Thursday, November 3, 2011

Northwest Images, Views of Which I’ll Never Tire: Crown Point and the Columbia Gorge

Looking east up Columbia River Gorge from Chanticleer Point
Every time I scoot down to Portland from Seattle, I try to sneak in a quick trip up the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Growing up on the western edge of this National Scenic Area was a gift, and I spent many days exploring the Gorge’s trails and driving the historic Columbia River Highway.
Even if I’m short on time, which always seems to be the case lately,  I at least go to Chanticleer Point (Portland Women’s Forum State Park) for the magnificent panorama. Then I usually drive down the old historic Columbia River Highway to Crown Point for closer views of the floodplain and up to Larch Mountain.

Cloud-covered Larch Mountain on the left
While there are splendid views everywhere you look in this beautiful world, this one never fails to make me gaze in awe upriver. Whether it’s a sunny, rainy, snowy, or cloudy day, I see history—social, geological, and personal—as well as what’s in front of me today.

Sometimes I imagine what it must have been like to witness the epic floods from Lake Missoula that ravaged, scoured, and shaped the Gorge’s basalt cliffs thousands of years ago. Or I’ll think about the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveling down the Columbia before the once mighty river was tamed by dams. The expedition members explored Beacon Rock, a huge basalt core of an ancient volcano, when passing through. (Beacon Rock is the dark lump in the background upriver just to the left of Vista House on Crown Point.) I first climbed Beacon Rock the summer before sixth grade, and there's a nontechnical route that anyone whose mildly fit can climb today.

Historic Vista House on Crown Point in foreground
Here in the Pacific Northwest we don’t get the array of fall colors that New England does, but there’s still time to catch golden hues of the bigleaf maples that predominate the western Gorge.  One of my most vivid childhood memories is driving past a wall of gold leaves lining the Gorge on a crisp, sunny fall day.

So how about you?  Do you have memories to share of the Columbia River Gorge? What are the views of which you will never tire, that draw you back again and again? Chime in by leaving a comment below.

When You Go
Hop in you car or on your bicycle and head up the Gorge. Here’s a link to a map of the historic highway, with the viewpoints where these photos were taken on the western edge. From Portland take the Banfield freeway eastbound, get off at Troutdale,  then head east past downtown Troutdale up the Sandy River Gorge to Springdale, then to Corbett. Chanticleer Point is just past Corbett on your left. You won't miss it!


Lesley said...

Simply lovely --it's a beautiful time of year!

Lindsey said...

Awww what a beautiful part of the country we live in!

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing some beautiful photographs of our shared personal history!!

Kathleen O'Dell said...

I have so many memories of the gorge. I remember taking Kelli and Janis to Latourell Falls for my 15th birthday, making daisy chain crowns, exulting in mothah nature. In seventh grade, Saudra P. and I gathered a whole bunch of plants for identification for a 7th grade science project. That was the first time I got to know the names of all the local flora: Solomon's seal, cow vetch, spotted alder... I have pictures of my very young father and mother on a date at Crown Point in my album. Still makes me swoon when we take the drive along the Columbia to Baker City

martha said...

Mother Nature never ceases to awe and amaze with her beauty and strength.

mab said...

My first memory of the gorge is as a small child riding in the back of an old chevy station wagon and feeling awed and also scared as I leaned out the window and ducked back in quickly!

jill said...

Thanks for your comments everyone!

I love the flora of the Gorge, too, some unique and grows nowhere else. Mab, I hope you weren't so scared you didn't come back!

Kat Chandler said...

The Gorgeous Gorge ~ Ultimately where I would go for years to get away from it all. Memories of driving down that old highway built in 1916 on the edge of the mountain, covered in lush foliage & trees that canopy over the road filled with sunlight. Crown Point, Horsetail Falls & Mulnomah Falls are my favorite stops and everytime I visit Portland its where I want to go..again and again! Aka Liz

Anonymous said...

favorite view:

Our farm in the willamette valley dawn on a sunny autumn day after harvest.

Kim Kircher said...

Thanks for the great photos and the map link. Beautiful!