We flew into Portland and spent the first night with our friends Jon
and Nancy. He met us at the airport (easily taking the public transportation
system in Portland) and then gave us a mini-tour of the city on the way
to their house in the southwestern part of the city. We passed through
downtown Portland - a wonderful sparkling riverside city with tree lined
streets and gorgeous fountains in endless parks - on our way to the well
known and spectacular Rose Garden.
It features a commanding view of the city while standing in rows of roses - every kind and type imaginable. The Japanese Gardens are nearby and if time allows, should not be missed. Lovely drives are throughout the city through both small and large parks full of ferns and tall forests. We particularly enjoyed driving around Washington Park and dining at restaurants along N.W. 23rd Avenue.
Timberline Lodge at 6000' is aptly named being located at the edge of the mountain tree line. The lodge has a Great Room featuring a huge fireplace and gorgeous views of Mount Hood. The restaurant overlooks large peaks to the south and the mountain to the north. Many love to stay at the historic lodge which offers rustic decor and fabulous vistas such as the one to Mount Washington almost 75 miles away.
We left Mount Hood and headed north on more winding mountain roads, dropping into a lovely valley near Odell which was full of fruit trees dotting rolling hills. Hood River, well known to windsurfers was a delightful little town with shops, windsurfing equipment, restaurants, cafes, and some hotels.
The Columbia Gorge Hotel was west of town at Exit 62 and located on a cliff above Columbia River. This beautiful and perfectly restored hotel has been voted one of the "best romantic inns" in the North West and I can agree with that whole heartedly. The lobby is accented with a Carousal Horse and leads to an elegant lounge anchored by a fireplace flanked by large windows overlooking the gardens and river.
An outside patio links to several garden paths that circle the hotel with charming bridges over the creek and waterfall. Flowers abound and it proved to be a pleasant place to spend a few hours enjoying outdoor beauty and watching windsurfers on the river far below.
The dining room is quite lovely and serves northwestern cuisine. We had a windowside table and watched the sun set over the river and hills beyond. The following morning we were treated to the famous "Country Breakfast" - a five course event that starts with a huge fresh fruit platter, followed by a baked apple and apple fritter (yum!), then oatmeal, two eggs with bacon and sausage and a pork chop. We managed to find room to add the last course - pancakes with syrup! The dining room provided two of the most outstanding meals during our trip.
We booked a corner room with views of the river and the waterfall just below our windows. A chocolate heart shaped brownie greeted our arrival and a rose with 2 chocolates were waiting for us after dinner. The next morning, I was delighted to find a newspaper outside our door with a special Columbia River "front page" devoted to local news and hotel information - what a great idea!
The staff, all of them, are awarded 5 stars in my book - service throughout our visit was absolutely perfect. I can see why the Columbia Gorge Hotel is one of the most popular places to stay along the river and we wished we'd had time to stay more than one night.
NOTE: beware that the restaurant uses very dangerous open bottles
of liquor when flaming some desserts. We suggest you stay out of
possible harm's way and have the person flame in the other room, or step
into the next room during the process. Or encourage them, as I did,
to only use safe, non explosive jiggers or gravy boats of liquor for their
After our huge breakfast, we checked out and headed west to the Bonneville
Dam and spent several hours touring the facilities and fish hatchery, both
interesting. Then crossed the "Bridge of the Gods" to Washington
state and the Skamania Lodge.
It is a large resort complex with just about anything anyone would want to do during a stay - golf, hike, have a massage at the spa, or swim in the large indoor pool. The Lodge overlooks the Columbia River and is in a perfect setting to enjoy views and vistas.
Our room had a large sitting area with a gas fireplace, king bed, and balcony where we relaxed and watched windsurfers, a pretty sunrise, and mountain views. We arrived on a Friday in time to partake of the famous buffet - a smorgasbord of delights including a Caesar salad station, cold seafood buffet, hot entree station, carving station, and huge selection of desserts. Well worth the $65 for the two of us. The next morning, rather than ordering breakfast from the menu, we returned to the buffet sections and enjoyed another bout of grazing through every choice imaginable.
The bar area has a pool table and dining section adjoining an outdoor dining patio, another fun place to sit and enjoy the views. The resort thoughtfully has two rows of multilevel terraces with lounge chairs for guests to sit and enjoy the views.
THE TRAINS - no matter where you are along the river or gorge, big long trains will go by, often blowing their whistles. This takes a little getting used to when you hear or see them day and night. The tracks follow the riverside highways too.
THE WIND blows most of the time since the gorge creates a giant wind tunnel effect. Be sure to take a wind breaker along on your trip since you'll need it at times.
Our big event on Saturday was driving the Historical Highway and seeing
the waterfalls, all gorgeous and quite stunning.
We noticed during our 9 day drive that many signs include the word "historic" - historic museum, historic river inn, historic seaport, historic you name it. Pretty soon, the word starts losing all meaning, however, I must say that the Historical Columbia River Highway lives up to its name and overshadows all others! It is a narrow, windy road that travels up, down, around hills near the river and links a series of waterfalls, parks, and numerous hiking trails. If you like to explore and love fabulous scenery, vistas, and views, then this area is definitely for you!
The "history" is as follows (taken from the Lotourell Falls sign):
To reach the Historic Highway, one can enter near Troutdale or west of Bonneville Dam.
If you are driving from Portland, the high points are in this order - Crown Point Vista House (the winds are terrific here - I had to brace myself against Kenny to take pictures or get blown away, but what a view!), Sheppards Dell, Bridal Veil Falls (not an easy hike), Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls (shown by the side picture), Oneonta Falls, and Horsetail Falls. All are well worth a stop, hike, and look-see! The most well known and most photographed is Multnomah Falls, one of the highest in North America. A .2 mile hike is required to reach the bridge and a trail leads to the very top for those with lots of energy!
We entered on the east side of the highway, stopped at all the falls
on the way to Crown Point and then back-tracked in time to have lunch at
the Multnomah Falls Restaurant - nice salad, sandwich, and light menu,
but ask to be seated in the Falls Room or Windows section. The Great
room was rather dark and cave-like, whereas the Falls Room (shown below)
was bright and airy and some tables had a view of the falls.
We returned to the Skamania Lodge in time for two massages by their experienced staff, then wandered down to the outdoor lounge area (as I call it) to have a couple local brews, followed by a nice dinner of fresh salmon. We returned to our room and balcony to watch the twilight hour of children playing in the big oval grassy area of the Lodge, guests sitting in chairs and watching the big paddle wheeled paddle boat drift by that does dinner cruises on the river. A train passed by in the distance blowing its whistle over the low rumble of wheels turning on tracks. And so ended another evening on the Columbia River.