Exploring the East End of the Columbia Gorge

Friday, May 09, 2008 -- Memaloose State Park near The Dalles, OR.

We explored all day yesterday. By the time we got back to the bus-house, enjoyed a little wine, and had dinner, I was too tired to write anything that would make sense to anybody. We did have a meeting of the board of directors before retiring for the evening and decided that we'd stay here at least one more day. That took a little pressure off the guy trying to document our travels -- he can do it in this morning.

I've always heard how windy it can be in the Columbia Gorge, but it wasn't until the last few days that I've experienced it to this extent. Locals say it's been a windier than normal spring, but a brisk westerly wind is part of the environment here. Trees that grow in the direct path of the wind have their branches predominantly on the down-wind side of their trunks. Apparently, any branches that do get started on the up-wind side are bent and twisted by the constant wind and never have a chance to grow. Here's an extreme example:

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For today's exploration we went west a few miles to Mosier on I-84. There we picked up another segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway and headed east toward The Dalles. I know I was generous with the superlatives a couple weeks ago when I reported on the western segment of this grand old road, and I'm feeling an urge to repeat my comments. Let me just say the Historic Columbia River Highway should not be missed when visiting the Northwest. It's simply incredible. We've got a few pictures and maybe a video of it that'll be online in our photo collection. I hope you have the time to check them out.

We stopped for a couple hours at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, billed as the Official Interpretive Center for the Columbia Gorge. Despite by belief that the term "interpretive center" was devised to dupe people like me into what's actually a "museum", I did feel that since it's "official" we really should check it out. I have to say I'm glad we did. It's a very well done and enjoyable facility complete with library, ongoing research, and a particular interest in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. link to website http://www.gorgediscovery.org/

At The Dalles, we crossed the Columbia to the Washington side and drove about 15 miles east to the Maryhill Museum of Art. In the past, when we lived out here, I'd drive up I-84 on the Oregon side and look up at this big mansion of a house amidst a park-like setting and wonder what it was all about. Yesterday, we finally got there.

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In 1914, Northwest pioneer and entrepreneur Sam Hill, who also happened to be the spirit behind the building of the Historic Columbia River Highway, started construction on this house high above the river on the Washington side. His dream was to establish an agricultural community in this area and had purchased huge tracts of land for this purpose. Alas, the dream fizzled, and Sam lost interest in the house. He never did live here. But in the early 1920's, Sam was persuaded by an odd collection of well-to-do people from all over the world -- people he'd met through the course of business -- to finish the house as an art museum. He did and it was dedicated in 1926.

Dar and I are different people who take different approaches to museums. I think I've written about this before. I'm a soaker and a scanner. I may focus on one small area of a museum and then meander around soaking in a little of this and scanning a little of that. It's the macro approach -- I open my mind and let it flow in as a whole... in it's entirety. Give me an hour and I believe I'll have the theme of most museums down pat.

Dar, on the other hand, has to read every word on every display or piece of art. She doesn't know if we'll ever get back here so she has this need to do it all when she has the chance. It's the micro approach. If she could get an overnight pass, she would. I can't remember how many times museum guards have had to throw her out so they could close the place.

While our different styles have caused some tension in the past, she's learned to read my body-language to know when it's time to leave. When I'm curled up on a bench in the lobby, when I'm incessantly sighing, when my face is pained, my eyes crossed, and my mouth agape with drool running down my chin... she knows it's time to go.

They also had a bunch of the funniest looking chickens I've ever seen.

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Sam Hill also build a replica of Stonehenge on his property, just a few miles from the Art Museum. It's a full size copy, but complete including the missing or out-of-place elements of the original in England. Built as a World War 1 memorial, it's been standing here since the 1920's.

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The L&C Gang camped at a number of points in this area. They paddled down the river just a few yards from our campsite. As I gaze out at the vistas and dramatic terrain of the Gorge, I wonder what they were thinking as they saw these same things.

T
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