Stranded In The Southland

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bonneville and the Columbia

I don't often have a chance to hang out with my parents, other than at holidays, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that they'd be in Portland for a conference during our vacation. We managed to spend most of the weekend together.

My folks are inveterate history geeks, so we headed out to the coast to check out Lewis and Clark's western-most camp, at Fort Clatsup. They've got a nice reconstruction of the fort, and a pretty decent visitor's center. Most amusing, though, was the little ranger-led hike. The ranger kept talking about various edible berrys and encouraging folks to sample them. "Look, there's trailing blackberry. There aren't many, but give it a try!"

This worked great, right up until we got to the elderberry, and M. popped one in her mouth just as the ranger started to describe how, uncooked, it would actually make you sick. Heh, so much for anticipating the shpeil! Fortunately, it would take much more than a single tiny (1ml or smaller) berry to make M. sick, especially with her iron stomach.

We had a fun drive back through Astoria (what a cool looking town -- too bad we didn't have more time there) and along the Columbia, with a detour here and there to try to take smaller roads and stick closer to the river.

Strangely enough, it appears that folks are starting to grow Poplar (or Cottonwood) as a farmed tree, in plantations. A little time with google verified this, and suggested that the tree provided some natural bleaching for paper and an alternate source of pulp. Plus, the Poplars grew were the normal evergreen pulp trees wouldn't. Still, it was odd to see a deciduous tree plantation!

The next day, we set out for the Bonneville Dam. M. laments that it just isn't a trip with me until we've stopped at a dam or two, and it's hard to argue the point (witness, sadly, trips to England, Spain, Poland, Tennesee, Nevada, and Montana).

Bonneville was pretty impressive, though. They have a pretty standard lock setup for navigation, but this was my first time to actually check out a fish ladder. The idea is to have a tiered set of pools for salmon and other fish that head back upstream to spawn. It's really fun to see in action, especially with the underwater windows, showing the big-ass fish swimming hard against the current to make it upstream, and the smaller Lamprey eels clinging to the glass with a bad-ass mouth full of teeth!

The tour of the power house was equally interesting -- it stretches on seemingly forever, with generator after generator. The tour only takes you out to a balcony overlooking the power house, but the balcony is packed with interesting gear, including the electro-mechanical governor that controlled the pitch of the turbine blades and the angle of the wicket gates that allow water into the turbine. There was also an interesting selection of vintage power gear, which another visitor joked looked just like the equipment he used day to day in Arizona! Best of all, they were updating the turbines and generators and had all the guts spilled out in a bay just beneath the balcony. It was great to see all the fiddly bits.

We got to Bonneville via the cool Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway, stopping off for a few different waterfalls, and the still-pretty-cool-looking Crown Point Vista, which was built in the 1910s. It was pretty cool to be able to check out the amazing cliffs and pinnacles of the Columbia Gorge from the second story.

We drove on from Bonneville to circumnavigate Mt. Hood, stopping off at the Timberline Lodge (the exterior of which was used for The Shining). It's even more strongly built than the typical old-fashioned lodge, with a gigantic hexagonal fireplace in the center. We had some great views of Mt. Jefferson (we think?) and back up the mountain, where folks appeared to still be able to ski. Yow. Definitely a worthwhile stop.


  • Dad and I certainly enjoyed this party of your trip and were delighted we could get together!
    Mom and Dad in Ohio

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:13 AM  

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