The Columbia River is my aorta, humming through my heart cold and fast, steeply edged on either side by carved hillsides. This river is wide and gray and absorbs me. Sitting by the fire, camped out at the Deschutes River which connects to the Columbia, a cup of rose tea in hand and belly full of cherries, I think about that mulberry tree I found in Maryhill just a couple of hours before and all the cobblers it would make.
While in the gorge I wear cowboy boots and drink coffee at all hours and just stare at the openness and the water and the sky. My hands get cold here, but inside my blood runs warm with the buzz of being in my favorite place.
For Father’s Day dad and I hiked up Multnomah Falls and down Wahkeena Falls, our mutual favorite spot. We packed a picnic of coffee, berries, some sausage, and a little cheese. Multnomah Falls is impressive, but busy, so get there early to find a parking spot. Bring a rain jacket and some hiking shoes, once you are barely 1/4 mile up the trail, you’ll leave the crowds behind and likely have the trail to yourself. There are a series of trails leading from the falls, pick your level of difficulty but remember to please always stay on the trail and bring lots of water. Our favorite is Wahkeena because it’s a fairly easy hike with little traffic and lots of views of mossy trees, gurgling (or rushing, depending when you go) streams, and of course the many waterfalls. We like Fairy Falls (pictured) the very best.
The Columbia Gorge has endless trails to hike, scenic routes to drive and several very cute small towns to visit. A drive on either the Oregon or Washington side provides great scenery, although the Oregon side has more to offer in the way of civilization.
Towns worth a stop include Cascade Locks (for Marine Park and a swirl cone at East Wind Drive-In), Hood River (a little uppity, but some great restaurants, brew pubs, and the place to be for wind-surfing), The Dalles (for a stroll in their adorable downtown and Oregon’s oldest book store), and Maryhill on the Washington side (for cherries by the roadside, wineries and the stunning Maryhill musuem).
Camping is widely available along the entire gorge, just be sure to book ahead in the summer. I stayed at the Deschutes State Park, which is closest to Maryhill. There are also lots of cute B&Bs, hotels, and inns.
There are too many good food options to list, so just make your own way. If you have a cooler and are lucky, you may be able to buy fresh salmon by the roadside during the spring and summer. Be prepared, you are usually expected to buy the whole fish. In the spring and summer, berries and stone fruits can be purchased at small farm stands. And since it’s the North West, good coffee and beer can be found absolutely everywhere.