This last weekend we had my in-laws up for a visit and we went hiking in the gorge, which put novel revisions on hold, but I had a fabulous time. We took some nice pictures of the other side of the Historic Columbia Highway State Trail. This is the Mosier twin tunnels I mentioned when showing pictures of my usual side of the 5 mile trail (which yes, I walked again today like I always do). The Mosier side is steeper to start out with, but more open, offering nice vistas of the gorge. Plus, it ends in the tunnels.
Built I think in the 1920s, these tunnels used to take cars, but are so narrow I can’t imagine wanting to drive even down the middle of them in a modern car. This area is prone to landslides and falling rocks as well, which was why they discontinued this as a one lane section of highway eventually. What I find the most interesting about the tunnels though, is that they have windows cut into them on the north side so you can look out over the gorge.
Through one of these is someone’s private island on the Columbia. Now, I know living on a private island would be in many ways, highly inconvenient, but every time I go here, I gaze longingly at that little island. It looks like such a fun place to live! You can’t really see the house because they hid it behind the trees right next to the dock, so that it’s mostly facing away from I-84 (the freeway) and towards the Washington side, but it looks like a full house, not just a summer cottage. Not that I don’t truly live already in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but still, I can dream.
To protect hikers and bikers from the falling rocks, below/past the tunnels is a causeway. This makes the most dangerous part of walking this not falling rocks, but speeding bicycles. They really get zooming through both the tunnels and the causeway. when coming out from the windows in the tunnels I adhere to road rules and carefully look both ways before resuming walking on the right side of the road. Still, I always find it well worth it.
After Mosier, the Historic Columbia River Highway is open again to cars all the way to The Dalles. Usually we only take it Rowena, so see the outlook there and then get back on the freeway. This offers next to Crown Point, some of the most spectacular high views of the gorge. Since we’re now solidly in the rain shadow of the Cascades by now, the mountains are more bare and rugged, but still stunning and far more green than most people tend to think of them. I’m not sure where we hit the desert properly, since it’s after The Dalles and I haven’t gone exploring that far yet, although will eventually.
At least this outlook is right off the highway, so if you’re tired you don’t have to walk far to enjoy it. There’s also here a trail that goes up a nearby bluff with a wonderful sign warning to watch out for poison oak, rattlesnakes, and ticks, but I’ve mostly not walked up it because it tends to be hot this time of year, not for the warnings. I’ve met a couple people who’ve walked it and recommend it and considering the cougar warning (and linx sighting) at my usual walk in Corvallis, I figure I can handle a rattlesnake warning. But so far, I’ve only taken the lower trail, that goes out on the flat part in this picture looking west, which has some marshy lakes on top of the cliffs.
So, despite how my great grandmother always used to say the gorge was only pretty west of Hood River, I have to disagree. Some of what lies between The Dalles and Hood River is now some of my favorite places and stunningly beautiful. Not to mention the fresh apricots we went u-picking at a farm along the highway… truly delicious. I’m going to have to go back and get a few more pounds of them before their season is over.