The Columbia River Gorge
While visiting Portland, Oregon this summer with some of our family, we took a day to travel the beautiful Columbia River Highway, the first ever planned scenic highway in America. We made many spur of the moment stops for “Grandma has to take a picture”, before stopping at the our first “planned” photo op at Crown Point and the Vista House. The views here are spectacular, even in the foggy, early morning…
But, to be fair, there were simply no spots along this highway that were not amazing.
The Vista House is probably one the most elaborate rest stops you will ever visit! It is a domed building constructed of gray sandstone with a tile roof, and sits 733 feet above the Columbia River. It was built to honor early pioneers to the area, as well as to serve as a comfort station along the highway, or what old-timers called “the $100,000 outhouse”.
As we continued the drive we arrived at the first of the waterfalls we were to visit on this trip, and waterfalls are one of my favorite things. Our first falls was Latourell Falls. Latourell Falls spills 249 feet off a columnar basalt cliff in a single stream that touches nothing on its way down.
Latourell Falls is beautiful, but for me, hailing from the “cave state” of limestone and sandstone, the basalt columns were simply amazing. I was so impressed, I purchased a book on the geology of the state of Oregon…trust me, no one saw that coming!
Next, we stopped for a hike to Bridal Veil Falls, and it was along this trail that I first realized I was in a rain forest, the American northwest temperate rain forest. Sometimes the head knows things, yet the mind does not comprehend, and realizing where I truly was gave a whole new meaning to my entire trip.
Bridal Veil Falls is 120 feet tall, and cascades over a basalt cliff. The climb to the falls is beautiful, but a little steep.
We also visited Horsetail Falls, cascading 176 ft. over a cliff. It got its name because its shape is so reminiscent of a horse’s tail.
The last falls on our tour was the grandest of them all, Multnomah Falls, the most visited natural recreation spot in the Pacific Northwest. Fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, Multnomah pours ice cold water over the side of the cliff from 611 feet up. It is truly an amazing sight, and the sound of all that cascading water is equally amazing.
It is so sad to have to mention that, until at least next spring or summer, none of these beautiful falls are open for visiting. A devastating fire, the Eagle Creek Fire, roared through the area, destroying huge areas of the forest. Even now, when the danger of fire is gone, lasting consequences will plague the area for a very long time. Remember those basalt columns that so interested me? Those columns are held together by moss, which serves as a natural glue. The fire burned and destroyed the beautiful mosses we saw everywhere. Without this “glue”, pieces of rock continue to fall, endangering the highway, the buildings, bridges, and also any people who might happen by. I hope nature will heal itself quickly, and we can all return to this most incredible place.
Many of the trees are gone, but I will always remember how huge they were, and I will always cherish the picture of my son and grandson hugging their favorite tree on our hikes up to the falls.
Everyone, especially our two grandchildren, enjoyed Lost Lake Campground, Resort, and Day Use Area beneath Mt. Hood. And people who have cameras should not be allowed to spend too much time there…I must have taken three dozen pictures of the view over the lake, toward Mt. Hood while the rest of the family ate a picnic lunch and played in the lake…thank goodness for digital cameras.
Mt. Hood is spectacular. It has an elevation of 11,250 ft. and is located in the Cascade Range Mountains. It is the tallest point in Oregon. It is also a volcano, having experienced its last eruption in 1907.
While at Lost Lake, we took time to eat, and just play for a time….
What a wonderful place the Columbia River Gorge is. I hope and trust that it will grow back, and that we might all be able to visit and experience its natural beauty once again and for many years to come. It is not only candy for the eyes, it is candy for the soul! I hope you get to visit it someday too!
Pacific Salmon Chowder
For centuries, salmon have fed the peoples that have gathered to live in the Pacific Northwest. This delightful and simple chowder would have been something Native Americans might have made long ago, and it is still absolutely delicious today. When I first came across this recipe, I wondered if it would not be even better if I added some corn, as appears in most chowders. But after doing some research, I discovered that the first people to live along the Columbia River did not participate in the activities associated with farming. These early Native Americans were hunters and gatherers. This chowder is so simple, with so few ingredients, yet it is now one of our favorite go-to meals. It is equally good the next day, maybe even better, as a nourishing lunch. I have adapted this recipe from Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking, written by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs. It is published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York.
Pacific Salmon Chowder
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced, about 3/4 cup
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. fresh dill weed, or to taste
- 4 cups milk
- 12 oz. fresh salmon, cut into chunks
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Dill sprigs, for garnish
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the potatoes and green onions, and saute for 3 minutes.
- Add the milk and the dill weed.
- Simmer over low heat for 40 minutes.
- Add the fresh salmon and simmer for 10 minutes more.
- Season to taste.
- Serve in individual bowls garnished with a sprig of dill.