Trace Back : Columbia River Gorge, Oregon


Why do we travel? Many writers have tried to answer this question over the years, and this is my take on it. For me travel is an act of acknowledging the diversity and expanse of this beautiful world. We travel to meet people, explore nature, go back in time, taste cuisines, get lost, find ourselves, and to rest our weary soul.

This weekend Agam and I took a three day trip to Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge area. We flew into Portland, rented a car and drove down I-84 E criss-crossing our way across the bridges connecting Oregon and Washington. We had no agenda and no itinerary. We only wanted to relax and enjoy the views down the gorge along the various vista points on the way. Parallel to I-84 E runs Historic Route 30 that goes up and down the hills offering close views of some beautiful waterfalls and panoramic views of the gorge. I recommend that you take this route. It is like one long nature trail. I won’t go into the details of the points of interest. Follow Frommer’s driving route and you won’t be disappointed. Just add a hatchery visit in Washington to the list and you will be all set. Also avoid the restaurant at Multnomah Falls Lodge. I was quite disappointed by it. If you have time on hand, hike to the origin of Multnomah Falls. It is beautiful up there.

There were many moments on this trip when I was reminded of Prague. The whole place has an old world feel to it. There were times when I looked across the river and imagined a lonely yet colorful Kafka-ish house across the Charles bridge. Maybe it was there, maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps that’s also #whywetravel. To imagine.



And so, after a day of leisurely driving, we reached our bed and breakfast which is located in a place called Parkdale in Oregon. This small town is very rural and is situated in the foothills of the picturesque Mt Hood volcano. There are only a couple of places to eat in this town. We tried the Apple Valley BBQ place and loved their homemade BBQ sauce (spicy) based on our inn owner’s recommendation. The place was small and not at all crowded for a Friday night. That surprised us a bit. But the food was good.



Our waitress was really nice and I enjoyed speaking to her. There was a sense of calm about her that reminded me of my small town days. Things are much simpler in small towns. And the pace of life is much slower. Speaking to her made me realize how much I miss that simplicity every day in my big city interactions. People have masks, alternate personalities and different versions of themselves that they carry around. You can never tell whom you are talking to. Everyone is just so busy managing their ‘selves’ that they have no time for each other. (There we go … I also just let my old soul take over). Regardless, the meal was satisfying and the conversations were refreshing.
Next day at breakfast we met a couple who was also staying at the same b&b. A young duo, quite like us. Just a few years younger perhaps. The girl was from a small town 100 miles from Portland that is decaying over time. Her father is a farmer and she is one of those who flee the nest early since they know that there is more to be done and seen than what the small town has to offer. Her experience of living in LA resonated well with me. We shared similar views on a lot of things and I wondered why I don’t find people like her up where I live.

We enjoyed the sumptuous breakfast and drove to the Mosier Twin Tunnels for a hike. It was a moderate hike that offered beautiful views of the gorge. We then drove further east and explored Mayer State Park and then decided to turn back west a little before the exit for the Dalles. We returned to Hood River downtown and enjoyed a stroll along the boutique shops. After building enough appetite we enjoyed a long and savory lunch at Trillium Cafe. I loved this place. Awesome music, food and (again) people. Post lunch we picked up coffee at Doppio Cafe and explored a local bookshop. I was surprised at how the collections of books in the store seemed very female centric to me. We drove back to the b&b along the fruit loop. The orchards were all barren at this time of the year.

It snowed that night and we counted our blessings to have arrived back at the b&b before the mess hit the road. We spent the evening reading and enjoyed seeing the snow fall over the entire ranch. In a few hours I could see no patch of the green grass. We were in a vast field of snow. It continued to snow until the wee hours of the morning and so by the time we woke up there was over 4 inches of snow around us.

Sunday morning we had one more couple at the b&b join us for breakfast. This new couple was in their 60s and were a fascinating duo. The gentleman was a very soft spoken, well mannered and humble man. His wife on the other hand was an outspoken, pragmatic and bold woman. They made a cute pair, I thought. They complemented each other’s stories with quirky remarks and I enjoyed their ‘when it snows in Portland’ stories. I am unable to recall the context, but I will always remember this couple for how proud they were of their daughter’s accomplishments. I just sat there and smiled and wondered if that was how my father talked to people about me. I fought some tears and brought myself back to the conversation. The group gave us some lessons on how to drive in snow and with that Agam and I drove back to Portland on Sunday afternoon.
I love the energy in Portland. It is young and dynamic. The place has good potential. And given its proximity to the Bay area, it is only a matter of time that we will see more tech startups gravitate towards that area due to cheaper real estate and labor. We enjoyed coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters and walked to the Saturday Market (yep they call it Saturday market even on a Sunday). I bought some trinkets and then we grabbed lunch at a nearby Thai place.
Our last attraction was Powell’s Bookshop and we spent over two hours in the alleys of the store. It was like a huge library where everything is on sale. We enjoyed exploring their well categorized sections and eventually got tired of walking around the store. Our flight back home was awesome because of the free beer that Alaska Airlines served. I might just pick them for another trip for this gesture. 

So that was our little getaway trip to Oregon. Short, sweet and refreshing.

We travel for various reasons but for me this trip was all about people. The naive, reflective, smart, honest and wonderful people that we met in the small town of Parkdale,Oregon.



2 thoughts on “Trace Back : Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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