USA Trip


5th March 2008 - 20th March 2008

Portland, Oregon




This trip came about when Xerox, the company I work for in the United Kingdom, elected to send me on a software workshop in Wilsonville, Oregon, just south of Portland. I was fetched at home by taxi around 09h00 and arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 well before departure, flying to Portland via San Francisco on United Airlines, at 13h20, though the flight was delayed. The flight was relatively empty and I found myself in the last row next to a football-mad woman from Liverpool who worked for the Barclays English Premier League. She was off to a wedding in Australia and a stop-over in New Orleans. The flight took us north over Greenland, Canada and the Rocky Mountains. I arrived in San Francisco at 16h30 and had to wait until 19h20 for a connecting flight, so I grabbed a bite to eat. Upon arrival at 21h06, I completed arrangements for a hired car from National before being taken by shuttle to pick it up.  I was tired, it was late, and so I agreed to the inclusion of a Garmin GPS device to get me to the Hilton Garden hotel near Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, around 11h00, in just over half an hour from the airport. The view at night of downtown Portland from Marquam Bridge note: link to Google maps, as highway 5 crosses over the Williamette River, is quite startling.  Though Portland is not a large city, I did not get to make it there at all.


Columbia River Gorge showing Crown Point and Vista House, with Highway 84 below.


At breakfast around 06h30, I stumbled into Chris Daughton, whom I had not seen since his Xerox days at Welwyn Garden City. I got a lift in with Bob Easterly and Mark Deroller, all from Xerox, Monroe County, Rochester, stopping at Starbucks for a coffee on the way in.  Mark and I were sharing the work at the workshop and had swopped weeks at his request. Annoyingly, I forgot my laptop in the hotel and Bob had to drive me back as a result. At the Wilsonville facilities, I was delighted to meet up with folk I had been in e-mail contact with for so long, particularly Kelly Sims and Katie Teslow. Despite the fact that I had not slept well, I managed to stay productive in the laboratory where our test machines were located, until around 15h00 in the afternoon. I obviously cannot go into technical detail as to the nature of our work, suffice to say that it involved software debugging. At lunch I also met up with design team colleague Bob Larson, from Rochester, sporting a  baseball cap and senior manager Lee Roche, who had moved from Welwyn Garden City to the same location. In the evening we wandered across the road from the hotel to Stanfords steakhouse for dinner. I barely managed to keep my eyes open, so knackered was I.


Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point and Vista House, Highway 101 clearly visible.


On the Friday morning, I took a lift again with Bob and Mark, though this would be their last working day in Wilsonville.  They were due to leave in the wee hours of Saturday morning, flying via Chicago, though they were not certain that they would make it home, as it had been snowing heavily in the east of the country.

Saturday arrived and I thought I would make the most of what looked like good weather. Amy Bartlett have given me a few pointers and some guide books, one of them being the Columbia River Gorge, to the east of Portland. A historic trail runs parallel to the river, which separates Oregon and Washington State, and highway 84.  I set the GPS for Corbett, passing the turn-off at Troutdale. It was a beautiful day and must have got there around midday, after failing to find a hiking trail map anywhere near the hotel. At a lookout I met two cyclists, who recognised my South African accent, and invited me for a cycle the next day, which I politely declined (I knew I wasn't fit enough). Crown Point (Vista House) provides a clear view of the gorge. Parking at the Trailhead car park near Bridal veil, with the river behind me and the forest and rock in front of me, I headed up past Coopey Falls, climbing steadily (and seating profusely) before reaching the summit. I then pressed on on a route that took me mostly into the forest, which I thought might lead me to Wahkeena Falls, later confirmed by a guy I met en route by the name of Kyle, from Pennsylvania. Nice bloke, he gave me a lift back to my car, after we finally reached Wahkeena Falls, where Multnomah Falls car park comes into view, a walk of about 3 hours duration. In the higher ground in the forest, sections of the path were covered in snow.  Kyle had been walking all day and had ventured higher up, but the snow was so deep that it made walking extremely difficult, as he sank into it.


Columbia River Gorge downstream, back towards Portland, taken from Crown Point


Columbia River Gorge hike from Angel's Rest Trailhead to Wahkeena Falls - lichen-covered trees on the latter (downhill) leg.


Columbia River Gorge taken from the summit of Angel's Rest, halfway into the hike. The river divides the states of Oregon and Washington County.


Columbia River Gorge hike from Angel's rest Trailhead to Wahkeena Falls - near Wahkeena Falls.


I stopped to have a look at what is the most dramatic waterfall in the gorge and obviously the most popular, given the number of visitors that day. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet (165 m) and a lower falls of 69 feet (21 m), with a gradual 9 foot (3 m) drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is conventionally given as 620 feet  (189 m). Multnomah Falls is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States after Yosemite Falls. Underground springs from Larch Mountain are the year-round source of water for the waterfall, augmented by spring runoff from the mountain's snowpack and rainwater during the other seasons. I bought a map of the gorge hiking trail from the shop, which I had failed to find earlier in Wilsonville and the conservationist on duty quipped that most people buy one before they start the hike! The shop also stocked books and souvenirs one usually finds. A coffee seemed to warm the insides, after a strenuous yet enjoyable walk.


Wahkeena Falls on the Columbia River Gorge.


A foot trail leads to Benson Footbridge, a 45-foot (14 m)-long footbridge that allows visitors to cross 105 feet (32 m) above the lower cascade. The trail continues to a platform at the top of the upper falls, the Larch Mountain Lookout, where visitors get a bird's-eye view of the Columbia Gorge and also of "Little Multnomah", a small cascade slightly upstream from the "upper" falls, which is not visible from ground level.  There is a Native American legend that explains the origins of the falls. In this legend, a tribe was infected with a deadly disease and was in danger of dying. The daughter of the chief went to the top of a cliff and prayed to the Great Spirit to find how she could stop the epidemic. She was told that to stop the epidemic, she would have to throw herself off the cliff and sacrifice herself. She did this and died. The next day, the chief found his daughter's body at the bottom of the cliff. He wept bitterly and cried out to the Great Spirit to give him a sign if this sacrifice was not in vain. At that moment, water began to fall from the top of the cliff, forming Multnomah Falls. The legend also says that under the right conditions, you can see the daughter's face in the waterfall.


Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River Gorge, the second highest waterfall in the USA after Yosemite. Benson Bridge spans the gap in the centre.


View from Multnomah Falls across the Columbia River towards Washington State.


  I then drove on to Hood River, renowned for its windsurfing, and took the Mount Hood highway 35. I pressed on until the light began to fade and by that time, as I approached Mount Hood, I had reached orchards on higher ground already covered in snow. Mount Hood is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc in northern Oregon. Mount Hood's snow-covered peak rises 11,239 feet (3,426 m) and is home to twelve glaciers. It is the highest  mountain in Oregon and the fourth-highest in the Cascade Range. Mount Hood is considered the Oregon volcano most likely to erupt, though based on its history, an explosive eruption is unlikely. Still, the odds of an eruption in the next 30 years are estimated at between 3 and 7 percent - remember, Mount St Helens lies just up the way in Washington County - food for thought. I returned to Hood River for a bite at Andrews Pizza, highly recommended by Amy. I popped in at a bar just up the road for a glass of wine but as the resident band seemed to be taking an awfully long time in getting going, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel.

View of Mount Hood on Highway 35 - I managed to get this shot just before the late faded entirely.


I had no sooner got back than the phone rang.  It was my niece, Melissa, who was calling from San Francisco Airport, with the news that her mother, my sister-in-law, had tragically passed away, after an illness.  I had arranged to meet her later on a stopover on my return journey but she had decided to return to Taiwan and then Cape Town earlier. Sadly, she was not able to see her mom again.


Part One - Portland, Oregon: [ 1 ]  [ 2 ]

Part Two - Napa, California: [ 1 ]  [ 2 ]  [ 3 ]

[USA Index Page]

[Home Page]


Links to other websites: