Road Trip in Oregon: Part II (Madras to PDX)

The morning of Sunday, August 17, 2014, we departed Madras and headed north on US-26 towards Mt. Hood.  The roadway descended into a pretty canyon cut by the Deschutes River.  I would have liked to have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t see any safe places to pull over.  The road entered the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and passed through the town of Warm Springs itself.  Despite its fairly picturesque location, Warm Springs apparently suffers from many of the same issues affecting other Indian reservations.  With the dilapidated appearance of town, which had just a handful of stores and a casino, it’s no surprise that a third of the population is below the poverty line.

Mt. Jefferson in infrared from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation
Mt. Jefferson in infrared from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

The road climbed out of the canyon and headed out across flat, dry terrain.  I pulled over to get a look at Mt. Jefferson, sitting regally despite the haze at a distance of some 23.5 miles to the southwest.  I was surprised when I realized that Mt. Hood was also just barely visible, an incredible 41 miles to the northwest.  As we continued northwest on US-26, the dry terrain gave way to thick forest.  The trees and hills hid Mt. Hood until, cresting a hill, it exploded into view again.

Mt. Hood on a slightly hazy day.
Mt. Hood on a slightly hazy day.

Mt. Hood is one of the most picturesque volcanoes in the west.  At some 11,240′ (3,426m) or so in height, only Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Shasta are taller among the peaks of the Cascade Range.  Like Mt. Rainier, its snowcap has the potential to be converted into devastating mudflows during future eruptions.

The most interesting vehicle I saw in Oregon
The most interesting vehicle I saw in Oregon…

Not far south of Mt. Hood, we came to the junction of US-26 and OR-35.  Although US-26 was the most direct route from here to Portland, continuing on it would bypass the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.  Since we were making good time, I decided to take the more scenic route north on OR-35, passing along the east side of Mt. Hood.  We pulled into a lot at White River, which in winter is a skiing area.  There was a hippiemobile in the parking lot, but no sign of its occupants.  We walked a short distance on a gravely trail to an overlook of the mountain and river.

Mt. Hood and the White River
Mt. Hood and the White River

Although all of nature is in constant flux, the potential for rapid change in a volcanic landscape is especially high.  Visiting a dormant volcano, I can’t help but feel that getting to see it in its present form is a treat.  As Mt. St. Helens dramatically showed residents of the northwest in 1980, you can never be certain that the same view will be there on your next visit.  OR-35 provided a scenic drive through Mt. Hood National Forest.

Hood River, OR. Lowell Silverman photography, 2008
Hood River, OR. Lowell Silverman photography, 2008

We passed through Hood River, a quaint town on the Columbia River.  My family had breakfast here during a visit in 2008, but there wasn’t time to stop this time.  Rachel and I picked up I-84 westbound towards Portland.

Columbia River Gorge seen from the Vista House. I-84 is visible at the bottom of the picture. Lowell Silverman photography, 2008
Columbia River Gorge seen from the Vista House. I-84 is visible at the bottom of the picture.  During our 2014 trip, there wasn’t time to sidetrack to get views like this!  Lowell Silverman photography, 2008

The Interstate follows the south bank of the mighty Columbia River.  The Columbia ranks fifth in terms of discharge and ninth in length among North America’s major rivers.  It easily dwarfs the rivers on the Eastern Seaboard most familiar to me, with an average discharge about six times that of the Susquehanna River.

Multnomah Falls was bathed in bright sunshine during a previous visit
Multnomah Falls was bathed in bright sunshine during my previous visit in 2008

A crowded rest stop between the EB and WB lanes of I-84 provides access to the picturesque, two-tiered Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon.  The upper falls is 542′ (165m).  I’d visited the falls previously during a family trip to Oregon in 2008.  Late afternoon seems to be a good time to visit the falls, as the sun illuminated the rocks and water, leading to a beautiful rainbow at some angles.

Rainbow at Multnomah falls in 2008
Rainbow at Multnomah falls in 2008, seen from the area near the footbridge

During our 2014 visit, around midday, the sun had not yet crested the hillside and the waterfall was in shadow.  Still pretty, but not quite as photogenic.  In the world of travel photography, timing is everything, as they say.

Multnomah Falls. Lowell Silverman photography, 2014
Multnomah Falls. Lowell Silverman photography, 2014

A short trail leads to a footbridge that crosses between the tiers of the falls.

Both tiers of the falls. Rachel Pulverman photography, 2014
Both tiers of the falls. Rachel Pulverman photography, 2014

During my previous visit in 2008, I’d resolved to allow more time on my next visit in order to hike to the top of the falls.  Well, I’d overscheduled as usual.  The 2014 road trip was quite scenic, but there simply wasn’t time in a 24-hour journey to do full justice to Bend, Hood River, Multnomah Falls, and Portland.  I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson, but the itinerary for our next trip, Bolivia and Peru, is pretty ambitious too.

Although I’d hoped to stop briefly in downtown Portland and visit Powell’s Books or the rose garden, there simply wasn’t enough time.  We headed straight to Portland International Airport (PDX) to catch our flight to Kalispell, Montana for the Glacier National Park portion of the trip.

Alaska Airlines. Lowell Silverman photography, 2014
Alaska Airlines Q400 at PDX. Lowell Silverman photography, 2014

We had a pleasant experience at PDX.  The rental car return was just a footbridge away from the terminal…no shuttle.  Security was a breeze.  This was our first time flying Alaska Airlines (well, Horizon operating on their behalf in this case).  It’d been a while since I’d flown on a turboprop, but it wasn’t half bad.  There’s a certain simplicity to loading the aircraft at both front and back that has been lost with the typical jetways used with larger aircraft.  Until this flight, I can’t ever recall a flight where the plane actually left the runway at precisely the departure time listed on my boarding pass.

Mt. Adams seen from Alaska 2276
Mt. Adams seen from Alaska 2276

My only mistake was picking seats on the right side of the aircraft. I’d hoped we’d get a look at Mt. Hood, but as it turned out, the plane flew far closer to Mt. Adams, visible from the left side of the aircraft.  With the fasten seatbelt sign illuminated, the shot above was the best I could do.

I was surprised when the friendly flight attendants served not only snacks, but announced that for a limited time, select Alaska flights including this one would offer the choice of one local craft beer and one local wine to all customers (over 21) at no extra charge.  Now I suppose you could say that our expectations of amenities when flying have fallen so low that it’s rather sad when I’m impressed about free snacks and alcohol.  On the other hand, they don’t even give out free peanuts in economy on even transcontinental legacy carrier flights these days.  I wish Alaska had a larger presence outside the Pacific Northwest, but I’m looking forward to trying their new BWI to LAX nonstop flight this fall.

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