Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mid Winter Picnic

The sun came out on Monday for the first time since . . . I can't remember. Gary suggested a drive up the Columbia Gorge for a mid-winter picnic to take advantage of the break in the weather before another storm.

We turned off the Interstate at the intersection with the Sandy River so we could take a leisurely drive along the old highway where bare tree branches framed the swollen river dotted here and there with fishermen.

After passing through the small village of Corbett we took a quick detour down the drive to the Menucha Conference Center located on the property of the former Julius Meier Estate. The narrow road and 1920s vintage buildings reminded us of our summer camp experiences there in the 1950s. Hobo stew cooked over hot coals, crafts on the wide veranda, midnight hikes through the woods, and many more fond childhood memories.

Back on the two-lane highway, we noticed the turn off for Larch Mountain, a reminder of a more recent favorite place. We stopped just beyond at an overlook perch 500 feet above the Columbia River with a drop dead view of the Vista House in the foreground sitting atop a shear rock face at Crown Point with the mighty river stretching as far as the eye could see to the East. It seemed like a perfect place to eat our picnic lunch.

Fortified by a tasty lunch we continued our journey on the historic Columbia River Highway around Crown Point on our way to Multnomah Falls. The highway, constructed in 1916 along the steep cliffs of the Gorge, was inspired in part by the generosity of lumber baron Simon Benson. Benson donated large tracks of land for parks along the narrow winding road where at this time of year, numerous named and unnamed waterfalls gush from the rocky cliffs.

When we finally reached Multnomah Falls, the highest and most visited waterfall, the park was crowded with other midwinter sun seekers. The spray created by the force of water falling more than 500 feet was like a misty rainstorm. No matter how many times I've walked up the switchback to the bridge or how many people fill up the path, it always feels like I am alone and seeing the falls for the first time.

A few more miles and a few more waterfalls brought us to another intersection with the Interstate and a quick trip back to the city. Since I didn't take my camera on the trip, I have provided links in the text to websites you might want to visit so you can fully appreciate our brief mid-winter escape.

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