On our way out of Hood River, we stopped at the Oneonta Gorge to do the famed Lower Oneonta Creek hike. We spent the first five hundred feet painstakingly avoiding walking in the water despite the frigid truth we knew to be true. We came to the spot that makes this hike (in)famous at about ten AM. Direct sunlight had yet to find its way around the steep canyon walls. We held backpacks and jackets above our heads and marched onward, cold water first numbing our toes then quads, before reaching the areas that made it oh-so-hard to continue. The right-of-passage was over quickly, as the whole wade only spanned about fifteen feet. The high water line on our bodies indicated its maximum depth at chest height, all exposed skin was red and goose bumped. We rounded the final bend and a shaft of warm golden sunlight enveloped our shivering bodies just as the falls came into view. Life is good!
The day before we had ridden out and back on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail from just outside of Hood River to the small town of Mosier. The thirteen mile round-trip includes about 1000′ of elevation gain mitigated by dramatic views of the Columbia River, and passes through a pair of nicely rehabilitated tunnels. Shrill whistles echo off the steep lush slopes as trains pass a thousand feet below carrying goods toward ports to be shipped around the globe. The most pleasant surprise may be the trail itself. Once the main east-west transportation route through the Columbia River Gorge, the highway was eventually replaced by one that was wider and more direct. The four miles section from Hood River to Mosier was abandoned and the Mosier Twin Tunnels were filled with rock until the late 1980’s when they were unearthed and restored for the enjoyment of walkers and cyclists.
Later that afternoon we met up with our friends Zak and Jane and decided to go for a quick hike before dinner. Just fifteen miles out of Hood River, the Starvation Ridge Trail shoots up 700′ of elevation in the first three quarters of a mile to offer incredible wildflower encroached views of the Columbia River. The trail then descends just as rapidly through lush fern thickets and across three creeks. The last half-mile features three equally stunning moss-lined waterfalls, as water throws itself from dizzying heights to join the mighty Columbia.