By SANDY IRLE (digitalBURG) – Oregon offers wonderful sights, wide-ranging recreation and sumptuous food to the summer traveler. This trip took us to more than 40 waterfalls while hiking about 27 miles.
Traveling east from Portland and Troutdale, the Columbia River Scenic Highway serves as the nation’s oldest scenic highway with breathtaking views of the Columbia River gorge. A side trip on Larch Mountain Road in this National Scenic Area takes you to the Sherrard Viewpoint Picnic Area, elevation 4,055 feet, offering a fine view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.
Back on Highway 30, waterfalls abound, in time bringing you to the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States, Multnomah Falls. The ancient spring-fed waterfall is easy to get to, and while many see it from the bottom, it’s worth the short hike to the Benson Bridge, which sits between the lower and upper cataracts. Built by Italian stonemasons in 1914, the bridge and the view are both beautiful, but go beyond this point and you are rewarded a hundred fold. A day hike up Larch Mountain takes you to five additional falls plus spectacular panoramic viewpoints.
Traveling south, located on the banks of the Metolius River, one of the largest spring fed rivers in the United States, this out-of-the-way spot is well worth the trip. Nestled comfortably in the midst of tall Ponderosa pines of the Deschutes National Forest, in a valley under Mt. Jefferson, Camp Sherman has cozy cabins and the popular (albeit out of the way) award-winning Kokanee Café. The camp store can fill your fly-fishing needs up to and including a $3,200 bamboo rod!
I really admire the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, and the Santiam Pass Scenic Byway is the location of the wonderful Dee Wright Observatory. The structure, built of lava rock by the CCC, has viewing windows referred to as “lava tubes” through which several of the Cascade Mountain peaks can be seen. On the upper deck, a bronze “peak finder” is located. All around you is an enormous lava field, astonishing in its contrast to the forests and rivers of the area.
Further south, Crater Lake National Park is home to the seventh deepest lake in the world, the deepest in the United States at almost 2,000 feet and fed only by rain and snow. A walk down the steep path to the lake’s rocky edge is rewarded with a look at the incredibly clear, blue water and a close-up view of the caldera that was formed by a collapsed volcano thousands of years ago.
The three-hour drive around the lake affords spectacular views and vistas, including colorful volcanic spires called the Pinnacles. There are wonderful spots to stop for a picnic and recently a new hiking trail opened up, leading to a hidden waterfall.
The Umpqua National Forest is nestled on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. While there are many waterfalls here, don’t miss the 293-foot Watson Falls located on the North Umpqua Highway. Continuing west toward the coast brings you to scenic Highway 101, which we followed north to Yachats.
This lovely spot is located on the rugged shores of the Pacific on the central Oregon coast. From here a detour northeast leads to 6,000-acre Silver Falls State Park and the Trail of Ten Falls. These stunning waterfalls are in a rainforest of Douglas fir and western hemlock trees.
As we pushed further north along Highway 101, enjoying the view and the drive, our final stop before heading home – Long Beach, just across the Columbia River in Washington. “World’s Longest Continuous Peninsula Beach” is their claim. The annual Sandsations sand sculpture competition was under way, and there were huge kites being flown on the vast windy beach.
The sculptors are mostly in groups of three and four and use a wide variety of tools to build the giant creations. Included in the sculptures were a couple of “sasquatch” driving a life-sized vintage Corvette, a giant cheese and wine tray complete with mice eating Swiss cheese and a bar with mermaid bartenders. It makes for a very entertaining day. As the winners took their award, their leader had the spectators vow to “un-litter” wherever their travels took them. We all happily agreed, but it was a bittersweet moment as we watched the Pacific’s tide come in to wash away all of those hours of hard work.
Mark Irle lives with his wife, Sandy, on a Century Farm near Warrensburg, Mo., and has so far visited 27 countries and 45 U.S. states.Visit their blog at www.iplanetrip.com.