Columbia River Gorge Day Trip

Monday was a road trip day to the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington/Oregon border. We combined that with the Mount Hood Scenic Loop rather than return along the north bank of the gorge or the freeway. We got up at 0430, had coffee and headed out; it’s about a 145 mile drive down to the beginning of the gorge. Since the drive down was mostly freeway and it was early so there was no traffic…Neil popped off his boot and drove down until we started on the stop and go portion of the day. After that Connie took over and drove the rest of the day…Neil took back over when we stopped for gas shortly before dinner as Connie had been driving for 10 hours by that time and was getting a bit tired.

Once on the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway (otherwise known as US-30) our first stop was at Chanticleer Point which is owned by the Portland Women’s Forum. The overlook is about 600 or 800 feet above the river and the views are impressive…although as you can see from the picture the early morning fog had not burned off by this time…not unexpected since it was only 0830 or so.

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We started up the gorge itself right after this shot…hoping that the fog would continue to burn off and present better views as the day went along. Sure enough it did…and by the time we got to our second stop a whole lot of the fog in the above shot had disappeared. Our second stop was the top of Larch Mountain; about 14 miles east and 3200 feet higher. After parking we had a hike of about a quarter mile each way (Neil was really thankful that he was in a walking boot instead of still crutching along) and maybe 150 feet climb to the overlook; most of the climb was in the last couple of hundred yards and had steps instead of just an inclined trail. On arrival at the summit at 4,062 feet you can see the five of the major active volcanoes in this part of the country. Starting looking almost due north and sweeping clockwise until just a little west of south across the Cascade Mountains. When Saint Helens erupted in 1980 it blew about 1,300 feet off the top of the mountain, most of which flowed down the northeast side of the mountain into the nearby valleys. Looking at the mountain; this shot shows about 6 o’clock on the mountain in the center, the flow was from the 2 o’clock aspect of the volcano and spread out in an arc from 12 to 2 o’clock (north to almost east). Very little of the lava flow zone is visible in this shot. It was still a bit hazy at this point but was the only opportunity we got to see 4 of the 5 peaks…Hood was close and we got some better ones of it later as we drove around it on the scenic loop.

8,363 foot Mount St. Helens 46 miles distant

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14,410 foot Mount Ranier 97 miles distant

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12,307 foot Mount Adams 54 miles distant

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11,235 foot Mount Hood 22 miles distant

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and 10,497 foot Mount Jefferson 62 miles distant.

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Neil didn’t take a pano of these but the first three span an arc from due north to the right about 30 degrees, Mount Hood is another 100 degrees to the right, and Mount Jefferson about another 60 degrees to the right and just west of south. Quite an impressive set of mountains; a view from the top of Larch Mountain of 160 miles north to south. Each of these mountains is significantly higher than anything else in it’s vicinity; they built up from volcanic activity and are hence solo peaks rather than being part of a large group raised by tectonic activity. The Cascade Mountains surround all of these peaks but most of the rest of the peaks in the Cascades are tectonic rather than volcanic and are generally lower in elevation.

Coming back down Larch Mountain Road we rejoined US-30 and continued up the gorge. Next stop was the Vista House which is not actually a house where we got some more views of the gorge as well as one of the many barges that transit this major northwestern waterway.

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Continuing on up the river we got into the really narrow road portion of the gorge and arrived at the first of 77 waterfalls in the gorge. We didn’t see all of them as we were limited by (a) Neil’s ability to only hike short distances and (b) our reader’s ability to look at that many waterfall pictures.

Latourell Falls is a 249 foot single drop fall…like most of the falls on the gorge it’s on the south rim which is almost vertical in most places and is formed by a stream that just falls off the top. While we didn’t hike to the top…it doesn’t look like the stream is more than 5 or 6 feet wide at the top and based on the volume of water coming over is maybe a foot or two deep. Most of the falls in the gorge are relatively low flow as they are formed by streams rather than rivers. Like he does on most waterfall pictures; Neil took both slower (longer) shutter speed shots as well as sets of HDR frames. The slower speed shots allow the water to blur so that the photo has sharp rocks, ferns, etc and blurry, flowing water…they give you a sense of motion in the water. The HDR frames are generally all at quicker shutter speeds so that the water droplets are frozen in the shot…these shots are then combined using the HDR techniques to give a more realistic view of what the eye sees when looking at the fall.

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Shortly up the road we visited Shepperd’s Dell Falls, also known as Dell Falls but not officially named. This is a 220 foot fall but only 90 feet of it is a single drop…the remainder is down a steeply sloped bank which is mostly out of sight; the geography of this falls makes it impossible to get a decent photo despite being within about 200 feet of the road. The first shot shows the top of the 90 foot drop and about the lower third of the sloped section; the second shot shows the 90 foot drop and it’s pool. He also turned around 180 degrees and took this almost vertical shot of the rocks they were standing under while taking the fall images.

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I think I’ll stop for now; otherwise this post will take forever to upload. I’ll do another one tomorrow with the last (and best) of the various waterfalls we saw as well as Mount Hood and the Bonneville Dam with it’s fish ladders (Connie was really impressed with these).

On the way home we got stuck in Portland rush hour and then got stuck in the remains of a vehicle fire backup on the bridge across the Columbia River. We passed on eating dinner in Portland as we weren’t hungry yet…by the time we were hungry we couldn’t find any place to stop. We finally found an Italian place named Casa Mia in Yelm, WA about a half hour before getting back home. Dinner was Manicotti with Cream Sauce for Connie and Chicken Rosemary Ravioli with Cheese sauce for Neil…both were pretty good but by the time we had salad and rolls we have leftovers which we’ll have for dinner today.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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3 Responses to Columbia River Gorge Day Trip

  1. Mj Trainor says:

    So beautiful!!

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      And I haven’t posted the best falls yet.


      The three kinds of stress…nuclear, cooking and a&&hole. Jello is the key to the relationship.

  2. Mj Trainor says:

    ps- wish we had more info about where Mom was born while you’re in the Portland area 😦

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