Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge


Photos and Text by Ashley Gossens

A good road trip is food for the soul. When my soul is hungry, I head to the Columbia River Gorge. The thousand foot high walls of the eighty mile long canyon nurture and protect me and my cherished memories of my time spent there. The narrowing canyon and saturated colors allow my eyes to engage and focus. The roaring waterfalls drown out unwanted thoughts.


My husband and I first visited the gorge, as Pacific Northwesterners call it, after just moving to Seattle from Florida. The Vista House was our first stop along the corridor. The circular stone visitors center was built in 1918 as a rest stop for the weary traveler. Perched 733 feet in the air, this was our first view of the gorge from above. We were not yet accustomed to the grand views of the west and with eyes wide I whispered, “wow, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”


The old highway, lined with wooden guard rails and mossy trees, continues from the Vista House down into the gorge passing dozens of waterfalls, some visible from the road, some tucked away in shallow hidden canyons. I’ve wandered this highway and it’s trails many times, sometimes with others but mostly on my own. It’s where I saw wild morel mushrooms and purple camas for the first time. It’s the first place I walked behind a waterfall slipping and sliding in the slick mud. The time I climbed to the top of Multnomah Falls was the first time I looked down on a waterfall from above and felt butterflies in my stomach. It’s also the first (and hopefully the last) place I forgot to bring my sleeping bag for solo car camping in April. That was the time I drove 4 hours back to Seattle barely awake after hiking all day.


A couple weekends ago I took my sister who was visiting from Oklahoma to see the wonders of the gorge. While driving we discussed our new favorite tv shows, shared good recipes for freezer meals and sang along to the radio. We talked about books and our futures. She passed on a piece of advice to me: “a good writer reads as much as possible.” I’ve heard this before, but now it takes on more credence coming from my sister who’s a librarian. I share with her my favorite waterfalls and we fight the crowds to climb up to the famous Benson Footbridge halfway up Multnomah Falls. I take her up to the Vista House and she’s in awe. Standing next to me she whispers, “wow, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

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Photos (C) 2015 Ashley Gossens

Ashley Gossens lives in Seattle and spends as much time as possible hiking in the Washington Cascades where she enjoys writing about and photographing her adventures. When she’s not out in the mountains, she’s snuggled up with her dog reading a book. You can follow her journey on her blog, Alpine Lily¬†and her Instagram.

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