Friday, January 28, 2011

HCRHST: Day 2 - Memaloose to Mosier to Hood River

HCRHST stands for the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. My son and I are attempting his first end-to-end which turned out to be about 90 miles. For pictures and back story check out these other pages: Getting Ready, Day 1, Pictures, Progress.

When we awoke it was still dark and there were 8-10 inches of snow on the ground covered with an inch of ice from the freezing rain, but we made it! Camp was broken down as it was beginning to become light and we checked in with the larger Ranger. He didn't think we should continue. Jules didn't think we should continue. My father knew better than to tell me not to continue. Undaunted we headed up to Memaloose for a look at the view we missed yesterday.

Memaloose means "of the dead" in Chinook (a local tribe). Islands such as the one in this picture were the burial place for their people and were frequent in the Columbia before all the dams flooded them. The dead were wrapped and floated out on canoes to the islands as a final send off back to the water the Chinook relied on so heavily.

Memaloose is a famous place on the Oregon Trail as well as heavily mentioned by Lewis and Clark. The Barracuda greatly enjoyed using his monocular to look around at the eagles nesting, the tombs on the islands, and anything else he could possibly spy. He was quite excited to be standing in a place we had read about in Lewis and Clark's Journals and actually able to see one of the islands they found so disturbing. (I'd be disturbed too if I kept passing by islands with multiple dead corpses rotting on them for seemingly no reason).

This Brunton monocular was gifted to The Barracuda by our friends. It is RAD! I would whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone with adventurous kids. The Barracuda carried it the entire time and it came in quite handy. Thanks Laura and Jasper!

Our trip to Mosier was going to mean 3.5 miles backtracking and then another 10 for the day till we could get somewhere possible to camp. I honestly didn't know if The Barracuda could do it. The extreme weather advisory was still in effect and wasn't supposed to lift until the following day. Our packs were still heavy as very little food had been eaten and our journey would be uphill.

Thankfully, the crazy weather meant that Jules (and every other school district in The Gorge) had the day off. He threw chains in the truck, drove up to see us, and jumped us the 6 highway miles to Mosier. This was an incredible relief. We got coffee and ate at the only cafe left in Mosier and then headed out to Hood River. Whew! Crisis averted!

As Jules dropped us off at the trailhead from Mosier to Hood River, we ran into Matt Dewey again. He said hello, asked if we were going to continue, and gave us the weather report (freezing rain all day). I told him we were going to try and he shook his head. He'd opened the tunnels for us and given us a nice track to walk in so we weren't trudging through fresh snow.

Icicles the size of the Barracuda hang down menacingly from the ceiling of the tunnels as water drips through the mountain and freezes. These were a very exciting stop!

The Mosier tunnels are a five mile section of the old highway which was considered a major feat of construction back in 1915. Personally, I still think it is a major feat of construction. The tunnels were blasted straight through the mountain and the bridges were constructed contouring out over the basalt cliffs to give incredible views of the Gorge.

Looking back over our progress was a helpful venture for The Barracuda. He could physically see the Memaloose Islands we had been standing at earlier in the day. He also got a wonderful birds eye view of the Gorge which was quite impressive.

Along with the majestic tunnels were sets upon sets of tracks perfectly preserved in the snow by the freezing rain. Since the roadway is not able to support semi trucks or nearly the traffic of today's interstate, it is now only a walking, biking, and cross country skiing trail. With no cars allowed on the road, many animals use the pathway regularly without fear. Rabbit tracks, coyote tracks, elk tracks, small rodent tracks, bobcat tracks, deer tracks and more we couldn't identify were spotted all spotted. Pictures were taken for The Barracuda's nature journal and many were followed off into the side brush of the trail only to disappear.

Spirits were high as we trudged closer to Hood River. We weren't making amazing time due to the snow and the continuous freezing rain, but mostly due to all the great sights.

By the time we were 3/4s of the way to Hood River, the trials of the night before had been forgotten. The day had been a fun one and the weather was warming enough to not need balaclavas covering our faces as we hiked.

As we neared the end of the trail, it became apparent that my fabulous National Geographic, plastic, rip proof, water proof, swanky, GPS gridded map might not be the greatest judge of distance. It kept seeming like we should be at the end. Thankfully we ran into an at-risk high school science teacher and her dog, Mole the chocolate lab. She was cross country skiing the opposite direction and informed us there was only a mile left. As timing would have it, by the time we had covered that mile, she was returning and offered us a ride into Hood River. We gladly excepted.

She gave us the low down on Hood River, places to stay, the best coffee shops, what her students were doing. We told her about our trip, gave Mole treats, and thanked her readily for her kindness. She dropped us off at the Best Western and went along her way.

The weather had everyone holing up on the highway. Hotels were booked and not too happy to see people on foot with large backpacks and unclean clothes. They refused to take my cash without a credit card, wouldn't except Jules' because it wasn't in my name, and generally were kinda snotty. When another woman heard our trouble, asked if we were on foot and offered us a ride to another hotel in town in exchange for a road report. She was worried about the road, we were worried about a hotel, it worked out well.

The Hood River Inn was our next stop. It was the only place in town with a vacancy. I asked about their cheapest room and if they would take cash. The response was similar to the Best Western - they wouldn't take the card, they wouldn't take the cash, they only had a $150 suite left. It looked a bit hopeless. From the lobby we pulled out the map and scoured it for any campsites possible. Not a one. The closest was a state park down Interstate 84 about 5 miles with no way to walk other than on the shoulder. At this point it was 3:30pm and things were looking to get dark soon. I asked The Barracuda if he wanted to just call it quits. He was adamant he wanted to finish. So we loaded up our packs once again to head for the coffee shop to pay someone 20 dollars to take up down the highway to Viento State Park.

As luck would have it, the general manager (a very nice older woman) came through just then. She looked down at The Barracuda over her glasses with a smile and said, "My, that looks like a very heavy pack for someone your age. It's almost as big as you!"

Now is a good time to admit that my son has the charisma of a cult leader. People adore him and he can talk them into quite a bit when he wants to. He flashes his eyes, throws around a chuckle and a smile, it is obnoxious and borderline sociopathic. We are trying to teach him to use this power for good, rather than evil.

The Barracuda saw his moment of opportunity. He recognized her weakness. She didn't have much of a chance. I stood back to watch the show.

He dropped his little face, quivered his lip slightly, and gave her big puppy-dog eyes. "It is heavy," he said, "I don't understand why we can't stay here. We have money, but they said you wouldn't take it. Why can't we sleep just one night? We won't hurt anything." It was a masterful performance. The lady looked distraught. She gladly accepted Jules' credit card to cover the deposit stating "We probably won't even need it." The room's cost was dropped to "government rate" of only 75 dollars. We were given a large room with two beds and plenty of space to let gear dry out. I thanked them at least a dozen times, quickly signed the paperwork before anyone could change their minds and handed over most of our trip money.

Gear was strewn about the room to dry, the heater cranked up full throttle and The Barracuda promptly stripped down to watch cartoons for hours. Before bed we hit up the hot tub to rest sore muscles. It was awesome!

With another day down and a total 34.5 miles behind us, we slept well.

2 thoughts:

Mel said...

Glad that it all worked out! Weird that a hotel won't accept cash. You guys are rock stars for hiking that in the snow and freezing rain, but not the kind of rock stars to trash a hotel room ;)

Granola Girl said...

We contacted all 5 in town, none of them would take cash. I never even considered it. Apparently, everyone now has a credit card and they just expect it. Crazy, huh! We're going to have to keep it in mind in the future and definitely call ahead.

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