From the Blog

Five Hours That Kicked My Ass

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One of the fabulous things about Portland is that mere miles from town, you can find “nature” like trees and rivers, and you can find “outdoor recreational activities,” like hikes that will make your lungs feel like they are bleeding. I always love the idea of going for a hike until I’m actually hiking. Then I hate myself, because, oh wait, I’m as fit as a soggy pancake.

It looked not too rainy Sunday morning. We picked up our delightful friends Katie and Justin and headed east into The Gorge.


We had three objectives: 1. To see the recently renovated and reopened Oneonta Tunnel on the historic Columbia River Highway. 2. To hike Beacon Rock. 3. To have a beer as Walking Man Brewery in Stevenson, Washington.

As always, driving into the gorge feels like remote wilderness. Except if you get out of the car to see the sights, you can’t escape the roar of the freeway or the frequent freight trains that rumble along both sides of the river. I’d like to camp in the gorge, but every guidebook warns that if you want to be near the water, you will also be near the cars and trains. Still purdy, though.


This is looking east, into the gorge. We had all been to Multnomah Falls, so we buzzed right by on this trip. It seemed like there were 1000 people there anyway.

A little further down the road, the Oneonta Tunnel just reopened last weekend after being closed for 60 years. It is part of the original Historic Columbia River Highway & State Trail, which was built almost 100 years ago by men who undoubtedly had giant mustaches. It was lined with ribs of thick lumber.


The surrounding rocks were wet and mossy and precarious. It looked as though a good earthquake would topple them. As if to test our theory, as we craned our necks and marveled, a freight train blasted past us just yards away. The rocks didn’t fall down, so that was great.


We can file this deep in the “Internet Does Not Need To Know” file: The smell of timber or construction totally makes me horny. I have always loved the sweet smell of fresh cut wood. I’m just telling you because we are friends, Internet. And a tunnel made of wood? Oh, the filthy suggestiveness of it all!


Turned out it rained off and on all day, but our luck was pretty good.


We hit the road for stop number 2, Beacon Rock. We drove over the Bridge Of The Gods to get to Washington. Did you know that there may have been an earthquake that split a mountain and sent it into the Columbia river to form a land bridge? And that Mt Adams and Mt Hood are jealous lovers of Mount St Helens? I would be much better at book reports now than I was in 4th grade.

So hiking Beacon Rock. Great idea. Only 848 feet.


It’s funny to me that it’s allegedly the “second largest freestanding monolith in the northern hemisphere” (could there be more qualifiers? On Tuesdays with pink elephants?) AND, all the US Army Corp of Engineers could think to do was “let’s blow this shit up!” And it almost became a piece of Oregon north of the river. I can seriously link to Wikipedia all day long.

I like the “idea” of hiking. The “idea” of hiking gives me the excuse to not join a gym. Because I like the outdoors! And somehow hiking is better for my flat duck feet! And who needs a treadmill when we’ve got Oregon outside! Hiking sounds great until I actually am doing it, and my brain says, “Woman, what kind of hero do you think you are?” I remembered that I couldn’t even remember the last time I went on a hike.


As I was straining up this hill and delaying my spritely, not-even-winded friends, I couldn’t stop yawning. I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body. And it wasn’t my legs that hurt, but my lungs. Somehow, I even got a pain under my tongue just from trying to breathe. I’m not asthmatic, but I have “exercise induced asthma.” This is a real condition that I heard of and knew it applied to me. I think the definition means I have a fat ass.

The views were pretty nice.


This is looking south, and slightly to the west.


This is looking east at the Washington side. We got all kinds of weather as we were climbing. You could see curtains of rain approaching from the west. Then sun. And as we finally got to the top, we were pelted with hail. I was overheated and the cold and the wet felt good.

Boy, hiking is great on the way down!


Thankfully, I had gotten over feeling pukey by this point.


Here’s Justin and Katie. And the Columbia River.

We were chased down the rock by a dark cloud moving in from the west. Our timing could not have been better. As the last car door closed, the sky opened up and it poured rain.

It was time to go to our final destination, Walking Man Brewery. And get hammered.


Okay, we didn’t get hammered, but my camera did. We tried to go to Walking Man Brewery last trip through the gorge, but they were closed. This time we came in minutes after they opened and it was already packed. We were glad we didn’t delay in getting our beer. We had a sampler, fries and some pizza and after that hike, it felt like sweet, sweet heaven.

And then we drove home. And it was purdy.


Taken by Dave, Road Photographer. Crazy sunny weather again.

We got home, showered, napped, made cinnamon rolls, then slept like the dead.

Today, the status of my ass is sore, with a forecast of continued soreness. Anticipate continued complaints about sore assness and general insufferability.

And by the way, Justin and Katie are opening a record store. You can read about their adventures in opening a record store/bar/cafe here. And if you can’t wait that long for them to open, they are throwing a party this Friday where they will be spinning tunes, selling records and shaking booty.


I hope my ass will not be so sore by then.


  1. Nice pix! Thanks for inviting us, we had a great time!
    Look forward to many more!

  2. The pictures are amazing!!! What fun to have so many scenic places to see just a drive away! And sounds like beer cascades from the mountains up there, from how common it is on road side stops. I’m going to Vegas this weekend, maybe I’ll stop on the way for some Alien jerky.

  3. I camped The Gorge. Waaaaay long ago, like ’93. Great little campsite, snuggled up against the train tracks. Didn’t even think about it. Thought about it a lot beginning at 2:30 a.m. when the frieghts began coming through. 10 feet from my tent. They didn’t even have a fence up. It sounded like the end of the world, I kid you not. Complete with the whistle blast, just in case the vigorous shaking of the ground wasn’t enough to clue you in that something huge and unearthly was heading straight for you. I peed my nightgown. We were just settling down again when the next one came through. In a diva moment I made my dufus of a boyfriend drive up and down the gorge until we found a hotel with a vacancy. it happened to be the columbia river gorge hotel. $400 a night. he only charged us like $300 cause it was so late, and i think he could tell that i was seriously pissed-off. Plus, we did get the special breakfast thrown in, and my first taste of applewood smoked bacon. totally worth it.

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