Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hood River

We've moved into Central Oregon, spending five nights at Hood River. Really, we are in White Salmon, Washington, at the Bridge RV Park, just across the Columbia from Hood River. This is a great place, spacious sites, green lawns, wonderfully clean and new restrooms, quiet—except for the railroad track about 100 feet south and down the hill. It is very busy, but John loves watching the freight and Amtrak trains go by and it doesn't wake us up at night.

Two things stand out about Hood River. There is a lot of wind on the Columbia River and many people come here to wind surf and kite board. Others enjoy bike riding. It seems the majority of cars have these surf boards on the roof or bike racks, like this one on our truck.

Monday morning we biked for 9 miles on the Old Columbia River Road Trail, through the Mosier Twin Tunnels. The trail is along the original narrow auto road along the river. We had a great ride. As we looked out a viewpoint in the middle of the tunnels, we were told this island is called Chicken Charlie's Island. Apparently, Tom Sellak once thought of buying the island, but realized anyone who wished could boat to his island and come for a visit. He decided not to make the purchase.

As we left the trailhead parking lot, we saw a young man carrying his bike. We stopped to see if he wanted a lift down the hill. He was grateful and on the way down to a lower parking lot said he was in Hood River as part of the national wind surfing team. When not training for that, he practices for cyclecross racing—a type of cycling that combines road and mountain biking, with light bikes featuring slightly knobby tires that grip the dirt. In that sport, participants mountain bike, then dismount and carry their bikes over and around obstacles.

Sweet cherries are among the many fruits grown in this part of the country. Both Washington and Oregon are dotted with orchards. The cherry harvest is in full swing, so we visited a local fruit farm to pick up a quart. This wagon, pulled by a vegetative horse, decorated their sales area.

Along the road and next to the railroad tracks we see huge stacks of fruit crates. These are labeled "Del Monte." Maybe you will eat some of the fruit grown here in the coming months.

As we prepared to cross the Columbia to return to our RV park, we pulled off to watch sail boarding and kite boarding. The sail boards are colorful and really zipped back and forth on the river. It was impressive to see people flying the kites in the (to us) high winds, preparing to hop on their surf board and be pulled across the water and, at times, up into the air. It really looked like fun—if I were 30 or 40 years younger. However, we were told the boards cost about $600 each, the kites around $1,000, and you need three kites to use in different kinds of wind. Not a sport for penny-pinching 20-somethings.

On our way to Hood River from Gnat Creek, we visited the Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Center at Bonneville Dam. The dam was the first major dam on the Columbia River. Probably the most interesting feature is the fish ladder, where fish can swim upriver without being shredded in the power plant's turbines.

This window is where fish counters sit day and night, counting how many of what kinds of fish use the ladder. They have been counting the fish since 938 and the 20-year average is 619,867 Chinook Salmon, 323,817 Steelhead Trout, 60,188 Sockeye Salmon, 94,180 Coho Salmon, 2,846,882 Shad, and 47,024 Lamprey. I can't imagine sitting and staring at the window for even an hour. I don't know how many hours a counter works each day.

Getting to and from the visitor center in an RV can be exciting. The narrow roadway curves next to the building and really raises the driver's heart rate as vehicles go the opposite direction.

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