Night 12: Roll on Columbia!

Trip Start Jun 20, 2012
Trip End Jul 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Ilwaco KOA / Long Beach
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Washington
Sunday, July 1, 2012

Today we drove 340 miles or so. Overnight it was cold and rainy. Weather today was warm and partly cloudy. It was cloudiest and windiest in the Columbia Gorge. It is in the 50's tonight and very humid near the Pacific.

Today was a scenic driving day. We began at Emigrant Springs SP near Pendleton, Oregon, and are settled down tonight near Ilwaco, Washington. We started the day with some breakfast and a bit of straightening up. The van was a bit disheveled and needed some reorganization. II also needed reorganization and shaved my lengthening beard back to nothing.

Sleep was a bit rough thanks to off and on rain, which drizzles against the side if the tent. I also was forced to repair the sleeping bag in the middle of the night. That is a nice collection of distractions.

We drove to the Umatilla Indian Reservation for gas, mainly because it is one if the few places where it is legal to operate a self-service station. In Oregon only trained professionals are allowed to pump gas, but the reservation is not really Oregon, so...

In Pendleton, we arranged for a campsite for the night in the KOA at Ilwaco, Washington. My first choice was at Astoria, OR, but they were charging $39. I forgot the fact that this included all you can eat pancakes and a pool and an excellent location. In Ilwaco I am on a simple mushy lawn sans pool, sans pancakes, sans good location. At least there is a laundry because we could use it.

The drive across Oregon from Emigrant Springs continued in the beauty we met with in yesterday's drive. After we descended the Blue Mountains we entered a yellow hilly region and eventually we were driving along the Columbia River from I-84. The powerful river seems to have spent many eons cutting through rock creating 200 foot walls on either side of it.

Most of the Gorge is treeless and full of sage. We know from past attempts toncamp gere, that Columbia wind destroys tents. It is a powerful force when the westerlies flow down the wind tunnel created by the Columbia Gorge. Oregon and Washington got smart and built wind  
turbines along the canyon rim. Windsurfers and swept up birds filled the water. Things were windy, sunny, and dry. The Dalles was so dry that a forest fire was burning slowly on a hill overlooking the city. We drove to Bonneville Dam, but security seemed too tight to bother  
getting a claw look so we settled for the Bonneville Fish Hatchery at Andrew's insistence.

This hatchery was even more fun than the one in Spearfish, SD. They let you see the incubating eggs. The fish runs were operating. They had pools of rainbow trout and white sturgeon, including one amazing 10 footer named Herman. It actually was a very pleasant place with  
nice grounds and the last sun we would see fir the rest of the day. At The Dalles, we could see that Mount Hood was covered in a shroud of dark clouds.

After The Dalles, the Gorge quickly puts on a green face. The walls are covered with a dense tangle of pine, birch, flowers, and ferns. This is not the desert I had been driving through since I crossed the Missouri River several days ago.

We have been away from urbanity for so long that it chaffs me when I see hipsters and other city types on their Sunday drives from Portland. Cars clog every spot and cover the grass, particularly around the locally famous Multanmah Falls. We were lucky to get a parking spot near "Beauty" Falls.

Every waterfall in the Gorge is amazing and stumbles over the cliffs. We climbed the 1/4 mile trail leading to the top cascade. The trail led through lush green temperate rain forest. Every tree was covered with moss and air plants. The ferns were entirely alien to me. When we got to the top the mist from the falls acted as a cool reward.

We drive on along old US-30 and came to Vista House, a tourist trap built in the 1930's or so. It is now a state park with wide, sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge. Andrew and I climbed to the top where we saw building clouds over the Cascades.

We drove downriver to where it meets the Wilamette, end of the Oregon Trail. Today one of the weirdest cities in America sits there: Portland. They call it "weird", not me. I saw more than one bumper sticker that said "Keep Portland weird." I saw many other bumper stickers, signage, and graffiti that said many things.

The people have a much bigger hipster element than other cities. Young people trying to be unique, mostly demonstrating old fashion trends or mixtures of trends from the past. For example, at the Gorge I saw a hipster cowboy. A man wearing a baby-carrying papoose backback wearing orange Dickies and a Stetson, along with a long faint beard and Elvis  
Costello glasses rims. There was a girl in a donut shop dressed almost identical to the girl from the Addams Family.

There was not a lot of traffic in Portland, but lots of bicycles and cable cars and "smart" cars. Little hipster dives lined the streets east of the Wilamette. We were in search of the weird Portland Mecca of Voodoo Doughnuts. They make unique doughnuts that I thought were  
actually pretty mediocre. They sold more of an image than good food. And in Portland, image seems to be more important. Almost everyone on the streets carried around a pink box of donuts from Voodoo.

We drove around the city center, passed the Chinatown fate and carried on, up I-5 toward Washington. We passed Mount St. Helens, but it was shrouded in fog and clouds. As the Columbia turned westward again, we followed it, past port towns filled with longshoremen and container ships bound for Asia.

Soon we made it to Astoria, Oregon, the end of the Columbia. We camped across the river mouth at Ilwaco. Washington, at the local KOA, as I've already mentioned. The ground is wet and lumpy. The myriad Northwest slugs have left their mark everywhere.
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