Friday, July 27, 2018
We originally planned to drive to southern Oregon today, to visit Crater Lake National Park. However, recent wildfires in the area made that option undesirable. Although the park remains open, the Park Service is recommending that visitors wear face masks because of poor air quality.
Instead, we rose early (to beat the crowds) and headed once again to Multnomah Falls. The parking lot was open at 8:30 am, and less than half full. When we drove by again at 1:00 pm, the lot was closed again. In part, this is due to the fact that several local roads are still closed following last year’s wildfires. The fire started when a 15-year old boy set off fireworks along the Eagle Creek Trail last Labor Day weekend; the fire ultimately burned 50,000 acres.
Because we were early, it was not crowded at all. We had no difficulty seeing the falls clearly, and walking up to the Benson Bridge (built in 1914) that passes in front of the falls. There is a path to the top of the falls, but that has been closed because of rockslides. I was very disappointed that I couldn’t walk uphill another mile. It feels like I’ve been walking uphill all week!
Multnomah Falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the nation, with a total height of 620 feet. The top section of Multnomah drops 543 feet to the upper plunge pool, meanders another 8 feet, and then falls 69 more feet to the bottom.
When driving to the falls yesterday, we noticed a structure on top of a hill along the highway. We were curious, did some research, and learned that it is the Vista House at Crown Point. We had time today, so decided to drive up to check it out.
From an article in The Oregonian, Vista House is a rest stop that was “intended to be the finishing achievement for the greatest highway in America” and to “grace the highest spot on that waterway.” Construction was completed 100 years ago this past May. It’s a lovely building, with two levels that provide views for miles around and a lower level with a gallery and small museum. The floors and stairs of the rotunda were made with rare Alaskan marble, the windows on the main level are of amber and green colored glass. Vista House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
We really wanted to experience the Columbia River itself, so took a two-hour river cruise out of Cascade Locks on the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, an authentic sternwheeler similar to the ships that cruised the Gorge in the 1800’s. It is operated entirely by the stern wheel, there are no bow thrusters or propellers.
What a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours! It was breezy on the water, and we had to hang on to our hats. There were several sailboats and a few sailboards on the water, even a class of sailors learning to sail in high wind conditions. We weren’t the only ones enjoying this beautiful river – there was plenty of wildlife in sight as well. A highlight of the cruise was being able to see the Bonneville Dam from another angle.
We are staying in Portland tonight, just a few blocks from Powell’s City of Books. We paid a visit to this huge book store, 68,000 square feet, and laid out much like a library, with nine sections color-coded for easy navigation through the three floors of books. This place is heaven to someone who loves reading as much as I do. After all, I was the girl who took a box to the library to bring enough books home to last me a week or two during the summer, who dreamed of reading every book in the library (turned out to be an realistic though admirable goal.) The used books are shelved alongside the new ones, so you can decide whether you need to pay full price for a new edition, or can be happy with a used one for half the cost.
I picked up a copy (used) of Stephen E. Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. I had the read this book some years ago, and this trip to the Columbia Gorge has raised enough questions about Lewis and Clark’s expedition, that I decided to reread it. I expect I’ll enjoy it as much as I did the first time.