Day 280 – Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September
Another great day in the gorge! Our morning started out at the sturgeon fish
hatchery. I was expecting to take a walk to
some sort of tank; see a giant, prehistoric looking fish; and then leave…a
fifteen minute stop or so. I spent an
entire hour there! One area was historic
and included several old white buildings, one which operated as an egg
incubator house. The hatchery incubates
15 million eggs to the eyed stage.
The hatchery purchases half a million pounds of feed to
nourish 10 million fish annually. Fish
is the main ingredient in the food which also includes proteins, fats and
carbohydrates. Fish may be tracked in a
variety of ways, but Oregon hatchery fish are tagged with a coded wire in their
snout and have their adipose fin clipped.
This particular fish hatchery raised salmon, steelhead, and
sturgeon. Sturgeon, between five to
seven feet and 120 – 150 pounds, hovered in the shaded ponds. Sturgeon this big are around 25 years
old. Females do not spawn until they are
over six feet and have reached at least 20 years of age. Male spawn once they have reached four feet
and twelve years. One pond included an
underwater viewing area where we could watch the tough skinned fish with rows
of bony plates called scutes feel their way along the bottom with help from
four barbells which projected from their snouts.
Ducks also seemed to enjoy the fish ponds. They flew from one pond to the next and
sometimes seemed to fight for their territory or companion as they played their
own version of duck, duck, goose while swimming in circles pecking at one
another. Occasionally, they raised up on
their tail, fanning their wings and quacking up a storm while others simply
rested on the rock wall between the pond and the flower gardens.
The salmon area wasn’t quite as tranquil as the sturgeon and
steelhead ponds. They swam into a maze
like cage area and smashed against wood planks from which the water was flowing
trying to follow the “current” upstream.
After visiting the hatchery, we stopped at Ainsworth State
Park for a hike up the lush hillside to walk behind a waterfall. The trailhead started at the base of
Horsetail Falls which was visible from the historic highway. In fact, many visitors parked in the roadside
lot for a quick view of the narrow falls which cascaded over a mossy rock into
a blue pool of water. Petey and I took
the somewhat steep, rocky path which switched back and forth up the hillside of
ferns and lush underbrush. With some
frequency at the beginning of our walk, we passed by slugs and objects that
looked like dog pooh covered in white fuzz.
There were so many of these objects with approximately the same amount
of fuzz, it had to be something else. In
addition, a few frogs hid in the greenery on the trail’s edge.
Eventually we made the half mile jaunt to the upper falls,
known as Ponytail Falls, which couldn’t be seen from the roadway. We walked behind the falls as it shot over
the rocky shelf into the pool before continuing down the hill.
From these falls, we made a quick stop at Oneonta Gorge
covered in an array of lichen. I had
hoped to take a trail farther into the gorge, but the only one I found was
rather over grown and being in poison oak country, I opted against trouncing
through the brush. Instead, we went on
to visit a few more waterfalls, the most
popular being Multnomah Falls. We found
one of the last parking spots in an enormous lot across from a visitor’s
center, gift shop, and bistro! It was a
little too commercialized for me as people were in the way of my photos! No, actually it was a very pretty, two-tiered
fall that I could barely fit into my camera lens as it plunged 620 feet over
the sheer cliff. A lovely stone bridge
crossed its path at the midway point to provide glorious views.
Our next waterfall stop was called Kahweena Falls. From the highway it looked a like a creek
rolling down the hillside, but after a short walk up the path, we came to
another bridge where the falls tumbled over a mossy edge and sprayed the bridge
and surrounding area which proved challenging to get a photo without water
We took a break from waterfalls and made our last stop of
the day at the Vista House, an observatory perched on Crown Point, 700 feet
above sea level. The construction of the
sandstone, temple-shaped building began in December of 1916, six months after
the highway was completed. The insides
are of marble and the roof is made of matte-glazed green tile. Needless to say, the location alone offers
tremendous views of the gorge and it is home to a geocache. Unfortunately, someone was sitting by the
hide, so I had to log a “did not find”, but in retrospect, I think it was
another cacher. Oh well!
All in all, we enjoyed another sunny, breezeless day in
Oregon; a rare treat! In fact, I’d go
out on a limb and say it was hot in the balmy mid-eighties. I’m certain my Texas friends and family would
have been wearing a sweater. I ended the
day at Casey’s again…my third time in a week.
Little did she know she was signing up to house a patient. I’m so indebted to her! She called her friend Sharon, an ER nurse,
who removed my stitches and steri-stripped my wound. I’m SO glad she was able to do it as it
appears to need a little more help healing, and she suggested I rest a
day. I suppose that is what I’ll be
doing tomorrow. ETB