They say some places are hard to leave. That’s certainly the case with Hood River this morning, not because we don’t want to go, it just won’t let us out.
We’re only driving today, so no rush to get ready for the road. As host Vanessa left for work before we got up, we only have two cats watching us pack our bits and pieces. From the window, we can see that people are already kite surfing down at the river. I reckon that’s worth a closer look before we start our journey for the day.
… It’s one of those cases where we can see where we want to be, but every street we choose seems to take us somewhere else. Finally, with the help of a local, we find the right spot, and spend a few windblown minutes watching people in wetsuits zipping on and over the water.
Ok, let’s go. Our plan is to head a bit further east along the Columbia Valley before we turn north, so I cunningly program the GPS to take us to the Dalles as a first stop – or so I thought. Stupid GPS – trying to send us down the wrong freeway ramp! We’d be in Portland again if we went that way. I take the right ramp, and all is well in navigation land – for about five miles. “Turn right on exit 169.” Ok, the Dalles must be down one of the scenic byways. “Turn left, then – turn left.” Oh no, we’re back on the freeway again – and heading to Portland! Ah, I’ve accidentally told it to go to Dalles Oregon, not The Dalles Oregon. What a difference a ‘The’ makes. If we take the exit back into Hood River, we can reprogram, and start again.
…. Our host last night told us that, as you head east from Portland, the rainfall reduces by six inches every twenty miles. Now we believe her. We’ve been running through ever-drier landscape along the banks of the mighty Columbia River, and finally it’s time to cross the bridge back into Washington State. What follows is at least a hundred miles of the most unforgiving desert country we have ever seen. It’s kind of weird driving through the desert on a big highway loaded with cars, RVs and what the locals call sem-eyes (probably to distinguish them from what they call trucks, which are themselves really just huge utes.) From time to time, we cross broad river valleys packed from wall to wall with lush fields of fruit and vegetables, all irrigated from groundwater. Then, it’s back into desert again.
If the air wasn’t still thick with smoke from all the fires in the region, we may well have seen the tree-lined hills approaching, but, as it is, one minute we’re looking at sand, rocks and wizened plants, and the next we’re climbing into the forest. Surprisingly, the temperature doesn’t seem to drop much as we climb. It’s been a constant 36C across most of the desert, and has now dropped to a refreshing 34C as we ascend. We chuckle when we come across a sign that says you need to watch for snowmobiles emerging from the forest trails. But then, funny things do happen around here.
At last, we arrive at our B&B for tonight. It’s in the hills just outside the pretty little tourist town of Leavenworth. We know Leavenworth is famous for being the USA’s answer to Bavaria, with all sorts of strudel hauses and chocolate shops. We’ve even had a sneak peek when we drove through this afternoon, and have plans to return there for dinner – but – it’s 38C outside, and this particular B&B is just so nice – so relaxing – it’s really hard to leave.