Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Columbia River Gorge

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Of course it was only a matter of time before I put this amazing national scenic area on my Most Beautiful Places on Earth list.  In order to make this list my travel buddy has to drag me away screaming and kicking.  Well, he didn't have to do that this time because I LIVE HERE.

 I still wake up every morning, look out the window and gasp.  I can't imagine ever getting tired of the views.  I've seen the river, the canyon walls, the trees, and the wildlife in the spring, summer, winter and fall.  I've hiked to waterfalls and climbed to the top of peaks.  In blistering heat and in snowstorms.  Each season brings its unique appeal.

  The gorge borders the Columbia River for roughly 80 miles from The Dalles to the outskirts of Portland. Thick temperate forests mark the western end; dry grassy plateaus mark the east and a never-ending network of trails criss-cross the entire region.

There are waterfalls galore and I've only been to a fraction of them.  It's a hiker's paradise.  And, of course, the Columbia River is a huge draw for kiters and windsurfers.  The little town of Hood River swells in the summer with people coming from all over the world to ride the wind.

Its geologic origins go back millions of years when massive rivers of lava flowed through the area, but it was the icy floods from the last Ice Age that carved up the steep basalt cliffs, resulting in the dramatic landscape we see today.  

I love watching the paddlewheelers sailing down the river.  The bald eagles soaring above me.  The rainbows.  The sunsets. The salmon runs.  The Bridge of the Gods.  I love how happy people are here.  "The gorge is my gym," is a common expression.  Just last week I ran into an elderly man with his portable oxygen tank and walking stick, on an isolated trail high above the river.  I was stunned.  He told me he was from Virginia and had always wanted to see this place.  He had me take his picture.  "I can't wait to show my friends back home," he said.  "They're not going to believe it." 

It was then and there I decided to put the Columbia River Gorge on my list.  It is truly a bucket list destination.  It is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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