With world-class fruit blossom displays and wildflower hikes, Hood River always welcomes spring with open arms. Here are the top three ways for visitors to fully immerse themselves in the splendor:

1. Explore the Hood River County Fruit Loop, the epicenter of Hood River’s blossom bonanza. Just driving along this 35-mile self-guided route, past acres upon acres of cherry and apple blossoms, is a feast for the eyes. Starting in early April, the cherry, apple and pear trees in the Hood River Valley welcome spring’s return by releasing vibrant pink and white flowers. They start in the lower elevations and, like a domino effect, move up the valley creating a patchwork of color.

The Fruit Loop experience is enhanced exponentially by stopping at one or more of the many orchards for cider, jam, fresh-baked goods and other farm-made goodies, or visiting the cideries, where you can sample hard ciders made with local fruit. During Blossom Time, which takes place throughout April, various Fruit Loop stops hold special events, from family-friendly farm events and craft shows to wine tastings and culinary specials. The centerpiece for Blossom Time is the Hood River Hard-Pressed Cider Fest (April 20, 2019), which brings together 29 local and regional cideries and more than 50 hard ciders on tap for one spectacular, cider-infused afternoon. (See below for more information on this year’s festival.)
Photo credit: Bear Boot Productions

Hood River
Photo credit: Bear Boot Productions

2. Hike among the wildflowers. The Columbia River Gorge Natural Scenic Area is known for its amazing wildflower displays. The Mosier Plateau Trail, located just five miles east of Hood River in the town of Mosier, offers more than 30 different flower species. This 3.5-mile loop follows Mosier Creek through Pocket Park and ends on Mosier Plateau, which is owned by Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust. More wildflower hike ideas are here.

Hood River
Enjoying spring weather. Photo credit: Peter Marbach.

3. Pair blossom viewing with wine tasting. Hood River’s numerous wineries are the perfect place to relax and take in the blossomy views during the spring. Stave & Stone’s new tasting room, tucked high up in the Hood River Valley, is one such perfect place to do so.
Photo credit: MountNbarreL

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Hood River
Enjoying a Spring day. Photo credit: MountNbarreL

Hood River Hard-Pressed Cider Fest

On April 20, 2019, Hood River will again be the epicenter for the region’s hard cider scene, thanks to the sixth annual Hood River Hard-Pressed Cider Fest. The 2019 festival – which appropriately takes place at a fruit-packing house in the heart of Hood River Valley, surrounded by fruit orchards in bloom – features 29 local and regional cideries, including five that are new to the festival. The 2019 cidery lineup is at hoodriver.org/cider-fest/.

The participating cideries will be sampling more than 50 original ciders that showcase the wide variety of styles coming out of the Pacific Northwest’s cider scene. To add to the festivities, there’s live music all day, plus local food carts.

Families and those with ‘fur babies’ should take note: New for 2019 is an expanded interactive kids’ zone, hosted by Our Children’s Place Academy, with games, crafts and cider-centered projects, plus a new “dog parking” service, thanks to Kind Animal Services. The latter is by reservation only; space is limited, and there is an hourly fee. For reservations, email contact@kindanimalservices.com. (Note that dogs are not allowed within the event area.)

For online tickets, go to hoodriver.org/cider-fest/.

For those looking for a Hallmark Card-perfect holiday experience, you need to look no further—and go no farther—than Hood River. The picture-perfect historic downtown is alight with holiday spirit, and with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop and warm cafés and restaurants for refueling, there’s no more picturesque place to get into the holiday spirit.

Throughout the month, visitors can enjoy stress-free shopping in Hood River’s historic downtown, where there’s something for everyone on their list, and support small businesses at the same time. (You won’t get views of Mount Adams and Mount Hood while shopping in a mall or from your couch!)

To help make holiday shopping stress-free, the City of Hood River will host free metered parking from December 10-25 (Sunday parking is always free!). For zero driving stress, those coming from the Portland area can leave the car at home as the Columbia Gorge Express bus service is continuing through winter, with a new Hood River stop location right in front of Full Sail Brewing! Check the Columbia Gorge Express website for the winter schedule, which begins on December 3.

Shoppers can reward themselves with handcrafted drinks from one of Hood River’s breweries or cideries, enjoy a meal that’s locally inspired, and then spend the night in a historic hotel, cozy bed-and-breakfast, or riverside lodge.

Eastern Gorge, OR — When the original Columbia River Highway (CRH) was built through this area in 1921, it was necessary to build two tunnels to get through a high rock point. These tunnels and the nearby cliffs were a troublesome spot on the CRH: rockfalls were common and accidents happened all too frequently. A new road was completed in 1954 near water level and the tunnels were abandoned. They were soon filled with rock rubble and forgotten.

A trip to the west portal in the early ’90s found the road near the tunnels completely buried in fallen rock, with trees growing in the roadway. Only a quarter of a damaged tunnel portal was visible. In 1995, work was begun to reopen the tunnels for tourist use. This involved the removal of the rubble, rebuilding and resurfacing the road. The area opened to tourist use in 2000. Today, the old highway is known as the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (HCRHT).

From the parking area, the path begins along the shoulder of Rock Creek Road, joining the old road about 0.2 miles down the hill. Walk through the gate and onto the old highway. The first part of the hike is through a large rock field, spotted with pine trees. The trail comes to the edge of the Gorge and turns west. Here, you’ll walk past stone guardrails and look down on Eighteen Mile Island. About a half mile from Rock Creek Road, a new stone-walled lookout has been built over the Columbia River. The grassy area around this lookout is a great place to see balsamroot and other wildflowers in April and May. Just past the lookout is the east portal of the east tunnel.

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You’ll find milepost 72 inside the tunnel as well as carved graffiti from 1921, detailing the names of people that were trapped in the tunnel during a snowstorm. There are side passages leading to windows known as adits. West of the tunnels is a 700 foot structure designed to catch rocks falling from above. Beyond the tunnels, the trail continues another 4 miles to the Mark Hatfield West Trailhead, near Hood River.

History
Abandoned in 1954 with the construction of Interstate 84, these tunnels were filled in with rock and the road right-of-ways were reverted back to private owners. As Gorge legislation was being considered, thoughts of reconnecting the entire old highway gained momentum and the idea made its way into the National Scenic Area Act. Reconnecting the highway between Hood River and Mosier meant re-purchasing right-of-ways, closing several gravel pits and digging out and refurbishing the two tunnels. The highway and tunnels were finally reopened in 2000 as a result of hard work and generosity on federal, state, county and private levels. Consider biking this paved, 14-mile out-and-back (round-trip distance) section of the highway from Hood River to Mosier.

From gorgefriends

San Juan, Puerto Rico — Camas mural artist, Allan Jeffs, has just completed a monthlong series of major projects in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. He was hired to create six murals at multiple locations, and is now back in Mill Town taking some off to rejuvenate.

He painted three murals at an Old San Juan restaurant, called El Punto Café, which represented various aspects and history of the island, and Valparaiso, this article’s featured image, is a landscape mural of Chile.

Following that project he traveled to Aibonito, and painted two murals — one at a mountain top Italian restaurant, called Fiore — and the other at a private home owned by Peter Matina. At Fiore, he painted a large 15-foot wide pheasant, which symbolizes elegance to Fiore’s owner.

He the left the mountains, and returned to Old San Juan to paint one mural, and a little painting at the residence of Dr. German Ramirez.

“I love it when the clients are pleased with my work,” said Jeffs. “That’s the most important thing.”

His days were long, often spending 10-14 hours creating the murals while on his feet.

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“I’m really tired,” said Jeffs. “My body hurts. I’ve been home for five days now, and my hands still hurt. I was on my feet all day long, and one day I walked 18,000 steps in the same wall. I’m satisfied with the work.

The clients knew what they wanted, but Jeffs had creative license to create each masterpiece using his talent and imagination. He spent time designing each mural, and each result is almost identical to the original specifications.

He said even though Puerto Rico was severely damaged by last year’s hurricane, he sees many signs of recovery.

“After the hurricane, they are starting to recover,” said Jeffs. “It was horrible there for many months, but nature is coming back, and people are rebuilding their community, and they are preparing for the next hurricane by improving the electrical grid, and using alternative sources of energy, such as solar. They’re getting prepared.

“I saw a lot of progress. There are a lot of people creating art and fashion. The restaurants are getting better and better. Electricity is there full-time in most of the country, but there are still some areas struggling with electrical problems. Puerto Rico has a lot of problems, but they are starting to become better than before. It’s something that you feel. Schools are in session. I think it’s better than what you hear in the news, but they do have a lot of problems with government. I was surprised because everything is getting better, and there are a lot of possibilities there.”

He said the rain forest was severely harmed, and many areas have been closed, and are now starting to open up.

“It’s a great place again for tourism,” said Jeffs. “The prices are very low for airfare to San Juan. It’s hot, it’s a Caribbean island, but it’s a great time to travel there.”

To learn more, go www.AllanJeffs.com

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Abbey Road Farm Open House September 29th & 30th in Willamette Valley Wine Country

Weekend Festivities Include Music, Artisan Fair, Food Trucks, Wine Tastings, and Cornhole Tournament

September 4, 2018 – Carlton, OR – Abbey Road Farm, newly-revitalized in the heart of Oregon wine country, will hold its first open house “Silobration” at the end of September. Named for the refurbished grain silos that house the bed-and-breakfast lodging, the Silobration is intended to re-introduce the community to the farm, thank supportive vendors and friends, and celebrate the beginning of the grape harvest. Entry to the weekend-long event is free and open to all ages, taking place from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, September 29th and Sunday, September 30th.

Local restaurateurs Sandi and Daniel Wilkens, owners of Quaintrelle in Portland and Hanko’s Sports Bar & Grill in Lake Oswego, purchased the property in October 2017 and immediately began improvements to the 82-acre farm to turn it into an all-encompassing agritourism destination. Today, Abbey Road Farm boasts one of the most unique lodging opportunities in the area, offering five silo guest suites, and a three-bedroom guest ranch house. The property’s vegetable garden and chicken coop provide fresh ingredients for gourmet breakfasts. Sweeping lawns provide breathtaking views and a gathering space for up to 200 people. Abbey Road Farm’s permanent residents are available to greet guests: mini donkeys, chickens, mini goats, ducks, llamas and alpacas. The facility offers a variety of lawn games including horse shoes, cornhole, croquet and giant Jenga. With close proximity to some of Willamette Valley’s premier wineries, hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, and Agrivino Fine Dining Event Center, there is no shortage of activities, wining and dining.

The Silobration will include a mix of food, beverages and fun for all ages with 28 artisan vendors and four wine tasting stations featuring wines from Marshall Davis Wines, Suzor Wines, and Abbey Road Wines.

Abbey

An amazing entrance.

Saturday, September 29
Artisan Fair, Food Trucks, Wine Tasting: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Cornhole Tournament: 11:00 a.m.    

Classes:

Letters & Dust Chalkboard Lettering Class, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Alice’s Table Flower Arranging, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Ukalaliens Workshop, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Music:

The Old Yellers, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Kenneth West Music, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
The Big North Duo, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, September 30
Artisan Fair, Food Trucks, Wine Tasting: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Classes:

Olivia Grace Paper Sign Painting Class, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Sprinkles of Joy Cookie Decorating, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Music:

Jeff Ward, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Wanderlodge, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Mood Swings, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

All food and beverage will be available for purchase.  To register and purchase classes, or enter the cornhole tournament, sign up at http://abbeyroadfarm.com/silo-brationnw.html.

About Abbey Road Farm

Located at 10501 NE Abbey Road in Carlton, OR, Abbey Road Farm is a destination in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country offering lodging, gathering spaces, Agrivino restaurant and a working farm. To reserve a stay or for more information, please visit www.abbeyroadfarm.com or call (503) 852-6278.

Hood River, OR — 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the Hood River County Fruit Loop – the popular 35-mile scenic drive that provides the ultimate self-guided tour of the area’s acclaimed agritourism, with numbered stops at farm stands, u-pick farms, wineries, cideries, and lavender farms. New for 2018: Updated number signs that makes finding each stop even easier!

To get there from the Portland Metro area, take I-84 Exit 64 and head up Hwy 35 towards Mt. Hood. To get a feel for the variety of agriculture that defines Hood River Valley, stop at Panorama Point where you’ll also have a view of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams on a clear day.

We recommend you stop at all the locations on the Fruit Loop map, but here are some suggestions to help get you started: The Gorge White House is a working pear orchard that offers wine tasting from most all of the Gorge region wines. Here you can also sample and purchase local fruit, u-pick berries, and u-pick flowers.

Fruit Loop Fun Facts:

  • Started in 1993 with 19 stops
  • Of the original members, four are still on the Fruit Loop today: Kiyokawa Family Orchards, Mt. View Orchards, Smiley’s Red Barn, The Farm Place (formerly Rasmussen Farms)
  • Current number of stops: 28
  • In addition to the self-guided driving tour from April through November, the Hood River County Fruit Loop also offers annual special events, including Cherry Days (June), Lavender DAZE Festival (June), Summer Fruit Celebration (August), Gravenstein Apple Days (September) and Pumpkin Patches (October).
  • Things you can do on the Fruit Loop: Pick (fruit, flowers, pumpkins), sample (fruit, cider, jellies, pies, and more!), sip (cider & wine), pet (baby goats, bunnies), swing (Draper Girls Family Farm), picnic, photograph (orchards in bloom, Mount Hood & Adams, fruit galore), fill (growlers of cider, stomachs), relax, recharge.

More food for thought:

  • The lavender farms offer u-pick lavender starting at the end of June, all the way through October.
  • The upper valley offers berries in July and August, and Heirloom Apples and Pears in the fall.
  • The Fruit Loop is beautiful year round, but be sure to visit during the April Blossom Fest time to see acres of orchards in bloom, and the Fall harvest when the fruit is piled high in the bins.

The Fruit Loop is also famous for its many festivals. Get all the details here: http://hoodriverfruitloop.com/

If you ever wanted to explore Italy’s famous places along with its special, lesser-known areas, you may want to consider the Insider’s Italy Tour. There a multiple tours from which to choose, including two this Fall — and all are organized by local professional artist, Elida Field, and guided by Catholic priest, Father Bruno Segatta, who ran Gonzaga University’s Study Abroad program for 25 years.

The September 20-27 tour includes stops in Venice, Cinque Terre, and Florence. In Venice, explore famous sites and experience some very special, lesser-known areas of the city that contain beautiful architecture, art, and an abundance of history. In Cinque Terre, you’ll get to hike and explore five towns via train or boat, and soak in the beaches and scenic coastline. As a bonus, Father Bruno and Elida will introduce you to Porto Venere. Florence includes a walk with Father Bruno as he highlights the city’s most amazing treasures and history. You’ll also experience a private tour of a leather shop, a visit to Fiesole, or a walk through the lesser-known parts of the city.

Tour Details

The cost of the September 20-27 tour is $2,795 per person (excluding airfare), which includes:

  • 8 days and 7 nights in Venice, Cinque Terra, and Florence
  • Accommodations (double occupancy)
  • Two meals per day
  • Transportation between cities
  • Walking tours and museum entrance fees
  • Painting and Sharpie sketching instruction and materials

To register, go to www.elidaart.com/tours

Italy

Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The second tour, which can be added to the first tour, or taken separately, runs from September 27-October 5, and includes stops in Florence, Rome, and the Italian countryside. In Florence, explore famous sights and unknown corners, enjoy majestic views of the city from Camp Michelangelo, climb the dome of the Duomo and sketch Michelangelo’s “David” at the Academy. Florence is Father Bruno’s old stomping grounds and he knows all the great stops, secret alleys, and best restaurants. In Cagli, you can escape the tourists, hike the countryside, and connect with locals.

Elida says they are often invited into someone’s home to enjoy their homemade wine, tour ancestral homes, or take a personal tour of historical areas. In Rome, you will be able to take in breathtaking views of the city, walk the ancient ruins and special sites, along with a semi-private tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel before it’s opened to the public.

Tour Details

The cost of the September 27-October 5 tour is $3,245 and includes:

  • 9 days and 8 nights in Florence, Cagli, and Rome
  • Accommodations (double occupancy)
  • Two meals per day
  • Transportation between cities
  • Walking tours and museum entrance fees
  • Semi-private tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel
  • Italian cooking class and artistic instruction

Each tour requires a $500 deposit, and final payments are due by July 15.

Elida said they started the tours in 2010, the year after she met Father Bruno, who is a fellow artist.

“We met while I was in California visiting my grandma,” said Elida. “I went to his art show, which was at a private home, and we just connected. I later invited him to my art, women and wine class in Washougal, and he suggested we take a tour of Italy. At first, I thought I had no business planning a trip to Italy, but here we are. We’ve gone on 20 tours already!”

She encourages people to learn more about these great experiences, and to consider traveling on one of the tours. She also offers tours during Spring Break.

”Each trip is different and we work hard to make sure each tour is filled with fun, leisure, and good company,” said Elida. “You’ll have a great time!”

OLYMPIA, WA — Washington State Parks anticipates heavy use of Beacon Rock and Columbia Hills state parks this spring and summer and advises visitors to the area to plan accordingly.

The Eagle Creek Fire of 2017 damaged most of the Oregon trails in the Columbia River Gorge, and State Parks and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) trails are experiencing a significant increase in hikers and crowded parking on the Washington side of the Gorge.

Beacon Rock State Park lies 40 miles east of Portland. The park’s most popular trail up the side of 848-foot Beacon Rock, celebrates its 100-year anniversary this April. The park is also home to the challenging 7.5-mile Hamilton Mountain trail, a hike known for waterfalls and views.

Dalles Mountain Ranch, in Columbia Hills Historical State Parkand just across the Columbia River from The Dalles, Oregon, is a favorite wildflower hike in spring. The 8-mile hike features fields of lupine, balsamroot and Indian paintbrush.

Rangers at the two parks want to remind visitors that parking on State Route 14 is illegal. Safety issues caused by parking on the highway’s shoulder have prompted USFS to require limited weekend use permits and offer shuttles for the well-trodden Dog Mountain trail.

Parks staff encourages hikers to plan visits for midweek, early morning or late afternoon to avoid the high-volume weekend, holiday and mid-morning to mid-afternoon hours.

Beacon Rock staff reminds visitors that parking at the Doetsch day use area is available 1.5 miles from the Beacon Rock trailhead and 2 miles from the Hamilton Mountain trailhead, on the River to Rock Trail. Experienced hikers can use the Hardy Ridge Trail as an alternative to Hamilton Mountain, as the lesser-known trail offers slightly more elevation gain.

Additionally, technical rock climbing on Beacon Rock is closed, except for the west face and the route “Stone Soup” on the northwest face, and is expected to reopen in mid-July. The closure protects the nesting habitat of the peregrine falcon. The east face is permanently closed to protect rare species and cultural and historical resources.

Columbia Hills staff asks visitors to consider such lesser-known trails as Crawford Oaks and Horsethief Butte as alternatives to the Dalles Mountain Ranch, or to hike in nearby Brooks Memorial State Park and the Klickitat State Park Trail. Ample parking is available at Horsethief Lake inside Columbia Hills, but parking is minimal at most trailheads in the area.

To learn more, visit: http://parks.state.wa.us/

Beacon

Hiking up Beacon Rock Trail.

Hood River, OR — This February kicks off the inaugural Hood River County Foodie February, a month-long celebration of the area’s outstanding dining scene that gives visitors and locals alike the chance to support local restaurants and discover some of the best food and menus in the region.

Located in the agriculturally rich Hood River Valley, Hood River has an innovative, regionally inspired food scene that rivals its big-city neighbors but is infused with small-town charm. (Heads-up on great Valentine’s Day destination idea!)

Foodie February specials include:

  • Camp 1805: Taco Tuesday! Happy-hour tacos all day, along with $6 Mt. Hood Mules and $6 margaritas
  • Full Sail Brew Pub: On February 8 (5-8 PM), join the February Brewmaster Dinner, which features five courses paired perfectly with five tasty beers. $45 per person, limited seating. Reservations: 541-386-2247.
  • Riverside: 2-for-1 Winter Pasta Special, Sunday-Thursday
  • Hood River Farmers’ Market: Go right to the source every first and third Saturday of the month (1-4 pm), when the winter farmer’s market is held indoors at Springhouse Cellars (1st and Cascade Streets). The market features a variety of local food, including local produce, veggies, meats, eggs, cheese, baked goods honey and other artisanal food stuffs. Customers can also shop for unique products from local artists and makers. Foodie February live music: Feb. 3 – Henry Schifter; Feb. 17 – Ole Rusty

Foodie

Come join the fun!

Beacon Rock State Park, WA — We intended on climbing Beacon Rock, but due to a rock slide, that hike was closed, so we moved across the freeway to check out Mount Hamilton Trail — and what a treat!

This hike is full of the best things the Columbia River Gorge has to offer — easy access and parking, a well-maintained trail, stunning waterfalls, and some incredible views.

As part of Beacon Rock State Park, you can approach this hike a couple ways — by hiking straight up and back for a six-mile journey or by taking the fun 7.5 mile loop.

The first mile is a steady, easy uphill pace with a wide trail (enough for passersby from either direction to get by). You’ll hear the waterfalls then head to the Hardy Falls viewpoint. Keep going until you see another trail leading up to Rodney Falls and the breathtaking Pool of the Winds. The hike to this enchanting pool is easy for people of all ages, and just seeing Pool of the Winds is worth the short trip.

There are lots of protective rails to keep one from falling, but they don’t detract from nature’s beauty.

Hamilton

Half way to Pool of the Winds.

The trail gets steeper past the falls, and it gives you two options: Hamilton Trail — More Difficult, and Hardy Creek Trail — Difficult. The More Difficult option takes you up the Hamilton Mountain Trail, and switches back for 1,400 feet. You can take the Hardy Creek Trail for a 3.2 mile loop.

At the summit, you have walked three miles up. The highest part of the trail is 4 miles in with signs pointing toward the Hardy Creek Trail. You can enjoy a picnic lunch near Hardy Creek. To get back, continue on the Hardy Trail, and after 1.4 miles you’ll be back on the Hamilton Mountain Trail and make your descent.

Mount Hamilton Trail Directions

From Camas, drive 22 miles east on Highway 14 until you arrive at the Beacon Rock State Park entrance. Go past the ranger station, and take the road that angles up to the hill (to the left, on the north side). Look for the brown hiking sign. After .3 miles turns right into the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead parking area.

Mount Hamilton Trail Photos