Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hood River Valley Weekend Getaway: Fun along the Fruit Loop

Sometimes the perfect summer weekend getaway isn’t about packing in as much as possible— it’s about relaxing with friends and maybe not doing much at all. Sharing home-cooked meals, talking late into the night, sleeping in, sipping tea, and hiking to a beautiful waterfall…can you think of a much better way to reconnect with lifelong girlfriends you haven’t seen in a year or more?

Down on the Farm
For the annual G8 gathering, this year we rent the spacious and comfy farmhouse at Draper Girls Country Farm in Hood River Valley, Oregon, one of the farms on the “Fruit Loop” drive of orchards in the valley. With elegant Mount Hood looming only a couple dozen miles up valley and a cherry orchard just beyond the front lawn, the bucolic locale sets the tone for a wonderful weekend. What sealed the deal and drew us here, though, were the cute little pygmy goats and young lambs frolicking in a pen beside the house.

The eight of us who’ve been friends since junior high (and some as far back as kindergarten) have lots of catching up to do. So we sit outside in colorful lawn chairs talking and laughing, watching the hue of Mount Hood’s glaciers and snowfields change as Friday afternoon turns to evening dusk. When it cools down we move inside.

Hiking to Tamanawas Falls
“Anyone want to join me for a hike?” I ask on Saturday morning. While I love talking with great friends, I get antsy without getting outside and moving all weekend.

This year, for the first time ever (and possibly the last), everyone agrees to go on a hike together. Talkative and friendly farm owner Theresa Draper recommends hiking to Tamanawas Falls on the flank of Mount Hood, about 15 miles up Highway 35 on the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. I hiked here as a teenager, but came from the other side of the mountain.

We stop at the wrong trailhead and hike an extra mile (don’t stop at the trailhead near the Cooper Spur turnoff, go a mile farther up mountain!), but it’s a relatively easy 5-mile roundtrip jaunt through mostly Douglas fir forest along a couple rushing mountain streams. T Falls is a very popular hike, and we pass plenty of people as well as dogs, a deer, and a skittering little gray lizard.

Although it’s not a hot day, the heavy mist roiling up and spilling outward from the base of the waterfall cools us down while we sit and take in the view (and talk, of course). Since the rocky trail gets a bit slick close to the waterfall, we plop down on rocks just outside the damp zone and soak up some sun.

Hood River’s Big City Coffee Houses
While I think it’s healthy to be totally unplugged for a weekend, on Sunday morning I drive a dozen miles down valley to Hood River to check business email because there’s no Wi-Fi at the farmhouse and I don’t get decent cell reception. Compared to the quiet up valley, busy downtown Hood River feels like an overcrowded city. (Personally I think this revitalized orchard town peaked in the 1990s.) I bypass packed and trendy Dog River Coffee and Doppio’s and settle in for tea and a scone with my netbook at less-crowded but long-time local favorite Ground Espresso Bar and Cafe on the eastern edge of downtown.

Fruit Looping
On the way back up valley, I can’t resist stopping at a couple farmstands along the Fruit Loop. When I was a kid, before windsurfers discovered Hood River, this area was all about orchards and fruit. Today smaller local farmers are challenged to stay afloat due to overseas competition that undercuts their prices. A tank top I buy at Cody Orchards in Odell from owner Donna Cody sums it up: "An apple a day allows your farmer to stay."

A few miles farther up Highway 35 towards Mount Hood, I make another stop at Packer Orchards to take pictures of Mount Adams to the north (which is a spectacular climb if you're in good shape). But I’m a sucker for good fruit smoothies, so when I wander inside the farmstand and see milkshakes and smoothies available in a zillion combinations of delicious fruit, I have to get one. My creamy raspberry-Marion berry-peach yogurt smoothie is about the best I’ve ever had. Truly.

Cooking on the Farm
Of course with seven moms and a foodie wannabe like me, the meals and snacks we whip up in the well-stocked kitchen are mostly healthful, occasionally decadent, and very tasty. We had planned to dine out one night at a fancy Hood River restaurant, but it’s so nice up here at Draper Girls farmhouse that we cancel the reservations and eat all our meals around the big farm table.

When we need to supplement, we just walk a few yards over to the Draper Girls’ farmstand to restock. I snag some brilliant green string beans, sweet organic cherries, rosy apricots, and a Walla Walla sweet onion. I make a mental note to buy some of that grass-fed lamb available in the freezer to take home and cook up later.

So this is what makes new memories with old friends. Maybe a bunch of guys would bond over a weekend fishing. But we loved hanging out at the Draper Girls' Country farmhouse so much that we’ve pre-booked a weekend next summer. If you stop by the farmstand and see a bunch of ladies laughing over on the lawn by the farmhouse dressed in oddly eclectic retro clothes, it might just be us.

I hope that you, too, can enjoy time with dear friends in such a lovely place.

When You Go
The Draper Girls Country Farm farmhouse, which is right on Highway 35 just north of the Parkdale turnoff, gets booked well in advance, so book early. The house sleeps eight easily in four bedrooms with queen-sized beds. The sofa in the living room is also comfy for sleeping, as one of my friends can attest. The kitchen is completely stocked with good pots, pans, dishes, knives, and more. There's also a wide-screen TV, but we didn't turn it on all weekend.


Jan said...

Jill, what a great story of our trip! thanks for the memories! I wait in anticipation of our next Draper Girls adventure.

Kathleen O'Dell said...

That garment of yours is not "tractor-safe." I hope no one from OSHA catches that photo!


Barry said...

What a wonderful post, Jill! Thanks for sharing the friendships and food.

Lindsey said...

What fun! Mt Hood looked amazing. I can't wait to see how you cook up that lamb :)

Lesley said...

Looks absolutely peaceful and wonderful -- great story. All you need to truly complete the weekend is a quilting project to lazily work on. :)

Anonymous said...

OK Jillwin:
So all the hoods are out of Hood River now? Yes, good thing the tractor didn't start up with you and your hippie chick outfit on it. Anyway, the G8 sounded like a good get together and fun. Reunions are great. My recent reunions in NM also were a lot of fun.

jill said...

Thanks Jan, me too!

KO - oops!let's keep it our secret.

Hey Barry, nice to hear from you, yes, it was a great weekend.

Lindsey, yes, the lamb will be served up soon!

Lesley, ha, I thought of you when I saw a show on public television on quilting!

DB - Glad your reunion in NM was great, yup, it's wonderful to reconnect with childhood friends.

Mike B. @ said...

Great post! I love Hood River, almost moved there once.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple T-shirts from Cody Orchards Fruit Stand! I love the fruit label look! I love knowing the t-shirt funds are helping a daughter contiune an education in sustainable farming! Thanks for the idea about gathering good friends in a lovely enviornment!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend!! I'd love to see this post featured in the blog section of the Hood River page on Dwellable. Please shoot me [inna at dwellable dot com] an email or check out the "Add your post to this page" section (on the Hood River page) for more info. Thanks for sharing your adventure! :)