Hood River, OR
There are two highways between Portland and Hood River. Sometimes they are the same road, sometimes they diverge by about a hundred metres. I-84 is a freeway. Highway 30 is not. Take Highway 30.
Anyways, if I ask you what comes to mind when I mention the State of Oregon, I’m sure that at least half of you will mention that sporting contest fought out each year between the red team and the blue team in eastern Australia. So, I took a snap poll of various Americans from across this big land. When I asked them to define Oregon in one word, their answers were:
Bob – “No sales taxes. If something is a buck narnty narn, you only pay a buck narnty narn.” (Ok, Bob is from Texas and doesn’t quite get the whole ‘one word thing’.) Tyson – “Snowboarding.” Tiffany – “Trees.” Angela – “Desert.” They are all right.
Today feels like one of those budget tours of Europe where you get to visit ten countries in three days. We start out with another quick visit to Smith Rock to get those special photos that we knew would be so much better when the sun is in the east. Snap, wow, snap, “Didn’t we get that already?” “Not sure.” Snap again. Finally, it’s time to board the Jeep and head north. We have no other plans other than to be in Hood River tonight, so we’ve elected to take the long way by heading more or less northwest until we almost hit Portland, and then east along the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River.
Almost immediately, the country changes from the volcanic rock-scape we have seen since Klamath Falls into agricultural land reminiscent of the Lockyer Valley. The main crop seems to be lucerne, which the locals call alfalfa, and everywhere we look we see guys in shirts that were probably blue once trundling across the fields on their ancient tractors.
In no time, we reach Madras, where we say goodbye to 98 and turn onto 26 (yep, they just refer to highways by their numbers here.) Suddenly, the fields ‘dry up’ and we’re in the High Desert. And, I mean desert. This place is so dry that even the buzzards need to carry water bottles. “Wow – look at that mesa.” Screech, stop, snap – got it, and, off we go again.
At this point you’ll need to forgive me for inserting a quick food story. We’re just starting to wonder if we’ll get stranded in this harsh country without any hope of sustenance when a sign announces we are entering the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. “Look – there’s a roadhouse.” It’s not quite lunchtime yet, so we tell the nice lady we’d love to try a couple of their famous huckleberry pancakes. “Do you want a plate to share?” Aha! We know all about American portion sizes. “Sure, but just two or three pancakes please.” It is without exaggeration that I say that the pancakes were so big they closed the highway each time the cook wanted to flip one.
A few miles later, we reach the mountains, and the desert suddenly makes way for trees. We’re running around the base of Mount Hood, and the trees are thicker than the hairs on a cat’s back, except for a few cleared strips that become ski runs in the season. We try to take some pics of these amazing forests but, surprise surprise, the trees beside the road get in the way. You might say we can’t see the forest for the trees.
Portland is just another big city, but our route only skims the edge before we turn back east for the run along the beautiful Columbia Gorge. Like I said, we have the choice of two routes. There’s the quick freeway, or the historic route littered with waterfalls, trails and forests. Hmm – which to choose.