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Trip Report Columbia Gorge Getaway

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My sis lives in Boise and I live near Seattle, so we decided on a quick girls-getaway to the Columbia Gorge, about 5 hours away from each of us. I wanted to stay in Hood River, but the better places there were fully booked when I started planning about a month ago, so we ended up in The Dalles. The Dalles Inn was just fine, and our location turned out to be OK for the activities we planned. I was pretty surprised at the crowds we encountered nearly everywhere as I had not recognized what a popular holiday spot this apparently is.

Our first evening we explored the town by car, and ended up dining at a place recommended by Trip Advisor and nearly everyone else in town, called Baldwin Saloon. This restaurant is in a historic building that overlooks the river and the railroad tracks. Food and service were excellent.

Our first full day we crossed The Dalles Bridge to Washington State and traveled along Highway 14 west to the Hood River bridge. This route is recommended because of the great views across the river toward Mount Hood. After crossing back into Oregon at Hood River, we took Highway 35 south toward Government Camp, for more spectacular views of snowy Mt. Hood and the surrounding fields and orchards. After connecting with Highway 26, we turned northwest and took the 6-mile side road up to Timberline Lodge, the magnificent, WPA built structure that doubled as Jack Nicholson's hotel in "The Shining". Nothing scary about this place, though. We took the "Miracle Mile" chairlift up to the edge of the year-round snowfields and watched people skiing and snowboarding in the middle of July.

We then continued along Highway 26 toward Sandy, where we stopped for a fast food lunch , and turned north just outside Gresham to connect with Interstate 84/SR 30, for the Historic Columbia River Highway. Heading east, we first stopped at the Portland Woman's Forum Overlook for magnificent views of Crown Point and the Columbia. Then we continued on and visited the more accessible waterfalls (walking was sort of limited by my sister's torn meniscus). Multnomah Falls was incredibly crowded, but offered cool respite from the 100 degree day. Back on 84, we exited once more to check out the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam...some salmon, but more lampreys...eww.

We had dinner at a funky little place in Hood River called Trillium Cafe; my sis had fish and chips and I had the meatloaf house specialty. This was another TripAdvisor recommendation and it was excellent. Finally we went down to the river's shore and watched windsurfers and kite boarders at play as the sun went down. Then back to The Dalles and a good night's sleep.

The next day, we went to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum in The Dalles. I was amazed by the depth and quality of the displays there; it was really worth seeing. We watched an exhibit on raptors and were able to meet a kestrel, a red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl up close and personal! Really interesting.

From there we headed east, crossed The Dalles Bridge into Washington again but this time headed east on 14 out to Maryhill Winery for some wine tasting. There is a huge outdoor amphitheater there that plays host to big names in concert: Hall & Oates and Willie Nelson are coming up soon. A few miles past Maryhill, there is a World War I memorial that is a life-size replica of Stonehenge. Pretty cute.

Back in The Dalles, we went to the Sunshine Mill, a huge factory with multiple grain silos where Sunshine crackers (and Cheez-its) used to be made. Now it is a fun wine-tasting venue that Sunset Magazine calls "the coolest place to sip wine". We had wine and an antipasto platter there, and finished up across town at a fancy frozen yogurt place for dessert.

Next day after breakfast we headed east and west toward our respective homes! It was a very nice place to spend a couple of fun, busy but relaxing days.

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