Easy day trip: Oneonta Gorge

Having spent my childhood in the great plains of the Midwest, my world was flat. Flat cornfields, flat roads, flat everything made distant rolling hills and far off craggy mountaintops all the more majestic. There was something magical and mysterious about them; they were out of reach. To this day, I am still captivated by landscape that is not perfectly horizontal.

Midwesterner or not, the Oneonta Gorge is a delight for thrill seekers of all ages. A tall, narrow ravine only accessible by climbing slippery logjams and plunging chest deep into icy water, this gorge is a riveting experience. And just 40 minutes outside of Portland, it is well worth the drive for those wishing to actively participate in a slice of Oregon magic.

So, how do we get there? It’s actually quite straightforward and for those of you that have been out on the scenic route 30 have probably passed right by it. Just east of Multnomah Falls, there are signs for the Oneonta Gorge Trail. Go ahead and park in that designated area. To follow the trail, there is a bridge leading into a tunnel. But rather than go through the tunnel, you’ll want to take the overgrown stairs just before the bridge in the southwest corner.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

This is where our adventure began. These steps led us down to the bottom of the ravine, rather than the marked trail. Initially, the trickle of water is not even ankle-deep and easily avoidable by the wide riverbanks. We walked along the bank until we got to this:

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Yep. It’s a huge logjam with dozens of enormous, slick trees. It doesn’t look that treacherous, but trust. It’s taller and wider than it lseems. Climbing across it is somewhat dangerous. I mean, this area is unmaintained and there are no handrails. But we did see small nimble children, fit older folks, and even brave dogs making their way across. Know your own limits. It is NOT safe.

being a nerd.

being a nerd on top of the log jam

Once we successfully crossed, we understood the reason why so many people do it. Ahead of us was a deep cut in the mountains that looked like they were split apart with a jagged knife. Walking through it, we stared up in amazement.  It was otherworldly. We were not be the only ones murmuring, this is awesome. It is awesome. It invokes awe.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

As we walked along, we realized our legs were tingling. Looking down, we saw that the earth dipped and the water slowly crept up and was hugging our calves. And the riverbanks had disappeared. The water was so clear we could barely tell. But, not wanting to be wimps, we forged on. (You can’t forge a river though.) Surprisingly, our legs numbed got used to it quickly.

The water receded just as fast as it rose, and we thought we were out of the danger zone. That wasn’t so bad! But a few steps ahead then the ground sank again. The stones on which we were walking kept dipping lower, and lower and lower beneath the surface of the water. This time, it wasn’t just to our knees. The water was now chest deep. And ice cold. Since we knew there was more ahead, we kept going, the cool water wrapping around our skin like a snake with a deathlike grip. It. Was. Freezing. But after a few minutes of torture, we were released and back on dry land.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

deep!

Walking a few more paces into the canyon, we came to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Before us was a massive waterfall. We reached the end! After a few obligatory jumping photos, we traversed back out.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

That entire adventure took us about 90 minutes. Well worth the drive from Portland to visit this natural treasure.

xxx

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Day Trip: Mount St. Helens

Dad and I took yet another day trip (see Astoria and the Gorge; our others) up to Washington, hoping for a glimpse of Mount St. Helens, an active volcano that famously erupted back in 1980. As we approached the visitor center, we had high hopes. Once inside, we learned that several roads were still closed due to snow. Snow? What snow? It was completely melted up to that point. We drove in as far as we could, passing snow piled up as tall as the car (oh), stopped in the middle of the road, and waited, thinking that the clouds would part to get a good look at her flat-top.

No such luck. As you’ll see in the pictures, we only got a slice of the pie this time. Ironically, the entire following week was so clear that we could see St. Helens every single day all the way from Portland. Looks like Dad has to come back again.

Mount St. Helens, WA

Visitor Center. Mount St. Helens, WA

Mount St. Helens, WA

Pretty scenery. Mount St. Helens, WA

Mount St. Helens, WA

Abnormally large clovers. Mount St. Helens, WA

Mount St. Helens, WA

Snow as tall as the car. Mount St. Helens, WA

Mount St. Helens, WA

There she (sorta) is. On the right, you can see the slope. Mount St. Helens, WA

Mount St. Helens, WA

A better look in the crater. Mount St. Helens, WA

Mount St. Helens, WA

Winter Wonderland. Mount St. Helens, WA

Verdict? It’s worth a shot. Even though we didn’t see the full monty, there was something special about my Dad and I leaning on the hood of my car, in silence, watching the clouds. You don’t get those moments very often. That was a good one. I won’t forget it.

xxx

Day Trip: Astoria

The radio silence around here wasn’t for nothing. We’ve been busy getting our house together and continuing to explore the Pacific Northwest with alarming zeal. Seriously. Things are super busy around here. In a good way.

And my dad recently visited! He was our first guest in our new old house and that alone made it special. But we also toured all around the NW so he (and myself, let’s be honest) could learn more about this region that I now call home. Guess what? It’s awesome! Our first day trip was to Astoria, home of my generation’s classic The Goonies movie, the devastating Columbia River Bar (aka: the graveyard of ships) and some really great breweries. Since the weather was a little crummy, we spent the entire morning in the Columbia River Maritime Museum learning about the dangerous Bar, which was fascinating. The water looked so peaceful, but somehow that area has amassed over 2,000 shipwrecks and many, many deaths. After finding this out, both surprised and unnerved, we drove up to Washington to visit the state park where two historic lighthouses protect this barbaric coast.

Goonies House, Astoria

Goonies House, Astoria

Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria

Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria

Fort George, Astoria

Fort George Brewery, Astoria

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Columbia River Bar

Columbia River Bar

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

If you’re coming to Oregon – check out Astoria! Beautiful place with such interesting history.

And just for fun:

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Olympic National Park

Pacific Northwest

The only other time that I spent in the Pacific Northwest before our move was back in 2009. We took ten days to drive all around Washington state, ferried over to the San Juan Islands and even scooted up to Canada for a few nights.

One of my favorite experiences was hiking in the Olympic National Park. The glacial rivers, the mountains, the pine trees… It all created such a gorgeous, peaceful scene. I love this photo. Look at me, I’m like Pioneer Woman.

xxx