A sign pointing toward the trail to Mount Fuji's summit.
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Gear, Tours and Tips: Making the Most of Your Mt. Fuji Climbing Experience

Reaching the summit of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji is often on the short list of activities for visitors, but few realize the small window of opportunity for novice climbers. At more than 12,000 feet of elevation, the terrain is only passable for about 8-10 weeks from mid-July to early-September.

The view of the sunrise from the summit of Mount Fuji makes climbing through the night all worth it.

The view of the sunrise from the summit of Mount Fuji makes climbing through the night all worth it.

Reaching the Top

The top of Japan’s tallest peak can be reached a few different ways, but most climbers attempt to arrive at the summit for the sunrise. Arriving by 4:30 a.m. requires climbing during the middle of the night. While it’s possible to make all of the arrangements yourself, it’s much simpler to book a tour through one of the many companies leading both local and foreign visitors to the top.

We made our summit in August 2014 and chose Willer Express as our travel company. With daily tours departing from near Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, Willer Express provides bus transportation to and from Fuji’s 5th Station, an English-speaking guide, mountain hut lodging at the 8th Station, three meals and a visit to an onsen (hot springs).

Gear Up

With the 90ºF temperatures of the Tokyo summer, it’s hard to imagine you could be fighting off hypothermia less than 24 hours later. Having the right gear may be the most important consideration in making the climb an enjoyable experience.

Most tour companies offer an affordable gear package, which can be convenient for novice climbers or those traveling light. If you bring your own gear, consider the following items at a minimum:

Lightweight daypack with rain cover. Bring a bag just large enough to carry your gear. From Tokyo to Fuji’s summit, you’ll experience a 40-60ºF decrease in temperature, so you’ll need to be able to swap gear on and off along the way.

Waterproof jacket and pants. When it rains, it pours. Literally. On our summit, it started raining about 20 minutes before we reached the mountain hut at Station 8. By the time we arrived, we were soaked to the bone, even with our rain gear. Hut employees won’t allow you inside until you are dry and will greet you with leaf blowers and towels to keep the rainwater outside.

Waterproof hiking boots/shoes. With the steep ascent and descent, you’ll want properly-fitting hiking shoes with good traction. I’d recommend buying these beforehand and testing them in the wild rather than renting an ill-fitting pair of shoes on the morning of the climb. A pair of gaiters isn’t a terrible idea either to keep rain from entering via the tops of your shoes.

Cold-weather clothing. Poor clothing choices are one of the most common mistakes made by Fuji first-timers. Average temperatures at the summit are around 40ºF, but can feel much closer to freezing due to wind chill and the aforementioned rain. Dress in layers so you can add and remove as needed during the climb.

The terrain on the ascent of Mount Fuji varies from flat, volcanic rock to steep, rocky peaks. The right gear will make your experience all the more enjoyable.

The terrain on the ascent of Mount Fuji varies from flat, volcanic rock to steep, rocky peaks. The right gear will make your experience all the more enjoyable.

Hiking poles. Poles aren’t necessary for the ascent, but will come in handy on the long, steep descent. You can purchase a souvenir wooden pole and can have it stamped at each of Fuji’s stations to mark your progress. Make sure you have gloves if you choose the wooden pole as it’s more for looks than utility.

Hats. You’ll be climbing both in the sun during the day and in the cold at night. Consider a brimmed hat for keeping the sun away and a hat that will cover your ears for early-morning climbing.

Gloves. Bring warm, durable, waterproof gloves with good grip. I had warm gloves, but once they were wet, they were no longer warm. You’ll also be using your hands a lot near the final ascent to the summit, so they’ll need to stand up to sharp rocks.

Mt Fuji Headlamps

The view from our hut window around 1 a.m… a never-ending string of headlamps joining us for the climb to the summit

Headlamp. You’ll need your hands free to navigate the rocks near the summit, making a headlamp a better choice than a handheld flashlight. One of my favorite sights was waking up at the mountain hut at 1:30 a.m. and seeing the endless headlamps coming up the trail behind us.

Sunglasses/sunscreen. Fuji is exposed to all the elements, especially the sun. Bring a good quality sunscreen and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Water and snacks. Our tour company recommended three liters of water per person for the entirity of the climb. You can carry it all with you or bring one and purchase additional bottles at stations along the way. While it’s more economical to bring your own, it might be worth the extra yen to lighten your load.

Change of clothes. Bring a change of clothing and shoes, especially if you choose a package that ends with an onsen visit. The ride back to Tokyo will be much more pleasant in a clean outfit.

Japanese yen. Mount Fuji is one of the few places in Japan where you’ll find pay toilets. At 200-300 yen ($2-3 USD) per turn, you’ll want to budget accordingly. You can also buy additional water, snacks and gear at each of the stations. Japan is a very cash-oriented society, so carrying large amounts of money is not unusual.

Camera and extra batteries. The views on the mountain are breathtaking and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take photos. I don’t recall electrical outlets in the mountain hut, so make sure you have extra batteries or a portable charger.

Extras. If you are prone to elevation sickness, oxygen canisters can be purchased along the way, but you might consider bringing one with you in case canisters are sold out. In our group, the first case of elevation sickness from the thin air showed up around the 7th Station.

The sleeping arrangements in the mountain huts are cozy and booked solid. Be prepared to make some new friends!

The sleeping arrangements in the mountain huts are cozy and booked solid. Be prepared to make some new friends!

Tips

Stash your extra clothes, shoes and gear at the 5th Station. There are coin lockers at the 5th Station. I wish I’d stashed a complete set of dry clothes, including shoes, in one of those lockers. While the onsen was great, it was awful having to put wet clothes on afterward. It’s also a cheap way to lighten your load up the mountain.

Take the tour. Definitely spring for the tour company (we used Willer Express and would recommend them again) and take them up on their entire rental package. Mountain hut reservations often fill up quickly, but the tour companies have standing reservations.

Prepare for the rain and cold. I had a base layer, cotton shirt, DriFit pullover, fleece jacket and rain jacket and my teeth were still chattering at the summit. My gloves were soaked and freezing. My two layers of socks were the only thing standing between my toes and frostbite. Choose layering clothes as the temperature difference between the 5th Station and the summit is pretty extreme.

Check the calendar. The climbing season is short. If you’re planning to climb Fuji, make sure to schedule your trip between early July and mid-September. While you can still climb in the off-season, shops and huts are closed and trails are not maintained and the ascent can be dangerous for inexperienced climbers.

The small town of Independence, Ore. was named an All-America City in 2014.
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Independence Day in Independence, Ore.

The summer of 1998 was my first in sleepy Monmouth, Ore. Best known as the home of Western Oregon University and the west coast’s last dry town, Monmouth had a permanent population right around 7,000 people in the late 1990s, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a few of them on a typical weekday.

I lived in a small duplex one block south of Main Street. On the morning of July 4, my roommate and I opened our curtains to discover cars parked end-to-end and people streaming en masse down our typically quiet street.

Certain the zombie apocalypse was upon us, we turned on the television for further instructions. Instead of warnings from the Emergency Broadcast System, we found the local television channel introducing the annual Western Days Parade.

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It would be nearly 20 years later before I actually attended the parade in person. Small-town Americana is on full display as kids on bicycles and makeshift floats pulled by pickup trucks make their way down Main Street and through neighboring Independence before arriving at Riverview Park on the banks of the Willamette River.

Main Street in Monmouth, Ore. after the Western Days Parade.

Main Street in Monmouth, Ore. after the Western Days Parade.

Independence Day celebrations have a long history in Independence. The first recorded July 4 event was held in 1903. The all-day affair began at 9 a.m. with a parade of nearly 30 floats followed by a “Grand Barbecue.” The competition heated up in the afternoon with tug-o-war, pie eating contests and baseball games. A “Grand Ball” finished up the evening.

The event was also the first time many locals saw an automobile in person. The “horseless carriages” shuttled visitors between downtown Independence and Pioneer Park just under a mile away.

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The celebration hasn’t changed much in the 114 years since that first event. The 2016 Western Days spanned four days with thousands of visitors coming in for the 5K fun run, parade and riverfront festival. Two nights of top-notch fireworks—funded through the hard work of year-around community fundraising efforts—anchor the holiday festivities.

The Independence Enterprise wrote after the first July 4 festival, “…the celebration of 1903 at Independence has set a new standard, a comparison to which will be drawn, and the highest compliment to be paid to any to come will be: It equals the splendid demonstration held at Independence in ’03.”

The community of Monmouth-Independence continues to set the bar high.

Special thanks to Peggy and Shannon at the Independence Heritage Museum for historical information about Independence Day in Independence, Ore.

Mount Hood from Airplane
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Seven Wonders: Mount Hood

Mount Hood is the third in a series of posts on Cascadian Abroad focusing on the Seven Wonders of Oregon.

Growing up in the northern end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it was easy to take the majesty of Mount Hood for granted. The glowing beacon in the east filled the horizon while effortlessly blending into the background.

Looking at the northwest face of Mount Hood from the Hood River Bridge.

Looking at the northwest face of Mount Hood from the Hood River Bridge.

It was only after moving away from the Valley that the iconic mountain became something more. When I’d drive home from college, it was the mountain that told me I was getting close. Living in Japan in the shadow of Mount Fuji, I would always be reminded of Mount Hood and how lucky I was to experience two of the world’s great natural creations on a regular basis.

Mount Hood might be the quintessential Oregon image with its perfectly pointy, snow-covered peak. But in true Oregon fashion, the natural beauty is just the first of many layers that tell the whole story of the mountain the Multnomah tribe called Wy’east.

At just over 11,000 feet, Oregon’s tallest mountain is also a semi-active volcano. Recent earthquake swarms, while common, served as a reminder that Hood is Oregon’s most likely candidate for a volcanic eruption, last bursting in 1865.

The summit of Mount Hood is mostly free of snow by mid-spring.

The summit of Mount Hood is mostly free of snow by mid-spring.

Eruption concerns don’t keep the visitors away. During the winter, Mount Hood is the ultimate playground for snow sports. Snowboarders and skiers come from around the world to tackle the miles of trails at Mount Hood Meadows, Timberline and Skibowl, home to the largest night skiing area in the U.S.

The surrounding national forest keeps things busy during the dry season, with more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails and 140 miles of mountain biking trails. We recently tackled a pair of gorgeous hikes, including the family-friendly Mirror Lake trail. The three-mile in-and-out hike slowly gains 700 feet of elevation via switchbacks from the trailhead to Mirror Lake. Views of Mount Hood’s peak reflecting in the aptly-named lake are simply breathtaking.

In the afternoon, we tackled a good portion of the seven-mile Ramona Falls trail. Crowds thin out after the first mile where the trail crosses the Sandy River. The bridge over the river was destroyed in a rainstorm in 2014 and has not been replaced, requiring hikers to brave the crossing via fallen tree trunks. Around mile three, the trail connects with the famous Pacific Crest Trail, leading to the wide, cascading waterfall.

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With all the physical activities, it’s no surprise that the area also offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation. Timberline Lodge is among the most popular stops for tourists visiting the mountain. The National Historic Landmark was originally a project of the Works Progress Administration as a way to put people back to work after the Great Depression. The 40,000 square-foot lodge was finished in 1938 and dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself.

Today, the lodge draws in freezing skiers and snowboarders who surround the six-sided, two-story fireplace in the lobby. A small museum tells the story of the construction and restoration of the lodge and includes displays of Native American art, artisan-built furniture and even Roosevelt’s chair. As a child of the 1980s, I was most impressed to learn that the drawing of the skier on a chairlift on the orange Pee-Chee folder was taken from a photo on Timberline’s “Magic Mile” chairlift. The photo of Merrie Douna riding the world’s second chairlift was also featured in a 1948 issue of Life magazine.

For out of town visitors, Timberline’s connection to popular culture is a major draw. The exterior of the lodge was featured in the 1980 Jack Nicholson classic The Shining as well as the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling novel Wild.

On a warm day, a stop into the Mt. Hood Brewing Co. taphouse just off of Highway 26 in Government Camp is worthwhile. Six flagship brews and a handful of seasonals are served on a frozen rail built into the bar, invoking the feeling of winter even in the dog days of summer.

If You Go…

Mount Hood National Forest
From Portland, take I-84 E to US-26 E toward Mt. Hood.

Timberline Lodge
From US-26, follow signs for Timberline Lodge. The lodge is open 24 hours. Check website for restaurant and lift hours.

Skibowl
From US-26, follow signs for Skibowl. See website for seasonal hours.

Mirror Lake Trailhead
On US-26, look for the roadside parking area about two miles west of Government Camp. A Northwest Forest Pass is required, but day passes can be purchased from stores on US-26. Family-friendly.

Ramona Falls Trailhead
From US-26, turn left onto E Lolo Pass Rd near Welches. Turn right onto Forest Road 1825 and turn right across the bridge in about a half-mile. Follow narrow road to large parking area. A Northwest Forest Pass is required, but day passes can be purchased from stores on US-26. Due to the dangerous river crossing, this is not a family-friendly hike.

Mt. Hood Brewing Company
On US-26 at Government Camp. Open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Looking out toward Monkey Face with Mt. Jefferson in the background.
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Seven Wonders: Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the second in a series of posts on Cascadian Abroad focusing on the Seven Wonders of Oregon

The sprawling plateau of central Oregon’s high desert region is one of North America’s great adventure sports destinations. Mt. Bachelor tests experienced snowboarders and skiers during the winters. The Deschutes River draws rafters, kayakers and paddleboarders all summer long. Sprawling trails offer mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners endless possibilities.

A few miles north of Bend—central Oregon’s largest city—Smith Rock calls rock climbers from around the globe to the precipitous cliffs of its volcanic tuff. Carved out over the course of 30 million years by a collapsed volcanic crater, lava flows and finally shaped by the aptly-named Crooked River, the formation stands out from the surrounding flat farmland.

Smith Rock is widely known as the sport climbing capital of the world. More than 500 climbing routes provide opportunities for beginners and elite climbers alike. However, it was the challenging hiking trails that led us to the rock on a warm and sunny spring day.

The Crooked River helped shape the current geography of Smith Rock.

The Crooked River helped shape the current geography of Smith Rock.

Even during the middle of the week, the ample parking area was full. A small interpretive center is surrounded by a shaded picnic area leading to the trailhead. Views from the top of the ridge are spectacular. The Crooked River winds through the formation while Mt. Washington with its distinctive pointed summit peeks out from a dip in the jagged rock.

Two paths lead from the parking area to the various trailheads. The subtle Canyon Trail takes a long loop along the rim walls down to the footbridge. The steep and rocky Chute is a straight shot for those hikers anxious to hit the trail.

Looking south toward Monkey Face from the River Trail at Smith Rock.

Looking south toward Monkey Face from the River Trail at Smith Rock.

Across the bridge, two family-friendly trails offer an easy walk with great views of the cliffs and a front-row seat to watch the dozens of climbers attached to the walls. The mile-long Wolf Tree Trail follows the north end of the canyon while the 2.5-mile River Trail heads south and provides the best look at the famous Monkey Face.

The Misery Ridge trailhead follows steep switchbacks to the summit around 1,000 feet above.

The Misery Ridge trailhead follows steep switchbacks to the summit around 1,000 feet above.

Wanting more of a challenge, we went straight ahead to the Misery Ridge Trail. The steep and rocky switchback trail is less than a mile to the top, but difficult as it covers 1,000 feet of elevation gain on a narrow trail. Along the way, tiny dots of climbers cling to any available wall, leaving our legs weak just looking at them.

Looking north toward the Crooked River from the summit of the Misery Ridge Trail.

Looking north toward the Crooked River from the summit of the Misery Ridge Trail.

We approached the summit of the Misery Ridge Trail, encountering a few climbers who took the “easy” way to the top. We looked back at the challenging climb from the stone plateau where the Crooked River meandered below. We dared ourselves to take in the view, staying a safe distance from the edge of the sheer cliff.

Looking toward Mt. Bachelor and Three Sisters from the Misery Ridge Trail summit.

Looking toward Mt. Bachelor and Three Sisters from the Misery Ridge Trail summit.

On the opposite side of the summit, the viewpoint opens up over the nearby cities of Redmond and Bend, all the way to the Cascade Mountain Range. We sat for awhile with a group of hikers from the Salem-area and watched as climbers tackled Smith Rock’s iconic Monkey Face.

Climbers descend Monkey Face.

Climbers descend Monkey Face.

Monkey Face is a 350-feet-tall rock spire that appears ready to topple at any time. Climbers ascend via multiple routes, including one known as Just Do It, considered one of the toughest free-climbing routes in the world. During our visit, the climbers descended over the monkey’s nose, resting on the mouth before dangling from their ropes and slowly lowering themselves to the rocks below.

Bald Eagle Flying Over Smith Rock

A bald eagle soars majestically over the Mesa Verde Trail.

Misery Ridge connects to the Mesa Verde Trail for the descent with equally-steep switchbacks over loose gravel. The slow shuffle to the bottom took about an hour to cover just a mile, although we stopped for awhile to try and capture a photo of a bald eagle that swooped overhead.

Hummingbird at Smith Rock

A hummingbird zipped in and out of the grass near the river.

At the bottom, the trail levels out as it connects to the River Trail. We stopped repeatedly to take in the southern view of Monkey Face, where its namesake details are most visible. The River Trail expectedly follows the Crooked River back to the beginning of the trailhead.

Just when you think you’re done, a steep climb up The Chute or the Canyon Trail stands between you and your return to the top. We enjoyed a picnic lunch before making the long drive back to Portland.

If You Go…

Smith Rock State Park
From Bend, follow US-97 toward Terrebonne. Turn right on NW Smith Rock Way and left on NE 1st Street. Turn left on NE Crooked River Dr and follow the road to the parking area. Day use parking is $5 or free with an Oregon State Parks parking permit.

Misery Ridge Trail
3.7 miles, steep and rocky with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. From the main parking lot, follow any trail toward the canyon. Take the Canyon Trail or The Chute across the footbridge and up the switchbacks at the trailhead marker. From the Monkey Face viewpoint at the summit, head down the left side toward the switchbacks connecting to the Mesa Verde Trail. As you approach the river, continue straight on the trail to connect to the River Trail and follow back to the trailhead at the footbridge.

Looking east from the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint toward the Vista House on Crown Point and down the Columbia River Gorge.
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Seven Wonders: Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge is the first in a series of posts on Cascadian Abroad focusing on the Seven Wonders of Oregon

Driving east on Interstate 84 from Portland, Ore. lies 80 miles of one of the most beautiful stretches of nature on the planet. Still largely undeveloped, the Columbia River Gorge is a playground for both locals and more than 3.5 million tourists annually.

The Gorge was formed over the course of 15 million years as the mighty Columbia River slowly eroded away the rock. Floods from the end of the Ice Age carved out the most dramatic features, exposing beautiful layers of volcanic rock. Looking at the Gorge today, with the river flowing strong some 4,000 feet below the top of the cliff walls, it’s a powerful image to imagine what it may have looked like as nature took its course.

On a recent sunny spring day, we headed for this natural wonderland, ultimately bound for the small town of Hood River. It didn’t take long to ditch the interstate for the more scenic Historic Columbia River Highway. The first planned scenic highway in the U.S., today’s HCRH runs for 40 miles through the forest, offering a gateway to many of the 90 waterfalls along the Oregon side of the Gorge.

Looking east down the Columbia River Gorge toward the Vista House on Crown Point.

Looking east from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint toward the Vista House on Crown Point and down the Columbia River Gorge.

Our first stop was the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, providing the most photographed view of the Columbia River Gorge. Just up the road, the Vista House at Crown Point unofficially marks the beginning of the Gorge. Built in 1916-18 as a resting area for the new highway, it now houses an excellent museum featuring the natural and human history of the Gorge.

Continuing east on the HCRH, rows of cars begin to appear on the shoulder of the narrow two-lane road. The waterfalls in this stretch—the most concentrated in all of North America—are the main draw for day-trippers from Portland looking to hike the scenic trails or just stop for photos or a picnic. Many of the falls are accessible by a short walk from the road or nearby parking lots.

Multnomah Falls is Oregon's tallest waterfall at an estimated 620 feet tall. It flows year-round, making it a popular tourist destination all year long.

Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall at an estimated 620 feet tall. It flows year-round, making it a popular tourist destination all year long.

The biggest crowds are reserved for the magnificent Multnomah Falls. Oregon’s tallest waterfall drops in two parts—a long upper falls that collects into a basalt basin, giving way to a shorter lower falls. The best view is in front of the lower basin looking up at the footbridge, but a short walk up to the bridge is worthwhile.

Hiking to the top is a difficult march through steep switchbacks, but the views are worth it. You’ll also be rewarded with another waterfall—Little Multnomah—that can only be seen from the top.

From here, we followed the HCRH back to I-84 toward Hood River. Even on the modern freeway, there’s no shortage of sights along the way. The community of Bonneville is best known for the massive Bonneville Dam. Built in the 1930s as an initiative of the New Deal’s Public Works Administration, the dam provides power to more than 500,000 homes. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Further up the river, the Bridge of the Gods crosses the Columbia River in the small city of Cascade Locks. The 90-year-old steel bridge gets its epic name from Klickitat tribe folklore, sharing its moniker with a land bridge created by a slide in 1100 A.D. The bridge also serves as the Columbia River crossing of the 2,659 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail, stretching from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington.

Mt. Hood

The northeast face of Mt. Hood as seen from the Hood River Bridge.

We were ready to do some hiking of our own, although on a less grand scale than the PCT. Passing through Hood River, we quickly found ourselves at the payment window of the Hood River Toll Bridge without the requisite dollar for passage. A kind soul had left an extra dollar behind, covering our river crossing. On the way back—after a quick ATM stop—we left $2, one for our crossing and one to pay forward to the next forgetful traveler.

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Having safely forded the river, we continued east on the Washington side through the city of Bingen toward Catherine Creek. The Catherine Creek Trailhead offers something for everyone, from a short 1.2 mile walk through the Universal Access Trail (UAT) to a long, hilly 8.2 mile out-and-back to Coyote Wall.

Before we left for our two-year journey in Japan, we’d hiked the West Loop trail and its spectacular views of the Gorge and nearby Rowland Lake. This time, we opted for the two-mile Arch Loop hike, but first, we walked the loop around the UAT. The paved interpretive trail is packed with great views of the Gorge and Mt. Hood. Dozens of varieties of wildflowers bloom at different times of the year, always offering a punch of color. Benches offer places to rest and enjoy the scenery and the entire trail is wheelchair-accessible.

An abandoned corral along the Catherine Creek Arch Loop trail.

An abandoned corral along the Catherine Creek Arch Loop trail.

After our warmup, we headed out the stone and gravel path toward the Arch Loop trail. The easy trail has a bit of incline as it winds through the light forest, across Catherine Creek and between tall stone cliffs. Opposite an abandoned corral is the trail’s namesake arch rock. The area is fenced off as it is a sacred area for the local Native American tribes.

View of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River from the top of the Catherine Creek Arch Loop trail.

View of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River from the top of the Catherine Creek Arch Loop trail.

We followed the trail up to the top of the arch rock where views of Mt. Hood and the Gorge fill the skyline. The flatlands at the top offer a great opportunity to explore or just sit and enjoy the views. Eventually, we left the vista behind, following the edge of the cliff until the trail picked up again. The last stretch was a bit underwhelming as we made our way down onto the highway for the final quarter-mile, but overall, Catherine Creek is an enjoyable stroll.

We crossed back to Oregon and headed into Hood River for a stop at one of our favorite breweries. Full Sail Brewing is the largest, yet still maintains a local feel at its brewery and taproom overlooking the Columbia River. Full Sail’s simple flagship beers are widely available, but it’s here in Hood River where the mastery of the craft really shines with a variety of seasonals and Brewmaster Reserve recipes always on tap.

After enjoying the seasonal sampler, we took a walk around the downtown area. Although quiet on the weekday evening, the charming and easily-walkable downtown is lively on the weekends with great local restaurants and shops.  We finished up with one last pint and a pizza at Double Mountain Brewery before heading back toward Portland.

Sunset over the Columbia River

Sunset over the Columbia River.

Perhaps the only view more stunning than the eastern vista on a sunny day is the western view on a clear evening. The sun began to set as we approached the viewpoint near the historical marker commemorating the British explorers of the H.M.S. Chatham in the 1790s. The fiery sky reflected off the calm waters of the river, slowly gradating to the indigo of the evening. A perfect ending to a great day in the Columbia River Gorge.

If You Go…

Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint
From I-84 E, take exit 22 and follow Corbett Hill Rd to the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Vista House at Crown Point
Follow the Historic Columbia River Highway east from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint.

Multnomah Falls
Follow the Historic Columbia River Highway east from Crown Point or take I-84 E to exit 31 (left-hand exit) for the Multnomah Falls parking lot.

Catherine Creek Trailhead
From I-84 E, take exit 64 near Hood River and turn left for Button Bridge Rd. Cross the toll bridge ($1 each way for most vehicles) and turn right on WA-14. Just before Rowland Lake, turn left onto Old Highway 8 to the trailhead parking.

Full Sail Brewing
506 Columbia St, Hood River. Open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Double Mountain Brewery
8 4th St, Hood River. Open daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Portlandia statue looks down over 5th Ave. in Downtown Portland from her perch atop the Portland Building.
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Photo of the Day: Portlandia

Portlandia strikes an imposing form over SW 5th Ave. in Downtown Portland. The statue is the second-largest copper relief status in the U.S. after the New York’s Statue of Liberty.

Based on the seal of the City of Portland, she’s dressed in classic clothing and holds a trident in her left hand while reaching down with her right. Portlandia has been perched atop the entrance of the Portland Building since 1985.

Sculptor Raymond Kaskey maintained intellectual property rights over the statue. As a result, the image of Portlandia has been rarely used for commercial purposes. Most famously, you can see the statue in two shots during the opening credits of the Portlandia television show on IFC.

 

Buoy Beer Company IPA on Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in the background.
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Beervana: Oregon Craft Beer Tours

If you’ve followed Cascadian Abroad for the last couple years, you know we missed our Oregon craft beers during our time overseas. We did our best to fill the gap. We explored Japan’s growing ji-biru scene. We visited Prague with its world-class Pilsner and London, where IPAs, porters and stouts reign supreme. We bellied up to the bar in Brussels where wild yeast defines most styles. We even stumbled on two separate craft brewpubs in the hutongs of Beijing.

Yet, I can honestly say nothing tops the creativity and quality found here in Cascadia where the process is just as important as the product. Homebrewers with a dream have started some of the Pacific Northwest’s most successful small breweries. Obsessive detail is paid to everything from the ingredients used to the origin of barrels and other materials used in the brewing process.

Living the good life on the Oregon Coast with Bend, Ore.'s GoodLife Descender IPA.

Living the good life on the Oregon Coast with Bend, Ore.’s GoodLife Descender IPA.

Over the past month, we’ve revisited a few of our favorite places, tried a few new breweries and have even been treated to some unexpected tours. Here’s a small sample of some of the best Oregon has to offer.

Santiam Brewing

Salem’s Santiam Brewing started with a group of buddies experimenting in a small room in the back of an industrial park. Four years later, they’ve taken over most of the park, opened a large tasting room and are in the process of expanding even more.

We visited on the one day a month co-founder Matt Killikelly happened to be behind the bar and were treated to a tour of the operation. It’s a beautiful harmony of professional brewing and DIY ingenuity. Gleaming stainless steel fermenters fill one room while the large storage cooler—hand-built by staff—takes up another. Original equipment made from picnic coolers and fish tank parts now sit in the warehouse like museum artifacts.

Santiam—named for the North Santiam River that provides the brewery’s pristine water source—now has an impressive barrel-aging warehouse. Rum barrels from Jamaica give the amazing Pirate Stout its distinct sweet flavor. Other beers are aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels while Santiam’s new line of sours with their strains of wild yeast are tucked away in the back.

Must-try: Pirate Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Stout, Ecotopia IPA

Rogue Farms

Rogue Ales and Spirits is one of Oregon’s most successful craft breweries. Its flagship beers have wide distribution (we easily found bottles in Japan), but the real spirit of Rogue can only be found close to home.

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Nestled along the banks of the Willamette River in tiny Independence, Ore., Rogue Farms is the core of the brewing operation. The long road to the tasting room is lined by acres of proprietary hops with names like Rebel, Freedom and Newport. Further in, groves of hazelnut trees, jalapeño plants, marionberries and pumpkins appear. Bee hives sit in the fields.

All of these are used as ingredients in Rogue’s specialty beers, brewed about an hour away on the Oregon Coast. We visited the farm on a beautiful sunny day in the middle of the week and enjoyed their farm-special IPAs at the picnic tables that surround a grassy square filled with lawn games.

While we played bean bag toss, two farm employees approached and asked if we’d be interested in a tour. The guide was a trainee and encouraged us to ask a lot of questions. We learned about the history of the farm, which has been growing hops since the 1860s, and walked through the hop processing facilities. We met the pet pigs, Voo and Doo, named for Rogue’s partnership with Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts.

We left with a bottle of Rogue’s latest collaboration, the Cold Brew IPA featuring 200 gallons of Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters Cold Brew Coffee.

Must-try: 7-Hop and 8-Hop IPAs, Chipotle Ale. Many of the taps are farm-only offerings, so sample the seasonals!

Around Oregon

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has earned international acclaim for its pinot noir grapes, but the prime agriculture land also yields excellent aromatic hops and resilient rye that can be found in the numerous IPAs, red ales and more in Oregon’s 220-plus breweries. Here’s a few off-the-path breweries not far from I-5.

The spring tap list at Deception Brewing in Dundee, Ore.

The spring tap list at Deception Brewing in Dundee, Ore.

Deception Brewing, Dundee: The small town of Dundee has exploded in the past decade thanks to several vineyards in the hills above Highway 99W. Deception is a nano-brewery offering a break for wine-soaked tourists. The small taproom features 10 of the latest brews. Try the award-winning Apricot Cream Ale or the 80 Shilling Scottish Ale.

The spring tap list at Grain Station Brew Works in McMinnville, Ore.

The spring tap list at Grain Station Brew Works in McMinnville, Ore.

Grain Station Brew Works, McMinnville: Sharing space with a coffee roaster in a restored barn, Grain Station embodies the agricultural spirit of its hometown. In addition to seven flagship beers, a handful of seasonals are available on draught and a large food menu draws in the locals. Try the unfiltered Sprout Hefeweizen, CDA-esque Hank’s Dark Ale or the complex Barnstormer Double Red.

Enjoying the Redside Prophet Imperial Red Ale and Proxima IPA on the patio at Hop Valley Brewing Company in Eugene, Ore.

Enjoying the Redside Prophet Imperial Red Ale and Proxima IPA on the patio at Hop Valley Brewing Company in Eugene, Ore.

Hop Valley Brewing, Eugene: Located on the outskirts of downtown Eugene, Hop Valley’s taproom will be packed with local beerphiles any night of the week. Thanks to a growing on-site bottling/canning process, Hop Valley beers are now available in retail around the Northwest, but getting seasonal choices fresh at the brewery is the way to go. My favorite is the VIP Vanilla Porter, but also try the Proxima IPA and Redside Prophet Imperial Red Ale.

For more reviews, check out the Cascadian Abroad Beer Journal featuring craft beers from around the world.

If You Go

Santiam Brewing
2544 19th St SE, Salem. See website for tasting room hours.

Rogue Farms
3590 Wigrich Rd, Independence. See website for tasting room hours.

Deception Brewing
1174 OR-99W, Dundee. See website for taproom hours.

Grain Station Brew Works
755 NE Alpine Ave, McMinnville. See website for brewpub hours.

Hop Valley Brewing
990 W 1st Ave, Eugene. See website for tasting room hours.