Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
We talked last winter of spending the entire month of July in a leisurely meander up the Columbia River to Lewiston, ID. In the event–as they say–what with family visits and various committee projects, we managed to spend the first weekend of July afloat on the Willamette River and then July 9-15 on the Columbia.
We went through the lock at Bonneville Dam once before, in October, eight or nine years ago. It’s much windier, we learned, in mid-summer.
Also, the lock operates for recreational vessels on a limited schedule: every three hours. We had to anchor below the dam–near Beacon Rock, in fact–for an hour to hit the 3:00 opening. We nearly waited too long: there was a very strong current running west from the dam. We were only making about two knots. But the lock master let us through.
We left the wispy river grass moustache on Annikin’s anchor. Docking in windy Hood River was quite an adventure. The space wasn’t as big as we would have liked. Fortunately there was an extra cleat around the corner to hold in the stern.
Since we’ve been to Hood River by car a few times, as well as our prior boat trip, we decided to go another 25 miles east to The Dalles. It was still windy, but the scenery was wonderful.
Glaciers cut through the rock first; then humans. Thanks to the dam at The Dalles, often disparaged because it submerged Celilo Falls and the white water fishery, the river was calm despite the wind.
The Dalles is a popular stop for sternwheelers that ply the river from spring to fall. It was easy to understand why.
A block past the arch, we found the Baldwin Saloon, founded as a saloon in 1876. During intervening years, the building has been a restaurant, steamboat navigation office, warehouse, coffin storage site, state unemployment office and a saddle shop. In 1991 it was restored as close as possible to the original design and re-opened as a saloon and restaurant. A modern restaurant kitchen was installed in the basement–which serves excellent food. Many landscape paintings by Joseph Englehart adorn the dining room walls. This one of Beacon Rock seemed especially a propos. The bar area is adorned with several fetching nudes.
We explored historic downtown after lunch. European and American fur traders frequented the settlement since the 1810s. Dalles was the end of the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. It was the Wasco County Seat when Wasco County included part of Idaho and Wyoming.
The next day we followed Google Maps directions to walk to the Dalles Dam via Highways 30 and 197. It seemed like the long way ’round. But we did see a remarkable abandoned gas station.
The visitor center at the Dam was remarkable, too. No one was there. The door opened, but no one was at the reception desk. We went into the screening room and watched the video–learning about the rapids and how, for decades, travelers and freight had to transfer from boats to trains and back to boats again to get through the rapids. The canal alleviated some of the effort, but it was very narrow: one-way traffic.
The Wikipedia description of Celilo Falls is heart-rending: “a series of cascades and waterfalls on the river, as well as … native settlements and trading villages that existed there in various configurations for 15,000 years. Celilo was the oldest continuously inhabited community on the North American continent until 1957, when the falls and nearby settlements were submerged by the construction of The Dalles Dam.
I’ve been to Jericho, too–inhabited for an equivalent time period. It’s not the same as it used to be. I’m sorry, but I don’t think anything is.
We wandered out of the Visitor Center and walked back to the Shilo Inn, where we had lunch and, afterward, went out in back to see old, abandoned fishing huts.
We could see that there was a trail by the river. The waiter at the Shilo Inn said the trail started about a block away, in the new neighborhood for people working at the Google Data Center. A walking/biking trail began there, but it didn’t go very far.
As tenacious as we are, we hiked along the freeway for a half mile or so.
Then Gary spotted a path.
It was a bit slippery, but we made it and soon found the paved route that led to the parking lot by the marina. It was much shorter, if a bit hair-raising, than the highway route that took us there. My smartphone pedometer said we walked 7.5 miles.
From the top of the marina ramp, we could see where we’d been.
It was dead calm when we woke before 6:00 the next morning. We cast off and headed out even before we had coffee.
For some reason, descending the lock seems easier than coming up. I don’t know why, because we have to do the same thing in both directions: get the midship line snug around the bollard.
At first, we had the dock at Beacon Rock all to ourselves. Though, oddly enough, the sailboat moored next to us at Hood River pulled in the following morning for a short time. We recognized the bagpipers who’d performed at a benefit at the park when they practiced on the dock by Beacon Rock.
I took a day off hiking to work on my historical fiction project, while Gary went out for exercise. He climbed the rock again. Near the top, he called on the phone. I came out on the dock so he could take a photo of me and my shadow.
Although several other boats arrived from nearby Camas in the afternoon, it was still as idyllic as before. Everyone had come for the same reason.
The following morning we had a very easy cruise back to our marina on Hayden Island. We spotted the scary deadhead that Courtney told us about. He’d pulled into The Dalles marina about midnight, coming all the way from Portland in one shot.
I preferred the mysterious stone formation that I saw a little later. It resembles an Easter Island effigy. Think about it: see the crown on top of the head, the eye, the flat nose and the pinched mouth?
But Rooster Rock is more impressive.
The best thing about travel by trawler is that you have time to look at things and think about what you’re seeing.