Logan, OH – June 2017 – Whispering Cave

Having made a number of trips to Hocking Hills State Park to hike the trails to the caves and cliffs, we thought we had seen them all. Fortunately this spring they opened a trail to a cave that had been off limits for 50 year, Whispering Cave.

Named so because of the acoustics that allows a person to whisper on one side and someone on the other side can hear what was said. The trail has been opened, and with an early start we had the place to ourselves.

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Leaving Whispering Cave and continuing on the Hemlock Bridge Trail, we passed on great rock formations.

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After a two mile hike we arrived at Lower Falls – Old Man’s Creek

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The climb out of the gorge

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Upper Falls – Old Man’s Creek

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Interesting lighting on the cliff walls. It was a great day of hiking in the cliffs and gorges.

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Cuyahoga Falls, OH – April 2017 – Kayak Races

The Cuyahoga River wanders for almost 90 miles around northeast Ohio, ending up (in a straight line) less than 20 from where it starts. While mostly known for it’s industrial portion in Cleveland, much of the path it is a small wild river.

The town of Cuyahoga Falls, near Akron, is the site of a waterfalls (hence the name) that had been rendered non existent for 100 years from dams. Those dams were recently removed, returning the river to it’s natural state, including an impressive waterfalls.

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For the second year this portion of the river featured kayak racing. A Sheraton Hotel is situated at the falls, and the view from the balconies of the falls and action was spectacular.

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The entire event seemed well organized, with safety being foremost. The local fire department rescue team provided support, as well as the race organizations staff.

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The kayakers had a series of white water rapids to run through before going over a couple of fairly large (possibly 10′ high) waterfalls.

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Many of them flipped during this portion, but nearly everyone was able to flip themselves back over.

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This is a great event, and really showcases the river nicely, as well as the city of Cuyahoga Falls.

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We are looking forward to returning in 2018.

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Niagara Falls – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 16

The best time to visit Niagara Falls if you don’t want people in your photos – before daybreak on a Sunday. The roar of the falls drew us to the edge of the park to see the white water before it crashed over the edge. The glow of the buildings from the Canadian side of the falls cast some light on the falls but it was a shadowy image for us to see. Niagara Falls seemed exceptionally larger to me than the falls we saw in Quebec.

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I believe it is the expanse of the gorge and the enormous volume of water flowing from Lake Erie into the Niagara River over the falls that is so amazing. Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls; Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and American and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side of the gorge.

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After a return to the hotel to get breakfast and checked out, we headed out for some more views of the falls. We parked the car in an empty lot and walked across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada for a better view. The bridge gave us a great view of Horseshoe Falls and as the sun rose above the falls; the lighting improved the beauty of the scene even more.

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Since we were going back into Canada we had to pass through immigration, where we were reminded that we had to stay behind the little black line on the floor before approaching the window, even though we were the only people there. But they let us back into the country, and we proceeded up the hill onto the Ontario side.

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The area was nearly empty and perfect for photos. The sunlit mist rising from the gorge was very pretty. The Ontario side is very well landscaped, obviously built for the crowds that regularly view the falls from this vantage point. But on this early Sunday morning we had the place to ourselves.

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One of the attractions is a zip line down into the falls. I have read that the tacky commercialization of Niagara Falls in the 1800s lead directly to the push to create the National Park Service, and it is clear that in the 150 years since the people of Niagara Falls still haven’t learned their lesson. Even with the beautiful landscaping of the park along the Ontario side, they still obstruct the view with zip lines.

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Usually met with objections one of my favorite photo subjects are people posing for photos. This morning I was presented with a perfect opportunity, one man fussed with his turban while the other man, a version of Joe Dirt, played with his rooster-comb styled haircut.

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But you can only have so much fun, so we decided it was time to walk back to America, and we headed across.When we had crossed the first time a couple of hours earlier I had noticed the immigration entrance was void of any cars at all, so it was surprising on our return to come up on the bridge and see traffic stopped fully across the bridge.

As we walked on I noticed all of the entrance lanes had red lights lit, indicating they were closed. It was then I realized it was September 11th, at the time that the first airplane hit the World Trade Center.

From the walkway on the bridge you could see the immigration workers standing at attention around the flags, which were at half staff, in tribute to the tragedy.

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Once they completed we walked inside where I complimented them on the sincerity of their tribute, and they seemed genuinely thankful for the compliment, and we passed quickly through and on to our car.

Our long drive back to Columbus went without event, and we arrived home safe and sound and extremely pleased with yet another fantastic road trip. This passion has allowed us to see amazing places and meet lots of cool people, and as soon as we are home we are looking forward to the next one.

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Quebec – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 14

Another long day, but this one had great promise, so we left the Delta Hotel in Fredericton before dawn. It was rainy and cool that morning but the forecast predicted warm weather. After a brief Tim Hortons breakfast stop for oatmeal and a croissant, we were back on the road for 55 miles to see the longest covered bridge in the world. The wooden bridge is 1,282 feet long located in Hartland, New Brunswick and crosses the St. John River to Somerville. The Hartland covered bridge is truly the longest covered bridge that I have ever seen.

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It seemed as if we had entered a tunnel as we drove through it. I learned that the bridge is actually seven small bridges joined together on six piers. The bridge is only one lane and we had to wait our turn to cross back to Hartland.

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Next up was Grand Falls, New Brunswick, which has a gorge in the center of the city that is used as a hydroelectric generating station. The gorge is the top attraction in the area, with a number of attractions surrounding it. We arrived before the Malabeam Center opened so we peered into the gorge from the zip line hut.

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The Malabeam Center gives tours climbing down 401 steps to see the wells within the rocks and tells the legend of Malobiannah for which the center is named. The story is of a young Maliseet woman who was captured by the Mohawks and forced to lead a war party to her village. The Mohawks promised she would live if she led them to the village but knowing how to navigate the Saint John River, Malobiannah guided a war party of forty canoes and 300 Mohawk to their death over Grand Falls.  Malobiannah sacrificed herself to save her people. A statue of a young Maliseet woman with and oar stands at the front of the center.

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Grand Falls is also the home of Ron Turcotte, a retired Canadian thoroughbred race horse jockey, best known as the rider of Secretariat, winner of the U.S. Triple Crown in 1973, and arguably the best race horse in history. A bronze statue of Ron racing Secretariat was featured in the middle of the boulevard. A plaque commemorating the famous race stood next to the statue, with his story in both French and English.

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Arriving at the border of Quebec, the visitor center guides were very helpful in providing maps and information for us to find Pohenegamook. Pohenegamook is a very small village on the border of Quebec, Canada and the United States.

The Pork and Beans War was a confrontation in 1838–1839 between the United States and the United Kingdom over the international boundary between the British colony of New Brunswick and the US state of Maine including the Pohenegamook area. With no shots ever being fired, the Pork and Bean war was more of a dispute, but resulted in a new border.

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The Mitchell Map was used as a primary map source during the Treaty of Paris of 1783 for defining the boundaries of the United States. Negotiations in 1842 between the countries referred to “Mitchell’s map”, which generally supported the American case as evidence that the entire disputed area was on the American side of the border.

The historic border dispute ended when the United States and British North America (now Canada) signed the Webster–Ashburton Treaty in 1842 under John Tyler’s presidency. Canada was unhappy, however, it viewed the treaty as the British improving relations with the United States by permitting American territory to separate Lower Canada from the Maritimes.

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Now the Quebec-Maine border cuts straight alongside a local street in Pohenegamook, putting houses close to the street in Canada, and those set back a few yards from it in the U.S. — with some houses split between the two borders.

Along one road you can see a Gulf Gast station 100 yards down the road, with the only access from Canada, however the station and pumps are in the U.S. This frustrates the locals as the gas is about 50% cheaper there, but they have to go through an extensive process to ‘enter’ the U.S. to go to the gas station that is in their backyard, with no fence, or any other physical barrier in sight

We drove the border road, to the railroad bridge near a small park. A stone marker in the park stood at the border showing street side as Canada and the yard of some of the houses in the USA. A bridge crossed the river between the USA and Canada. Flags of both nations flew at each end of the bridge. A State of Maine flag hung at one end of the bridge while a Quebec flag hung at the opposite end of the bridge.

A U.S. border inspection station stood a short distance from the park. So we actually sneaked into the United States the back way through Canada avoiding the border patrol because the true border angles away from the street at the park. Most amusing is one house which appears to have their front rooms in Canada and the rest of the house in the United States.

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Heading further into Quebec, we drove for almost three hours to an area twenty-five miles outside of Quebec City to St. Anne’s Canyon to see a powerful waterfall higher than Niagara Falls splash over rocks millions years old.

St Anne’s Canyon is a private park with a number of options for entertainment, as well as a having a small cafe that provided us lunch before our walk on the trail to the falls. After struggling a bit with the French language (a recurring theme) trying to understand the lunch specials, we managed to get chicken soup and sandwich, then headed out to see the falls.

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The trail looped us around the cliff top of the canyon to vistas overlooking the waterfall. The thunderous waterfall could be heard before seen raging over gigantic black rocks.

A suspension bridge crossed above the top of the falls for a bird’s eye view allowing us to continue our walk to the next vista for a closer look of the water that crashed so violently onto the rocks that the water sprayed up onto us and onto the trail.

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The second suspension bridge granted us a direct front view of the falls. This bridge really tested my fear of heights, so I requested a photo for proof I was there.

The waterfall looked amazing from the suspension bridge but even more wondrous was the fact that the substantial water force was only one-tenth the amount of water that flowed in early spring.

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It was hard to imagine so much more water barreling through that tight canyon. The trail led us down 187 steps to the third suspension bridge about fifteen feet above the river. The bouncy suspension bridge offered a view from the lowest level and the rocky river. We climbed the steps to reach the trail again for the last vista of the falls. Sainte-Anne Canyon also had wooden sculpted animals that we viewed before leaving.

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As we left to head back towards Quebec City and Montmorency Falls, we were treated with some great views.

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A few minutes drive brought us to Montmorency Falls, a tremendously voluminous waterfall, the highest in Quebec Province and higher than Niagara and Sainte-Anne Canyon. This waterfall is used in hydroelectricity so the flow is controlled. The waterfall is massive in size and reminds me of the extended width of Niagara Falls. We entered the park and walked through the welcome center to get to the trail and boardwalk.

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We were able to walk the entire trail including the very high viewing tower and the trail to the other side of the falls via a suspension bridge. Anyone walking the trail near the bottom of the falls got wet from the spray. Some daring ones ended up soaking wet just walking near the river to the front bottom steps of the tower.

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As we continuing trekking along we each guessed the number of steps to the top of the viewing tower which we had to climb to continue the trail. Mine was 250 steps, hers was 460 steps.  After reaching the last viewing deck where the cable car landed for a closer look of the waterfall, we started our return trip on the trail back down the tower steps.  As we climbed down the tower, I counted 475 steps; clearly I lost that wager. We got our exercise in for that day with over one thousand steps just to see two waterfalls.

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From here we had another great view of the city

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It was about a half hour drive to the provincial capital, Quebec City, from Montmorency Falls. Quebec City is the second largest city in the province and traffic was a mess when we arrived. The old adage you can’t there from here was true, no matter how I tried to maneuver around the streets to reach the Marriott Hotel.

We could see the hotel from where we sat but traffic prevented us from getting there. After circling the block again and thirty minutes of waiting in a jam, a traffic cop allowed us to get through the closed access to reach the hotel, gladly dropping off car with the valet and going inside to check in.

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The roads were closed for a bicycle race that ended just prior to our arrival.  We were eager to see the city so we immediately left the hotel and walked into Old Québec across the square from our hotel. Old Québec is a historic neighborhood comprising the upper town and lower town. Québec Ciy is one of the oldest cities in North America.

We roamed passed the Citadelle of Québec also known as La Citadelle, an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch (the Queen Elizabeth II of England) and the Governor General of Canada. The citadel is an uneven star shape and comprises four towers with 24 buildings constructed within its walls of cut stone. We did not tour the citadel but walked the promenade with the stationed canons and window wells into the past. Sections of the garrison wall still stand where we joined others atop the ruin for a beautiful view of the city.

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Old Quebec City is a collection of well-kept shops of thriving businesses catering to tourists. Luckily, the French shop owners spoke excellent English so it was easy to ask questions and converse with people.

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An Italian restaurant called Parmesan is where we stopped for dinner. The waiter spoke French and English and escorted us into an empty restaurant, where we dined on lamb in rosemary sauce and filet mignon.

It felt a bit odd to be the only customers but that soon vanished with the aid of an accordionist who entertained us in a charming room with bouquets of flowers in small glass bottles that hung from the ceiling. The accordion player spoke perfect English. His repertoire though included songs in English, French, Spanish and Italian. We learned that he was born in Rome, grew up in Montréal, and had been to the United States many times. His electric accordion produced multiple instrument sounds. At times we heard the accordion, saxophone, and guitar. He also had a smooth voice singing varied genres of music from Edith Piaf to John Lennon. It was a lovely evening of entertainment and good food.

The warm beautiful evening allowed us to walk the lit streets and see the city at night. Eventually we went to a pastry shop for gelato. We admired the architecture of the pastry shop with its high ceilings and large windows as well as all the ancient structures of Old Québec while we walked back to our hotel.

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New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 8

Another early start, on the road by 6 a.m., and we were off to the northeast. After entering our first destination into the GPS I found that it had me turn off U.S. 1, which turned out to not only be the quickest route (bypassing one of the numerous wanderings of U.S. 1 along the coast), but it took us up and down some fairly large hills, across bogs, and through a couple of small towns resulting in a really fun 30 mile segment, not to mention really waking you up as I was really pushing the Audi on the smooth curvy road.

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After stopping in Machias, Maine for a quick McDonalds breakfast (have you ever noticed that in the morning every McDonalds in the world has what seems to be the same 4 or 5 old men in them solving all of the world’s problems – a great reality TV show would be to go around and pull them from really random places and have them argue it out on live TV – but I digress).

Another hour down the road and we arrived at West Quoddy Park, the easternmost point in the USA not counting the Aleutian Islands that cross the International Date Line. As we drove into West Quoddy Park the Travelling Wilburys sang “At the End of the Line” It was perfectly timed as we rolled into the drive of the park and reached the end of the road.

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The park has a lighthouse and cottage set at the bottom of a hill; below the lighthouse cliff were boulders exposed because of low tide. The water shimmered from the sun as a fishing boat chugged through the large isles of rock with only a small fence separated the hill where we stood and the craggy shore but we could see stretches of land across the water.

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After heading north a bit we reached the edge of Calais, Maine, where we were to cross into New Brunswick. After a brief stop at the border crossing where we were asked a few questions and had to show our passports, we were on our way onto a recently built freeway. Just ahead we rolled into the visitor center to get a map, where the very helpful visitor center workers recommended we make a brief stop to view the waterfalls in the town of St George, only 20 miles ahead (or as they said about 30 kilometers).

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Continuing on we arrived in St. John, New Brunswick, to see the Mortello Towers, small defensive fort that was built as a coastal fort. The tower stands up to 40 feet high with two floors and typically had a garrison of one officer. Their round structure and thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, mounted on the flat roof to fire in a complete 360° circle. The Mortello Tower, was used in the War of 1812. We were not able to enter the tower because of renovation but stood at the base of the tower looking out to the sea.

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St John is the largest city in New Brunswick with a metro population of a little over 100,000 people, as a result they have a decent downtown where we found the City Market, the oldest continuous farmer’s market in Canada, for our lunch. We ordered a shrimp platter and fish and chips from an open shop vendor. While eating our lunch, we noticed that all the signs were in English and French. Even my can of root beer was labeled in both languages, root beer on one side and racinette on the other side of the can. There were bilingual signs for street posts, and car license plates too; New/Noveau Brunswick.

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All of the southern New Brunswick borders the Bay of Fundy, on the places that was very high on my list to visit. As we left St John we found the Fundy Trail, a park featuring a road hugging the coast with stunning views in every direction that includes over 20 spectacular lookouts, a waterfall, and 600 million-year-old rock formations. We stopped at one of the vistas looking out into the New Brunswick coastline, sparkling water and a view of Nova Scotia in the distance.

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We followed the Fundy Trail as far as the Salmon River where we walked across the suspension bridge. The bridge had a ten person limit and bounced a lot as we walked on it but the bridge is only 25 feet off the ground so it was not a fearless act. Our journey took us pass the Sea Caves at St. Martins, New Brunswick but it was high tide and the caves were only accessible by kayak now and not accessible to walk to the caves.

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Leaving the Fundy Trail as the road across the coast is not completed, we traveled from St. Martins along Route 111 to Route 114 down through Fundy National Park where the coastal road continued until we reached Hopewell Rocks in Chignecto Bay, an extension of the Bay of Fundy. This area is noted as the highest tide in the world at an average of 39 feet high.

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The narrow bay funnels water out and the ocean floor is exposed three hours before and after low tide. We took the trail to an overlook and saw the towers of clay rocks covered with seaweed. Once we made our way down to the ocean floor we walked over seaweed, mud and rocks to see the sun shine down and through hallowed towers and crevices. In addition you could see bull eyes targets on the rocks thirty feet up or so, assuming those were probably placed there by kayakers at high tide. The park closed at 7 p.m. Atlantic Time so we left to climb the multilevel stairs and take the trail back to the car. We changed our muddy shoes and headed to Moncton, New Brunswick for the night.

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After our check-in at the Chateau Moncton, we walked to Woody’s BBQ North of the Mason-Dixon Line. Woody’s is a chain restaurant that started in Florida with a few restaurants in Canada. Our meals were meh, not good.

The Chateau Moncton hotel sits along the Petitcodiac River that connects to the Bay of Fundy which draws out water at low tide and then rushes in so forcefully at high tide (called the tidal bore) that surfers ride the waves on the river. We had hopes of seeing high tide roar into the city but high tide is set near midnight and it is too dark to see the river.

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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