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Driving along the Columbia River Gorge Route toward Portland…

Posted by on May 9, 2014

MAY 9, 2014.

signDRIVING WEST ON INTERSTATE 84. Today’s drive took us farther along Interstate 84 traveling West toward Portland, which is our next camping spot. The weather was dramatic…bright sun followed by driving rain, hail and very high winds…enough to keep me focused on the road! The trip along this route, however, is absolutely beautiful and I would travel it again and again. There is so much to see and there are so many little towns to visit along the way: Baker City, Rufus, The Dallas and many more.


We stopped for the night near Rufus, Oregon. The wind and rain prevented us from driving in to Portland.

THE COLUMBIA RIVER. Our trip today took us along the mighty Columbia River, the largest in the Pacific Northwest. It forms most of the border between Oregon and Washington. It is a major shipping channel for large container and grain ships traveling to Portland and Vancouver. Dams along the length of the River have submerged the rapids beneath a series of reservoirs. An extensive system of locks allows ships and barge to pass easily from one reservoir to the next. A navigation channel reaching from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Lewiston, Idaho along the Columbia and Snake rivers allows barges to remove wheat for export. More than 40 percent of all US wheat exports are barged on the Columbia River.


Freight trains run along the Columbia River Gorge all day and night. If I drove a train for a living.  I’d want this route!

Where the River meets the ocean, a section of the river called the Columbia Bar,  strong currents and shifting sandbars make it difficult and dangerous to pass between the river and the Pacific Ocean. To this day, River Pilots are required to bring the ships in and out of the mouth of the River. Even with modern engineering and dredging techniques, these skilled boat captains must be employed to guide the ships and allow the river to be used for commercial transport purposes. Years ago I represented a Port Pilot in San Diego…he was highly skilled and a busy man bringing ships in and out of San Diego Harbor. He was paid well. When he was aboard, he was the Captain and called all the shots. Same deal here on the River.

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD. Also running along the shore of the Columbia River is a long stretch of east – west Union Pacific mainline railroad track. It starts in Portland and heads east towards Troutdale, where it enters the Gorge. It passes through the gorge on the Oregon side, serving cities such as Hood River, The Dalles, Boardman and Hermiston. In the Hermiston area, the line branches; with one line heading northeast to Spokane, Washington…the other heading southeast roughly parallel to the old Oregon Trail and modern-day Interstate 84. This latter branch is the one that clings to the River and I 84. If I drove a train for a living, I’d want this to be my route!

WILD WEATHER…I LOVE IT. Rain, wind and darkness finally forced us to stop for the day before reaching Portland. That’s more than OK…we’re a little roadside rest stop in Koberg Beach and it’s nicer than many state parks where we’ve paid to stay! It’s a passenger vehicle only rest stop…barely large enough for us to fit, and so there are no noisy idling big rigs and there is virtually no in and out traffic as bedtime approaches. Right now there are only two cars and one cab-over pick up truck. I’m happy here for the night: I like Oregon, I like rain and trains and I like the River!


Darkness falls over the Columbia River. May, 2014.

OUR FRIENDS STAN AND THERESE: Circumstances have forced us to change our plans to visit Stan and Therese in Cavitt Creek near Roseburg. We are terribly disappointed, as we were very much looking forward to spending some time with them before we set out across the country and the east coast. They are really nice folks and we’ve become good friends. Sounds like they’re going to be at Cavitt Creek indefinitely, so hopefully we can get there to see them someday soon. The spot looks gorgeous! Whether it’s there or somewhere else, though, we will meet up with them again. We’ve had lots of laughs, good food and fun times!  Some thought provoking discussions, as well. Memories. More will be made. “See you guys soon.”

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