An Unforgettable Day

Mileage Today: 113 Total: 3,845

This was a day we shall never forget. We awoke to the ominous news that the Queen’s doctors were concerned for her state of health and shortly after the news that the senior Royal Family were flying to Balmoral to be by her bedside. Clearly, this was news of the direst kind.

We set off on our journey west along the Columbia River, into the gorge, but had only gone a few miles before the news came through that the Queen had sadly passed away.

Although she was 96 and had been looking very frail, this was still an enormous shock and we were upset and in somewhat of a daze. She was already Queen when I was born, and Bob was 3 when she was crowned, and so she has been a point of presence, a figure of stability and continuity, all of our lives. And in all that time she has personified duty and service, not in big flashy celebrity virtue signalling ways that are so easy to dip in and out of, but in day after day of very routine and perhaps mundane slogging duties: opening facilities, meeting individuals who also excelled in service to this country, visiting organisations, helping supported charities, working through paperwork….. things that while they might not have garnered international headlines, nevertheless meant so very much to those who met her. It was a shock, because – and this is no doubt typical of her indomitable spirit – only two days before she had been pictured meeting our outgoing and our incoming Prime Ministers. Still working away when she must not have been at all well. In retrospect, that last photo shows major bruising on her hand, perhaps indicative of an iv being used…..

Anyway, although we continued with our route for the day, it was in somewhat of a blur and with much talk about the Queen both amongst ourselves and with Americans we met along the way who were equally sad and admiring of this outstanding woman.

The scenery was fantastic. The river is an outstanding natural feature and I cannot help but feel that mankind in the last century has not enhanced it, but quite the reverse. The damming, the hydroelectric stations are outstandingly ugly quite apart from the devastation they have caused to local Native American communities and the salmon and wildlife of the area. This has been recognised and steps have been taken to try and mitigate this dreadful damage.

We stopped at Bonneville Locks and Dam to view the salmon ladders and the amazing underwater windows that allow viewing of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn (and at a different time of the year, the young salmon swimming downstream to the sea). It was an incredible sight. Salmon in incredible numbers, leaping up the ladders in their instinctive quest to return to their place of origin, to spawn and then die. Many of them were huge. Hundreds of thousand have made the journey already this month. There are people there counting them. Manually!!! These numbers drive the catch levels and give scientists an indication of salmon population numbers. Suffice it to say however, that the numbers are not anywhere near where they were pre-dams.

There is also a fish hatchery at the locks which was interesting to visit. Salmon, of course, are being raised here, but also other native fish, trout and sturgeon. The sturgeon were amazing to view. Utterly huge some of them. There is a famous one, Herman the Sturgeon, who is over 10 feet long. Wierd creatures. We enjoyed watching them. It is one way, I suppose, that the US Army Corps of Engineers who are responsible for the outstandingly hideous dam, are trying to repair the balance. It is an absolute abomination. But there are so many…..

As we entered the gorge proper, along historic Route 30, the road became narrow and very winding and we began to encounter waterfall after waterfall, all with pulloffs and trails. Most of them could be viewed from very near the road but you also had the option to take a trail to the top or other viewing platforms. We stopped at 4 or 5. Horsetail Falls, the first one, was very lovely. Multnomah, the big daddy of them all, was quite staggering. 620 feet in height with a wonderful bridge viewing gallery about half way up. We walked up as far as that and just marvelled at the cascade of water coming down and the sheer views down and up.

Towards the end of the gorge we took a 14 mile detour up to a viewpoint on Larch Mountain, Sherrard Point. It was very, very well worth the detour. A lovely drive up the mountain, through deciduous forest that gave way to conifers. Then a shortish trail with a lot of steps at the end to the small viewpoint, right on the pinnacle. From there you got a view for miles and of 5 mountain peaks: Mt. Adams, Mt. St Helens, Mt. Rainier to the north and Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson to the south, all part of the Cascadian chain of volcanoes. It was quite a sight. Rainier is the highest, Mt. Hood the closest, all still with snow on the tops. We were so glad we had made the effort to go, and we enjoyed our meetings with some lovely American fellow travellers up there, all of whom expressed their sorrow at the loss of Queen Elizabeth.

We came down and continued on stopping at a couple more viewpoints over the river and then onto our lodging for the night: MyPlace Inn at Portland East. We chose this hotel because it offered a full kitchen so we could eat dinner in, and we had bought food accordingly. We checked in and went to our room and were delighted with the facilities – nice room, a/c, nice bathroom, well appointed kitchen with large fridge freezer. However, we were not delighted to find that there was no kitchen equipment at all. Not a knife and fork, plate, cup or pan. I went downstairs to the desk thinking that perhaps they could supply them if required, but no….. the desk clerk said they didn’t have any. But what good is a full kitchen if you don’t supply the equipment to use it, I asked. Good point, she said. Didn’t really help though. Obviously I have raised a complaint both with them and with through which we booked as there is no mention of this on anyone;’s website where much is made of the kitchen facility. I mean, we have picnic plates and cutlery with us so that is not a big deal but not PANS!!!! I managed luckily because we had gammon steaks and eggs for dinner and i cooked them in the microwave on picnic plates. I’m sure they weren’t as nice as they would have been cooked in a more traditional way but at least we had something hot. We weren’t in the mood to go out for dinner. We watched the coverage of the UK news on CNN which was actually very good and non stop. They dug up some bizarre people to talk but it was good coverage and a mark of how globally she will be missed. All US Federal buildings throughout the world will fly the US Flag at half mast for the next 10 days. One of those days we will always remember and will always remember where we were…..

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