May 9 – It is the end of the third day of our trip and so far we absolutely love it. We made it to all the way to Columbia River Gorge.
We left home early Sunday morning. At the beginning of our trip we visited our friends Pavel and Natasha Tikhomirov in West Sacramento and got chance to see their new work. They keep on getting better and better. What is very interesting that while they work side by side, their styles are diverging more and more. Their website has nice representation of their work:
After spending almost an hour with them, we started driving toward our Sunday destination – Ashland, Oregon. We took Hwy 99 instead of slightly shorter but very boring Hwy 5. This was one of our longest distance days - 382 miles and this was another reason why we wanted to take more interesting route. When we take Hwy 99, we always visit Chico. While it is located ‘in a middle of nowhere’, it is surprisingly lovely and green university town with population over 86000 without counting almost 16000 students at California State University, the second-oldest campus in the twenty-three-campus California State University system.
Our next stop was near Mt. Shasta which was completely covered by snow. It is so very grand that I simply cannot resist photographing it every time we drive by it.
And finally we arrived to our destination for the first day – beautiful city of Ashland. Before getting to the city, we took short detour to Mt. Ashland ski resort. While it still had a lot of snow, the snow was pretty dirty and overall impression was not as magical as during our last year visit.
Before checking to our hotel, we had nice dinner at friendly and sophisticated Winchester Inn restaurant which had impressed us just as much as during our previous visits. We seriously considered seeing one of Shakespeare play’s instead of going to the dinner but this evening there was nothing we wanted to see and there was no performances Monday.
Our hotel (La Quinta Inn & Suites Ashland) was modest but super-clean with comfortable beds, high quality linen, friendly service and very reasonable rates (out of main season timing and Senior discount also helped). They also had huge indoor pool which unfortunately we never used.
Next day was Monday and many stores and galleries in Ashland were closed. We started our day by driving to Grants Pass and then through Applegate Valley to Jacksonville and Ashland. The valley was absolutely gorgeous – layers and layers of various shades of green still very fresh and vivid with snow-covered mountains on a background. Jacksonville was still lovely but very slow with only few people wondering around – may be because of Monday, may be it was still too early in a season, may be because of economy but may be little historic cities like Jacksonville simply went out of fashion with younger generation of travelers.
In Ashland we walked along their main street, visited little stores and galleries, had dinner at Larks and then spend time in lovely Lithia Park. Then we got in a car and drove through the Southern Oregon University campus. It is rather large, very green and beautiful.
In general, Ashland always evokes conflicting emotions in me. I absolutely love the beauty of the town itself and the surrounding area. It has great climate, nice landscape, mountains, lakes, orchards, Shakespeare Festival – practically dream place to live and yet I cannot imagine myself ever living here. I cannot stand these stoned shady characters that linger in groups along the main street and in the park. The old “organic” hippie ladies that keep multiple stores with various “spiritual” accessories drive me nuts. I simply cannot see myself fitting into this environment so I guess this paradise that we love visiting so much is not right for us on a permanent basic.
Tuesday May 8th we left Ashland for Hood River. We decided to skip Crater Lake this time since there was still too much snow which made it difficult to get close to the lake. So instead of taking our usual Hwy 62 from Medford, and then hwys's 230, 138 and 97, we took Hwy 5 to Roseburg and then North Umpqua Scenic Highway 138 directly to Hwy 97. We took this route once before very long time ago but completely forgot how beautiful it was.
Our first stop on Hwy 138 was in Glide at Colliding Rivers Viewpoint, where 'the swift, deep waters of the North Umpqua River funnel into a water chute and meet the rapids of sparkling Little River head-on'. Since there was a lot of water from melting snow, the effect was very impressive.
Then we visited three waterfalls. We started with Fall Creek Falls. Fall Creek Falls was located east of Glide along the North Umpqua Highway near milepost 32. 'The trail winds an easy 3/4 mile to the falls, passing several pretty cascades and a rock outcrop known as Jobs Garden.' Each turn on the trail offered different landscape with trees and huge rocks covered with bright green mosses. The creek itself all the way to the waterfall had multiple interesting mini-falls, little gorges and rapids. It was pretty easy and very beautiful trail.
Our second waterfall, Watson Falls, was located at milepost 60.5 on Hwy 138 and then we had to turn south on to Road 37. The top of the falls was visible from the parking lot. The trail to the falls crossed the road and then climbed up along the cascade. The trail was only .4 miles long but ascended 200 feet or so. The trail crossed the creek near the top of the cascade, providing a nice view of the falls. The trail continued climbing and ended above the base of the falls. Alex decided to enjoy the view of the fall from the car so I hiked to the waterfall on my own. While the trail was relatively short, it was pretty steep and challenging both way for someone with my level of fitness.
The last waterfall was the easiest - Clearwater Falls. It was not particularly tall but beautiful spreading waterfall that was located practically next to the parking lot. The ground around the falls was permeated with soft soil and thousands of intertwined roots, allowing the river to seap in and out of the ground at will. The result was a waterfall that appears to be springing from the ground. There was only about 10 feet of legitimate vertical waterfall but it was very pretty and well worth visiting.
The Umpqua river itself and surrounding picturesque rock formations we absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, the beauty ended as soon as we joined Hwy 97 which was rather flat, boring and had way too many trucks. Not until we passed Madras and entered Hwy 26 the scenery started being eye pleasing again. First, we passed miles and miles of lush green high plateau meadows with large herds of very well fed cows. Then we passed through the canyons and reached less cultivated and more desert – like part of the high plateau with snow covered peak of Mount Jefferson on our left and Mount Hood on our right. As we were getting closer to Mount Hood, we entered thick pine forest. And finally we took a turn to a road leading to historic Timberline Hotel on Mount Hood. By the way, this is the only ski area in North America to offer year round skiing. Timberline Hotel was still under snow up to the third flow and you could enter it only through the metal tunnel.
Then we started our descent toward Columbia River passing Hood River Valley orchards on a way. Finally, we arrived to our hotel - Best Western Hood River Inn. We are staying in this hotel for more than 10 years, sometimes twice a year and are always impressed with quality of their cleanness and service. This time they even upgraded us to a river view room with the balcony. They also have pretty nice restaurant Riverside Grill facing Columbia River where we had our dinner.
View from our balcony:
Next day Wednesday May 9th as usually, we took old historic Hwy 30 from Mosier to Rowena. During this time of the year Rowena plateau is covered with wild flowers and looks like lush carpet of green, yellow, blue and white colors. Weather was windy but very sunny so I was able to take many great photos. Then we drove to The Dalles.
From there we decided to try new route to get closer to Mount Adams. Mount Adams is one of the tallest West Cost potentially active volcanoes just a bit shorter than Mount Rainer. However, it is more massive at the base and looks very impressive. We always wanted to get a closer look at Mt. Adams and this time we did it. We drove along Hwy 97 to Goldendale, then we took road 142 and the some no-name road toward Glenwood, another road to Trout Lake and road 141 back to Columbia River. It was very impressive drive on almost totally empty road with beautiful scenery and gorgeous and very close views of Klickitat River canyon and Mount Adams.
Near Glenwood we saw really funny looking very furry and curious cows and large herd of cute alpacas.