Portland, Oregon – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 15 – Columbia River Gorge & An Evening in Portland

Our warm, bright Saturday morning found us driving to the historic Columbia River Highway east of Portland. Our first stop was at the Vista House, an observatory at Crown Point, which also serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers. The site, on a rocky promontory, is 733 feet above the Columbia River on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge.

The domed building built in 1918 is basically a 64-foot wide and 55 foot high rotunda made of sandstone and restored to its original features in 2005. The interior is octagonal in an art nouveau style and marble is extensively used inside with brass fixtures. The interior of the dome was bronze lined with decorative stained glass window. The vista house was well named providing an excellent viewpoint of the Columbia River. The day of our visit was very windy so that white caps were seen on the river.

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The historic highway offered striking scenery as we progressed but we soon stopped at a series of waterfalls; Sheppard’s Dell Falls, where a short path led us to the waterfalls; Bridal Veil Falls was our next stop for a hilly half mile hike to the tiered falls; Wahkeena Falls followed for our next half-mile hike to this 242-foot waterfall that does not directly plunge to the ground but rather, has a more subtle cascading flow.

These falls have been featured in numerous travel guides and in photography books. The Wakeena Falls name is a native Yakama tribe meaning most beautiful.

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Finally we stopped at Multnomah Falls, the highest and most powerful falls on this highway. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet, with a gradual 9 foot drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is given as 620 feet.

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Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. Underground springs from Larch Mountain are the year-round source of water for the waterfall, but the spring runoff from the mountain’s snow and rainwater add during the other seasons. A trail to Benson Footbridge, allowed us to cross onto the bridge at 105 feet above the lower cascade.

We continued on the trail to the first point past the bridge where a couple with their mastiff stood. The dog was the center of attention and was very friendly. We made our way down the trail and then onto a path on the opposite side that led upwards hoping to reach the top of the falls.

Other hikers said it was a long trail and so we hiked down to drive back to Vista House. The observatory was now open for the day so that we could walk inside to see the restored interior. Inside we saw photos of Crown Point in 1912 before Vista House was built.

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We decided to drive 14 miles to Larch Mountain, an extinct volcano with an elevation of 4,055 which has a view of five mountains. It was a nice hike up the hill trail to Larch Mountain vista for a view of five different elevations:  the outstanding view of the nearby Cascade Range volcanoes of Mount Hood 11,250 ft., Mount Adams 12,280 ft., Mount Jefferson 10,495 ft., Mount Rainier 14,409 ft., and Mount St. Helens 8,366 ft. We could also see the tops of the Three Sisters which is part of the Cascade Range whereby each peak tops 10,000 ft.

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From the pinnacle of Sherrard Point on Larch Mountain we saw the most stunning outdoor view of all time. Standing at the mountain summit presented a panorama of five mountains that I doubt could ever be seen anywhere else. There we stood with a 270 degree view of snow-capped mountains as I pivoted to see mountains and trees of earthly beauty without taking another step.  We left the park to get lunch at Shirley’s Tippy Canoe. Lunch was satisfying as we sat on a great deck and patio still thinking about the gorgeous view of all those mountains.

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After a short break at the hotel, we walked downtown. Dinner was at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, unfortunately, the Penguins lost to the Sharks 3-2.

After the game we walked to nearby Third Street to see the illuminating rose parade.  The official name of the event is the Starlight Parade which continues a longtime festival tradition from the early 1900s when illuminated floats built on electric trolley cars made their way through the city on trolley tracks. Today, participants light up the night with creative floats along a 2.25-mile route through downtown Portland.

The parade began at 9 p.m. where thousands of people lined the streets awaiting the start of the parade. The Portland police kicked off the parade with a theme on community. Several neighborhood communities entered floats.  A high school band wearing strings of lights and expertly made floats marched past us. I believe we saw a high school band with an Ohio flag also. The only other time I had seen an illuminated parade was when our family went to Disney World and this reminded me of that but was far more extended.

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The parade lasted one and one-half hours and when the last float passed the sanitation trucks followed. The throngs of people politely pushed their trash into the street for volunteers to throw the trash into the garbage truck and street cleaners rolled behind spraying down and brushing the street immediately afterwards.  As the garbage truck moved in the procession an announcement from the sanitation crew roared “Please move away from the curb, Sanitation is cleaning the streets for America’s cleanest parade. It was all very amusing with this claim and process. The Starlight Rose Parade proudly claimed it was the cleanest parade in America, with no candy or other items were being thrown from the floats. It was an interesting last evening of our Spring 2016 Road Trip.

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