The Columbia River forms the natural border between Oregon and the state of Washington. About eighty miles of this border just east of Portland is the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. It's a dream location for those who love the outdoors. Special wind conditions attract wind and kite sailors who zip back and forth across the water. And more usual outdoor sports like hiking, mountain biking, sailing and fishing are popular, too. We've traveled through the gorge once before when we were still working and always in a hurry. We did not do it justice. It's spectacular scenery was so memorable that we resolved to return, although it took us almost forty years to do so. And then it almost didn't happen. A teen-ager threw some fireworks into the gorge and massive forest fires have been burning here since Labor Day.
But we are fortunate to have a loyal RVNavigator podcast listener who lives here and has kept tabs on us as we traveled west. Recently she gave us the green light to come. Three days of hard rains had pretty much doused the fires and she assured us that there was still much beauty left to see. Today she and a friend took us on an all day tour of the area, east of the burn zone. And she was right about the beauty. We drove up the flanks of Mt. Hood, a snow topped volcano. It's covered with glaciers and can be seen from many miles away. The drive is called the Fruit Loop, because so many family-owned orchards raise apples, pears, cherries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries in the rich volcanic soil are located there. Small vineyards invite you to stop by for a taste. We also stopped at an alpaca farm and luxuriated in the soft, warm wool for sale. A bucolic area.
The river corridor is a major transportation center. We drove on I-84 on the western side next to very busy freight train tracks. On the Washington side there is another set of tracks and a two-lane road. The Columbia River is so wide, there are few places to cross. In the 1920's the first highway was built on the Oregon side and some parts of this old road are still visible and viable. We took a short walk on a closed section of the highway to two tunnels which were built for the original road. Rockfalls closed the tunnels regularly so in 1954 a new road was built and the tunnels abandoned. Today we took a short walk with our local guides on the old highway to one of the tunnels which has been restored for tourist use.