Where the sun meets the rain

View from Klickitat County Information Center, Rt 14, WA

View from Klickitat County Information Center, Rt 14, WA

Maryhill, WA, “the place where the sun of the east meets the rain of the west” (Samuel Maryhill, 1907) is 2.8 square miles of land along the Columbia River Gorge approximately 100 miles east of Vancouver, WA.  Residing just east of the cascade mountain range, the dry landscape resembles more of a golden moonscape than its lush green neighbors just 20 miles west.  Across the river are panoramic views of the Central Oregon Plateau that seem to stretch out endlessly. In addition to the golden landscape and views of central Oregon, Maryhill and the surrounding areas have some fun places to visit.

image-view of gorge from Maryhill Museum

View of gorge from Maryhill Museum

The Maryhill Museum
The Maryhill Museum is a “three-story European, beaux-arts style concrete mansion”[1] situated high above the Columbia River offering picture perfect views of the surrounding gorge.  The architecture alone is worth the visit, and with their newly opened, $10 million dollar Mary & Bruce Stevenson wing and 26 acres to explore, there is much to see.

image for Maryhill Museum

Maryhill Museum

The museum’s permanent exhibits include works from masters like Auguste Rodin to unique and beautiful collections such as the international chess sets displaying 100 or more sculpted chess pieces from various time periods and cultures.

The Maryhill Loops Road
The Maryhill Loops Road, just a short drive from the museum, is the first macadam asphalt-paved road in the Pacific NW. It climbs 850 feet at a 5% grade with 17 curves and 8 hairpins. Now closed to motor vehicles most days, visitors can walk or bike the road daily from 7am – 5pm.

image for Stonehendge

Stonehendge, Maryhill, WA

Stonehendge
Three miles east of Maryhill Museum, a full sized replica of Stonehendge towers over the Columbia River and gorge. Built in 1918 as war memorial, the monument offers a unique vista at, or just before, sunset when the sun is blazing through the eastern facing stone archways. While it was constructed as closely as possible to the original in size and design, a few differences do exist. The original, on Salisbury Plain, England, is aligned to the midsummer sunrise while the Maryhill replica is aligned to the astronomical horizon (three degrees off). In addition, the surrounding hills obscure the actual horizon and there is a five degree difference in latitude from the original location. In short, don’t expect to use this version as an astronomical calendar, but the view is probably better. See a video of it.

Domaine Pouillon
About 14 miles east of Maryhill, in Lyle, WA tucked away in the hills is Domaine Pouillon, a gem of a vineyard and worth a visit to their tasting room.  On our stop we tasted four wines (GewürztraminerDeuxKatydidPierre) and were impressed with all four. After several wine tasting tours this year in both the Columbia River and Willamette Valleys, I thought Domain Pouillon’s were some of the best I’ve tasted.

image of petroglypyh

Petroglyph at Columbia State Park

Other places close in to Maryhill
Maryhill Winery, Petroglyphs at Columbia State Park , the towns of Wishram and Goldendale.

Footnotes:

1. http://www.maryhillmuseum.org/About_Us/history.html

Steamboat Dock, Stevenson WA

Steamboat dock in Stevenson, WA

Alt Text for the image "Steamboat Dock, Stevenson WA"

Steamboat Dock, Stevenson WA
Copyright, 2012 Columbia River Tunnel Permits

If you haven’t been to the waterfront steamboat dock in Stevenson, WA, you are missing out on one of the true hidden gems in the Columbia River Gorge.  Between 1850 and 1920, the height of steamboat use, Stevenson was a vital stop for more wood to power these ships.  Today it is a quiet dock jutting out into the Columbia River allowing visitors a unique view of the gorge without getting wet or needing a boat.

The area from Stevenson east towards Hood River is often referred to as the windsurfing capital of the country, and the moment you step out onto this dock you’ll understand why.  (Warning – hold onto your hats!)  Expect a blast of wind as you leave the protected shoreline and head up the dock where you might even delight in seeing windsurfers and kite surfers dotting both sides of the river riding the high winds and often throwing in a cool trick or two.  The day I went (9/15/2012) the winds were fierce and kite and windsurfers crowed the area.

One kite surfer took great pleasure in entertaining viewers on the dock.  For about 30 minutes he zoomed in close to the dock only to leap from the water, dancing and flipping in the air, before landing back in the water and often posing mid air for photos.

Kite Surfer Posing for Photos

Kite surfer posing for photos.
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

Even the rare calm day, or a day when you don’t encounter daring kite surfers, the views from the the dock are stunning, particularly at sunset.  It gives an air of being in Austria or Switzerland.  It’s a real hidden gem that I have yet to see written about in the tourist books.

There are two nice options to grab a bite or quench your thirst as well. The CXXX Bar and Grill is the little building (as you are looking back onshore) to the right of the dock.  You can see the outdoor patio surrounded in plexiglass to protect patrons from the constant winds, allowing them to relax with drink or food and enjoy the beautiful views.  CXXX Bar and Grill serves Walking Man beer and the staff is super friendly. The house salad and fries were great for a pub; I didn’t expect baby greens in my house salad, and the homemade vinaigrette was tasty. It is not an upscale experience, but it was fun and the view was great.

Looking East - Kite Surfer

Looking East from the dock.                                       2012 Copyright, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

For a more upscale experience, Skamania Lodge is only a couple of miles from the dock.  They have a much larger outdoor patio overlooking the Columbia Gorge and surrounding peaks where you can get just a beer, or go all out and get a beautiful meal.  Expect to bit more than you would at CXXX; it all depends on what you are looking for.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the ever elusive Bigfoot! Skamania is Bigfoot country after all. I think we may have even seem him kite boarding, but don’t take my word for it.  Go check out Stevenson, WA for yourself.  And if you have time, make sure to drive over the Bridge of The Gods at least once ($1 toll each way).

Looking West Photo

Looking west from the dock.                                       2012 Copyright, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

Getting there:

Downtown Stevenson, WA is located right on Rt 14 45 miles (an hour) east Vancouver by way of Rt14 E, and it’s 47 miles (an hour) east of Portland OR by way of I-84 to the Bridge of The Gods (go right when you come off the bride). To get to the steamboat dock, from downtown Skamania go right on Russel Street and follow 2 blocks to the dock. Parking is free, and there is also a picnic area with a mesmerizing wind sculpture.

No matter which way you arrive at Stevenson your drive will be easy and beautiful, as will your visit.

You can view videos of the kite surfer on our YouTube site. Video 1 and Video 2.

 

Beacon Rock & Beacon Rock State Park, Skamania, WA

Like the forgotten remnant of a past age, the core of an ancient volcano, a.k.a. Beacon Rock, rises up 850 feet from the Columbia River. As intimidating as it looks to hike, climbing this massive monolith is actually considered an ‘easy’ hike in many guidebooks. I was a bit skeptical of the ‘easy’ level assigned in my hiking guide, but the many dogs and young children on the path gave me that extra boost of confidence to keep going. (Note to parents / dog owners – the railings are not at all ‘child proof’, and you are walking alongside a sheer drop off at many points, so you may end up carrying the little ones for safety. Dogs should definitely be leashed, although I don’t recommend bringing them on this narrow trail. Bring water, a hat and/or sunblock as much of the trail is in direct sunlight.)

The footpath, which was carved by hand between 1916 and 1918, winds for a mile to the top through a series of 52 switchbacks. On the way up, you will have several vista points looking in both easterly and westerly directions allowing sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.

Located in Skamania, WA, 35 miles east of Vancouver, WA, it is well worth the effort to reach the apex. It is a popular trail, and the top is small and often crowded with people.  If you want to avoid crowds, I recommend going on a lazy mid week day if possible.

If you are a technical rock climber (um, that wouldn’t be me), you can also climb the south face of Beacon Rock certain times of the year.

Not into hiking? You’ve got options as well. For a beautiful view of the Columbia River and Beacon Rock that is drive-able, stop at the ‘day use’ area in Beacon Rock State Park (located across the street from the monolith). As you drive into the park, bypass the first parking lot on the right and instead take the first left. There should be a sign that says ‘day use’ or something similar. Drive until the end of the lot, park and walk over to the picnic tables in the shaded area facing Beacon Rock and overlooking the river. This is a great spot for a picnic, too.

A $10 day use Discover Pass is required to park both at Beacon Rock and in the day use area of the state park. You can buy an annual Discover Pass for only $30 which is valid at this and many other sites in Washington.

ImageView from a the hiking trail climbing up Beacon Rock. Bonneville Dam can be seen in the distance.
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

Image

Columbia River Gorge & Beacon Rock (on right) as viewed from day use area in Beacon Rock State Park.
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits.

ImageBeacon Rock as viewed from day use area in Beacon Rock State Park.
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits.

Cape Horn Lookout Point

Cape Horn is a can’t miss photo opportunity. This sweeping vista point allows you see miles up the gorge and is highlighted by Beacon Rock in the distance.  The Cape Horn vista point is located right on Rt. 14 in Washougal, WA and you can pull off the road to look. Be extra careful here though, as the traffic moves fast and there is not a lot of room.

To get to Cape Horn from Portland, take Rt. 205N to Rt 14E and drive 25 miles. From Vancouver, just head east on Rt. 14.  Cape Horn emerges quite quickly from a bend in the road somewhere around milepost 25 (give or take a mile, so be on the lookout). If you are coming from Stevenson & points west, it will come up on your left hand side as you enter a very narrow part of the road around milepost 25.

Twilight fans will love this view since it served as the backdrop in the first movie when Edward brings Bella up into the tree tops.

Feeling extra energetic?  Try hiking the newly opened Cape Horn Trail, a 7 mile loop that offers some of the best views in the gorge.

ImageView from Cape Horn lookout point on Rt 14, Washougal, WA
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits