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.

Waterfalls Heaven – Columbia River Gorge Part 1

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Steve is smiling for he can now check one off from his bucket list, the Columbia River Gorge.  The Columbia River Gorge is an impressive river canyon carved by the Columbia river as it flows into the Pacific Ocean. It stretches over 80 miles and is shared by the states of Washington and Oregon.  Mt Adams to the north and Mt Hood to the south flank the gorge and the mighty Columbia River runs through its middle.  The bridges that connects the states are:  The Dalles to the east, the Hood River in the middle and the Bridge of the Gods to the west.  The Gorge is recognized as a destination for exploring the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest.  Geologists must love this place with all its cliffs, rock formations and rugged terrain.

Columbia Gorge

The only wildlife seen on the highway on our way to the Gorge.

We spent a whole week exploring and enjoying the gorgeousness while staying at White Salmon on the WA side as our base camp.  During our stay, we weaved in and out of Washington and Oregon through their $1.00 toll bridges and drove from east to west by taking highway 14 on the Washington shore and 84 on the Oregon side.  We had an action-packed week and we loved it despite some hazy and smoky days.

What did we learn and enjoy? Plenty ! and so we will have more than one post  to talk about the gorgeous gorge.

Lets start with the waterfalls.  Oregon has 77 waterfalls and the Gorge contains the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  These spectacular waterfalls are all within approximately a 15-mile stretch!  Traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway 30 on the Oregon side of the Gorge, we were able to view five different waterfalls cascading over the walls of the Gorge.

Our trek began at the Latourell Falls which is usually the first waterfall seen along the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway if coming from the west.  The falls plunge 224 feet over a massive wall of columnar basalt – some of the best formations in the Pacific Northwest – before cascading hastily towards the Columbia River.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

What was distinctive to this fall is the large patch of bright yellow lichen adorning the cliff face to the right of the falls, and maybe because of this we saw several photographers in the area.

Close up of yellow lichen , Latourell Falls

Close up of yellow lichen

Close up of Columnar Basalt,Latourell Falls

Close up of Columnar Basalt

Next stop was the Shepperds’ Dell Falls.  Though looking straight down from the bridge will allow one to see the two final drops, only the 45 foot tier and a pair of the small cascades above it are clearly visible.

 Sheppards Dell Falls

Sheppards Dell Falls

3.5 miles later we park our car and hiked for about 2.2 miles roundtrip to get to the base of the Bridal Veil falls, considered as the most pristine among the waterfalls in the area. This two tiered falls are the only in the area which occurs below the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway – the base of the falls standing probably no more than 20 vertical feet above the Columbia River.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Continuing on the drive the next stop was Wahkeena falls.  At 242 feet, it can be seen from the Wahkeena picnic area across the Historic Highway and is the most scenic waterfall along the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway.  It is unique among the major waterfalls in this section of the Gorge in that it possesses a significant alluvial fan in both size and elevation.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Then about half a mile later  is where  the most visited natural attraction in Oregon is located, the Multnomah Falls.  It is the highest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge with a total drop of 620 feet.  We did a 2.5 mile hike up to the top of the falls with 11 switchbacks and a 650 foot elevation gain.  Although the top was not as spectacular as we expected, the hike was a good workout.

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Falls

Top of Multnomah Falls, spot the tourists looking up, can you see them?

Our final viewing of waterfalls along the historic highway was the Horsetail Falls.  This one is considered  pretty much the epitome of the Horsetail form with views from 180 degrees around the falls.

HorseTail Falls

HorseTail Falls

The above beauties were all accessible from the highway, two other waterfalls that we located and viewed required quite a hike.  Both Metlako Falls and Punchbowl are located along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area.  Metlako Falls drop out of a narrow, calm pool, and thunder into an impressive gorge.

Metlako Falls

Metlako Falls

The Punch Bowl falls occur where Eagle Creek cuts through a narrow channel flanked by cliffs, and shoots powerfully into a large bowl.  The falls’ name is a very descriptive one, as it’s easy to see it’s resemblance to an actual bowl you’d pour punch into.

Punchbowl Falls

Punchbowl Falls

And we viewed what we can in one long day, but did we see them all ? Nope, we missed two along the historic highway Oneonta and Elowah Falls (not sure why we overlooked them). Are they not all beautiful?

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

Wildfires

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

Chelan,WA

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

Toppenish,WA

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

Toppenish

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

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