There’s no doubt about the views from atop Hood River Mountain.
The hike up this little hill just outside of downtown Hood River covers just under 2-miles roundtrip and goes up 600 feet or so pretty steadily. So it’s not going to blow you away in terms of exertion or exhaustion.
The view from up top, however, is another story.
Yet sometimes, despite the grand views like this, there are other, more subtle sights that can have just as big of an impact.
We hiked up to the top with the kids a few weeks ago, and even though the day was gorgeous, the flowers in bloom, the mountain and all of the Hood River Valley in big, full view, it just wasn’t enough to keep the little girl happy.
But then she started looking around a little more and found something much more enchanting than a jaw-dropping mountain view. And all of a sudden, Hood River Mountain became a much better place.
(Thinking this is a Western Fence Lizard; knowing that it is inside an empty Stack Wines glass — great for the trail!)
Though I’ve not yet celebrated New Year’s on Mount Hood, I’ve always wanted to. The setting, the snow, the festivities, it all just seems very inviting.
We won’t be up on the mountain for the holiday again this year, but for anyone who might be, there’s plenty to choose from.
Timberline Lodge — The mountain’s landmark lodge ushers in the new year with style: two dinner seatings in its Cascade Dining Room, dancing, champagne toasts and more. There’s also late-night skiing and snowboarding on into 2013, and at midnight, a one-of-a-kind fireworks display:
Mt. Hood Meadows — The ski area teams up with Widmer Brothers Brewing to ring in the new year with skiing and riding till midnight, a dinner buffet, live music from Keegan Smith and The Fam, and fireworks beginning at 10 p.m.
Mt. Hood Skibowl — For its 25th annual gala, Skibowl will be packing in skiing and riding till 2 a.m., Cosmic Tubing until midnight, two fireworks shows, DJs, live bands, the torchlight parade featuring the Powder Hounds snow bikers and Olympic speed skier Petr Kakes, champagne toasts, a Glow in the Dark Dance Party, and tons more.
Happy New Year!
We didn’t climb Mount St. Helens for Mother’s Day this year — we will again someday though! — but we did get outside and enjoy a beautiful Oregon day. We tooled out into the country past Stafford, crossed the Willamette on the Canby Ferry, and spent a little time at St. Josef’s Winery a few miles outside of Canby.
The views of Mount Hood on the way to St. Josef’s were big, but the mountain is hidden from view once you actually arrive at the winery. No matter, it’s still an enjoyable and scenic place to stop for a sip.
But it also got me to thinking about some other wineries in the region that have not only nice wines, but nice views of Mount Hood. I wrote about a few of them in the 2012 Gorge Guide, which just came out a few weeks ago. Among my favorites, Hood River’s Phelps Creek Vineyards and Cascade Cliffs out in Wishram, Wash., both of which offer some fine wines and incredible mountain scenery.
After our hike to Tamawanas Falls over the weekend, we’d worked up a bit of a hunger and a thirst. Our first stop was to Marchesi Vineyards, a charming little winery in Hood River, where we sampled a tasty pinot grigio and their 2010 primitivo, which is pretty much a zinfandel. Both were fantastic, as was the complimentary bread, cheese, and salami and the kid-friendly feel of the place.
For me, though, the ideal aprés-hike beverage is always, hands-down, a fresh, cold IPA or pale ale. And when you’re hiking the north and east sides of Mount Hood and passing through Hood River on your way back home, you’re in the land of some great examples of both.
For years, the go-to was always Full Sail, and it’s still a consistent king in my book. Their menu has gotten much better over the years as well. Just down the street, Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom threw some variety into the mix when they opened in 2007 with their Vaporizer, IRA and Hop Lava ales. They offer some nice brick-oven pizzas and sandwiches, too.
This time, we branched out a little more, and headed over the river to Everybody’s Brewing, a characteristic brew pub I’d heard about in White Salmon. Like some of the other brewers out in the Gorge, Everybody’s Brewing brews ’em up right: Country Boy IPA, Boo Brah Bitter, Goodwill IPA, and others. They also serve up classic pub fare and have a front corner for live music, which was strumming away and adding nice color the night we were there.
There’s something else that sets Everybody’s Brewing apart from many of its compatriots out in the Gorge, too; something that makes the short drive across the bridge to White Salmon even more worth it than it already is:
That’s the view from their patio.
(Image courtesy of Everybody’s Brewing.)
Just as there is great food to be had around Mount Hood, so too are there great beers.
Certainly, just about anything hits the spot after an all-night climb, a three-day backpack, or even a lazy day on the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River. But when discretion is yours, there are plenty of fantastic, locally-made brews available to render mass-produced swill entirely irrelevant.
A few favorites:
Hood River’s stalwart brewery — and the third-largest in Oregon — Full Sail has always been a favorite for post-hike unwinding on the north side of the mountain. (I profiled the brewery’s founder and CEO in 2010 too.) There was a time when the only reason to visit this scenic brewery and pub overlooking the Columbia River was the beer — no real problem with that — but they’ve since renovated the pub and broadened the menu, upping the ante. I’ve long been partial to their hoppy and refreshing IPA, but their Session lager, in its stubby 11 oz bottles, is great for river days, and Wassail is one of the best holiday brews every yuletide season.
A little pricey at times up on the mountain, Mt. Hood Brewing Co. nonetheless brews a few fine beers, namely their Ice Axe IPA. And not only does a pint taste even better when you score a window seat in the Ram’s Head Bar with a clear view of Mount Hood just outside, but their old-school logos and alpine-inspired names — Hogsback Oatmeal Stout for one — make Mt Hood Brewing’s just the right kind of libations for the mountain.
Now in its fourth year, Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River makes a heavy IPA — Hop Lava — and they fire a great pizza. Even better: this small brewery’s beers are on tap at its Hood River pub, at more than two dozen local establishments, and at more than 100 places in the Portland metro region.
Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time on Mount Hood, but also a fair amount of time driving to and from and around it. And so, after long hikes up to McNeil Point, afternoons climbing at French’s Dome, long, scenic drives around the Mount Hood loop with out-of-towners, and day trips to canoe, ski, sled, or just visit, we’ve sampled a few of the local restaurants and watering holes around the mountain. Some have been forgettable, others have become go-to favorites. A few of the latter to consider next time you’re in the area:
Anyone who’s driven by Calamity Jane’s in Sandy on their way to or from the mountain and not been at least intrigued to know what that inviting blond with the burger on the side of the road is really all about must have been asleep at the wheel. We pulled in years ago to check it out, and now no hike under 5 miles ends without a Calamity burger on the tail end. The place is homey and traditional, the menu packed with close to 40 burgers served in three different scales: the third-pound City Slicker, the two-thirds-pound Wrangler, and the just plain scary one-pounder known as the Trail Boss. Some of the burgers sound more novelty than anything —the George Washington has sour cream and pie cherries — but paired with fries and giant 34 0z Bridgeport IPAs, just about anything from Calamity’s caps off a day on the mountain in a satiating, near gut-busting way.
There came a time when it seemed as if we were running out of options for better food around the mountain. But then someone recommended El Burro Loco in Welches, and that changed that. Unassuming but friendly, this Mexican joint has fantastic, reasonably priced food, a huge beer selection — at least five different IPAs on tap last time we stopped in — and chummy staff. Great for when you’ve not earned a Calamity burger but still want some real satisfaction.
When you’re not rewarding yourself for a long and dirty day on the trail but instead seeking out a touch more refinery, 3 Rivers Grill, on the north side of the mountain in Hood River, makes an excellent choice. A little more upscale but still laced with Oregon informality, 3 Rivers sits high on a hill lot in downtown overlooking the city and the Columbia River. Outside seating is scenic and comfortable, and the salmon I had there on our first visit was something I’ve not soon forgotten.
Of course, there are a ton of other options, including breweries, pizza joints, historic lodges, and even a renowned donut shop. But this site is new. We’ve much to cover. And we will.