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Vista House and Latourell Falls
posted by John : October 18, 2008

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Nice bathroom

With Gramps feeling better we started reverting to our normal Portland-visit pattern. This meant when Lilly and Henry went down for naps Amy headed for the fabric store and I took Clara and Molly for a roadtrip.

(Amazingly, the fabric store that always has a huge sale going on when we're in town clearly wasn't anticipating our arrival and had no sale going on. Can you imagine the horror?)

Our site seeing trip goal was the majestic Vista House perched high on a cliff overlooking the Columbia Gorge. Apparently, it'd been built early in the century as a really, really fancy rest stop. Now it still serves as a required stop for travelers who've had a bit too much water, but mostly people go to see the view and the cool building.

Getting there isn't hard as long as your car can climb about 600 feet up winding roads. The girls played SNAKE! in the back seat while I drove. As far as I can tell the game is all about yelling "SNAKE!" at random intervals and then arguing about who gets the point. Classic cousin fare, I believe.

When we got to Vista House we got rock star parking and admired the view briefly before heading inside. It's all marble and stained glass and quiet and felt like a church to me. The girls thought it was closer to a stage and proceeded to dance. "Ok, I'll be the princess and you be the prince." "Ok, I get to be the prince!" "Yes, you be the prince." "But I want to be the prince!" (Secretly, I think they occupy different dimensions that are only tenuously connected.)

The caretaker/hostess/ranger/whatever asked if they'd seen Dancing with the Stars. I assured her that at least Clara was well versed in who had been kicked off when and was planning a DwtS marathon when we returned home. (As another demonstration of how nice Amy and I are I will point out that Dancing with the Stars is currently overriding both Heroes and Chuck on Mr. Tivo.)

We went upstairs to the balcony and did a complete circle, though that took very little time since (a) it's small and (b) the girls really didn't care about the view. They just wanted to go downstairs and dance more. (To be honest, the view wasn't that good since their were a few clouds obscuring the higher hills and there's that whole freeway thing marring the valley floor.)

We passed the dancing floor and checked out the basement where the bathrooms actually are, but didn't stop. There are a couple of small displays showing period dress from when the House was built, but nothing too outlandish. After one more dance we were back in the car with tons of extra time.

Hmm... this road might go all the way to Multnomah Falls... Want to see a waterfall girls?


So we were on the road again playing SNAKE! (which I somehow was leading in by the time we had gone a few miles) and trying not to run off the very twisty turny road.

It's no secret that I have a list of places I want to go focused around the kinds of places I sometimes find myself. There's the hikes based out of North Bend, Kirkland, Whidbey Island, Chelan, and of course Portland. Reviewing this list shortly before heading south in search of quick trips I could do with the kids I had found Latourell Falls. It was short, but packed views, gain, and would be good even if it was raining.

Imagine my surprise when we rounded a corner and I saw the trailhead for Latournell Falls! (Seriously, I was surprised. I never made the connection that it was on the same road. I was actually starting to wonder if we'd ever get back to the freeway or if I'd have to drive all the way to Hood River.) I guess sometimes things work out for the best.

We popped out of the car, the girls were armed with emergency whistles, I with a camera and tripod, and we were off up the hill.

It was a quick climb to the first viewpoint. Trees blocked a complete view, but it was an impressive drop of the type we rarely find up north. Clara had been to Multnomah Falls once before, but it was when she was barely walking so she didn't remember it. We pondered continuing up the hill or turning back to the parking lot in hopes of finding a trail that would take us to the base of the falls. With a bouquet of heart-shaped leaves Clara and Molly were content to turn back even if it meant heading home without a better view of the waterfall. (I don't know that I was ready for that, but...)

No need to worry, we found another paved trail leaving the parking lot traversing down cliff faces toward the creek way below. Maybe a quarter mile from the parking lot we were at the base and the girls craned their heads up to watch the water fall. We were so close I couldn't get it all in one shot so what you see is the product of stitching software.

We didn't spend long since we were supposed to be back by 5pm and after my previous on-time arrival I was hoping to start a tradition rather than have it be a fluke.

The road did wind us back up at the freeway before Multnomah Falls, but the girls made me promise that next time we were in Portland they'd get to go see it. Who knows... maybe I'll make them climb to the top if we have time.

Totals: Maybe a mile (maybe) and about 200 feet of gain.

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