Hood River, Oregon
When you look over the wide Columbia River from Oregon toward Washington on the other side, you might conclude that the white caps on the waves that seem to be traveling west to east -- left to right -- are the result of a very heavy current.
But the current is headed in the opposite direction, downstream from east to west toward the Pacific Ocean.
What’s headed east, causing all that watery commotion, is the wind.
Which is why the Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland, Ore., is one of the world’s best places to windsurf and kite board. The Cascade Mountains on either side of the river create a wind tunnel -- typically at up to 35 miles per hour – that moves surfers at good clip on the waters of the wide Columbia. May through September is the peak season.
Peaking in summer and winter
The city of Hood River overlooks a favorite windsurfing site, where the Hood River flows into the Columbia. The city gets the best of two peak seasons, as it is near the base of Mount Hood, a winter destination for skiing. Take a drive to Timberline, where locals ski on Mount Hood year round. The lodge, built by hand, is one of the most visited sites in Oregon, and well worth a stop for lunch and some amazing mountain views.
If you’re not a surfer or a skier, the city of Hood River is a good starting point for a bike ride or a hike along the paved trail that marks the first road through the gorge, built 1913-1922. You’ll find sweeping views of the river (above)and some tunnels that were blasted out of the basalt 90 years ago. Before that road, the only way to move material goods through the mountains was on the river, the same way covered wagons rolled toward the Pacific -- on rafts -- in the 1800s.
Hood River offers three micro-breweries, the tasting of local wines and a self-guided driving tour to local farm stands accessible on what Hood River County calls the Fruit Loop.
The micro breweries all are within walking distance of the handsome Hood River Hotel, built in 1913 and on the Register of Historic Places. The hotel, restored in 2001, is comfortable, relaxing, and airy, with 32 rooms and nine suites. Monday night, during dinner hours, a small string band plays in the lobby.