Hood River OR - Biking and Beer!

A display inside Double Mountain brewery - bands and beers that have "appeared" at the pub over the years.

One of our favourite places to go that's sort of local is Hood River in Oregon. Located on the Columbia River about an hour east of Portland, it's about a six hour drive from Vancouver, depending on traffic and the border. With Canada Day being on the Wednesday, we decided to take Monday and Tuesday off, and drive down early Saturday morning. 

We packed up most of the car on Friday night, and were out the door by 5:00 a.m. on Saturday. We made good time, with the border being very light (as we had hoped), and traffic through Seattle being easy as well. We got down in less than 6 hours, including our traditional stop at Costco in Portland for supplies. Love the cheap booze and fruit - always a good place to stock up.

The Hood River - glacier fed off of Mount Hood, but the levels were as low as we've ever seen them. 

It was early afternoon by the time we got to the campsite and got set-up. As you've probably heard, we've had a really drive, warm spring and summer, and Hood River seemed to be getting the same weather as us. The campsite we stay at is right on the Hood River (river, not the town), and it was shocking to see how low the water levels were. 

It was over 100F/40C at the campsite, so hanging out there wasn't really an option. So we decided to head back into town to see what was going on, and to pick up some supplies for dinner. The Canada Women's World Cup team was also playing, so we were hoping we might catch the game somewhere.

Hood River has always had a very vibrant craft beer scene, and we have never really explored it fully. Most of the time we're hiking or riding, and don't have a lot of time for more relaxed activities. I had made a list of places we wanted to check out, and this time we were planning to make some time to enjoy a beer or two and the local breweries.

We wandered down to the river to try and cool off a bit.

double mountain

Back in town, our first stop was at Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom. I think this is one of the longest serving of the local places, and they had an impressive selection. We tried a few things, but were also very impressed with their food menu so we decided to come back later to eat.

Our next stop was at Full Sail. Not really a microbrewery any more - they used to be employee owned and operated, but they sold out to one of the US majors in the last couple of years - they still make nice beer. And as it turned out, they were showing the Women's World Cup, which was a complete surprise!

That (plus the air conditioning) gave us an excuse to hang out for the rest of the afternoon. We ended up seated at the bar, and watched the Canada - England game. While the game ended up being a bit of a disaster, the food and beer were good, so the day wasn't a complete right off. 

After the game, we headed back to the campsite, after a stop for groceries and ice. The sun was going down and the temperatures were a lot more reasonable, and we were able to enjoy a relaxing evening at the campsite. We made a fire, had a few drinks, played some cribbage and chilled out. It was still really warm at night, so we slept without the fly on the tent. 

My taster at Full Sail.

Justine climbing a hill with Mount Hood off in the background.

Early in the ride. Throughout, Mount Hood dominates the views.

Sunday was going to be one of our two days of road riding. We have a couple of favourite routes, the first was was the "Fruit Loops", so named because it goes through all the orchards that surround Hood River. 

It's about a 40km ride, and we got off early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. The ride starts off right at the campsite which is great, but starts with a fair bit of climbing. There are great views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams all along the route, and as the name of the ride suggests, it takes you through a lot of different orchards. 

The Hood River area is a major fruit producer, and there are cherries, apples, pears, apricots, plums - pretty much anything you can imagine. It's pretty nice. 

The ride alod takes you through a couple of the little villages near Hood River which have nice, old downtowns. Parkdale also has a brewery that was on my list. Sadly it was still closed, so we would have to come back later.

Local orchard, with Mount Hood in the background.

About two thirds of the way through the ride there's one last long climb. and then it's all downhill back towards town. We always get a lot of speed on the big downhill before the turnoff towards the lavender farm. It's fun.

Justine on the last big climb of the day! Still smiling too!

Hood River Lavender, with Mount Adams in the background.

After our big ride, it was around lunch time and pretty hot. We went back to the campsite, grabbed some beverages and went down to the river. While the water levels were low, it didn't mean that the temperature was any warmer! The water was freezing! Still, we had worked up a big sweat, and both of us ended up in the water. It was really refreshing, and cooled us off. 

The wind was blowing hard Sunday afternoon, which was great for the wind sport fans.

We had some lunch at our favourite pizza place in town, then headed down to the river. The main thing that put Hood River on the map was the wind. It blows down the Columbia River, and its been a mecca for windsurfing and kiteboarding for as long as those sports have existed. Sunday the wind was howling, and there were a ton of people out on the river. We headed down to the riverfront, and watched for a while. People were flying out on the water. The wind was howling, and it was amazing they could manage it.

Everyone shares the river...

Justine culling in the hammock.

We popped into Pfriem Brothers, another of the local breweries for a taste, before wandering the new park at the waterfront for a little while. Once the sun started to go down, and the temperature started to drop (another 39C day), we decided to head back to the campsite. Monday afternoon, Justine had booked as a rafting trip on the Deschutes River. It was something we hadn't done before, and seemed like some good fun. So we had a busy day planned, and wanted the evening to be pretty low key.

We made dinner at the campsite, and later after the su went down, we had a nice campfire. As mentioned, it hadn't rained in ages, and we were sleeping with the fly off our tent. So it was a bit of a surprise about half way through the night when we were greeted with a massive thunder storm! There was huge lightning flashes, and massive cracks of thunder! And it was pretty close by. Then the rain started pouring down, and we had to scramble to get the fly on the tent in the middle of this massive thunderstorm. We did pretty good, and the inside of our tent didn't really get too wet.  It was a good team effort. The storm went on for quite a while - even waking me up later in the night, which is unusual. 

We were up early again the next morning - once the sun come up, its impossible to stay in the tent. Everything had survived the night, and once the sun came out it was like it had never rained at all. We had a busy day ahead of us, so we got packed for our various adventures and headed out for the day.

The Mirror Lake trailhead.

The Mirror Lake trailhead.

Our rafting was a good hours drive from the campsite, and was schedule for about 1:00 p.m. We wanted to do a hike, so I picked a shortish hike that was sort of on the way to the rafting location. We got there after about an hour's drive, but it was still early and we had beaten the crowds. The hike to Mirror Lake is one of the most popular near Mount Hood, being relatively short with nice views. 

The trail climbed pretty quickly, with lots of switchbacks as we gained elevation. It was all in the forest, and there were some late blooming flowers still around to brighten things up. It took us about half an hour to get to the top of the trail, where the lake is located. Once at the top, there is a nice little trail that goes all around the lake, giving views of Mount Hood.

Mount Hood and Mirror Lake

We did the circuit, and enjoyed the views. It was cool in the forest which was nice. The trip down was pretty quick, and we were done the hike by mid-morning. We decided to drive into Government Camp (town at the base of Mount Hood where all the skiing is based out of)  to have some lunch at the brew pub there. As it was on the way, we drove up to Timberline Lodge, as neither of us had seen it before.

The front entrance to Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge is a mountain lodge on the south side of Mount Hood in Oregon. Built in the late 1930s, the National Historic Landmark sits at an elevation of 5,960 feet (1,817 m), within the Mount Hood National Forest and is accessible through the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. The lodge was constructed between 1936 and 1938 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression. Workers used large timbers and local stone, and placed intricately carved decorative elements throughout the building. It is a popular tourist attraction, drawing more than a million visitors annually. It is noted in film for serving as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Mount Hood, from the Timberline Lodge parking lot.

They do year-round skiing on Mount Hood from Timberline Lodge, as it was crazy to see people dressed for skiing despite the fact that it was almost 40C out. There were a surprising number of people at the mountain to ski, and it was crazy to see the lifts going up with people in shorts for sightseeing and fully decked out for skiing.

The chairlift, going strong mid summer.

Summer skiers on the chairlift.

We weren't up for skiing, so we did a short hike near the lodge to check out the local scenery. Flowers were in bloom everywhere, and the views of the mountain were spectacular. 

We also checked out the inside of the old lodge, which is equally amazing. There's a huge fireplace in the middle of the lobby, and some cool displays showing the history of the lodge. 

Outside, it was crazy hot, so our hiking didn't last too long. Plus we needed to get some lunch and get back on the road over to the river rafting launch site. So about 11:30, we headed down to Government Camp to find our brew pub.

Lots of flowers, as Mount Hood dominates the view.

We eventually found the Mount Hood Brewing Company, and had a pint and some lunch. We discovered that we had underestimated the drive from Government Camp to the rafting site, so we were a little panicked as we headed back out on the road.

We had only budgeted 30 minutes for the 45 minute drive, and so we were one of the last ones to arrive at the rafting office. Still, it all worked out fine as we signed the waivers and got kitted out. It was even hotter at the rafting site, as we were now another hour inland, where the desert starts in central Oregon. I love this part of Oregon, and as I have never been rafting, was really looking forward to it.

The trip was longer than I expected - a full three hours - and most of it was pretty mellow, floating down the Deschutes River. Still, there was one Class III and one Class IV rapids in the trip, which got the adrenaline pumping. 

The gorgeous Deschutes River, and part of our journey.

As you would expect, we didn't have cameras with us, so there's not a lot of pictures from the rafting part of the trip. We drove along the river after the raft trip was over to take some pictures of a couple of the spots along the second half of the trip.

It's a beautiful part of the world.

One of the highlights was swimming one set of rapids. After going through in the raft, we were able to get out on the back, hike back upstream then jump in with our life vests on to surfer the rapids. It was a crazy ride and a lot of fun! Plus it was great to cool off in the river.

This is the stretch of the river we got to swim through. It doesn't look like much, but it was a pretty wild ride.

We had about an hour drive back to the camp site. It was about 6:30 or 7:00 as we were driving through Parkdale, so we stopped at Solera to check out the brewery. They were open until "dark", so we had hopes of getting a beer and some dinner. We weren't disappointed on either front, and as a bonus, there was an amazing back patio that has one of the best views in the area.

The back patio at Solera has an amazing view of Mount Hood.

Amazing light, and an amazing view.

Amazing light, and an amazing view.

In addition to the amazing view, they had some pretty great beer. We shared a sampler, and tried a bunch of crazy different things. Very different from anything we'd had to date.

There were a bunch of very interesting old signs put up throughout the place. The decoration was very eclectic, but a lot of fun. And did I mention that the beer was excellent?

Solera beer sample.

Random bird images from the trip.

Once the sun started going back down, we headed back to the campsite and had another fire, drank some of the beer we had bought, and enjoyed another perfect evening under the stars.

Tuesday was our last day to do anything, and we had planned to ride again. The other route we like to take is along the old Historic Highway. This one ends up being close to 50 km, when you add the ride down and back up Roena Loops. As much of the ride is off limits to cars, it makes it a nice, calm ride. The weather was good -  not quite as hot - and we had a great ride.

After completing our ride, we headed back to the campsite and got cleaned up. We had some lunch in the shade at our site, then decided to head off and do some more exploring in the heat of the day. 

A young sturgeon at the hatchery.

There was one more brewery that I wanted to check out, in the town of Cascade Locks, about half an hour west of Hood River back towards Portland. The drive was pretty easy, but before we went to the brewery we decided to go back to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, to spend a bit of time exploring. We had visited the hatchery before, and felt it was worth a return visit.

The hatchery is pretty cool -  they do an amazing job restocking the river with salmon, and also do sturgeon. They are such cool fish to see, and they have a great display where you can see a pretty big one in a semi-natural habitat. Even the thousands of small salmon in the rearing tanks are pretty cool to check out.

Thousands (or millions?) of salmon fry, getting bigger in the safety of the rearing pens.

Sturgeon close up.

We wandered through the display in the visitor center and checked out the gift shop before heading back into Cascade Locks. We found Thunder Island Brewery, and were immediately blown away by how amazing the setting was. They had a great patio right on the river, with a view of the famous Bridge of the Gods, further downstream.

Our tasting flight, with the Columbia River and the Bridge of the Gods in the background.

The island the brewery is named after.

A good end to the trip.

And that's really all there is to tell about the trip. We had another relaxing night at the campsite, then packed up in the morning and headed for home. The trip home was a nightmare, so we won't dwell on it. As good as the trip down was, the trip home was awful. Still, it was another great trip and we had a blast. Lots of old favourites and some new fun stuff!

Random photos.