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June, 2008


On June 15, 2008, Doug Paulson, Lois Horowitz, Merle and Susan Vogel, Steve Gebler, Ken King, Jeff Gianformaggio, Gail Markiewicz, Joan Wayman, Walter Schmitt, and Fern Kissel met in Portland for a summer tour of the Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon Coast. Jeff volunteered the use of his van for a SAG and Susan was our SAG driver since she had broken her thumb and could not ride!

Our first day of riding took us east where we picked up the Historic Columbia River Highway at the little town of Corbett and started our ride along the Columbia River Gorge. There are few words to describe what we saw along the gorge - more waterfalls than we could count, lush greenery everywhere and spectacular view points that gave you a sense of the size and beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. Although the entire highway is gorgeous, a few highlights were the Upper Multnomah Falls, at 600' high, and the Vista House, which was built in 1918 on Crown Point Summit by Samuel Lancaster as "an ideal site for an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite". Our first night we stayed at the Hood River Hotel, a 100 year old hotel in the town of Hood River, which is a very old, cute little resort town that caters to windsurfers.

As we left Hood River we rode into the Hood River Valley on our way to our next destination of Sandy and had spectacular views of Mt. Hood, the highest point in Oregon at 11,249', behind us and Mt. St. Helens in front of us. We picked up the Springwater Corridor, a wonderful 17 mile rails-to-trails path, which took us back into Portland. The last time that Susan, Jeff, Ken & I were on this path we gorged on the blackberries that cover both sides of the road. This year, we were a bit too early to enjoy the fruit! We then continued to follow the Columbia River to our next night's stay in St. Helen's. When we left St. Helen's, we rode over the Coastal Range on our way to Astoria, port town at the mouth of the Columbia River, where we were looking forward to a well-deserved layover day.

It seems each day's ride was even more spectacular then the day before with respect to the scenery. In Astoria, we stayed at the Hotel Elliott, another 100 year old hotel with all of its original woodwork and fixtures and bathrooms with heated floors!

After a well-deserved rest day, we rode out of Astoria and down the coast to Tillamook, where they make the famous Tillamook cheese. At this point in the tour, I had lost count of the number of bridges that we crossed and each one was just as ornate the as the one before. The ride to Tillamook took us through more old growth forests with some spectacular views of the Pacific and past some sand dunes at Sand Lake. When we left Tillamook, some of us rode around the 3 Capes area of the Coast, and some took the Pacific Coast Highway down to our next stop in Depoe Bay. The 3 Capes was a beautiful ride through the coastal rain forests and the higher we climbed, the foggier it got and the wetter and colder we got. Except for Merle; he was fine in his shorts and short sleeve jersey!!! But the beauty of these forests is well worth the drizzle and cold! Depoe Bay is a small town which is supposed to have the smallest harbor in the world and where at any given time you can see migrating gray whales. We didn't get lucky enough the day we were there.

We left Depoe Bay the next day on our way to Florence where we were going to have another day off. This day of riding took us through a variety of landscapes and right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Each turn gave us something more beautiful than the next, including more rain forests, lighthouses, huge rock sculptures in the ocean, sea lions, sand dunes and of course more beautiful bridges to cross.

Our hotel in Florence sat right on the Suislaw River and just a few miles from the hotel were the Oregon Dunes, which lie along the coast and have the estuaries of 3 major river valleys connected by 2 long stretches of sand. The 40 miles of dunes are in a park where there are still remnants of an old growth forest and some of the dunes are 500' tall. It truly was an amazing site to see the large sand dunes contrasted against the mountains and blue Pacific! Our hotel was also right at the edge of Old Town Florence so on our day off we explored the town and the dunes.

After Florence, it was time to head inland and back to Portland. We road back over the Coastal Range on an incredibly beautiful route where we followed the Suislaw River for a while and arrived at Junction City for the night. When we left Junction City, we picked up the Willamette Scenic Bikeway and rode through the Willamette River Valley. Everyone was happy that we finally had a fairly flat day of riding on our way to Salem! We also took a ferry which ran back and forth all day long on a cable across a tributary of the river.

Our last day of riding took us from Salem back up to Portland and into the heat wave that Portland had been experiencing. Our route slip told us at Oregon City to turn left onto 6th St., right on Sidewalk and left to the Oregon Elevator. I got more than a few grumbles and several doubtful looks about the route for that day. I would love to have seen everyone's faces as they turned left and realized that they had to take the Oregon Elevator down to the street level of the town! Never doubt your ride leader……. The city had built the municipal elevator back in 1912 to assist people in getting down the 100' foot cliff to the main streets of the city. It even had an elevator operator! We made our way back to Portland and had our final dinner at a great restaurant.

The routes were a little more challenging than I had expected and it's a good thing we had our wonderful SAG driver along, Susan, who took care of us and watched over us! Thank you to everyone that came along on the tour.

Fern Kissel