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.
What are you going to do when you’re in Seattle with a few days before you head out on a cruise or return home after sailing to Alaska? This is a common question for many and fortunately has several answers depending on your budget and personal preferences. There are many options close to Seattle and there are other exciting options just across the state border in Oregon. Follow the hyperlinks within the discussion below for detailed information as you plan your visit and when you find your way around the Northwest.
If a waterfall is what you’re looking for, it’s an hour or less drive out of Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls. Don’t miss Pike Place Market if you’re in the downtown area. The first Starbucks is just across the street. You’ll find numerous shops with unique and hard to find items, plus you might be lucky enough to see a fish fly above the crowd. If you like planes or cars, plan a visit to the Museum of Flight just south of downtown or the Car Museum in Takoma which is just a little further south of town.
Travel into the Cascade Mountain Range to see Mount Rainier or Mount St. Helens. Mt. Rainier is seen from Seattle and can be reached in only a couple of hours. I recommend the Ashford, WA entrance which leads to the Paradise section of the park where you’ll find outstanding views and fresh air. If you have more time to travel out of Seattle, you’ll want to visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt. St. Helens. Yes, it’s still active but taking a rest for now. The latest report (Spring 2014) is that a mass of molten material is growing beneath the mountain. The eruption of 1980 is an incredible story and one worth checking out in person. Check out my previous post on Mount St. Helens for some photos.
If you want to experience the Pacific Coast, head over to Ruby Beach in the Olympic National Park. It’s over a 3 hour drive through Olympia, WA. Lodging in the park is extremely costly or unavailable. In about the same amount of time you can get to Astoria, Oregon which is filled with history and beauty, if it’s not foggy. Just south of Astoria is the incredible North Oregon Coast. On a clear day the coast with its rocks, sea lions, and huge crashing white waves are an amazing sight. One of my favorite locations is Ecola State Park located just north of Cannon Beach famous for its haystack rock.
The Cascade Mountains and the Northwest coast are truly spectacular, but equally in grandeur is the Columbia River Gorge. Start out in Vancouver, Washington, at the actual location of Fort Vancouver established before the Northwest was part of the United States. Next swing around to I-84 via I-205 and venture east. The Vista House at Crown Point should be your first stop. Then stay on the scenic path and stop at all the waterfalls. Multnomah Falls is the most popular and offers food, information, and restrooms. One option is to get back on I-84 and cross over to Washington State at Cascade Locks. Be sure to stop at the base of the bridge in Cascade Locks ( Bridge of The Gods) to look at the river and get some pictures of the bridge. When you cross over, you can check out the city of Stevenson just to the east about five minutes, or you can head back toward Vancouver. See my previous post on Stevenson for more on the city. On your way back to Vancouver you’ll see Beacon Rock State Park. This is interesting from an historical and geological point of view. The rock is actually the core of a volcano that was referenced by Lewis and Clark. You can climb to the top and get some incredible views of the area. Continuing east you’ll come to the city of Washougal where you’ll see the Pendleton Woolen Mill along Hwy 14. Stop here if you want a tour of the mill or want to purchase some merchandise from the most famous maker of wool blankets.
If you have even more time to explore the Columbia River Gorge, don’t turn off at Cascade Locks and keep traveling east toward Hood River. The little town of Hood River is well known for its apples, cherries, berries, and other fruit crops that are available beginning in June. You’ll see the flyers for the Hood River Fruit Loop at all the information stations in the Gorge. Continuing east will bring you to The Dalles, Oregon. Stop at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center to learn about the Columbia River and Native Americans that lived off the river until the politicians demanded electricity for every American. This farther end of the gorge is unlike the area around Multnomah Falls. Here in The Dalles you’ll find more arid conditions that add to the experience.
Regardless of the path you choose when you set foot out of Seattle you won’t be disappointed. Just be sure to check for alerts on the web sites of where you’re headed. Summer is also known as road construction time so check the ODOT and WSDOT sites before you get on the road. Enjoy your time with nature in the Northwest and remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints.
Whether you’re on the road or at home, packing a picnic lunch can be easy. Ask my wife what she wants to do on a nice day and she’ll say, “Let’s have a picnic!” My first response is a period of quiet as I have visions of a slice of lunch meat and a piece of cheese between two pieces of dry bread. It’s nothing that encourages me to start packing the car.
I asked my wife what she wanted to do for Mother’s Day this year, and yes, you guessed it, she wanted to go on a picnic. Fortunately I’m a strategic thinker and was determined to make this enjoyable for my wife and the whole family. As I wandered through Fred Meyer I eventually passed by the deli and that’s when it came to me, “I’ll just get several salads and put them in an ice chest.” My wife was so pleased and we all enjoyed it so much we wanted to do it again.
Now, when my wife says picnic, we just head for the deli and load up. My perfect picnic consists of potato salad, coleslaw, pea salad, broccoli salad, chicken salad, cut fruit like cantaloupe or watermelon, and pita bread or crackers. The best of it all is that you can buy however much you want from the deli of your local grocery store. You get to pick whatever salads you want, they put them into sealed containers, and all you have to do is put them into an ice chest. Buy it the night before to get a head start. Just pack utensils, plates, and napkins along with your drinks and you’re ready to travel.
If you’re packing a picnic to save money or just to have fun, it’s easy and makes life so much easier when you’re on the road. Of course you can make you own salads and actually we like to make our own tomato and cheese salad with our homegrown tomatoes. Find the good in your day and have a picnic when you do it.