Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adventuring the Columbia River Gorge through Oregon & Washington

Returning home from a weekend away, simultaneously regenerated and exhausted from the excursion, I can't help but feel I embarked on anther educational adventure. I'd meant to leave town early on Sunday, but errands kept me longer than expected (as usual) so I left the city around three in the afternoon. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

Zooming down I-84, I quickly arrived at my chosen campsite. The mini chugged up the steep, windy hill to a campground amidst the trees yet sounding like it was right on the freeway and traintracks. Welcome to the Gorge! A natural amphitheater and windtunnel, and nightmare for sound sleep. I elected to continue on and finally found a sort of quieter- though still requiring ear plugs- campsite. It was Herman Creek Horse Camp. Yes that means is that you can ride a horse there and there's places for them to rest even. Amazing. Only eight sights and full by nightfall.

I pitched my tent and wandered into town. Cascade Locks is a pretty much one lane town along the gorge. Somehow I'd never visited. After this trip, I'll make sure not to visit again! Nothing there. Oh well, now I know.

The next morning I awoke at 6:30 but was fortunate to return to slumber until 8:30. Much more acceptable. Oatie and I packed our gear back into the Mini and headed down the side road to Hood River, stopping at campsites and waterfalls - wherever we felt like peeking. He was an amiable companion, quiet and considerate and easy to make friends.

Around noon, we landed in Hood River and wandered to a historic hotel, then down by the water to watch the kite-boarders and wind-surfers and finally back into town where we wandered the streets and spent some time chilling on a park bench watching people. Oh, and a couple hours having coffee, writing and thinking. A successful day.

Come nightfall, we set out south of town to Tucker County park along the Hood River. Happily we discovered it was free of traffic noise and the only music was the river roaring by. We met a Minnesota-Nice family next door and the two kids directed us down to the river and showed us where to jump in and swim down. Being unaccustomed to river swimming where I couldn't reach the bottom, I opted to plop my butt in and splash around and rinse off. Even Oatie trotted through a shallow spot.

We chatted with the neighbors and accepted a dinner invite from them (cheese quesadillas). At the end of the night, I had a weird feeling that they'd invited me over because they felt sorry for me being alone. Truthfully, I'd gone on the trip to get away and have time to think and write and regretted losing that night to myself. As well, they'd spent a fair amount of time asking me if I was afraid to camp alone. I explained that I have camped alone several times before, and that I also wear a whistle around my neck when I'm alone hiking or camping. But the emphasis on fear was a little unnerving.

So at about ten, Oatie and I hopped in the tent. He crawled under the covers, but after a while got out and started pacing the tent. Then hiding in the corner and making weird noises. I was starting to wonder if he heard something I didn't hear and got nervous (especially after all the "fear" talk), so decided maybe I should sleep in the car. We were at the end of the campground and it was damn dark. So we moved into the Mini. Not the first time I've car-camped but I think the first time I have slept in the Mini stateside.

I woke up a few times in the night and at 5:30 decided to move on and watch the sunrise. We drove through the orchards and farms hugged by mountain ranges with two big peaks in the distance- Mount Hood and Mount Adams. Stunning in all directions. I stole two pears off a tree and saved them for later, a souvenir of our morning. We stopped in town for another couple hours of coffee, writing and reading before heading off to the Washington side of the Gorge back to Portland.

Highway 14 is on the Washington side, a two lane road with a speed limit of 55, much more amiable for the non-hurried adventurer. Pulling off at several look-outs, we took our time and enjoyed the day. At one point we stopped in a town called Home Valley, where they had a sweet little campsite and a beach on the Columbia, where I took a little swim while Oatie watched. In the parking lot for the beach, we met a couple from Auburn, WA (near Seattle). They were 50 and 58, riding their motorcycles on a little road trip through Oregon and Washington. I talked with them, comparing routes and taking advice for future camping trips. We walked together to the beach and talked about life. The wife, Lisa, had had all her babies by midwives and the last one at home even though she was 40. They also had a little "urban farm" complete with veggies and chickens. When they were about to drive off, they said they would give me their info in case I was up in Auburn and could stop in. The husband Dan had recently recorded a CD, so he gave me a copy with their info on it.

When we got back in the car, I popped the CD in, and was surprised by the beautiful guitar and the voice coming from the little man in the parking lot. It was a sweet gift and a reminder that friends are everywhere.

[pictures to follow tomorrow or the next day]

No comments: