Hood River is an easy destination choice. It’s the go-to destination for active folks of all types. Called the windsurfing capital of the world, Hood River is located at the panoramic crossroads of the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade Range. It’s chock-full of water sports, scenic hiking and mountain biking trails, craft breweries and wineries. I recommend doing it all!
As I have mentioned before one of the things that make an area fun to visit is having friends there. Hood River is no exception – I was really excited to spend time with Karen and Osh, two wonderful old friends from State Park days.
Karen and I met almost 30 years ago at Will Rogers State Historic Park, our first assignment for California State Parks. I attended the wedding when she and Osh were married 27 years ago (wow, has it really been that long?) and it was fun to see the my wedding gift was on display at the top of the driveway of their beautiful property in Mosier.
While there I also got to see other old parks folks Michael & MJ thanks to a dinner party hosted by Karen & Osh at their beautiful home.
There is so much to do in the Gorge and we spent time getting in as much as possible while I was there. Karen & Osh certainly know how to do retirement right and Osh was the one in the last few years of my working career that was always encouraging me to join the ranks of retired parks family. He certainly was right about that one!
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
In my next blog post I will share some of our outdoor activities but for now a little bit about the area…….
The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular river canyon, 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep, cutting the only sea level route through the Cascade Mountain Range. The river’s gentle meanders pass through cliffs, spires, and ridges set against distant peaks shaped by ancient volcanoes and floods, making the Gorge a scenic wonderland. (Photo of the gorge from Karen & Osh’s deck overlooking the Columbia River).
The scenic beauty of the Gorge is being preserved through federal legislation. On Nov. 17, 1986. President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Act that created the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Area encompasses an 85-mile stretch of the Gorge from the Sandy River on the west to the Deschutes River on the east in Oregon and from Gibbons Creek in Clark County to a line four miles east of Wishram in Washington including portions of six counties, three in each state.
A National Scenic Area in the United States is a federally designated area of outstanding natural and scenic value that receives a level of protection that is less stringent than wilderness designation. Scenic areas are typically occupied or used in some manner by people and either cannot be considered for wilderness designation, or are seen as suitable for a wider range of uses than those permitted under wilderness designation.
The first National Scenic Area in the United States was Mono Basin National Scenic Area in 1984, followed by the much larger and more ambitious Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986. The Columbia River Gorge was in a region of outstanding natural beauty that was already heavily used by people (as you can certainly see why). The designation of the Columbia Gorge was controversial, as it imposed a significant amount of federal control on public and private lands that had previously not been significantly regulated. It was a vision that took shape after many years of public debate about how to protect the Gorge’s beauty while preserving the region’s cultural history, economic vitality and personal property rights.
The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved. – Richard Rogers
In the Scenic Area, the Forest Service manages all National Forest System lands within the boundaries of the Scenic Area, administers recreation facilities on those lands, assists in resource protection programs, and provides technical assistance to help counties manage their land use. State, private, tribal, and county lands within the Scenic Area’s boundaries are protected through a collaborative approach directed by the Act.
The purpose of this National Scenic Area is clearly spelled out in the Act that created it: to protect and provide for the enhancement of the scenic, cultural, recreational and natural resources of the Gorge; and to protect and support the economy of the Columbia River Gorge area by encouraging growth to occur in existing urban areas and by allowing future economic development.
Apple orchards flourished in this rich valley from 1890 to 1920, and Hood River became famous for its apples. In 1919 many apple trees were struck by a killing freeze. Farmers replaced the apple trees with pear trees, and now Hood River county leads the world in Anjou Pear production.
Today the Gorge is a major transportation corridor, with Interstate 84 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on the south shore and Washington Highway 14 and the Burlington Northern tracks on the north shore. Transportation is a huge industry in the gorge both by rail and by water. The number of trains (many with oil tanker cars) and barges that travel the gorge corridor per day is staggering. You may remember a fiery oil train derailment in 2016 which sent massive plumes of smoke into the air and started a small grass fire. Fortunately there were not high winds on that day (unusual for the gorge) and the flames did not spread into the town of Mosier.
“Transportation is the center of the world! It is the glue of our daily lives. When it goes well, we don’t see it. When it goes wrong, it negatively colors our day, makes us feel angry and impotent, curtails our possibilities.” – Robin Chase
To learn a little about this industry Karen and I visited the dam, locks and fish ladder at the Dalles. The Dalles locks and dam was built in the 1950’s which included the dam, powerhouse, navigation lock and fish ladders on both sides of the river. The Dalles is one of the top ten largest hydro-power dams in the United States with over 7 million hours of electricity produced yearly
The dam gives tours during the summer season and we were lucky enough to be on the first tour of the year. Definitely a must see when in the area as it gives a great overview of the river as well as good history and natural resource lessons.
Long dependent on extractive industries for economic development, particularly logging in the national forests that stretch away from both shores, Gorge communities responded to the reduced timber harvests in the 1980s and ‘90s by switching to a tourism-based economy.
Tourism in the Gorge takes many forms. Outdoor activities are certainly in the forefront of priorities for both tourists and locals but after a hard day of physical exertion there are a number of breweries available to gather for brew and fellowship. The Full Sail Brewing Company produces brews sold all over the US and has some great favorites as well as some seasonal on tap available only at the brewery.
After our dam tour it was a natural stop to check out a new brewery – Sedition Brewing Co in the Dalles. A smaller brewery with some really good brews.
But one of the best stops was at Backwoods Brewing Company with a great group of girls after our hike on my last day in the “Hood”. Beer is certainly best shared with good friends and the company shared on the hike and over a good brew was extraordinary!
More about our hike and all of the other awesome activities in Hood River in my next post. For now it is safe to say I am already missing my Hood River friends.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” ~ Tim Cahill