June 21, 2016

April Travels – Part Four – The Pacific Northwest

Filed under: Outside AK — Susan Stevenson @ 6:13 pm

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright


So, when I left off in my last blog entry, we were heading up the Historic Columbia River Highway on our way to Moses Lake, Washington – home to our dear friends Randy and Celeste. Randy and Celeste lived in Alaska for about 30 years, and moved to Moses Lake nearly a decade ago.  Their choice to leave AK didn’t come easy.  There were a few factors involved – one being that they (especially Celeste) are avid gardeners and the short growing season here in Interior Alaska was quite frustrating for them. Especially as we are limited on the crops we can plant here. Steve and I hadn’t seen them since they left Alaska, and since Moses Lake is only about 275 miles from Portland, we just had to include them in our travels. We are so thankful for their hospitality in putting us up for a couple of nights.  What a wonderful couple of days we had with not only cherished friends, but amazing people!

The Historic Columbia River Highway, 30 miles east of Portland, is the oldest scenic highway in the United States. It was constructed between 1913 and 1922, in Multnomah, Hood River and Wasco counties. The highway is divided into three zones: the waterfall zone extends from Troutdale to the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks; the Columbia River zone extends from Cascade Locks to Hood River; the high plateau zone extends from Hood River to The Dalles. Not all of the historic highway is open to motor vehicle traffic (repairing it was abandoned during construction of Interstate 84). However, these portions of the road are open to foot and bicycle traffic and make up The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

Perhaps the highway is better known because you can view and access many waterfalls along the way. Fed by glaciers and swollen by snowmelt and winter rains, the waterfalls plunge from sheer cliffs, hidden slot canyons and rock grottos rimmed by massive trees and moss. Many of these waterfalls are accessible year-round.

We made really good time getting to Moses Lake, even with a few stops along the way. Unfortunately we didn’t do any hiking (which was our initial intent), but we did stop to enjoy some of the waterfalls and the beautiful overlook at Vista House.

The well-recognized Multnomah Falls was even more beautiful in person than it is in photographs. At 611 feet tall, I highly recommend you go a few hundred feet up the trail, for a spectacular view from Benson Bridge. This gives you a closer look at both the top tier of the falls (542 feet!) and a vertigo inducing view of the lower tier (69ft).  Be prepared for mist on the bridge.


Vista House
Vista House at Crown Point
Latourell Falls Mossy Trees
Historic Columbia River Hwy


Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge OR

This is a view of the upper tier from the bridge:
Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge OR

        Looking down from the bridge to the base of the falls:
Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge OR

Another view of the falls from the trail:
Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge OR


The drive from Portland to Moses Lake took us through wide open fields, over rolling hills, next to wind farms, and past many acres of agriculture and livestock. The wind farms alone were absolutely amazing! I have seen documentaries about wind power, and I knew what these wind mills looked like. I saw some at a distance, when Steve and I visited the Big Island, HI a couple of years ago. But the route we drove, took us right next to these HUGE futuristic looking machines. They dotted the hillside and went on for as far as the eye could see! I learned that these wind turbines are part of the Windy Creek/Windy Flats project.

Wind Turbines This area, not long after crossing into WA, was quite dry, but also quite beautiful. This part of Washington was quite fertile

Our friends Randy and Celeste live in a lovely home with quite a bit of property. Both love to spend time outdoors tending to flowers, trees, their vegetable garden, their beehive and I’m sure much more. It was a very relaxed visit, which was just perfect after more than two weeks of non-stop activity and travel.

One of the days we were there, we drove out to Potholes State Park.  Potholes is desert terrain, and the Arrowleaf Balsamroot blooming across the landscape was just brilliant in the bright (and very warm at 75F!) sunshine. Randy startled me when he warned me to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. Living in Alaska for so long (no snakes here!), has made me drop my guard about a lot of things found in the Lower 48. I was thankful for the warning.

While in the park, we came upon a bowfishing tournament. We arrived just as the judges were weighing fish to determine a winner. The carp the anglers caught were mighty ugly, in my opinion. The fish were put into huge coolers on the back of a flatbed truck and taken away by some guy who uses them for one thing or another.  I read that they can be used as bait and also made into fertilizer.  He certainly took away a big haul that day.

Moses Lake, WA Balsamroot Bowfishing


Potholes State Park

It was so wonderful to sit on Celeste and Randy’s covered patio, overlooking the beautiful garden, sipping cocktails and catching up with each other. Now that they are also retired, and have their own travel trailer, I’m certain we’ll be meeting up with each other from time to time in the future.

On Monday morning, we started back to Oregon.


The weather was beautiful, as we made our way back to Portland. There wasn’t much traffic on the road, especially on the longer stretches of highway that went through what seemed like miles and miles of green hills. We pulled off the road so that I could snap a photo of all the wind turbines on the horizon. It’s so amazing to see so many in one place! If you’ve never seen one of these up close, they are huge (more than 300′ tall!).

Windy Point/Windy Flats Wind Farm:


After crossing back into Oregon and driving through The Dalles, we picked up the Historic Columbia River Hwy  once again. On this return trip we stopped at the Rowena Crest Viewpoint and walked the trail in the Tom McCall Preserve.  The Arrowleaf Balsamwood and Lupine were blooming. And what a view!


Bridge at The Dalles Brewery - The Dalles Lupine and Balsamroot
Lupine, Columbia River Gorge From Rowena Overlook, Historic Columbia River Hwy Rowena Crest
Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve Balsamroot Wildflowers, Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve Wildflowers, Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve
Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve Balsamroot and Lupine Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve

A little after the dinner hour, we checked into our hotel in Portland, and went down to the on-site restaurant for a bite to eat. It was an early night for us. I couldn’t wait to go exploring the next day!


On Tuesday morning, after a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant, Steve and I figured out our route, programmed the Garmin, and headed due east to Mt Hood National Forest.  We stopped in at the Ranger Station to ask about the roads as we knew several of the roads in the higher elevations still had snow in a few areas. Likewise some of the hiking trails.

The ranger suggested we visit Trillium Lake, especially as we were having such beautiful weather and Mt Hood was visible on the horizon. There is a trail that circles the lake, but it was quite muddy in places, so we didn’t bother to walk it. But what a view from this end of the lake! I bet it’s gorgeous at sunrise and sunset.

We also drove up to Timberline Lodge, which was quite busy with avid snowboarders and skiers. With temps in the 40s, brilliant sunshine, and plenty of snow on the slopes, I can’t imagine the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. Things looked a lot different up there at the lodge, than they did down below, where we were dwarfed by the forest. (FYI: Timberline Lodge is the hotel you see in the opening scenes of the movie The Shining, however, most of movie was shot in a studio.)

This is the gorgeous Trillium Lake with Mt Hood on the horizon:

Mt Hood Reflected in Trillium Lake

Photos below:  1)View of Mt Hood as we head up the hill to Timberline Lodge, 2) view of ski lift from parking lot and Mt Jefferson in distance, and 3) a fisherman and his dog enjoying the beauty of Mt Hood reflected in Trillium Lake.

Heading up to Timberline Lodge on south slope of Mt Hood. Beautiful view of Mt Hood! Ski Lift at Timberline Lodge, with Mt Jefferson in distance Man and Best Friend Fishing, with Mt Hood reflected in Trillium Lake

Here are a few more photos taken at Trillium Lake. I just couldn’t get over how beautiful it was! I would love to go back and camp someday.
Boardwalk at Trillium Lake, Mt Hood National Forest

Wouldn’t this be the perfect place for a picnic lunch?

Trillium Lake Picnic Area

Google Map 3D view of Lahar and where we were standingAfter leaving Trillium Lake, we drove further around the base of Mt Hood. The photo at left – a screen shot from Google Earth  – shows where Steve and I were standing when we took the photos below.

The stream next to us is actually the White River. The debris field that you can see more easily in the Google Earth screenshot, is called a “Lahar”.  A lahar is a fast moving flow of mud, rocks and debris that occurs when water from glaciers is released due to a volcanic eruption. After flowing down the mountainside, lahars fill the valleys below. Because Mt. Hood is covered in glaciers, lahars would most likely cause massive amounts of damage to anything in their path. Depending on where the eruption takes place, lahars could move down any side of the mountain and destroy any towns in their way.

Lahar and White River on back side of Mt Hood Mt Hood Lahar and Me Mt Hood Lahar and Steve

After leaving the lahar area, we took the highway until we reached a road that looked like (according to the Garmin) it would take us through the park area and back to the interstate. We had some difficulty navigating around in the park, as the small roads are national forest roads and have names such as NF-5710. Some don’t go anywhere, ending abruptly at a clearing or a turnaround, or else turning into an ATV or snowmachine trail. I couldn’t tell you the route we took through the forest, but it was absolutely beautiful and definitely the road less traveled. I think we only passed one other vehicle the entire afternoon.

We stopped at Little Crater Lake, which was noted on a handout we got from the Park Service folks, and walked the short meadow trail to the viewing deck. Little Crater Lake is 45’ ft. deep and spring-fed from the bottom, and also from Little Crater Creek.  It remains near 34 degrees Fahrenheit year round because of the properties of the aquifer that feed it. Brrrr! It was so clear!

Little Crater Lake

Little Crater Lake

Along the way, we also passed near the Clackamas Lake Ranger Station Historic District, but didn’t drive into the campground or look around. We did stop where the road goes through Clackamas Meadow, so I could snap some photos of a little cabin off in the distance. This cabin is the historic pump house, and was built in the 1930s.

Clackamas Lake Ranger Station Historic District

The mossy trees were so beautiful throughout the forest!

Country Roads

Forest Moss

We had a very full day in the park, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and beautiful weather. Unfortunately, we arrived back in the Portland area at rush hour. We certainly weren’t in the peaceful forest any longer! (We are so out of practice with big city, rush hour driving; we vowed never to do that again.)


Wednesday had us taking another scenic drive – this one south to Silverton and onward to Silver Falls State Park – home of the Trail of Ten Falls Loop Hike. We didn’t have time to do the entire loop hike, so instead we drove the park road and stopped to do several shorter hikes to three of the waterfalls.  We found the info and directions for this loop online: Silver Falls Tour Route. This route travels along OR-214 south toward Silverton. The surrounding farms showcase some key Oregon crops, including hop vines (used in beer making), hazelnut groves and marionberries. We also saw quite a few Christmas Tree farms and livestock grazing in fields along the highway.

The sky was overcast, which I didn’t mind at all, as the low hanging clouds were a nice moody touch. I did mostly “drive by shootings” – taking occasional photos out the window as we drove.  I was content to watch the world go by,  and I was so happy to see so much green.

Not long after exiting the highway, we came to the town of Mt. Angel. The speed limit dropped as we drove down Main St (Hwy 214 in the center of town). I caught sight of a very ornate Bavarian styled building. This building – the Glockenspiel Restaurant – really stands out among some of the smaller, nondescript buildings surrounding it. (Photo below)

Our next stop on the drive was only a little further south than Mt Angel. I read about the Gallon House Covered Bridge in one of the tourbooks and wanted to see it. (I love covered bridges) We only had to deviate a few blocks off the highway to cross the covered bridge.  If you read the info at the link I posted, you’ll learn how the Gallon House Bridge got its name.  I can’t imagine what it was like to live during prohibition.

Much to our surprise, just before we reached the bridge, there was an unmanned produce stand. A sign posted invited buyers to pay a fair price for the fruit, vegetables or plants they took with them. If they couldn’t pay, they were welcome to the goods anyway. What a wonderful idea! Rather than waste the overage, this at least would either generate a few bucks for the farm, or feed a needy family. If I wasn’t traveling with a suitcase, I’d have adopted a few of the zucchini plants.

As per the route suggestion, we stopped in at The Oregon Garden. However, it was spitting rain by then, and the admission fee to the garden was $14/pp ($12/seniors, $11/military). Not knowing what to expect, and because we wanted to allow enough time to see the waterfalls, we skipped the garden. Maybe next time.

Mt Angel area, OR Mt Angel Glockenspiel Restaurant Shorn Sheep
Honor System Fruit Stand Gallon House Covered Bridge Gallon House Covered Bridge

Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon, with an area of more than 9,000 acres. Its 8.7-mile Canyon Trail/Trail of Ten Falls runs along the banks of Silver Creek and by ten waterfalls, from which the park received its name. Four of the ten falls have an amphitheater-like surrounding that allows the trail to pass behind the flow of the falls. The park’s most visited waterfall is South Falls, a 177-foot cascade. Remote Double Falls, however, is listed as the highest waterfall in the park, plunging 178 feet in a small tributary side canyon deep within the Silver Creek Canyon.

The three falls we visited were Upper North Falls, North Falls, and South Falls. We will definitely go back and do the entire hike someday! It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  The mosquitoes were a little annoying, so bug spray or keeping bare skin covered is a good thing during some of the wetter and warmer times of the year. I am not a fan of bug spray, so I wore a thin hoodie. It worked just fine.  My favorite of the three falls we actually got up close to was North Falls.  The trail goes behind the falls, into a cave or grotto.

I have a few phobias (one being a fear of enclosed, dark spaces), and while I didn’t feel enclosed, I “felt” the immense weight of the rocks and cliffside above me. It was a little disconcerting.  I envy those who can stand high above the earth and enjoy the view. Or those who can swim or paddle in water that is hundreds of feet above their head! I am not ashamed to admit that I have an extreme (as in sometimes paralyzing!) fear of heights, of water over my head, enclosed spaces, and most insects. (Butterflies, ladybugs, and damselflies get a pass, as I think they are beautiful.)

But even if you’re like me and you’re not a fan of damp, dark enclosed spaces, force yourself to go behind the falls. It’s not that small, and it really is so NEAT!! If you don’t mind staying a while, this is a great place to unpack a picnic lunch – especially on a warm summer day.

These photos were taken in Silver Falls State Park. The photographs are identified when you click them to enlarge.

Waterfall Hike

Hiking Trail, Silver Falls State Park OR Upper North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, OR Silver Creek in Valley along trail
North Falls trail view into the grotto North Falls View from inside the grotto/cave North Falls view From Grotto
North Falls Trail Stairs Looking Up toward trail head North Falls Trail Stairs looking down toward base of falls and grotto North Falls from a Distance

This is the view from behind North Falls. It was so cool to look out from the dark grotto behind the water – into the lush green forest beyond. This pano was created from 5 individual frames.  We entered the grotto from the left side of the photo. The trail is just above the foliage under the rocks beyond the waterfall. It continues out the right side of the cave, but I don’t know if it’s part of the park loop, or just another vantage point, as I didn’t go any further.

North Falls, from under the ledge

Pano from the grotto under the North Falls. Steve on the left.

Steve under the ledge at North Falls

This is South Falls from trail. You can see where the trail goes behind these falls too. The ceiling was much lower behind South Falls.

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

South Falls from behind waterfall:

From behind South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

This is Silver Falls Lodge in the park. I didn’t see very much activity at the lodge, but Steve and I were happy to sit and rest our legs after hiking. I’m glad I had my tripod with me so I could grab this photo of us. Ahhhh…. this is the life. Forest, waterfalls, nature and comfy chairs.

It was the perfect way to spend the day.

Steve and Me, comfy in front of Silver Falls Lodge, Silver Falls State Park, OR
We flew out on Friday, and even though we had another full day ahead of us on Thursday, we decided to spend it doing absolutely nothing. After almost an entire month of flying, driving, living out of a suitcase, missing our pup, eating food that wasn’t the best for us, and drinking too much, we just wanted to pack our suitcases, wear lounging clothes, and chillax in our hotel room that last day. And that’s exactly what we did.

The flight home from Portland was uneventful. We were back in Alaska by 4:30pm, picked up by our friend Gip, and on our way to pick up Raven – all within an later of landing. Raven missed us almost as much as we missed her. Many thanks to Melody for taking such good care of her!

All in all, it was so wonderful to see my family and hang out with my brothers and their families. And we really enjoyed revisiting the Jersey Shore, and Washington DC and historic downtown Philadelphia. And the Amtrak experience was also rather nice, although we’ll rethink the small roomette if we do another cross country trip, and book a family bedroom for more space.

This was a good travel experience for us in that it gave us an idea of what life on the road might be like when we decide to do a little traveling to escape a portion of Alaska’s winter. However, we also agreed that living out of a suitcase is not the lifestyle for us. Fortunately, towing a travel trailer will allow us to travel towing our home behind us. We’ll only have to unpack once and we’ll have our own personal space. And it will be so nice to go back to the familiar at the end of a busy day sightseeing.

I’m excited about what the future holds!
Until next time…


  1. Nice post. I was like you when we were there. After seeing so much rock in the southwest, I happily absorbed all the green. And we totally agree on the benefits of living out of a camper/trailer/RV, versus a suitcase! Even being on the road for 10 weeks was easy because we had our ‘home’ with us.
    Wonderful photos! Thanks.


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Connie and thanks for commenting. I was working on my latest blog entry (just published) and missed this comment. We are really looking forward to spending time seeing the US next year – especially the warmer parts of the country when it’s super cold up here (it would be nice to spend the holidays with family too). We live in such a beautiful country. There is so much to see and do, and we have so many variations of landscape and climate. Enjoy your travels. 🙂


    Comment by Connie — July 16, 2016 @ 6:05 pm

  2. Hi Susan,

    Great blog and great photos! I hope to be visiting the US next year and ti visit some of the places you’ve been to … I can’t wait! What camera are you using?

    All the best from England!

    Lulu 🙂


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Lulu and thank you for commenting. I currently shoot with a Canon MDKiii. I love the camera and the capabilities it has – especially when shooting in the night. I do hope you can visit the US soon.


    Comment by Lulu — September 3, 2016 @ 1:18 am

  3. I’m in love with your pictures! My family and I just moved to Canada and we are hoping to explore north america soon. This is definitely a nice guide!


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Thank you for your comment, Shell. I’m sorry for the delay in responding, as I have been visiting my family for several weeks. I’m happy you enjoyed my blog, and I hope you have many adventures in Canada and the US!


    Comment by shell — September 11, 2016 @ 12:31 pm

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