Monday, June 06, 2005

Portland to Eugene via Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is about 30 miles east of Portland on I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge. Despite being overrun with tourists, the 600-foot waterfall is unequivocally amazing. It’s the kind of natural wonder that makes you feel good to be alive.

Although it was raining when I arrived, one glimpse from the base of the falls was all it took to convince me to make the one-mile hike to the top. The trail is paved but somewhat steep with lots of tight switchbacks. It took me about 20 minutes to make the climb through towering pines and lush overgrowth. After getting to the top, I spent a few minutes surveying the splendor before heading back down. As I descended, the sun briefly managed to break through the cloud cover, casting rays of rainy light through the trees and upon the Columbia River. It was a sight to cherish.

From there, I drove to Hood River and did a quick spin around the town before concluding it was too touristy and expensive to stay there. I drove south on state highway 35 toward Government Camp and started going through high mountain passes still barren from the winter snows. The clouds hovered just over the trees below as the sun slowly receded.

I should’ve stopped driving at nightfall because those twisting two-lane roads aren’t exactly user-friendly in the dark. However, this long loop had left me only 25 miles away from Portland and I wanted to make some progress down the coast, so I pressed forward toward I-5. I was hoping to make it as far as Eugene, but at 11pm, I gave into my better judgment and exited at Albany.

Normally I’m a cheapskate when it comes to motels. I scrutinize those coupon books you get at tourist information centers and I’ll go to several different places before settling on a room. This time, however, I just stopped at Motel 6 because it was the first budget-oriented lodging I passed. The room was clean, but the bed was uncomfortable and I couldn’t get the dataport to work.

If you ask me, Motel 6 gets away with a lot because it’s known as a “cheap” chain. In fact, their prices nowadays aren’t that great and you can probably get better amenities at an Econo Lodge or Super 8. Tonight I’ll be more discriminating.

At the moment, I’m in downtown Eugene at a retail/food complex on 5th Avenue next to the railroad tracks. It was the first place I could find with wi-fi. No one is here, but maybe it’ll start filling up as the lunch hour approaches.

The tentative plan is to abandon I-5 and head over the Coast Range to Florence, where I’ll hook up with the 101 and continue southward. I’ll probably stay somewhere in Southern Oregon or far Northern California tonight. I was shooting to make the Bay Area by tomorrow, but it’s looking like Wednesday from here.

By the way, there’s no sales tax in Oregon and you can’t pump your own gas. The latter makes gas cost a bit more, but it’s almost worth it to hand your credit card to some guy and say, “Fill ‘er up.” I don’t think I’ve ever actually said that before.

It sure was fun to see Noah and Trish in Portland. I hadn’t seen them both since their wedding outside of Austin in 2001. Hopefully it won’t be that long before I see them again.

No comments: