Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Columbia Gorge... Part 3

(Click on any image to view it full screen)

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.

Of course, I met some great people on the way. What would this trip be if I didn't make new friends. At Multnomah Falls, I met a fantastic couple from the LA area who came up here just in time to escape the fires raging through Southern California. (If you guys are reading this, you'd better email me. I have a couple of pictures for you!)

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 v
istas 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.)


Kristine said...


If your blog is any indication of your future book-you definitely have a knack for capturing places we all want to jump into. :] I've just started ultra-running and met up with a really cool group of people that train in the gorge. I've been lucky enough to be invited into their training group and am now seeing trails and parts of the Gorge I never would have just walking through.

I'm glad you came through Portland. It's a special place. I'll put your blog link on mine so friends can see your images too.

Take care! Kristine

Anonymous said...

I told you you had to go back to the historic highway (head shake, "i'm nearly always right" i think to myself). I suppose i should have mentioned the rough drive for the RV...; )

Hannah Walker
Park Guide

Anonymous said...

Hi Holt,
so glad you chose the Gorge route as part of your travels as you saw it is a gem. We met briefly under the curved bridge just west of Multnomah falls (your B/W pix) I admire what you are doing and wrote about meeting you on my blog http://www.soulfulartisan.typepad.com Your bridge picture is beautiful..can't wait to follow your trip and see the book when it is done. Pleasure meeting you safe travels to you from a fellow photographer in Oregon. Becky

Anonymous said...

hi i just wanted to say i seen you sleeping in the parking lot at kmart in the dalles this morning. that is what brought me to your web sight... you are totally amazing and your photo's are breathtaking. keep up the the great work...
thanks again

Holt Webb said...

Wow, thanks for all the compliments guys! I'm still learning how to work the "comments" section of my blog, so I apologize if I am unable to respond to you directly. It's not that I'm ignoring you, I just don't know how to do it yet. (Your "reply to" email isn't showing up. But don't worry, I'll figure it out.)

Alison said...

Alright I finally found your blog on the tunnels. Having ridden the historic highway many times, I dont ever recall seeing the writing on the walls....are you surprised? Thanks for the heads up on this today. I rode with my GF tonight whom I spend time in the Gorge every year and told her the story tonight.... it was a first for her too. Next time down , I will be getting off my bike to take a closer look! So glad you spent time in what I consider one of the true treasures of America.