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Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge

Very scenic drive along I-84 to the gorge, or if you have time, along the meandering historic Highway 30. We passed by over a half dozen waterfalls, the most impressive of which is the Multnomah Falls.

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There was a short but steep trail to the top of the Multnomah Falls, after which another trail (6.8 miles) would lead us up to the top of the Larch Mountains. We hiked to the top of the trails, but then elected to drive up to the top of Larch, stopping along the way via the Vista House to take in the view of the wide Columbia river below.

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On a clear day, from the top of the Larch, one could admire the view of the five nearby snow capped peaks – Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainer, Mt. St Helens, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Adams. Alas, everything was shrouded in angry grey clouds when we arrived.

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We did finally get a glimpse of Mt. Hood when the clouds parted just as we pulled into our B&B. Still covered in snow! Apparently, skiing goes on right through September, and restarts again in November.

We could contend with the view of the mountains all night and day just from our appropriately named Cloud Cap room at the Mt. Hood Hamlet.

In the morning, we awoke to the wondrous view of a full rainbow arc, which hung on obstinately in the sky for the several hours we admired it.

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Our plan for the day had been to drive up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, and hopefully rent some skis for a bit of summer skiing. Never mind we weren’t quite dressed for it – only a thin jacket and shorts. We thought ourselves tough. But that misconception was quickly dissolved when we stepped out of the car into a fine mist of rain and fog. And cold. Teeth chattering, we ran into the grand old Timberline Lodge to seek refuge. There, we while a couple hours away playing at the timber ping pong table, hoping futilely that the skies would clear. Eventually, we agreed that we’d just have to make a return trip, and headed back down the mountain.

Grabbed a quick but absolutely delicious lunch of sandwiches (cold chicken curry with green apples and raisins, and ham and gruyere) and coffee, before we hit the Eagle Creek trail, supposedly the most popular trail in the Gorge.

We started the 12 mile hike late though, at 3pm. That, and the combination of a cloudy and sometimes drizzly day meant that we didn’t have to share the easy meander along the river with many people.

I can see why the hike is such a popular one! We skipped along the narrow trail, sometimes along sections that fell precipitously off into the raging river below, breathing the fresh and heady scent of the pine needles beneath our feet and admiring the half dozen or so falls we passed.

The most stunning of these was the Tunnel Falls. We reached that only at 520pm – thank goodness for summers and long days – and could only gap at the sight of the huge and tall stream of water cascading and into the plunge pool below. These falls are definitely what makes the gorge so unique!

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I’d have to say that this was a great taster to what the Columbia River Gorge has to offer! On the drive back to Portland, we were plotting our move to the west, just so we can spend every weekend further exploring wine country and the beautiful hikes. Can’t wait to say goodbye to plain old Midwest! 🙂

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