Driving an RV on the Gorge...
Yesterday was gorgeous (no pun intended. Really). And, I spent the entire day driving the RV along the Historic Columbia River Highway from Bonneville west to Troutdale, and then back east to Multnomah Falls.
It's a lot easier said than done, let me tell you. It’s best to do it in a car or on a motorcycle, but I had to do it in the RV. It’s about 25 miles of two lane blacktop that traces the original Oregon Scenic Highway laid out just after the turn of the century. In most places, it’s simple winding backroad. But, in some places, it gets very narrow. Some of the old bridges were actually too narrow for the RV and a car to pass at the same time. It got pretty hairy. And, to top it off, on one side was sheer rockface, and on the other – sheer cliff (often without guardrails). One wrong move, and you’re either shearing off chunks of the Columbia River Gorge or you’re sliding down it into the river. It’s a pleasant drive… in a car. But in an RV… it's not for the faint of heart.
But, believe me, even in the RV it was worth every hair-raising second. The views are spectacular, the bridges are incredible, and the scenery includes some of America’s most beautiful waterfalls – right along the highway. And, that’s what it was originally built for. As Highway architect Sam Lancaster stated,
“Our first order of business was to find the beauty spots, or those points where the most beautiful things along the line might be seen in the best advantage, and if possible, to locate the road in such a way as to reach them.” Well, kudos to you, Mr. Lancaster. You accomplished your goal with resounding success.
You know, sometimes I feel bad, keeping the cats cooped up in the RV the whole time. But, I can't really let them out to roam on their own. That's how pets get lost or get run over (or, if you're in coyote country -- eaten.) Have you ever seen a cat on a leash? Well, that's the only way the kids get to go outside. Reggie does a pretty good job on the leash. I can't "walk" him like I could walk a dog, though. He has to explore at his own pace, in his own direction. So, I keep him tethered and just follow along like a good daddy.
After the sun went down, I popped in to a nearby RV park, made a fire, cooked some soup, and had a very relaxing evening. I can still smell the smoke on my clothes...
Today was another great day. A beautiful, warm, sunny day, just like yesterday, to hike and take in all the vistas that I could. I made the drive from Bonneville east to Hood River and on to Mosier (population 430), to see the Mosier Twin Tunnels. These tunnels were part of the original Historic Columbia River Highway and were built sometime around 1920. There are actually inscriptions carved into the rock from when a group of travelers got trapped in the tunnels during a snowstorm shortly after they were built. When the new freeway came through, the tunnels were filled in (fortunately, they weren't destroyed, like some of the other tunnels along the route.) They were recently restored (and fortified, of course) to further the extent of the Historic Highway and are used today as part of a walking and biking path that runs from Cascade Locks to Mosier. The pathway runs along the ridgeline overlooking the Columbia River, so the renovation included steel gating to protect ambitious thrill seekers from getting hurt. But, if you peek through the gates at certain points in the path, you can still see the stonework stairs that were part of the original road. Now, don't misunderstand me here... Oregon protects it's beauty, but it also allows people certain access to that beauty. Otherwise, what's the point? The gates don't cover the whole stretch of the pathway. There are numerous places where you can walk out to a vista point (or, if you're brave, even to the very edge of the cliff looking over the freeway a thousand feet down). And, that's what I did. Well, I didn't go to the very edge. I'm afraid of heights. But I did get within about 5 feet of the edge. That was as close as I dared, and even at that distance, I was still uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? No. Scared is more like it.
Tonight I'm in a town called The Dalles. And, tomorrow, I head east to Arlington to see the windmill power generators on the Gorge.
How do you like the Gorge so far?
(Forgive me if the fonts seem mismatched and the photos don't line up right. Blogger is a very powerful tool for writing blogs, but it still has some bugs.)