Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Oregon, Chapter 2: Forts, Waterfalls, and the Painted Hills

The next part of our trip was an exercise in contrasts:  We started in a yurt at Fort Stevens State Park on the mouth of the Columbia River - basically as far northwest in Oregon as you can go and ended up in John Day in eastern Oregon. We traveled from one of the wettest parts of Oregon to one of the driest over the course of three days, seeing amazing waterfalls, beautiful landscapes, and eating great food along the way.
We visited Fort Clatsop, which is between Fort Stevens State Park and Astoria, Oregon. This is the site where Lewis and Clark overwintered on their expedition. It was cool to see a site that I had read quite a bit about. The fort is a reconstruction based on Clark's drawings and some of the other men's drawings and descriptions. The museum has a nice collection of artifacts from the expedition as well.
A Banana Slug on a trail at Fort Clatsop. This is a little one - only about four inches long.
Mushrooms on a moss-covered log along the same trail as the banana slug.

After our visit to Fort Clatsop, we had to make our way to Portland to pick up a friend at the airport. In spite of my assurances that it doesn't usually rain in Oregon at the beginning of September, it was pouring in Portland when we picked him up.
We spent the night in a lovely hotel in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Cascade Locks is conveniently located near Oregon's most famous waterfall:  Multnomah Falls. The sun had nearly set by the time we got there, which actually turned out to be a nice thing.  There were only a few other people at a site that is usually completely overrun, the light was perfect for taking pictures of the falls,  and we got to eat a very nice dinner in the lodge. The upper falls are 542 feet high and the lower cascade is 69 feet high.
The view of the lower cascade from the bridge.

We got up the next morning and went for a drive and a hike in the Columbia Gorge to see more waterfalls. It was still raining.
Latourell Falls (249 ft) in the western end of the Columbia Gorge. We wound up driving more of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway than we had planned because it was raining so hard in the morning that none of us had a strong motivation to hike.
The rain finally let up somewhat, so we hiked the Oneota Trail to Triple Falls.
Triple Falls (~130 ft) on Oneota Creek. If you look closely, you can see a bridge across the creek above the falls in the top center of the photo.
Oneota Creek above Triple Falls.

After lunch, we began making our way east, towards John Day, Oregon and the beginning of Cycle Oregon. 
The weather improved as we drove east on I-84 through the Columbia Gorge. We stopped at a scenic overlook that had a great view of the Gorge. This is looking west towards Cascade Locks and Portland.
The plan was to drive south from Hood River and make a side trip to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, where we do a little bit of hiking (walking around, really) on the Timberline Trail. It seemed like a reasonable plan at the time. In fact, as we drove south from Hood River, this was our view of Mt. Hood. Unfortunately, on the other side of the mountain, it was about 40 degrees, raining, and the visibility was approximately 10 feet. We opted to sit inside at the bar at Timberline Lodge instead of hiking. Given the beauty of the building and the coziness of the bar, it wasn't really a loss.
Continuing east, we left the mountains and, just like that, we left the rain behind. This is taken from Highway 26, just 40 miles or so southeast of Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Mt. Jefferson is in the background.
On our way to John Day, we stopped at the Painted Hills unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. We didn't get to spend much time there, but it was spectacular.
The view from one of the overlooks in the monument. From here, we drove another hour to John Day.

Tomorrow, I'll post pictures from Cycle Oregon.

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