Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 Vacation, Part 1: Arrival, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood

The summer of 2014 brought us back to a place we had been before. Oregon has been a destination of ours multiple times because my sister, Ember, lives there. (Our 2009 adventure is talked about here.) This time Finn would be going too - which was a first. We decided to add Oregon's neighbor to the north into the mix for this trip, so we flew into Seattle and ended our trip there too. Once we got the car all packed with our suitcases and children, we were ready to drive a couple of hours south to Portland.

Our first stop was Ember and Rob's place for a much celebrated sibling reunion! Finn got in on the silliness too.

We had a great time hanging out in their backyard and grilling out. And shocking to all...Finn found a suitable place for Legos.

Ember and Rob were spectacular hosts - they hooked us up with a place to stay while in Portland, advised different things to do, and Ember was our tour guide for our upcoming excursion.

The place we stayed while in Portland was at a friend of Ember and Rob's: an older gentlemen with a basement apartment for guests who we only ever heard referred to using his full name, Dick Anderson. We adopted the habit too. Dick Anderson was the type of guy who seems to know everything about anything. When we first met him he happily greeted us as "The Wisconsinites" and he started rattling off different history and facts about our home state that I had long forgotten. He filled us in on all sorts of interesting tidbits about the area and mentioned some must-sees for later in our trip when we headed to the coast.

It was reassuring settling into a place that felt homey.

Finn didn't take long until he started in on rough-housing mode with his aunt. Ember's head and Dick Anderson's pillows didn't know what hit them.

Ember planned for us a two-day journey through the Columbia River gorge to see some waterfalls, south around Mt. Hood, and then back to Portland. Click here to see the map of where we went.

A brief stop at an overlook provided us the first morning views of the Columbia River and the beautiful surroundings.

Our first waterfalls was an impressive one. Multnomah Falls is the 2nd tallest year-round waterfall in the United States. You can see the upper falls in the background, a bridge going over the stream, and then the lower falls.

We took a few group shots at one of the viewing areas. Ember squeezed in some bunny ears on Finn. We got there early enough so there weren't a lot of people. When we came back down later it was significantly more crowded.

The walk up the bridge between the upper and lower falls wasn't too long or too strenuous.

The bridge the kids are on is the one seen in the group pictures above, between the upper and lower falls.

Ember explained to us that the hike to top of the upper falls was pretty tough and probably not something the kids would want to do. Julia and Finn said otherwise. It was steadily uphill and had eleven switchbacks over the course of more than a mile. The trail was plenty wide and safe, but that didn't stop me from being nervous about the edges of the path and kids getting too close to it. The kids stopped a few times to rest.

Once at the top we followed a winding trail and stream amongst old growth, moss-covered trees to a lookout at the top of the waterfall

The bridge we stood on earlier could be seen over 500 feet below us.

Next waterfall on the agenda was Horsetail Falls. Not nearly as tall as Multnomah, but awesome nonetheless. Finn found an opportunity for a little payback.

The upper falls of this one included a trail that went behind the waterfall.

The kids are sitting on a rock on the left side of the picture.

I was in awe of the constant amount of water coming over these edges of land. It seemed endless and it was hard for me to wrap my head around how there was enough water to keep these creations flowing.

A shot on the way back from the upper Horsetail Falls of the distant solid green landscape.

As we finished our hike back to the car, we found some moss and Ember, Julia, and I wondered how we would look with a moss beard. I'm not sure who looks the best:
Ember - Torey - Julia

We continued east and as we did the landscape slowly changed to drier and less green. We stopped in Hood River for lunch along the river at a popular place for windsurfing and kite sailing. The kids also cooled off at a beach and played in the sand for a little while.

On the road south now, we slowly started seeing glimpses of Mt. Hood. The mountain became clearer and bigger each mile we went. Not used to being around mountains, it was pretty crazy seeing one just sitting their nonchalantly looming on the horizon. We stopped at a fruit farm and got fresh peaches, apple cider, and the best cherries I've ever had.

At the base of Mt. Hood we checked out Timberline Lodge - a national historic landmark. Timberline Lodge offers the only year-round, ski lifted skiing in North America.

Finn carefully plotted his path to the summit. Or maybe he was looking for the quickest way to the cabin we were staying at that night.

Just like Dick Anderson's place, we scored another great lodging with this cabin Ember found for our night away from the city.

The Zigzag river was just a few minutes away down a narrow path behind the cabin. Ember, Julia, and I walked down there in the evening. Ember assisted Julia in braving balancing on a downed tree over the water.

All five of us went back the next morning, with Julia leading the way.

In the morning we headed to Mirror Lake and took a short hike. The views of the mountain were stunning.

We took a nice family picture and then a slightly goofier version.

We came across several animal acquaintances while at the lake.

Finished with that leg of our vacation, we headed west back to Portland and left the mountain behind.