Tag Archives: Photo Challenge

Impressive natural and manmade wonders abound along Columbia River Gorge

There’s something I keep forgetting to tell you, my faithful readers.

Wait, let me think a minute.

Rodins The Thinker

The Maryhill Museum of Art, on the north bank of the Columbia River in Washington state, features an entire room of works by Auguste Rodin, including his “The Thinker.”

Oh, yes, this is it: Don’t miss seeing the Columbia River Gorge marking the border between Washington state and Oregon. While it may not be on list of the Seven Wonders of the World, it is worth a visit.

My Beloved and I traveled through the area in May, and we were awed with the natural beauty in many of the same ways other visitors have been. I remember descriptions of the place in Stephen E. Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and, more recently, in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Columbia River 2

When we visited, we stayed in the wooded and shady KOA Kampground in Cascade Locks, Oregon, which gave us nearby access to the Bridge of the Gods. The river crossing gets its name from an American Indian legend describing the strange and fantastic geologic changes wrought by the Earth’s moving tectonic plates.

Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods

The manmade version of the Bridge of the Gods was built in 1920, one of only 17 Columbia River Crossings along almost 300 miles of river in Oregon. At this point, the Columbia is wider and more ominous than say, anywhere along the Mississippi north of the Twin Cities.

It’s also quite lovely and astounding, surrounded as it is by the Cascade Mountain Range. The roadways on the both the south and north sides hug the river for the most part making for spectacular views as one drives along.

Further west, the river passes through treeless plains. “The face of the Countrey on both Side of the river above and about the falls,” wrote Meriwether Lewis in his journal, “is Steep ruged and rockey open and contain but a Small preportion of herbage, no timber a fiew bushes excepted.” Different, but no less beautiful.

Here, we visited the aforementioned Maryhill Museum of Art, a formidable architectural structure originally built as a mansion by Samuel Hill on the Washington bluff at the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. Besides the impressive works of sculptor Auguste Rodin, I was fascinated by the gallery of international chess sets on display in the basement. Every piece was a tiny objet d’art created by artists from around the world.

Maryhill Museum of Art

You can see the Maryhill Museum of Art on the left, overlooking the river and, in the foreground, acres of grape vines.

While we were there, my Beloved spent one day fishing for salmon in the Columbia River, and he landed a whopper, on which we are still dining, thanks to the wonders of the modern freezer in our RV.

Add a visit to the Columbia River Gorge to your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

A lake that literally takes your breath away

Just about nothing beats the national parks system for America’s travelers when it comes to showing off nature’s one-of-a-kind sights.

Like the country’s deepest lake, for example. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake in southern Oregon is the world’s deepest volcanic lake. Replenished only by rain and snow, Crater Lake is widely considered to be the cleanest, clearest large body of water in the world.

When one travels around the American West as I have the past few months, I can’t help but appreciate this country’s national parks (I’ve written about my appreciation for the interstate highway system in the past, too). Yellowstone National Park was established as the nation’s first national park in 1872, and the National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The system includes 417 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. More than 330 million people visited national park areas last year.

Crater Lake, resting inside a caldera formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano collapsed, was established as a national park in 1902 and has been protected from lakefront developers who might sully its rugged shores.

crater lake best

When my Beloved and I got to witness it earlier this week on a calm, sunny day, it was the bluest reflecting pool I’ve ever seen. Those white streaks in the water? Those are the reverse images of the wispy contrails in the sky. The peak on the left is Wizard Island, a cinder cone created by the volcano.

The surrounding caldera is at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet and therefore chilly; we had to climb a 20-foot snow bank in order to catch a glimpse of the lake (after a 90-minute drive through winding roads–it’s as remote as it is stunning). Forty-six feet of snow fell at Crater Lake this year. Road crews use rotary plows equipped with fans that can shoot snow 75 to 80 feet in the air, but Rim Drive (the road circling the lake) remains blocked at this time of year.

I can only imagine how beautiful the lake must be in August.

Welcome signs

welcome-sign.jpg

You know you’re in for it when the rules aren’t just “Rules,” they’re “Policies, Rules and Regulations.”

And they fill an entire page. In 8-point type. When I made my reservations, I thought I was visiting a campground. But after reading the Policies, Rules and Regulations, I’m thinking this is a wild, wild world; unsavory characters with Danger! in their eyes lurk around every corner (and, quite possibly, in the restrooms, showers and laundry).

Some rules are obvious and reasonable:

No gray or black water to be dumped on the ground.

Fires of moderate size are permitted in fire rings.

No dogs in restrooms or showers.

Some rules are less obvious and less reasonable. But OK. We’re guests, not owners.

Do not use BBQs on tables.

Do not clean fish on your site.

Generators are not allowed.

Some rules are reasonable, but really, do we need to spell it out?

Do not cut or destroy trees or shrubs, under penalty of prosecution.

Prosecution?! Put the hatchet away. Eek.

Do not toss cigarette butts on grounds.

Emphasized in red type.

Smokers are such pigs.

Some rules are strange.

No wetsuits in shower rooms or restrooms. No wetsuits in washers or dryers. Report any irregularities immediately.

See what I mean about unsavory characters? I guess scuba divers are pigs, too.

Some rules are In. Tense.

DO NOT WALK DOGS ON EMPTY SITES.

This rule is in red. Bold. Underlined. ALL CAPS.

They’re not kidding.

Some rules are just plain mean.

No bicycle riding here.

Ohhhhkaaaaaay.

Do not check in early. Do not check out late.

And if you check in late, you’re in for a world of hurt. Late arrivals will be tracked down by 9 a.m. and burned at the stake.

Magnolia Pearl was a jewel more like diamond in the rough

magnolia-peal-side

When something you see on the side of the road causes you to turn around and double back, you know it must be something special.

magnolia-pearl-frontMagnolia Pearl was one of those surprising delights on the road taken recently. This magnificent building is new, believe it or not, built entirely from reclaimed wood. It’s the flagship store for Magnolia Pearl, a women’s clothing line I would described as distressed, wrinkled and ruffly (it’s not cheap either; T-shirts start at $95). While the clothing was not my cup of tea, the building was amazing and aptly mirrored the designer’s aesthetic.

Described on its website, the “old German grain barn-style building” reflects the architecture of nearby Fredericksburg, a quaint German nestled in the rolling hills of Texas wine country.

magnolia-pearl-office

Even the office looked inviting. The interior was decorated with a fantastic mix of sleek industrial and beat-up antique pieces.

When you walk inside, you’re surprised by the openness and light. It’s built exactly like a house might be (if you ever built a barn to live in). There’s a kitchen, and the bathrooms all have bathtubs.”Among our store’s grand architecture is a hand-crank platform elevator that was used in the late 1800s in an old cotton mill,” the website says. Looked like work to raise, but that elevator was a beautiful addition to the environment, not an eyesore. I saw a recently engaged couple getting their picture taken on the stairway, it was that picturesque.

The old oaks surrounding the building encouraged the illusion that it had been there forever. Magic had been worked there.

magnolia-pearl-back

Airy porches filled three sides of the building; this is the back.

Magnolia Pearl is absolutely worth a stop if ever you find yourself on Highway 290, east of Fredericksburg, Texas, and you’re looking for a new frock or some architectural inspiration.