Hello, and welcome. This month's report takes us to the western U. S. state of Oregon and some fantastic snowboarding. First a little background on the state of Oregon itself. Begin with a little prehistory by following this link to learn about Oregon and the Columbia plateau. Your journey begins with incredible lava flows, volcanic activity and great rains which formed the diverse landscape we now know as Oregon.
Our travels begin very early, o-dark early, did I mention no sleep the night before early. . . you get the picture. Jesse and I leave home about 3:30 am and head south for the Miami International Airport to begin our trek westward. Even at this early hour heavy traffic was present on the ever under construction roadways of South Florida. The flight westward did leave on time and security screening, sometimes a hassle at MIA went quite smooth. Great! The trip is off to a smooth start. We arrive at DFW on time, and with our connecting gate for the Portland flight immediately adjacent to us, everything appears to be proceeding much better than planned. Skies, for the most part were clear and the air quite smooth making for a pleasant flight. From our seats we can even peer out the window from time to time and see the mountain ski resorts near Sante Fe New Mexico and Salt Lake City Utah, wow! As we begin our descent I am able to catch a glimpse of a magnificent peak penetrating the cloud bank near Portland. The words awe inspiring come immediately to mind. . . Mt Hood. . . our destination, and I hope. . . not my final one.
After deplaning the aircraft, which I have to admit was not the most comfortable I have ever flown on, we proceed to baggage claim and are pleasantly surprised to see both our snowboards and equipment awaiting us at the oversize baggage door. Next step, off to the rental car desk, gotta love this 3 hour time difference, it's only 11:30 am! As we head onto I84 heading eastbound, the wind and the rain begin to pick up substantially, this is the Pacific Northwest you always hear about right. . . wind, rain, clouds. . . ? We don't care though, because for us it means fresh powder! The drive is an easy one, merely forty eight miles from airport to Hood River. This highway we are on meanders along the Columbia River, and judging from some of the terrain I am able to sneak a peek at thru the rain and clouds, it is rather impressive. As we follow the Lewis and Clark trail ever eastward, the Columbia looks quite impressive as well as imposing with the wind driven rain creating whitecaps, and large swells on the surface as the river winds it's way into the Columbia River Gorge.
As we arrive in Hood River, Jesse is sound asleep and I am wearing thin as this very long day continues to, like the river meander on. But alas, with a few quick twists and turns, our map leads us to our destination, atop a small hill overlooking vast peach orchards. Our bed and breakfast is a two story cabin, with a finished basement. The main floor has two bedrooms, a communal living and breakfast room, and a wonderful outdoor patio. The upper floor includes 3 bedrooms and a single bath. This presents no problem; however, as this weekend, we are the only guests. After meeting Linda, one of the co-owners of our quaint B&B, we decide to venture out into town in search of some much needed nourishment.
After perusing the town a bit, we settled into a brew pub named the Big Horse brew pub. No equine on the menu, but some delicious burgers fill our hungry stomachs. The view from our table is quite beautiful, the town, the river, the bridge and even a few windsurfers venturing out. What happens next though is quite awe inspiring. . . the sun begins to peak thru the clouds creating a double rainbow, that ends in the river below us. What a way to bring our day to a close. We head back to our lodging, and after a short chat with the other owner, Lee, we climb into our comfy beds totally exhausted, yet looking forward to our day on the mountain tomorrow. As day two of our journey begins, we get to experience the other B in B&B, that being breakfast, and to our delight, it is exceptional! Going downstairs we are greeted by the aroma of hot coffee, a wide variety of teas, and several fresh fruit juices from which to choose. Fresh breads, rolls, butter and jams also await our hungry insides. Following these delights we are presented with a menu of fresh items we may include in our omelettes, accompanied by Canadian bacon, both sweet and hot sausages, and melt in your mouth home fries. Mouth waters even now as I think back on this outstanding breakfast. We will definitely not be hungry or in need of any energy bars this day as we conquer the slopes. . . and our own bodies. After a gracious farewell from our hosts, we set forth toward the mountain.
The weather is still dreary, a bit cold and rainy, but the drive to our destination for today, Timberline Ski Resort, is uneventful. A two lane road follows the Hood River for most of the drive, as it winds it's way through various orchards in the foothills before beginning it's steady climb to higher altitudes. Due to the cloud cover, we still have not had any direct view of the mountain itself, and we have become a bit worried as we proceed onward, as snow snow has been seen anywhere. Did we make a fatal mistake? Is it much too late in the season? Did that internet website we looked at before departing deceive us in any way? All our fears are aleved though, as we round the final turn and begin our last climb toward the resort. Where the ground behind us was merely wet, the ground to our left and right is now deeply covered in frozen precip. . . aka snow. We round a bend, turn into the parking lot and then. . . a break in the clouds. WOW! The upside down ice cream cone reaching toward the heavens is directly ahead. What an awe inspiring sight. . . As soon as the awe subsides, slightly, the tingle in the back of my neck begins. . . Would I still have a neck that tingles in a few short hours from now? Would we conquer this mountain of white. . . or would it conquer us? Six hours later, bruised and beaten, we make our final run for the day, and what a wonderful day it turned out to be. Fresh powder, deep snow, over 180 inches plus, a wide variety of challenging runs and trails has made for a perfect day of boarding. Could Mt. Hood Meadows, our choice for the final two days of our winter vacation be any better? What a great day this has been.
We drag our weary bodies back to town and once again have an enjoyable dinner. As we get ready to settle in for the evening, our host and his close friend inform us that they have started a campfire for us to enjoy out behind the B&B and ask us to join them for some marshmallows and some interesting conversation about their travels. Soon, thereafter, we both collapse into our beds with smiles on our faces, food in our tummies, and stiffness in our joints as we prepare ourselves for the next two days.
The snow boarding at Mt Hood Meadows turns out to be superb! It is, without a doubt, one of the finest resorts, which are numerous, that we have ever had the pleasure to visit. The terrain varies widely from bunny slopes for the beginners, to some of the most challenging, adrenaline pumping, heart pounding, I have ever ventured this weary body on. For the snowboarders, numerous terrain parks are scattered throughout complete with jumps of all sizes, rails and very well groomed half pipes. The skies, turned out to be, clear, crystal clear, on both days and the temperature continued to climb throughout the course. We even were able to take off our ski jackets the final day and wear only our light shirts, and of course, much sunscreen, as the sun's rays are very damaging at this altitude and time of year. . . old story. . . I'll tell ya about it someday. This, my friends, is LIVING!
Our final day begins early, what else is new, and the next thing we know we are on the road back to Portland and the airport. Where has the time gone? Must we leave so soon? I guess we must, as I have to get back to work, and Jesse to school as Spring Break is coming to an end. We are sad to see the mountain in the background as we pull onto the highway. We have not conquered it, no one really does. We have though, taken a piece of it with us forever, in our memories and that is enough to put a smile on both of our faces. Someday we will once again return.
The airport ahead. . . the nightmare awaits us. . . I am certain I had checked the flights just a few days ago. Wide open, lots of empty seats, no problem getting home, or so I thought. I did not realize when planning our trip that Spring Break for Oregon residents was just beginning on the day we chose to leave. After checking our bags to Miami and passing through security screening I was soon to find this detail out. All flights full! All flights, all day, all locations, and just about all airline full, actually oversold. This was not good. What to do? Normally if a flight is oversold, we sometimes have a chance of getting on it, last minute, especially using a higher priority as we chose to use this day. After waiting thru two flights that left and seeing our name dropping on the standby listings, instead of rising I knew we had to make alternate plans. I called my wife on the cell phone and together we pulled our resources to try and find Jesse and I a way home. It just seemed all flights were full, on all airlines that day, in Portland, as well as Seattle, which I was willing to drive us to in order to catch a flight. Finally, after many hours I finally found us a way out of Portland. We would have to wait until 8 pm that night, but a flight was heading for San Francisco on Horizon Airlines that did have some seats available. We didn't hesitate in buying some tickets on this flight. But we did have quite some time to wait. We ate, we slept, we ate some more, we walked around, read, and finally after 10 hours in the airport we boarded our flight. I never felt so good as we broke ground as I did that day, knowing that we were moving forward, even if only a slight amount. We arrived in San Francisco without incident; however, our flight on American to Miami was not departing, until seven the next morning. Only problem, to insure we would get seats on this flight, we needed to check in for this flight at about 4 am, as we had no computer access if we left the airport. So once again, we found some seats and slept, if you could call it that. Nonetheless, we did get on the flight at seven and finally arrived home in Miami at about 8 pm that night. Tired, worn, beaten, bruised, smelling like you know what, we picked up our car and headed for the 2 hour drive to our home. . . With a smile on our face. . . That wasn't so bad. . . was it, let's do it again. . . next year :)
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Donald Reese, aviator, travel-agent, and travel author shares his adventures/misadventures as he explores our world.