Day 279 – Columbia River Road and Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September 21, 2011
Another wonderful day in the Pacific Northwest! After a quick snapshot of Mount Adams, I took
a short jaunt west from Trout Lake to explore an ice cave. I expected to be taken on a guided tour, but
instead found myself alone in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Beneath the evergreens by a picnic area is
the entrance to a lava tube. The cold air
from the winter is trapped inside the cave forming an ice pool with stalagmite
ice crystals poking upward from the floor.
Based on the information board map drawing there are two ice
pools, a natural bridge, a crystal grotto, a crack room, and a few pits. I only
explored the first ten feet of the 400 foot cave as I was alone and had no
intention of falling on ice and sharp lava in the dark! I also followed a path above ground which led
to the crack room and the pits. Had I
had the proper equipment and a partner, I would have liked to see the crystal
grotto. I bet it would be fantastic
especially closer to winter time. The
weak beam on my flashlight just barely illuminated the area from a distance,
but neither my eyes nor my camera were successful in focusing on much!
From the ice caves, we continued slightly further west into
the forest where we found a natural bridge which looked like it was formed when
a lava tube collapsed. Bushes whose
leaves were beginning to turn red with the fall weather blanketed the ravine as
Douglas firs, red alders, and hemlocks reached to the sky in the surrounding
Late morning, Petey and I finally left the forest and headed
back toward the river’s edge. As we
followed along Highway 14, the moist forest climate turned arid upon reaching barren,
golden hills. Amid these hills, is a
French-style chateau which houses the Maryhill Museum of Art. The chateau, constructed of concrete, was the
inspiration of turn-of-the-century capitalist Sam Hill. Paintings by Rodin and other European masters
can be found inside while a variety of sculptures can be found on the shaded,
manicured grounds where peacocks strut.
In addition we stopped at a few roadside viewpoints
including one near Celilo Falls, a sacred Indian fishing area, which now lies
beneath the dammed river. Indians
accepted $26 million in 1957 in exchange for allowing the Dalles Dam to flood
and silence the falls.
Just a few miles east of the museum, we visited Stonehenge,
a concrete replica of the original, which Hill built as a memorial to
Washingtonians who fought in World War I.
Hill’s Stonehenge was the first monument in our nation to honor military
personnel. It is said that the Quaker
pacifist began constructing the monument which was completed in 1929 after
visiting England during the 1914-18 conflict and was told it had been used for
human sacrifices to pagan gods. Today,
the sacrifice legend is generally discredited, and it is believed Stonehenge was
a device used by stone-age astronomers to measure time and mark seasons.
After visiting the monument, we crossed the Columbia River
to follow its southern banks back toward the west in northern Oregon. After
passing through The Dalles, I maneuvered VANilla along the historic Columbia
River Highway which switched back and forth up Oregon’s hills. Ornate guard rails lined the winding
road: some of painted white wood and
some of chiseled stone decorated with arches.
We enjoyed a lovely view from the Rowena Overlook on a still, calm
day. It would have been tough to guess
that the Columbia River Gorge is one of the best windsurfing places in the
We finished the day at a town campground along the river in
Cascade Locks. I was pleased to happen
upon the quaint, sixteen spot area with free showers until I realized it would
be a noisy night. I was camped about
twenty yards from active train tracks!
Still, it was a nice place to find.