Summer is for road trips

So far it’s been an eventful summer with lots of visitors and some great road trips. Dear old friends Phoebe and Hugh visited in June and we booked an expedition on the sternwheeler Spirit of Portland, out of Cascade Locks, OR. We boarded our ship and sailed under the Bridge of the Gods, which you may remember from the final scene of the movie “Wild.” This is where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Columbia from Oregon to Washington.

It was a gorgeous day on the river and the breeze off the water made it feel a lot cooler than the 97 degree day we’d left behind in Portland.  One of the highlights of this cruise is passing through the locks at Bonneville Dam.  Here we are headed downriver, making the traffic wait while the swing bridge and lock gates open for us.

As we sailed down towards Crown Point, we got a good view of the life along the river that can’t be seen driving by on the freeway.  There are dozens of native American fishing platforms, and the remnants of fish wheels and other indications of the wild river that has now been dammed almost beyond recognition.  We could also see evidence of the huge Eagle Creek fire from two years ago. What appears to be red dirt is actually a plant that only grows after a fire.

Coming back upriver we got a view of Beacon Rock, one of my favorite hikes. The basalt column was named by Lewis and Clark on their journey down the river in 1805.  It’s among the largest monoliths in the world, along with Gibraltar, Stone Mountain, and Devils Tower…not necessarily in that order.  It was once slated to be destroyed to provide building material for the jetty at the mouth of the Columbia, but the owner decided to save it by donating the land to the state of Washington, and it’s now a state park. Going back through the locks, the big tugboat pushing 4 huge grain barges had the right of way.

At the end of June another adventure took me to Bellingham, WA to visit more old friends.  On the way I stopped at SeaTac airport to pick up Al and Rosie who had flown in from Minneapolis.  Our first excursion was to Friday Harbor on the San Juan Islands ferry.  On the way to the ferry terminal at Anacortes, we stopped at the historic little town of La Conner, where the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is held.  Fans of the author Tom Robbins will recognize the settings of some of his famous novels, including “Another Roadside Attraction.”

The next day David Neubeck took us to a great local breakfast spot called the HomeSkillet.  It’s a tiny place and the food is great so it’s always crowded, which leads to their famous “Eat it and Beat it” policy.  After breakfast we headed out for a drive up to the Mt. Baker ski area.  Along the way there were splendid views of Mt. Shuksan and several other snow capped peaks.

Though we only had a few glimpses of Mt. Baker itself, the clouds made for a gorgeous day in the mountains.  On the way back we stopped at a great bakery in Glacier, WA to sample the world’s best cookies.  That evening we were treated to a Bellingham Bells baseball game. The Bells beat the Bears from Highline Community College.

In mid-July my old friend Polly came to visit, and after a fun few days in Portland we set off on a road trip to her summer home just outside of Clarkston WA.  We definitely went the long way! Polly had never seen the Olympic Peninsula so we drove northwest along the Columbia from Portland to Astoria, where we stopped to visit the Astoria Column. As you can see, a 125-foot column on top of a 600 foot hill commands a pretty spectacular view of the Columbia and the ocean beyond. The murals show the history of the area “after the white man came.” Heading up the coast of Washington on Highway 101, we made a lunch stop at Kalaloch Beach.

After a great dinner and conversation with our friend Astrid in Sequim, WA we went to our Air BnB right on Sequim Bay.  If you ever want to visit this area, I definitely recommend this place! We had a whole house to ourselves, with a fabulous view of the bay and nice touches like the welcome sign.

We each had our own bedroom and bathroom and enjoyed the views of the sunrise over Sequim Bay.  From there we skirted the Seattle traffic by taking the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds and crossing to the east on Hwy 2.

It was a beautiful day for the short ferry crossing and we even got a view of Mt. Baker in the distance.  A highlight of the drive across central Washington is the lunch stop in the little Bavarian village of Leavenworth.

Next morning we made a little detour to Palouse Falls State Park, in the eastern Washington desert area known as Channeled Scablands. It sounds horrible but it’s full of beautiful surprises such as this 200 ft. waterfall just a few miles from where the Palouse River enters the Snake.  These formations were carved by the great Missoula Floods of the Pleistocene era, which roared through here, changing the course of the Columbia and other rivers.

I took a break from driving to visit with Polly and Jim and the latest denizens of the “Cute Little House,” a dozen or so ducks and some chickens.  Eggs will be coming soon, and some of the ducks are probably destined for the roasting pan, but in the meantime it’s fun to watch their complex social interactions.  Next day I headed back to Oregon, stopping for lunch at an amazing new restaurant in Walla Walla–Andrae’s Kitchen has great food and is located right downtown…inside a Cenex gas station!  I also got to visit with this sea serpent at the park next to McNary Dam, and had a restful stay at River Lodge in Boardman, OR.

This hotel right on the Columbia had beautiful views, and the sun conveniently set directly across from my room!

White River Falls near Tygh Valley, OR has been on my list for quite a while and the last day of this road trip seemed like a good opportunity.  Driving south from The Dalles, you get great views of the “backside” of Mt. Hood which Portlanders are used to seeing from the other direction.  On the way back north you are treated to a view of Mt. Adams as well.

At the bottom of the falls you can see the old abandoned power plant, and there’s probably a better view of the falls from there, but the steep trail had no shade and it was 96 that day, so I decided it would be safer to stay on top. The power plant stopped operating in 1960. This area is now an Oregon State Park.

I’m not quite done with summer road trips for this year, though technically the next one might not be until fall, a 2 week journey from Portland to Minneapolis. In the meantime I’m hoping to figure out a time for a California trip, if the wildfires cooperate. Stay tuned!


One thought on “Summer is for road trips”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: