OK, so this post has taken a very long time to get to - I hope I remember everything that went on in our little vacation! Going to Hood River quickly became one of the annual events that I most looked forward to every year. Justine introduced me to the place, as a spot that her friends have been traveling to regularly over the years. For the past two years, we missed out on this annual trek due to a number of different circumstances, so this year we were determined to go.
Strangely enough, out of the whole big group that normally goes down, we ended up being the only ones. Not ones to let that deter us, we planned the trip, and were able to enjoy an excellent long weekend in the sun of northern Oregon, where we got to hike and bike and generally enjoy some time in the great outdoors.
With Canada Day on a Tuesday this year, I took off Friday and Monday and made it a super-long weekend. We did a good job of packing and planning in advance, so Friday morning was quite easy as we packed up Justine's car, threw the road bikes on the roof racks and headed for the boarder. With the way the holidays (both US and Canadian) fell this year, we had not idea what to expect for traffic or the boarder, so we planned to leave early, and hope for the best.
The boarder ended up being a breeze, and even the traffic heading down to Seattle wasn't too bad. We hit a bit of traffic as we got into Seattle proper, and used that as an excuse to stop at the REI in downtown Seattle to pick up a few last minute items. Even with that stop, we were through Seattle and on the highway south before lunch time, which was ahead of schedule, and we were feeling pretty good about things. The weather was not great - cloudy and overcast, but no rain - and since we were driving, it didn't really matter. Around 1:00 we pulled off to have a bit of lunch, and were feeling pretty good about the time we were making.
The clouds did keep the views to a minimum, so we couldn't see the big mountains as we headed south. Too bad really. Before long we were at the outskirts of Vancouver Washington, and the big bridge across the river into Portland Oregon.
We decided to make a stop at the Costco near the Portland airport to stop up on wine, beer and food for the weekend. The lack of sales tax, combined with Costco prices makes that an easy decision, Plus, we had been in the car for a good long time and could use a bit of a stretch. We got stocked up, and headed back out along the highway, east towards Hood River.
I always feel like we've made it when you get onto the #84 and start the trip east from the main highways. It's still an hour from Hood River, but the scenery changes pretty dramatically, and you're working your way along side the river, which offers the most amazing views. It just changes your whole outlook, and I immediately feel like the vacation has really started at that point.
We got to the campsite about an hour later, and managed to find a great spot fairly close to the river (the Hood River actually). We got set-up, then headed back into town to buy some food for dinner. There's a great local supermarket hat we go to, that always has great stuff. We bought some firewood on the way home, and were all set for a fine evening of dinner, wine and a camp fire. It was a good start to the vacation.
The thing with camping is that it gets pretty warm in your tent once the sun comes up, and in Hood River, at the campsite we were staying at the shade is limited, so you get roasted out pretty quickly. Our main plan for the weekend was to do some hiking and road riding, and today's activity was to be a bike ride. One of our regular rides is called the "Fruit Loop", as it follows (roughly) a local driving route by the same name that takes you to a lot of the local farms and markets.
The ride was just more than 42 km, and took us through the amazing countryside around Hood River. Hood River is a major fruit producing area, and the cherry trees were in mid harvest, making for some amazing views as we went by the orchards. The ride took about 2 hours, and was a good start to the trip.
After the ride, we had some lunch, relaxed for a bit and then decided to go for a drive. Our first stop was at the lavender farm just outside of town. Its a beautiful spot, and in addition to the lavender has a lot of other flowers growing around the place. They encourage people to wander around, so we spent a while enjoying the afternoon sun, and took some pictures.
After spending a good hour wandering through the flowers, we continued on our way. We stopped at some of the near-by orchards to look at some of the cherry trees (it's amazing how much fruit are on each tree), then stopped at an alpaca farm. at the alpaca farm, it must have been breeding season, as they had a new one that had just been born that morning. Pretty cute little thing, even if the parents are a bit goofy looking.
Our next stop was at a local market, where we stopped to get a drink, and look at the local produce. They were advertising "u-pick" cherries, but it looked like they were done doing that for the day. Their garden was also very nice, and had a great view of Mount Hood, which was looking very dramatic with the clouds hanging about the mountain in the late afternoon.
One of the main draws for most people to Hood River is the constant wind. It makes wind surfing and kiteboarding popular pastimes in this area. Neither Justine nor I have much interest, but on a nice day when the wind is up, the river is packed with people.
We went up to a lookout over the town, and had a good look down to the activity on the river. As expected, there were a ton of people. We also checked out the starting point for our next ride, just as a refresher since it had been a few years.
That pretty much wrapped up our exploring for the day. We grabbed some food for dinner, and eventually headed back to the campsite and set up for the evening. We made some food, cleaned up, played some cards and relaxed in front of the fire. It was a pretty great end to a very fun day.
I think this post is long enough now. I'll stop it here, and we'll pick up with the story of the Eagle Creek hike to Tunnel Falls in the next post.