Friday, May 23, 2014

Mountains and Wineries

Last time I was in Oregon was in 2010 for the BMW MOA rally in Redmond.  While I rode some fabulous roads to get there from Texas and took a day ride down to Crater Lake during the rally, the specter of Mount Hood floated on the horizon, seemingly unreachable and playing coy as it ducked behind hills and trees with every bend in the road.  I never got really close and in fact had no idea just how to get there from my routed direction.

This trip would be another matter.  I'm so close to Mount Hood while I'm here in Hood River, that an easy hour's drive would get me there  Lunch at Timberline Lodge would be the perfect reason to take the drive.

If I leave the hotel mid-morning, I'd get there just in time for the start of their lunch buffet.  There's an alpaca farm along the way, with a shop selling fiber and yarn....a definite must-stop on my way.  And coming back after lunch, I'll pass several wineries.  A plan begins to take shape!

Just a few miles south of Hood River I crested a hill and was greeted with this breathtaking view:

My first unobstructed glimpse of Mt Hood

The road climbed through beautiful evergreen forest, at one point carving through a canyon created by fast-moving snow-melt rapids.  I followed my GPS as it turned me off the highway and through lush orchards and vineyards to the alpaca farm.  Alas, the gate was shut and the sign said CLOSED.  Well, drat!  But I did see a few alpaca grazing in a nearby fenced-in grazing area.

I pressed on toward the turnoff for the road to the lodge.  Occasionally the road would turn in a way to reveal an ever-closer and ever more breathtaking view of Mount Hood.

Glimpse of Mt Hood from the highway just before the turn onto
the 6 mile approach road

The road up to the lodge was gorgeous, if curvy and steep.  I'd already gained 4,000 ft elevation at the turn, and continued to climb to 5,700 feet once I'd reached the lodge parking area.  The views were spectacular!  The lodge is aptly named, as this is just at the timberline.  Within 1,000 feet of reaching this point, I could see the dramatic change in vegetation, similar to that at Yellowstone.

Above the timberline.  On the approach road to the Lodge

Last few tenths of a mile before reaching the lodge

A few more photos from the roadside and then I pulled in and found a parking spot.  The lodge was just a short walk up the hill but first I ducked into the Ski Day Lodge to check it out and use the ladies room.  It reminded me so much of the day lodges I'd frequented when I lived in New England.  My girlfriends and I would pile into my VW and drive up to NH or VT to day ski.  They seem to all have the same utilitarian and practical atmosphere.
A snowboarder zips by

The lodge itself was surprisingly simple architecturally but had a disarmingly old-fashioned lodge interior with open beam ceiling, huge two story stone fireplace, and gorgeous views of the summit of Mount Hood.   They wouldn't start serving lunch until 11:30, so I had 45 minutes or so to explore the lodge.
Looking down on the 2nd floor from the 3rd floor loft

By today's standards, the lodge was somewhat spartan, with handhewn wooden tables and chairs, wooden benches, and only a few cushioned seating areas scattered around the big open main room.  The reception area on the first floor was cramped and dark and a warren of small rooms and hallways.  The ladies room was so old-fashioned that it was actually quaint, and reminded me so much of other lodges and buildings I'd been in as a young girl.
2nd floor of the lodge, the great room with huge stone fireplace

Tall windows on the north side of the lodge gave a spectacular view of the mountain summit.

View of the summit through a large pane window

view of the summit from a window in the lodge

Along the northwest side of the building, snow was still drifted up against the lodge, blocking much of the windows on that side.
Snow drifts half way up the windows on the northwest side of the Lodge

Snow drifts are still deep...these are blocking the windows

At precisely 11:30 AM, I was seated at a window table giving me a view looking south across the tops of lower mountains, a lake and the snow-capped Mount Jefferson.  The buffet was luscious!  For $20 all-inclusive, they had several salad bowls - tossed salad, pasta with freshly shaved parmesan, a delicious carrot and cherry salad - a charcuterie board, two different freshly made soups, vegetable medley, rice pilaf, beef tips, turkey breast meat, and a whole array of patisserie desserts.  Oh, my!!  A wonderful cup of espresso finished my lunch off very nicely.
Looking south from the Timberline Lodge, with Mt Jefferson in the distance

Time to drive down the mountain and then north toward Hood River.  I had three wineries waypointed in my GPS.  The first was Wy'East Vineyards.  The word "wy'east" is native name for the mountain we call Mount Hood.

I sampled 6 different wines, from a light Pinot Gris to a finishing wine, a fortified port.  The $10 tasting fee was waived by purchasing a bottle each of the Pinot Gris and the Port.  I'll work on the Pinot while I'm here in OR and the Port will get packed in my checked suitcase.   I enjoyed speaking with the proprietress about their wines and their grapes.  Very relaxing and enjoyable.

A few miles further along, I came to Mount Hood Winery.

Mt Hood Winery tasting room

The beautiful tasting room was surrounded by pear orchards and vineyards and I was determined to taste their signature pear wine.   Rather than do a tasting, I purchased a full glass of pear wine and sat outside on their gorgeous patio sipping the wine and enjoying the spectacular view.

Enjoying a glass of pear wine while enjoying the view of Mt Hood

My last planned stop was at The Gorge White House, just 1/4 mile north of Mt Hood Winery.  I pulled into their parking lot and walked up to the house.  The sign said they were open but to walk next door to the Cider House.  When I got there, a sign on the door said closed.  Very perplexing as it was only 3:00 PM and their website said they'd be open.  Oh, well...some other time.

The Gorge White House Cider House and Winery

Vineyards and orchards of The White House

Before leaving, I did capture this photo of a beautiful giant Iris!

All the way back to Hood River I had a beautiful view of Mount Adams to the north in Washington.

Mt Adams
Another perfect day in the Columbia River Gorge!

Tomorrow:  Another walk into town in search of coffee, lunch, and a couple of the little tasting rooms.

1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful sunny day. I am happy you are enjoying your time in Oregon. The brunch at the lodge sounds wonderful. We haven't been up there in almost 10 years. The last time was two up on the bike for a group ride.

    Bummer the one winery and alpaca farm were closed, but it sounds like you enjoyed the others.