Jammin’ at The Skyway

April 13, 2014
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If you have the propensity towards affection for anything The Grateful Dead, you sure missed out the other night at The Skyway Bar & Grill.

The Skyway is located in Zigzig, Oregon, nestled up to the beautiful expanse of Mount Hood and the surrounding Mount Hood National Forest. The bar features a full restaurant dining experience, as well as a large bar and venue area. The atmosphere is that of a longtime local Mount Hood establishment. The mix of posters, placards and art on the walls allude to a very laid-back, fun frame of mind. The food is outstanding. The large outdoor backyard comes equipped with games, a fire pit, and many cozy little private areas to sit and enjoy the weather. First, however, let me briefly describe the night I spent jammin’ with Papagayo.

Papagayo is a band from my past, out of Portland.  While they no longer tour, the show they put on at Skyway was one of the greatest reunion shows I have ever seen. As aforementioned, the music is definitely mostly Grateful Dead covers, with some southern rock and blues covers and originals mixed in. The house was packed, and the boys played like they were on fire (“Fire on the Mountain!”). A mixture of old friends and new friends gathered to dance and sing their hearts out, and not only was the band reunited, but so were many long lost acquaintances. You could feel the spirit of magic and joy in the air all night.

The set lists were perfect, and covered the range of much loved, classic Dead songs, to more obscure titles that only the true Dead Head will know. An older gentleman in a wheelchair was rolled up to the very front of the dance floor, and boy he sure boogied harder than anyone.  It was amazing.

Okay, back to the Skyway itself. Skyway has a variety of items on their menu, but they are known for their BBQ and their mac and cheese. I live in Hood River, Oregon, and I hear people raving in my town about the mac and cheese they had at Skyway. While I can’t divulge the nature of the “variety of cheese” they boast on their menu, I can tell you that the breadcrumb topping is indeed baked to perfection.

On this particular occasion, I found myself hankering for a burger. I am a red-meat kinda gal, yet I very rarely (no pun intended) order burgers when I’m dining out. I find that the beef tends to be flavorless and overcooked at many restaurants, and just isn’t worth the $9-$10 I end up paying for it. This is definitely not the case at Skyway. First off, the burger is served on a  handmade brioche roll. I was in pure salivation heaven as soon as that plate hit my table. I ordered the burger with bleu cheese and bacon, and there was no lack of generosity in my bleu cheese portioning. The bacon was cooked perfectly and the portioned to have some in every bite, but not be overwhelmingly greasy. Now I get to the good stuff: the burger patty itself. I asked for it to be cooked medium-rare, knowing that they source their beef from a very reputable location, and guess what? It came out medium-rare. It seems simple enough, but so many restaurants cannot seem to grasp cooking a burger this way. That first bite was enough to make me forget about the hoards of people standing around me, and even forget the music was playing, for I was in hamburger nirvana. The full, rich flavor of their handmade ground beef patties is enough to keep this little meat-eater driving back up to the mountain for more, hopefully not so often that I have to buy a new, looser wardrobe. I have also heard that their Vietnamese-style “Bahn Mi” sandwiches are out-of-this-world, though I will be hard-pressed to try anything but that amazing burger.

 

skyway burger

Yum!!!

 

All in all, I give The Skyway Bar and Grill two thumbs, two toes, and many taste buds, up. For their location, they consistently have an amazing line-up of talented musicians and DJs gracing their stage, and there is plenty of room for dancing. Whether you make it a special trip from elsewhere, or find yourself on Mount Hood, you would be doing yourself an injustice if you did not stop and check out The Skyway. Check out their current lineup and amazing menu at http://www.skywaybarandgrill.com/.

Till next time, get out there and live folks!

Inside the bar

 

Outside patio area with fire pit

 

Double Mountain Celebration!

March 14, 2014 by:
Hood River, OR

Delicious Double Mountain freshness

Welcome the shift in season with Double Mountain Brewery’s 7th anniversary party tomorrow, Saturday March 15th, in Hood River! The event will feature boot shaking live music and delicious Double Mountain beer, all for a reasonable $5 admission. Saturday in Hood River is looking like a welcome 68 degrees. Make a day of it – start off with a coffee at Doppio and then head to Double Mountain for festivities that begin at 11:30 and end at 10pm.

Hood River, OR

Down by the water

When you need a mid-day break from the hops and the dance party, get outside and sip some fresh air beside the Columbia River at Waterfront Park or gaze out upon Mt. Hood’s snowy peak from nearby Panorama Point! Seize the respite from winter this weekend and savor some of Oregon’s best homegrown treats – hikes, beer and bluegrass.

 

Local Women in Business: The Book Peddler

March 1, 2014 by:
White Salmon, WA

Shelves of stories waiting…

 

There’s nothing like it. The slightly dusty, worn and weathered, cedar shelved scent of a good, used bookstore. It immediately activates my reptilian brain. My memory center. My association with the magic of story resides in this scent.

That’s why, when I walk into the inviting cavern of Joyce FitzSimmons’ The Book Peddler, in White Salmon, Washington, I immediately lose track of time. My vision blurs and realigns on book titles, stacked and pressed between floor to ceiling shelves. The light is warm. The night is cool. It’s open for one more hour.

Twenty-five years of working as a school counselor and commuting to Cascade Locks didn’t allow Joyce FitzSimmons the opportunity to really get to know her home community in White Salmon. Retirement, however, did. She opened The Book Peddler, offering used but not abused books and her store became a fixture in the town’s community center and in the lives of adults hunting for gently used stories as well as in the lives of families with young readers. Among their varied selection, The Book Peddler offers a rich treasure chest of children’s books, one of FitzSimmons’ largest initial collections.

When asked what led her into the used book business, Joyce recalls her librarian tendencies, her love of thrift stores and her dedication to recycling.

“I cannot think of a more natural item for recycling than books,” Fitsimmons says. “Readers do it all the time without even thinking of it as recycling when they pass their books on to friends.  But I wish I had a nickel for every customer who has asked me to find them a copy of a title because they loaned it out and it never came back.  Books have a way of traveling and moving on, intentionally or not.  The Book Peddler is just a nice, small way-station for them while they are moving on.”

The Book Peddler has been open since May, 2005 and moved locations once from the shady side of downtown White Salmon’s Main street to the sunny side, offering FitzSimmons an stunning view of Mt. Hood and making long winter days less dreary.

In the future, FitzSimmons simply hopes to continue being a service to the community for readers of all ages and particularly for young readers as they advance through the levels of their reading abilities. Among keeping her own shelves stocked with diverse titles and fair priced options, she also enjoys helping her customers hunt down books when they don’t remember the title or author information, but have enough details about the story to successfully narrow down the options and locate the desired treasure.

White Salmon, WA

Well worth the wander.

 

If you are staying in White Salmon or simply passing through, take time to sift through the delicious layers of books at The Book Peddler and support the bounty of local business.

The Book Peddler is located at 154 E Jewett in downtown White Salmon and is normally open 10:30ish to 5:30ish, Tuesday thru Saturday.

 

Snow!

February 24, 2014
This is the view from my kitchen window, icicles and all!

 

Finally! After a surprisingly dry December and January, winter is upon us in the Gorge. There are red, frosty, delighted faces careening down the slopes as we speak, and impromptu snowboarding courses popping up in all sorts of interesting places. I, for one, have not yet had the chance to get out the cross-country skis, but from what I hear the backcountry skiing right now is amazing. Fluffy, pristine snow, and the freezing rains have yet to descend upon us. If you can get to the Twin Tunnels between Mosier and Hood River, it is the place to be for ski, cross-country of course, and it is always a wonderful spot to see some magical views of the Columbia River and surrounding cliffs. Afterwards, I suggest a delicious local microbrew from the newly re-opened River City Saloon in downtown Hood River (207 Cascade Ave., 97031). They have a multitude of local beers available, as well as some killer hot drinks to take the chill out of your bones, such as the infamous-but-never-dull Spanish Coffee.

We are all feeling very thankful to have hard-working men and women operating the snowplows that keep our roads safe up here. Unlike in the metropolitan areas hit with winter weather, there have been no major accidents. Most of us are thankful to have an excuse to stay indoors anyway, cozy with a fire burning and a mug of hot cocoa (don’t forget the marshmallow fluff!!). I spent some time today playing in my backyard with my friend’s two amazing daughters, along with my dog, Mr. Han Solo Beelzebub Wigglesworth (you will hear much more about him in the future). I captured some of our special moments, but know that the photos do not do justice to the picturesque quality of my surroundings. I am so blessed to live in this amazing, unique part of Oregon. Happy snowy trails, my friends!

 

Sweet hammock...until we meet again.

Sweet hammock…until we meet again.

I lost the snowball fight.

I lost the snowball fight.

 

Upcoming Events In The Gorge!

February 21, 2014 by:

Dufur, OR

Did the recent snowstorm leave you marveling at the beautiful side of winter with mittens on and snowballs forming? Perhaps it made you stir crazy or tightened your back muscles as you shoveled icy slush out of your driveway? Whether delightful or delaying, the recent Snow-pocalyspe gave you good reason to either immerse yourself in more snow laden adventures or get out of the house and drive into the Gorge without chains on, to appreciate the surprising comfort of post Snow-pocalyspe conditions.

For the snow bunnies who have been biding their time till a good snow thickened the slopes of Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams, now’s your opportunity to enjoy better conditions and perhaps take advantage of an end of February ski. For Gorge wanderers who are not as snow inclined, I-84 is reopened, events are up and running, stores are open and Gorge revelry is back in business! March is just around the corner, which means some of your favorite hiking trails that close for the winter are about to re-open.

Full Sail Tasting and Skiing

2 / 22 / Mt. Hood Meadows / Vertical Restaurant / 3 to 6 pm

No better way to celebrate the long anticipated snowfall by indulging your beer palate after a day on the slopes.

Gorge Women’s Expo

2 / 22 / The Dalles / The Dalles Civic Auditorium / 12 pm to 6 pm

Classes, vendors, prizes, demos and more! Congregate with your favorite female pals and make a day of it at The Gorge Women’s Expo.

Rural Re-electrication Act

2 / 25 / Hood River / White Buffalo Wine Bar

Come listen to Jonathan Lewis, of Hire Electric’s renewable energy division, while he outlines his vision for furthering the renewable energy potential in the Columbia Gorge area.

Mt. Hood Independent Film Series 

2 / 26 / Hood River / Columbia Center for the Arts / 7:30 pm

Satiate your thirst for independent cinema with the Mt. Hood Independent Film Series, hosted by Columbia Center for the Arts! This month’s pick is Congratulations, a look at what happens when a couple moves forward after disagreeing on the weighty question of marriage.

Mardi Gras at The Gorge Discovery Center

2 / 28 / The Dalles / The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center / 6 pm

What?! Carnival at the Discovery Center? What better way to blend two fabulous things: raucous celebration and museum education! Take your party-self to the Discovery Center and discover Fat Tuesday (a few days early) Gorge style.

Body Vox 2

3 / 1 / Hood River / Columbia Center for the Arts / Workshop 10 am to 12 pm / Performance 2 pm & 7:30 pm

Be a dance student, a dance patron or both! Come down to Columbia Center for the Arts to enjoy a workshop and/or performance by Portland based modern dance company, Body Vox 2. Workshop will be held at the Columbia Gorge Dance Academy.

Reel Youth Film Festival

3 / 6 / Hood River / Skylight Theater / 6:30 pm

It’s film festival time! Columbia Center for the Arts and Skylight Theater are teaming up to bring you the promising work of aspiring young filmmakers from around the globe as well as right in our neighborhood. Add your support to the next generation of storytelling voices.

Histories and Mysteries Hike Challenge

3 / 15 thru 10 / 31 / The Columbia Gorge

Celebrate spring hiking season with the Friends of the Gorge Histories and Mysteries Hike Challenge. You’ll learn about various hidden gems and geological factoids on your quest and revisit favorite hiking havens while you’re at it.

8th Annual Pirate Carnival

3 / 16 / Klickitat / Klickitat School Gym / 2 to 5 pm

“Aaaaargh!” That’s what your inner pirate says when he suspects you are debating over whether or not to attend the 8th annual pirate carnival (in costume of course). Give in to the pirate and enjoy a silent auction, clam chowder and root beer floats.

Additional Suggestions: Good for any day! 

Little Free Library / Springdale

Next time you’re headed down The Gorge on the Oregon side, stop and appreciate the Little Free Library, where folks can participate in a good ol’fashioned book exchange.

Bradford Island Visitor Center / Cascade Locks

Take a day to explore the Bradford Island Recreation area and visitor center. Keep your eyes out for the last of the wintering Bald Eagles and get up close to check out the workings of the fish ladders. Bring a lunch and a coat and make it a crisp homage to the approach of spring.

Cape Horn, WA

Now’s the time to pay our final homage to winter, Gorge revelers! Before we know it spring wildflowers will be erupting across the hillsides and events will require our consistent outdoor participation. But for the next little while, enjoy workshops, film festivals, lectures, ski boots and snowboards. Have a beer after you’re done and celebrate the Gorge from the vantage point of  winter.

 

 

Upcoming January Events In The Gorge!

January 7, 2014 by:

Cascade Locks, OR

 

There is no denying it. Winter has descended and the scope of outdoor adventure is changing face, but by no means does it vanish. It simply requires a different mindset and a tad more planning. It’s time to turn our heads in the direction of good snowfall, to invest in omni-heat coat linings and enjoy a blend of indoor and outdoor Gorge adventuring that compliments the tender winter spirit of hibernation!

 

Sense of Place Lecture Series / The Ghosts in Our Backyard with Arthur Babitz

1/8 / Hood River / Springhouse Cellar / 7 pm

Join Arthur Babitz, Hood River Mayor and history aficionado, as he takes you on a journey through Hood River’s well documented and intricate historical roots, including the presentation of a rare film clip documenting one of the most emotional days in Hood River’s past. Babitz is currently helping the History Museum of Hood River County organize their photography collection and hopes to share his passion for photography and for the stories of our past with Hood River residents as well as Pacific NW enthusiasts.

Writer’s Suggestion:  Make a pre-lecture stop at Doppio Coffee + Lounge on Oak Street and grab a well pulled espresso or a spicy chai to sip while your imagination meanders back in time through Hood River’s interesting lineage.

 

Draw! / Pen, Paper & Beyond

1/10  thru 2/02 / Hood River / Columbia Art Gallery / Opening Reception 6 pm to 8 pm

Winter is a great time to inspire your inner artist and stir the creative waters for a fertile spring. Head down to the Columbia Art Gallery this month and soak in their exhibit, Draw, featuring various artists who showcase the elemental power of drawing. Join the gallery for the exhibit’s opening reception on the 10th and sample complimentary appetizers while grooving to the blues stylings of local musicians, Tess and Patrik Barr.

 

Mountain Photo Workshop

1/11 / Mt. Hood / Mt. Hood Meadows / 9 am to 4 pm

Does a well captured photo of a snow capped  meadow make your heart sing? Do you long to combine your experience behind the lens and on the slopes? Then Grant Myrdal’s Mountain Photo Workshop has your name written all over it. Take to the mountain this January and learn the ins and outs of proper exposure for snow shooting while enjoying the delicious rush of winter immersion.

 

Eagle Watch

1/11 & 1/12  / The Dalles / The Dalles Dam Visitors Center / 7:30 am to 12 pm

We must wait for the spring and summer bounty of wildflowers, but take heart – nature is abundant in all seasons. This winter, seize the opportunity to eagle watch and catch a guided glimpse of these incredible creatures that inhabit so much of our country’s iconic imagry.

 

Hike Wahclella Falls 

1/11 / Cascade Locks / Outlook Park / 11:30 am

Although some hiking trails close due to winter storms, many remain open and saftly trekable. Wahclellla Falls, one of the many Oregon side Gorge gems, offers a satisfying 2 mile hike that leads to the reward of Wahclella’s cascading bounty of water magic. This hike is appropriate for children. Hikers will congregate at Outlook Park – pre-hike – at 11:30 am.

Writer’s Suggestion: Stick around Cascade Locks and enjoy a late afternoon micro brew at Thunder Island Brewing as you discuss the stand out moments from your trek to Wahclella.

 

Bald Eagle Viewing and Lunch at Mugs Coffee

1/18 / Lyle / Balfour-Klickitat Trailhead / 10 am

Did you miss your bald eagle spotting in The Dalles? Or can you simply not get enough? Here’s your next opportunity to catch site of this incredible creature, with wildlife biologist Tim Pitz along the Klickitat River. This outing will include spotting scopes to observe the eagles that migrate to the area to feed on salmon.

 

RailJam

1/18 / Mt. Hood / Shipyard Park Mt. Hood Meadows / 3 pm to 8 pm

Whether you’re competing or simply witnessing the graceful athleticism of airborne snow masters, RailJam is another great opportunity to enjoy the winter abundance of Mt. Hood!

 

JD Wilkes and The Dirt Daubers

1/24 / Hood River / Cebu Lounge

At the end of a cold winter day, evening beckons us to find warmth with live  music and an inside view of the icy cold Columbia. Head to Cebu Lounge at Hood River’s Best Western Inn to enjoy waterfront views and the smokey sounds of JD Wilkes and The Dirt Daubers and if you’re too tired to head back home…stay the night!

Writer’s Suggestion: Heading out to the Cebu Lounge for date night? Bundle up for a day hike along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail: Toothrock Trailhead and balance your day with the physical rigor of hiking and the renewing inspiration of live music.

 

Finding the North American Bigfoot

1/25 / The Dalles / The Gorge Discovery Center / Two Presentations: 1 pm & 5:30 pm

Cliff Barackman has been a devoted Sasquatch researcher for the past twenty years and can currently be seen in Animal Planet’s series, Finding Bigfoot. Don’t miss his exciting presentation amidst the engaging exhibits of The Gorge Discovery Center.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Splendor At The History Museum

December 30, 2013 by:
Hood River, OR

Museums are great places to fill the body with warmth and the mind with knowledge on cold winter days!

 

Just when I think December festivities are over, I show up on a crisp, sunny winter afternoon at the History Museum in Hood River and am greeted with a plentitude of left over cheer. The Holiday Open House was a community minded event that gave people an opportunity to make the season last and included delicious snacks, ornament making craft tables, live music and group renditions of everyone’s  favorite christmas carols. The museum, which has been part of the Hood River community for over 30 years, hosts a rich collection of engaging and interactive exhibits, enriching for both children and adults.

 

Hood River, OR

Watching images expand into the third dimension…

 

My personal favorites were the petroglyph tracing wall and the stereoscope, invented by English physicist Charles Wheatstone, as a way to view photographs three dimensionally.

The museum was alight with merry wanderors and the jazz infused sounds of a three piece band. A modest, but striking photo exhibit entitled, A Snapshot in Time / Images From Alva Day, captivated my sense of Hood River’s past and visually recalled, among other things, the winter of 1929, with the image of a ship frozen at the Columbia River landing.

 

Hood River, OR

Musicians fill the space with harmony

 

I left the History Museum with a sense of Hood River’s rich and intricate past and a feeling for the current tide of community that keeps this treasured town afloat.

Check in next year for the Holiday Open House and make the joyous season last!

 

Upcoming Events In The Gorge!

December 20, 2013 by:

 

White River Falls, OR

Wintry Gorge Wonder

 

The cozy time is upon us – school is letting out at the end of the week, solstice is approaching, christmas trees are lighting up and despite the wind’s wet bite, there are festive outings worth the trek, all throughout the glorious Gorge! So put your warm boots on, fill a thermos with cocoa and another one with coffee and ring in this new season with a brave face. Winter wears its own brand of beauty.

Dalles Art Show

Ongoing/ The Dalles, OR / Dalles Art Center

Beautiful, handcrafted work, ranging from Moonrise jewelry, to watercolor paintings to carved wooden treasures. Support The Dalles community as you buy your loved ones one of a kind gifts they’ll never see in Target.

Holiday Treasures Art Show

Daily thru 12/24 / Hood River, OR / Columbia Art Center / 11 am to 5 pm (10 am to 2 pm on Dec 24)

Looking for another good place to support local art and find gifts that will be unique for the people you love? Check out the Holiday Treasures Art Show at the Columbia Arts Center in Hood River!

Skamania Performing Arts Madrigal Feast

12/19 / Stevenson, WA / Skamania Lodge / 530 pm

Gather a group and make it an evening of revelry and merriment at the Madrigeal Feast in Stevenson! Not only will you be able to enjoy a delicious winter feast, but amidst the cornucopia of culinary delights, savor an engaging array of renaissance style theater and music.

Solstice Sound Mediation

12/21 / Trout Lake, WA / Trout Lake Abbey / 11 am to 1 pm

Excited to cherish the transition of autumn to winter? Solstice is on Saturday and if you’re interested in spending some quite time reflecting on your seasonal hopes and basking in the simple power of sound meditation then take the snowy journey to Trout Lake Abbey. While you’re in Trout Lake, check out the ice caves!

Santa Sleigh Rides

12 / 21 / The Dalles, OR / Griffith Motors Showroom / 12 pm to 3 pm

Santa’s sleigh is open for glee filled riding companions, so seize the opportunity before he takes off on the 24th to make his annual trek around the globe! A perfect event to take your kids to (or your inner child) after a holiday gift buy at The Dalles Art Show!

Winter Solstice Party

12 / 21 / Hood River, OR / Hood River Library / 7 pm to 9 pm

Put on your coziest pair of pajamas and head to the library to celebrate the winter solstice with crafts, treats, new book collections and live theater!

Holiday High Tea

12 / 22 / Hood River, OR / Columbia Gorge Hotel / 1 pm to 4 pm

Hood River, OR

High Tea at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel

Have you been a longtime fan of the tea party or do you know someone who is? If so, there is nothing like Holiday High Tea at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel to make you feel the elegance and warmth of the occasion. Make it a family affair or a holiday gift for someone you love (who appreciates the art of well served tea) and find your way to Hood River to partake in the magic.

26th Annual New Years Even Extravaganza

12 / 31 / Mt. Hood, OR / Ski Bowl / 9 pm to midnight

What, you say? New Years eve in the snow? Countdowns on skis? Kisses on snowboards? Yes Please. Where? The glorious Mt. Hood of course! Book your night now and ring in the New Year up on the mountain surrounded by the grace and luster of a winter wonderland.

New Years Eve Murder Mystery

12 / 31 / Hood River, OR / Columbia Gorge Hotel / 6pm to midnight

Would you prefer to stay cozy as the clock ticks from 2013 to 2014? How about a dangerous puzzle that stimulates your mind and sends your imagination a’wandering with a glass of wine in hand? Stay a night at the Columbia Gorge Hotel and enjoy a New Years murder mystery and the elegance of this historic spot in the vibrant Hood River.

 

 

 

The Columbia Gorge Hotel: A Haunted Adventure

November 12, 2013 by:
Hood River, Oregon

The Columbia Gorge Hotel by daylight

 

Some histories are cut and dry. Some are tragic and some are triumphant. Others have a past as hard to track as the spindly shapes in a kaleidescope. My favorite histories, however, are those rooted around a good, unsolved ghost story.

Pulling into the parking lot of the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel on a misty Sunday evening, I crane my neck up at the lonesome bell tower that crowns the hotel roof and shake off a shiver.

“Jackpot,” I whisper, as my fiancé pulls the key out of the ignition before giving me a concerned glance.

“Are you talking to yourself?”

I pause and take in the sculpted shrubbery on the garden grounds beneath the haze of dusk.

“I think there are some good stories waiting for us here.”

Anthony shakes his head and laughs as we step outside and pop the trunk to grab our luggage. But when I grip his arm on our way to the double front doors, he jumps just a little, at my touch.

I fight back the urge to remind him of the time he teased me for being nervous when we were hiking in rattlesnake territory and then immediately tripped at the sound of a grasshopper.

“After you,” I say, in my best haunted, yet hard to place Brittish-Russian accent hybrid while I hold the door open and wiggle my eyebrows.

Clearly, I’m having all the fun here.

It’s true – I’ve been known to imitate the choo-choo of a train whistle before boarding the Mt. Hood Railroad and to fall in love with waterfalls in ways so enduring that they sneak into my dreams and leave me heartbroken when I wake to the sound of construction near my city home. I have a penchant for the legends of things and this can cause me to lose sight of the behavioral norms that have been assigned to my age group. But I take my story subjects seriously. And I’m a writer on the beat. I’m here to get a true, solid impression of the Columbia Gorge Hotel…and if that happens to include an honest-to-goodness ghost story, well, then so be it.

 

Hood River, Oregon

Savor the elegance of the Columbia Gorge Hotel

 

Originally built in 1904 by Hood River pioneer Bobby Rand, the Columbia Gorge Hotel has seen many different phases and had four owners in its 109 years of existence. Located right off of exit 62 in Hood River, the hotel nestles itself above the 208′ Wah Gwin Gwin Falls (Rand’s original name for the space was the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel) and peers over the wide waters of the Columbia.

The interior retains an impressive number of antiques, quaintly tucked in the corners of common spaces and brandishing the hotel’s handsome guest rooms with a sense of legacy. To top it off guests have the option of riding the Columbia Gorge’s vintage, hand operated elevator for a real step back in time.

 

Hood River, Oregon

Light fixtures add to the antique ambiance

 

Hood River, Oregon

Stunning bed frame and a comfortable bed to boot

 

When Simon Benson purchased the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel from Rand in 1920, he envisioned creating a lavish getaway and his vision proved nationally successful. Shortly after opening, the hotel had already garnered a reputation among presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge as well as drawn the famous gazes of Jane Powell, Myrna Loy and Rudolph Valentino.

The hotel of modern day includes the Valentino Lounge, which features dashing framed photos of the 1920′s Italian heartthrob.

 

Hood River, Oregon

A cozy fireplace in the Valentino Lounge

 

After setting our stuff down in our hotel room (a lovely corner spot with a kingsize bed overlooking the Columbia) Anthony and I make our way down to the Valentino lounge to cozy up with a drink by the fire. My secret agenda, however, is to do some sleuthing and see what the hotel staff have to say about a potentially haunted past.

It quickly becomes clear that the universe is conspiring in my favor. Not ten minutes after we’ve been sipping cocktails in front of crackling orange flames, our bartender sits down across from us and lowers her voice as she leans forward.

“Have you heard any of the hotel ghost stories?”

I glance at Anthony who keeps his eyes focused on the fire and a grin slowly stretches across my face.

“We haven’t. And we’d love to.”

 

Hood River, Oregon

The lovely, low lit hallway leading to our room

 

The depression brought hard times to Simon Benson and he was forced to relinquish his vision and sell it to the Neighbors of Woodcraft who turned the hotel into a retirement home….and this is where we meet our ghosts.

Our bartender tells us in hushed tones about Oscar, one of the retirement residents rumored to have lived and died here. Apparently Oscar loved his cigars and their smoke still lingers enigmatically in various parts of the smoke-free establishment.

“Just the other night,” our bartender whispers, “a young girl was at dinner with her parents and she kept complaining about the smell of smoke.”

Anthony and I lean forward on the couch and our bartender puts her hands up as if to indicate she’s not confirming or denying that this was a signal of Oscar’s presence.

“The younger ones are always more sensitive,” she adds. Then she winks and giggles quickly before leaving us to ponder the ghost of an old man smoking cigars outside our room tonight.

 

Hood River, Oregon

To the belltower…

 

“Have you ever seen the movie Vertigo?” I ask Anthony, as we pause in front of a locked iron gate that blocks our passage to the final set of stairs that would lead us, I’m guessing, to the top floor and the bell tower.

He takes a sip of his beer (we’ve been given permission by our new bartender friend to explore the hotel, drinks in hand) and shakes his head.

“It’s a really creepy Alfred Hitchcock movie where a women keeps dreaming about falling from – ”

Anthony cuts in immediately, his head turning side to side with the steady pace of a metronome.

“Nope, nope, nope.”

I bite my lip and try to calm my erratic breathing. My imagination is starting to run, I can feel it.

Anthony laces his free hand in mine and leads me back downstairs. We have plans to get some dinner in town, but I can’t help stopping by the front desk on our way out and asking the attendant if she could tell us more about the hotel’s history.

Kaia has thick framed glasses and a sweet smile and the first thing out of her mouth is, ”I don’t usually fall for things like ghost stories, but…”

As she closes her book and folds her hands on top of it, I pull a notepad and pen from my pocket and ready myself.

“Last night,” Kaia continues, “the paranormal people were here. You know, they walk around with their equipment and a meter reads if there is unusual paranormal activity.”

Anthony and I are her captive audience as she proceeds to tell us about what the staff call the ‘tunnel’ – a long hallway in the basement that leads to an incinerator which was installed during the retirement home days with the intention of creating a morgue. The very thought has shivers zig zagging up my back.

“We were walking down the hallway and the meter suddenly went up to three. The leader stopped and said, ‘If you’d like us to leave, let us know.’ That’s when the meter shot up to a five.”

Kaia takes her glasses off and laughs nervously.

“Like I said, I don’t usually get freaked out by that stuff, but the guy with the equipment turned us around real fast and I was glad he did.”

Before Anthony and I depart Kaia adds a quick story about another retirement home resident who has been known to barricade the room she used to reside in. Nobody can figure out how it happens, but now and then, there are chairs and pieces of furniture pressed underneath the door knob.

In the fresh bite of night air I feel my breathing relax and I squeeze my patient fiancé’s hand.

“You’re not too freaked out are you?” I ask him.

He smiles and a mischevious dimple appears on his right cheek.

“No…this is starting to get fun.”

 

Hood River, Oregon

Double Mountain deliciousness

 

In Hood River we satiate our palette with what we mutually agree is some of the best pizza we’ve ever had. The Double Mountain Brewery’s perfectly crisped brick oven pizza and two Hood River brewed beers ground us in the warm comfort of well made food, (salami, mozzerella and arugala) and the mellow of a light beer buzz (the Double Mountain Kolsch and the Lulu) before we return to the Columbia Gorge Hotel’s elegantly mysterious magic.

 

Hood River, Oregon

Olympic Provisions salami cotto and Zion Farms arugula

 

Restored and rennovated in 1977 and now corporately owned and operated, the hotel has been gracefully brought back to its beginnings, a far cry from the ghost story producing days of its retirement home era. And this edge of haunted – this is what adds to the hotel’s undeniable charm.

In the morning, we wake up to the sound of the river’s rush, enjoy complimentary dark roast coffee with handmade biscotti and begin imagining the next occasion that will lead us back down the hallways of the Columbia Gorge Hotel – a haunted adventure entirely worth risking.

 

Hood River, Oregon

Dining at the Columbia Gorge Hotel

 

Hood River, Oregon

The view from the top of Wah Gwin Gwin Falls

 

 

Upcoming November Events In The Gorge

November 6, 2013 by:

Hood River, Columbia River Gorge

Autumn isn’t over yet…

In fact, the colors are ablaze and will continue to hold court for another couple of weeks and this precious transition is not to be missed!

Enjoy November while you can. Brave the misty, rainy evenings, put on your water proof pants and drive a little slower down those old, winding roads. Here are some worthy events to mark down on your calendar so you can savor the rest of the season!

Hike The Gorge

11/9 /  Hikes all over The Gorge / Party in Carson, WA / Hiking all day / Party 6 – 10pm

Featuring 100 hiking options spread out from West to East across the Gorge area, this is your chance to participate in a true Gorge appreciation day and celebrate the scenic majesty that makes the Columbia Gorge a globally recognized natural wonderland.

Satiate your pallet afterwards at our Hike The Gorge party, where you can enjoy good food and local beer and wine at the lovely Elk Ridge Golf Course in Carson, Washington. This is also your chance to participate in a photo contest and share stories about your unique hiking experience. Proceeds from party tickets benefit the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society as well as $1 for every mile hiked.

Let’s get together and commemorate the natural places we cherish the most!

Mt. Hood Film Festival

11 / 8 thru 11 / 10 / Hood River

November in the Pacific Northwest simply begs you to cozy up inside a warm room to watch a movie while the gray unfurls outside. Opt for a cold/warm combo and enjoy Hike The Gorge on Saturday and a day of independent film masterpieces on Sunday. This year’s Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival is the 2nd annual installment and features countless gems at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River!

Veteran’s Day Parade in the Dalles

11 / 11 / The Dalles / 11am

Wondering what to do with your day off? Get down to The Dalles and participate in The Dalles Veteran’s Day Parade!  Enjoy a picnic potluck lunch following the festivities and then take advantage of the scenic location and find an afternoon hike or a cozy vista point to snap some photos of the Gorge’s ever changing autumn-to-winter landscape.

Gorge on Tap in Portland

11 / 19 / Portland / 5:30 – 7pm

Alright Portlanders – it’s the end of a long work day and you don’t have the extra inner battery to get yourself out to the Gorge, but you do have enough energy to meet up for delicious micro-brews at the Lucky Lab in NW Portland and learn about various issues facing the Columbia Gorge area as well as helpful tips for how to plan hikes using a 3D Gorge map. Cheers to that!

Balch Hotel November Supper Club

11 / 23 / Dufur, Oregon

How about prepping for the pre Thanksgiving mayhem with a cozy getaway in a historic bed and breakfast? How about enjoying a gourmet meal served in courses, which includes roasted pork tenderloin and amaretto parfait?

What?

You say you’ll be eating rich, delicious food a mere five days later that includes turkey and gravy and pie?

That’s five WHOLE days. Plenty of time to digest, recharge in a picturesque location and enjoy the quite reflection that a change of scenery provides the soul.

Columbia Gorge Thanksgiving Winery Open House Weekend

11 / 29 thru 12 / 1 / All throughout The Gorge

You began the holiday with a supper club getaway – now you can complete it with a celebration of The Gorge’s abundant wine bounty at the Thanksgiving weekend winery open house!  Choose your favorite participating wineries and make a day of it, taking your time to truly say farewell to November, Gorge style.

 

We weather enduring warriors of Oregon and Washington know that the Calendar’s change doesn’t doom us into boredom fueled hibernation. It simply alters our focus, readjusts our wardrobe and inspires us with the deep peace that a more watery, wintery Gorge has to offer.

Stay tuned for December’s Gorge Events!