful flowers, fresh fishes and all kind of cheeses and every food that you can think of.

We bought Halibut and smoked salmon, the best ever!

Check out Steve’s smile as he got out of the Public Market

Despite the rain, we drove to Tacoma the next day to check out the Musuem of Glass which to our dismay is closed on Mondays. It was a let down but walking the Chihuly Bridge of Glass was amazing.  The collection of multicolored glass suspended on the ceiling called the Seaform Pavillion was something to behold. Looking up you can see the interplay of light and the illusion that you are under water.

Close up of glass art work

Seaform Pavillion, a ceiling of glass art by artist Paul Chihuly.

More glass art as you look closely at the ceiling.

Walking further at the center were the Crystal Towers which are forty feet tall. Because it was raining and gloomy the glass did not show the personality that we were expecting, nevertheless it was very interesting.

Crystal Towers

Crystal Towers

At the end of the bridge closer to the entrance of the museum was the Venetian Wall, an eighty-foot installation displaying 109 sculptures from the Paul Chihuly series.  This is a wow, amazing art work, the intricacies of the glass and the play of colors were really impressive. I wished I could take home one of those. This wall is a collection of some of the largest blown-glass works executed in the history of the medium.

Venetian Wall

Closeup of some of the glass art

Steve posing near his favorite artwork

more close up

We felt like we were walking in a ghost town, for we were the only ones there!  As we came closer to the entrance more artwork was on display.  I posed in front of the Fluent Steps, where you will see 754 individually hand-sculpted pieces of glass that span the entire length of the 210-foot-long Main Plaza reflecting pool.  The glass display looks ordinary on this rainy and gloomy day, but i think with lights and sun it would have been more beautiful.

Little Red Riding hood amidst the Fluent Steps

Fluent Steps

View of Venetian Wall from below

Tacoma is world  renowned for its glass art which we did not know until we got there.  So if you like glass art this is the place to be.

Our last stop was at Point Defiance Park.  This time it was really pouring so we did not get out of the car. The Barrista at the coffee shop suggested to drive the five mile scenic drive at Port Defiance. We followed the road  through a forest tunnel that goes all the way around the point; you spend most of the circuit underneath a canopy of very mature evergreens, breaking out occasionally into scenic overlooks with views in many different directions out over the sound, islands, and across the water.  We just viewed this from the car as it was pouring.  We noticed there were a few hiking trails which we would have wanted to follow, but it was raining.  Maybe next time.

Map of Point Defiance

Tunnel of Evergreens

Puget Sound

Majestic Mount St Helens-Washington


32 years ago on May 18,1980 the eruptions of  Mount St Helens  changed the whole landscape in the surrounding area in an instant. When we went there to view her beauty, the destruction is still clearly visible, especially the blasted trees that remained untouched.   Mount St Helens looked so majestic, serene, and represents something of true awe and beauty, yet underlying is something potentially catastrophic. I stood  there and observed it with immense respect for nature itself.

Our photo op

Our photo op with Majestic Mt St Helens as background

Entering the blast zone on our way to Johnston Ridge Observatory  replanted trees can be seen along the highway for miles which was part of the regeneration project. The tree groves are marked by the year it was planted and the year it will be harvested.

Regenerated Forest

Sections of the forest where dates of when trees are regenerated and when to be harvested

Mt St Helen

The bridge is a landmark signaling our entry to the blast zone

Johnston Ridge Observatory , considered  the crown jewel of Mt St Helen is located at the end of Highway 504 East and is at the center of the blast zone. This is where you can really be near and be of awe when you see the volcano which is only 5.4 miles away.  You can spend hours at the visitor center reading eyewitness stories, the events that happened weeks leading up to the eruption and scientific and geologic facts. Everything you would want to know about the activity before and after the eruption. It was very informative and well done. It was worth the drive up there.

Mt St Helens

How Mt St Helens face changed

Mount St Helen

The valley created where mud and lava flowed

Mount St Helen

Steve tried hard to spot an Elk but it was too late in the day for us to see them.

Mount Saint Helen

This is a 32 year old blasted tree that is still untouched

Mount St Helen eruption

How trees were blasted

Blasted trees

Trees 32 years after the eruption are left untouched

Story of regenerating the forest

Story of regenerating the forest


Devastation remains with growth emerging

Panoramic view of Mt St Helens

Panoramic view of Mt St Helens

Washington here we are…

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From breathing the ocean breeze to the cool mountain fresh air.  We left Astoria and headed to Cougar, Washington which is located 11 miles south-southwest of Mount St. Helens. But before I gush over the fresh mountain air, let me take you first to Cape Disappointment. The cape is just a stones throw from Astoria by crossing over the Columbia river through the Astoria Megler bridge  which spans 4.1 miles and connects Astoria to  Prince Ellice in Washington state.  We hiked to Cape Disappointment which is where Lewis and Clark finally spotted  the Pacific Ocean.  This  1.2 mile trail  took us to upper headland that featured  a lighthouse, an artillery bunker, a museum and Dead Man’s Cove, a picturesque chasm in the cape’s cliffs.The views at the top are wonderful. You can see for miles….including the South and North Jetties as well as all the maritime traffic entering and leaving the Columbia River. This is also the best place to view the “bar” of the Columbia River.

After the hike we headed to Long Beach (not California) Washington where a Boardwalk stretches for almost half a mile. We followed this on the south end and came across a real preserved  Gray Whale skeleton. The beach is quite expansive and you can see it all the way to the horizon.

We left Astoria and drove  to the town of Cougar which is the gateway to Mt. St. Helens on the south side. We checked out Ape Cave, and no, no apes do not live there. Instead it is a lava tube located in Gifford Pinchot National Forest just to the south of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. Its passageway is the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States, at 13,042 feet (3,975 m). I chickened out on hiking inside the tube as it is dark and cold but most of all I was scared and we did not have a flashlight. Instead, we hiked on the upper ape cave trail   on the surface, a 1.3 mile walk through the old forest that  links the two lava tubes and leads from the trailhead to these underworld entrances. This trail leads through wonderful old forests, walking on snow, a view of Mt. St. Helens and lava rocks.

On our way out of the park and a quick right turn took us to another trailhead the Trail of Two Forest. This  is just short hike though a “lava cast” park. The 1/4 mile  plank trail winds through a 2000 year old lava flow. As the lava entered the forest, fir trees were surrounded and the lava cooled. The “cast” is what is left. This trail is quite interesting as you try to imagine what happens when hot lava cascade down the mountain and hit all the trees in the surroundings. As we saw there were a lot of devastation but is now slowly growing back creating a new forest.

To top it off, we were breathing fresh mountain air during the whole adventure.