Day Eight: A National Treasure Along the Columbia

Trip Start Jun 05, 2008
Trip End Jun 24, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Friday, June 13, 2008

Day Eight: The Columbia River Gorge

This entry's blogger: Kory
Today's photogs: Kory and Matthew

We drove over 150 miles today - some of it on the historic Columbia River Highway - but it didn't feel like it because we had such beautiful scenery and stops to enjoy. The Columbia River Gorge is truly breathtaking. We drove by landmarks, such as Beacon's Rock, that Lewis and Clark named, and saw the action at the nation's windsurfing capital, Hood River. The day started overcast, but as we drove west the clouds broke, and by lunch we had full sun - and a stunning view of the snow-covered Mt. Hood. We crossed the Columbia (from the Oregon to the Washington side) on a rather scary (if you don't like high, skinny bridges) drawbridge and drove up to a little village called White Salmon, where we ate lunch and took photos of Mt. Hood. With the sun shining so brilliantly, we decided to go back to a morning overlook called Vista House to take more photos. You can see both the morning and the afternoon views of the Gorge posted here - a big difference!

As we drove back to the Portland/Vancouver area, we realized that we could still see Mt. Hood, towering in the distance. It's been here the whole time, of course, but today's been the only day we knew it was there. Likewise, we caught our first glimpses of Mt. St. Helen's, where we'll be headed tomorrow - still under a forecast of sunny skies.

I spent a good part of the drive trying to articulate how these mountains (the Cascades) differ from our own Smoky Mountains. Obviously, we don't have such high peaks dominating the landscape (Mt. Hood is a little over 11,000 feet, whereas high Smoky peaks are in the 6,000 foot range). But a lot of the surrounding mountains are not nearly that high, so the difference is more than that. Somehow, with the way the river has carved out such a wide expanse down near sea level, you have more of a view, it seems, even when you're down low. Everything seems wide and big. The fir and cedar trees, probably a third taller than the hardwoods we have back home, also change the look of the mountains and are like millions of arrows pointing to the vast expanse of sky. And perhaps it's just the contrast with all the clouds and mist, but once the sun comes out, the colors seem so intense. 

Coffee count for the day: only 1, although I wanted 2. But a certain man in our party, who's been giving me a hard time about my consumption, was spotted in the hotel lobby at about 4:30 this afternoon - fueling up on the leaded version, no less!
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