Beacon Rock, Washington State Park is about an hour out of Portland along the Columbia River heading east on highway 14. This rock received its name from Lewis and Clark in 1805. Hike up the rock for amazing views of the Columbia River or hike down a number of trails like the Hamilton Mountain trail. It’s a great place for a picnic and just taking it easy. Don’t forget to pick up your Discover Pass.
A short drive less than an hour east of Portland, the city of Stevenson, Washington in Skamania County offers the feel of a small Cascade mountain town plus the added wonder and magnificence of the Columbia River Gorge. You’ll find the classic Northwest mountain style Skamania Lodge, an assortment of village shops along the main street, the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Museum, and a riverfront for accessing, picnicking, and enjoying the historic Columbia River. Make a quick escape from the busy cities of Portland and Vancouver by traveling east on Washington State Highway 14, accessible from either I-5 or I-205. This route quickly sets you into the green forested hillsides along the Gorge where you’ll pass Beacon Rock State Park and find several opportunities for framing great photos. Traveling past Stevenson approximately 10 miles further east on Highway 14 at milepost 53 is the popular hiking trail head of Dog Mountain where you’ll find even more outstanding views of the Columbia River Gorge.
One Sunday morning we woke early and set out for Stevenson to enjoy an unusually warm and clear spring day in the Pacific Northwest. Our first stop was 9:00 a.m. Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea where we were greeted, asked for our names, and welcomed to the community. Never before had we received such a welcome when simply entering a church. We knew we were in the right place to start out the day.
The church building of Our Lady Star of the Sea is warm and inviting, designed for plenty of outdoor lighting and with materials fitting for the Northwest. Local stone decorates the sanctuary to give it the mountain community feel and a custom altar and ambo is crafted from local cherry wood. We enjoyed the folk style music and after a proper Mass, we headed for the well-attended coffee and donut social to find more welcoming parishioners.
Our next stop was Rock Cove right across the street from the church where peaceful scenery along a paved trail was just right for Sunday morning. Geese and a stand up paddle-boarder were seen with basalt cliffs and Bridge of the Gods in the background. It was all refreshing and calming. We topped off our walk along the rocky shore of Rock Creek listening to its babbling flow of icy cold water. Next, a short drive to the Stevenson riverfront provided an outstanding view of the Columbia River with kiteboarders and windsurfers in the sun. Stevenson offered a quick trip for a scenic and restful Sunday away from the city. It was one more great experience in the State of Washington.