The Northwest Corner

Back in July I took a Road Scholar trip titled “The Many Faces of Oregon”. As a Southern Oregonian I thought maybe the title should be SOME of the Many Faces of Oregon but it was still a good overview of the scenery, geography, culture and history of the Northwest corner of the state. So here is a day by day account, with photos, of course.

Day 1 – Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge

Vine_MapleAfter an expert led lecture on the Geology of Oregon we hopped on the bus and headed up to Mount Hood. Our first stop at Wildwood Recreation Area included a picnic lunch and a short walk through the temperate rainforest characteristic of theSalmon Oregon Cascades below timberline. Douglas fir, big leaf and vine maple, ferns and oxalis are the most recognizable plant species. We were even treated to a few raindrops. We also learned a little about the struggles of Salmon attempting to make their way up river to spawn.

Our guide, a geologist was fixated on the “path of destruction” and tried very hard to convince us that Mt. Hood was on the verge of eruption. A one in 15 chance in the next 15 years was the statistic he quoted over and over and over. Well, I did the math and that’s a 6.67% chance. In meteorology we’d call that a sunny day. I think he was just trying to Timberlineconvince the Californians they were safer living on the San Andreas fault-line.

Next up, and frankly one of my primary reasons for signing up for this particular trip was a guided tour of Timberline Lodge. The lodge was built in the 1930s by artisans and craftsmen hired by the Works Projects AdTimberline_nteriorministration. Everything in the lodge from furniture to masonry to artworks was locally sourced and hand crafted. The lodge is publicly owned but operated by a contractor. Every effort is being made to keep things original.

Here are a couple more pictures of some of the many works of art, just to give you a little flavor of the place:

a cougar carved in wood graces the entry to the main lodge. The fisherman was carved from linoleum then stained to add color. This one was allowed to keep its patina after years in the sun but others have been colorfully restored.Cougar


The mountain itself played coy with us but in the end made a brief appearance to the delight of all concerned.



Day 2 – Portlandia


If my days of city dwelling were not at an end I might consider living in Portland. It’s wealth of city owned parkland, it’s well developed light rail and public transportation system, it’s vibrant yet historic downtown, it’s rivers, its proximity to mountain and coast all make this one very livable city. Unfortunately, the world is catching on with the consequent problems of traffic and homelessness taking their toll. And of course, there is the rain. Above is my artistic attempt at capturing my impression of Portland based on a composite of several images.


Back on the tour route, our first stop was the International Rose Test Gardens. I was so
busy taking pictures I didn’t quite pick up on whether the Gardens came first or the Chamber of Commerce designatHydrangeaion of the Rose City. Either way they do seem to grow well here. So too, for that matter, do hydrangeas.



Next up, one of my eternal favorites, the PagodaJapanese Tea Garden. I think I could photograph here every day and never get tired of it. I don’t know what is about a Japanese Lantern but I can never resist clicking the shutter.









Back to the rose garden for a delicious barbecue lunch then back on the bus for a driving Signposttour followed by a walking tour. We got our bearings at Pioneer Courthouse square then proceeded to meander from the retail district to the cultural district, to the government district and then back to the waterfroSkyscrapernt to meet up with the bus again. Along the way we saw bronze beavers, benson bubblers, shopping centers, skyscrapers, statues, parks and
yes, Portlandia herself gracing the Portland building.


Day 3 – Astoria

South_JettyThis day was mostly on the bus. We followed the Columbia River to it’s mouth learning about Lewis and Clark and their adventures in Oregon along the way. I was most impressed by the story of the building of the south Jetty to improve navigability at the River’s mouth. All this stone had to be hauled from up river and it took several years to put it in place. This starting in 1885 when machines were not readily available to help.

One of the many ships that foundered off the Oregon Coast was the Peter Iredale. I’m prettyPeter_Iredale sure it has disintegrated a lot since I last photographed it in the early 2000’s. I was still shooting slides then but those sunset pictures might be worth resurrecting.

Our last stop was Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark and their men (and Sacagawea aka Sacajawea and her son) camped one miserable rainy winter. The reconstructed fort is not very photogenic but the visitor’s center was interesting.

Sadly, we were not allowed off the bus in Astoria itself. I will have to return another day because there is much to photograph along the waterfront. And according to our guide it will all be gone soon when the town slumps into the river once the imminent Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake strikes. Personally, I’m betting I don’t live to see it, but I’ve been wrong before.

Day 4 – Columbia River Gorge

Our 4th and final day took us on the scenic route up the Columbia River Gorge on the old highway. You haven’t lived until you have covered this narrow windy route in a motor coach. But the views are ever impressive and the water falls magnificent.  We proceeded to the Discovery Center in The Dalles after a bus tour of the downtown murals. There we were provided lunch and treated to a live raptor demonstration along with time to explore the exhibits at the museum.

Heading home in the afternoon we saw more views of the Columbia River from the original highway and were reminded of the treacherous rapids that were the final hurdle for early pioneers making their way to Oregon. The rapids are now gone, inundated by the backwaters behind Bonneville Dam.Columbia

Our final stop was at said dam. I was reminded of one of my favorite Woody Guthrie Bonnevillesongs which we often sang in grade school: Roll on Columbia, roll on. Roll on Columbia, roll on. Your power is turning our darkness to dawn. Roll on Columbia roll on. Of course, the salmon have paid a heavy price for that power but the efforts to save them appear to be little short of Herculean.

I was the only Oregonian on this trip which made me a little sad. In many ways it was a much needed refresher course from the third grade. I had seen most everything on the trip at one time or another but I hadn’t had the expert commentary which made the experience so much richer. Besides, I didn’t have to drive, fight traffic or figure out where to park.