In the Cascades

On Wednesday past Russell, our host Katie, and her big dog Beijou, drove up the Columbia River Gorge to visit the hometown of Michael Med-o, a place called White Salmon that I’ve been hearing about for 25 years. Finally I have some visuals to associate with his memories and stories of his youth. And for a break from Portland and the Carfree Cities Conference, it was perfect.

It’s very beautiful there, the town of Mt. Hood on the Oregon side of the river and White Salmon on the hilltop on the Washington State side. There is also the White Salmon River pouring in nearby. Michael explained how the economy had crashed a couple of decades ago when the timber industry went into terminal decline, and for five years the area had 30%+ unemployment and folks were leaving in droves. Then the windsurfing phenomenon took off and this spot became of the world’s premiere destinations for windsurfers and parasailers… Now it’s the backbone of the local economy, and it’s all thanks to the relentless wind pouring upriver, countering the river itself rushing westward, leading to a unique area of crazy currents and powerful winds nearly all year long.

Michael took us to see the local elementary school named after his dad, we went by his various job sites as a teenager, and then we went up the White Salmon river to find his old highschool stoner hangout on a bridge. When we got there, we found the path had turned into a muddy creek, and the bridge itself had been destroyed by a fire some time earlier. Here’s the ruins of it:

We continued up the river towards Mt. Adams and the Trout Lake valley and found this intact bridge to watch the White Salmon River rush beneath us (and oddly, a Federal Express delivery man and his van, weirdly putting large sticks into the back and then hanging out waiting for us to leave… did he have a dead body to deliver?)….

In Trout Lake Valley we passed a big herb farm growing echinacea and various teas, under the beautiful Mount Adams:

We paused for lunch, and enjoyed the clear mountain air, the thousands of blooming wildflowers along the way, and the spectacular snow-capped mountains dominating the area. Here’s Mt. Adams up close:

It was reminiscent for me of travelling in the Rockies, the Sierra, even a bit of the Alps, but finally we were in the Cascades, in a long valley carved between large volcanic mountains by the enormous Columbia River and its tributaries. On the southern end of this same area is Mt. Hood, viewed here from the porch on Michael’s mother’s house, and then the view up the Gorge from the same spot:

And finally, here’s Mt. Hood in its glory:

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