This is an amateur photographer's account of 2 days stay in the Gorge. The narration is lengthy but that's mostly because I provide photographic tips, dining suggestions and, sometimes, directions.
Driving in from Portland, we find ourselves in front of the "Vista House" at the "Crown Point" at about 5:30 PM. From its surrounding vantage point 733 feet above the Columbia River and overlooking the busy I-84, countless sightseers and photographers have enjoyed a step back in time at one of Oregon’s most inspiring view points. We then make it back to the "Women's Forum" where I set up and wait for the sunset.
After getting some good shots of the sunset, we trace our way back in order to get on the I-84. On the way, we stop at the "Shirley's Tippy Canoe" for dinner. We are warned that we will not be able to finish our meal no matter what we order. It turns out to be very true and we head out of the restaurant with meal boxes in our hands. Dining here is not cheap but I highly recommend this place if you want a fine meal while enjoying the cold air in the patio.
We check in in to the Best Western hotel at Cascade Locks for the next 2 nights.
We hit the road before 6 AM in an attempt to get to the Panorama Point at least 30 minutes before sunrise. Early is always better - you never know how many tripods you may see already set up there if the place is that good. Besides, I always like to keep some wiggle room for wrong turns :)
Unfortunately, the GPS is not very helpful and we start out on the I-84 West, exact opposite to where we should be going. I realize the mistake and turn back from the next exit, which I believe is exit 40. Hoping that there are no cops this early, I press on the gas in order for to make up for the lost time.
Without further incidents, we make it to the Panorama Point in time. I hurriedly set up my tripod and wait for the Mt. Hood peak to turn red.
I get my shots, not as good as I hoped for but not very bad either. There isn't much snow on the mountain this late in the summer and the color is not that prominent. Some post processing should help.
We drive to the city of Hood River where we stop for breakfast at the highly recommended Bette's Place. It seems to be a popular (very?) local diner teeming with people. After having a hefty breakfast we walk around enjoying the cool morning weather.
Next, we start for some shots of the Mt. Hood with the Vineyard ion the foreground. I am referring to a book "Photographing Oregon" by Greg Vaughn which I highly recommend by the way. I drive up and down the OR-35 eyeing for a good location. I don't find many as the trees have grown too tall and are monochromatic green. Some white flowers would have helped but I guess I missed the blossoming season.
Next, we start looking for the "Oak Ridge Trail" supposedly accessible from Smullin Drive. We drive up and down on that road innumerable times, in vain, not able to find the trailhead. Deciding to skip it, we head for the Ranger Station for some advice and direction.
The Ranger tells us that the trailhead is there. However, by that time, we have lost significant time and want to move on to our next destination, the "Top Spur Trail". The Ranger can't find it in his thick binders, calls for help from a lady who seems to be frequenting the area since the dawn of time. She gives us directions to the "Top Spur Trail" and to some diners in Parkdale.
We stop at "Alabama Jim's" in Parkdale for lunch. Very unassuming place, nothing fancy but decent food.
We then continue on for the "Top Spur Trail". The map says that it's a left run on the way to the "Lost Lake" and we see a couple, none marked. We decide to drive on only to find ourselves at the Lost Lake entrance.
Told by the lady at the entrance booth that it is EXACTLY 2 miles down the road, right turn this time and UNMARKED, we finally find it.
The road is narrow, winding, gravel for most part and yes, DUSTY. I do not recommend driving a Sedan on this road but we somehow managed to.
The "Top Spur Trail", near the end, is a narrow and dusty loop trail around the mountain. You can turn back once you start seeing the mountain grow on you or can continue on to complete the loop. The view is spectacular and I got some good shots. However, harsh mid-day light is harsh mid-day light, not good for landscape photography.
After the hike, we head back for the Lost Lake where I plan to get some sunset shots. It costs $7 to park at the Lost Lake and they don't accept NW Forest Pass (why not?). You can actually drive past the store about 0.5 miles until the road becomes a hiking trail. At that place, there is a good view of Mt. Hood framed by 2 trees on the sides.
Having got some good sunset shots, we head back for the hotel. On the road, a trucker offers to guide us to the OR-35, probably thinking that we are lost. The people have really been friendly, it's probably just the nice weather :)
We have breakfast at the hotel (complementary), check out and start out for the waterfall hikes along the Historic Highway. However, the first one on our list, Wahclella Falls, requires a NW Forest Pass for parking. We ask in a grocery shop in Cascade Locks and are told that the parking lot has self-purchase passes. Turns out it indeed does.
The hike to the Wahclella Falls is beautiful, the morning sun shining through the lush green trees, squirrels and butterflies sharing the road with us and the creek dancing on the moss covered rocks on our right side.
According to the book, "Photographing Oregon", we take a right at the first fork on the road. We go over a wooden bridge and come across a relatively flat land with lots of big rocks.
I get up on a rock looking for an expansive view and shoot to my heart's content for the next 30 minutes. IMHO, it's a better view than getting right up to the falls. There're some good shots from the wooden bridge close to the falls too.
Next we hike the Elowah Falls which I don't have much to describe. The falls has weakened to a ribbon and there's not much to photograph. There may be some good Macro opportunities on the trail though but I don't have a Macro lens or Extension tubes to make Macro images.
Next up, Multnomah Falls. We hike up to the Benson Bridge. There're good views along the way but it's a windy day and trees in the frame are becoming blurry due to slow shutter speed that I need for the "milky" water. I get some good shots from the junction of the viewing platform and the start of the stairs.
After seeing the Multnomah Falls, we proceed to have lunch at the Multnomah Falls Restaurant. The restaurant seems to be very old, in the good sense of the word, with some fine photos on the walls. The food is quite good as well.
Next stop is Wahkeena Falls. I spend a long time here trying to capture interesting patterns caused by the water flowing around the moss covered rocks. We then hike up to the falls.
The last stop of the day before we drive out of the area is the Shepherd's Dell State Natural Area. I "frame" some photos here using the branches of a tree but don't rate them as keepers.
We then start out on a two our drive to the Cannon Beach where we will stay for the next 3 nights.