As much as we love an unexpected adventure, we learned long ago that if we want to do anything other than pirate camping over a major holiday weekend here in the Pacific Northwest we need to plan ahead. Months ahead. And yet, we didn’t.
After incredible weather the beginning of May, the month was ending on a very, very wet note with record rainfalls. This, alone, would not normally deter us but this delightful weather, combined with lower than average snow levels, was making our intended destination, the Metolius River in Central Oregon, also super chilly. That, too, wouldn’t have slowed us down, but I also ended up needing oral surgery a couple of days prior to the weekend and truly was just not feeling it. Rain, okay. Snow and cold, okay. Both combined with the addition of Vicodin slowed me down enough to question going anywhere at all! The dogs, lazy with the bad weather, seemed perfectly content to hang out on the couch for the weekend.
Luckily, my better half, was primed and ready to go. I hesitantly agreed to give it until Saturday morning to make the final decision and am glad I succumbed. We headed for the Columbia Gorge, with the grand idea that heading East might lesson the rainfall and figured hell, at least if we did get dumped on this is surely one of the most beautiful drives in the state. The Columbia Gorge runs over 80 miles, marking the border West to East between Oregon and Washington and is the only navigable route through the cascades.
The gorge is incredibly diverse, going from 4000ft to sea level with annual precipitation from 100 inches to a mere 10 inches. Ranging from temperate rain forest in the West to dry Eastern grasslands between Hood River and The Dalles, the Columbia Gorge Highway moves from one micro-climate to the next, and each turn in the bend features new views. With the Columbia River on one side and waterfall studded soaring rocky cliffs on the other, it can be hard to keep your eyes on road.
We remembered a campground near Stevenson, Washington that we’d driven past a couple of years ago en-route to the Gifford Pincot National Forest and on a whim, Jim sent off an email seeing if they had any sites available. We figured if we were going to get wet, it might as well be with a view! As luck would have it, the Skamania Coves RV Park had a cancellation and we secured a spot.
Now, this is not our normal type of campground. A line up of huge RV’s, fancy bathrooms, and manicured lawns, all at a premium price, aren’t really our style. But in this case, the view took precedence over all else. Our site had a delightful view of the river, complete with our own private deck for sunset viewing. NOT that this was the weekend for spectacular sunsets but hey, I’ll take what I can get!
The next two days were filled with embracing the beauty of the region we are live in. Even as we long to be on the road, to experience new cultures, we enthusiastically love the Pacific Northwest. Gazing out over the dramatic landscape of the region, we have renewed admiration for the hardy people who settled this region. Of the explorers such as Lewis and Clark who, in 1805 used this route to reach the Pacific, of early settlers who developed steamboat and railroad lines and later created the first major paved highway in this part of the country. I don’t know, for sure, if once we leave for the Pan Am, whether or not Oregon will ever again be our home,but I do know this place will forever hold a place in our souls.
We did have rain, but we also had a lot of sun. Long stretches of glorious weather were interrupted only briefly by showers, giving us plenty of time to play in the water at one of several serene coves, read, talk, and simply sit on our deck watching the day go by on the river. Aspen got lots of time to do her two favorite things in the world; swim and fetch, and Porter even joined in the fun for a bit, in spite of not being much of a water dog.
Sunday morning rang in clear, with truly jaw dropping, awe inspiring views over the water. As we drank our coffee and watched the mist swirl around the hills, the dogs played on the beach, and Jim and I plotted and planned our next camping adventure.
Life was good.