Yakima 97

I’ve often thought, “How do you define travel?”  Is it going on holiday to the same lake that you’ve been to on vacation the last 20 years?  Is it going to a new country?  Perhaps it is both.  In the case of this post, it is a drive to a place I’ve never been before.  As I was making this drive I thought to myself how beautiful the scenery was and thought that I’d make a post about it.  I don’t suppose that too many international travelers will make the drive up Hwy 97 from the Columbia River heading towards Yakima but I’ve had some surprises with this blog.  Some posts that I didn’t think would be popular have turned out to be the most hit pages here including Dog on the Menu and Tomsk: Siberian Houses.  I get Google search hits every day for the Siberian House post; it seems to be especially popular with architects and people considering adding some wood carving to their homes.

I began this drive in Hood River, Oregon and drove east along the Columbia River.  Hood River sits on the south bank of the Columbia between the intersecting White Salmon River and Hood River.  The town has picturesque views of both Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, pine tree covered mountains and flowers in the spring.  But one of the biggest draws to this area are the many sports, specifically water sports including wind surfing, kite boarding, sailing and kayaking.

As I crossed the river and turned north to crest the northern bank of the river valley, I was greeted with a beautiful view of the hillsides and the big white windmills that are common to this area (above).  The onshore flow from the ocean west of Portland is funneled into the Columbia River Valley and creates an almost constant wind that makes an ideal windsurfing location and a clean power source.  As Hood River is located just around a bend in the river, it is shielded from this constant breeze but just offshore a dozen yards or so the wind blows at 20 or 30 miles per hour most days of the year.  The town has grown to be a very popular kite boarding location and in the summer the river is full wind surfers and kite boarders.

I pulled over to get some “safe” shots of the windmills – I didn’t want to crash my car trying to get these shots!  As I looked back toward the south I could see the World War I Stonehenge memorial (center right of photo below).  The area is dotted with vineyards and wineries.

Until you get up close to these windmills it is hard to understand how big they are.  I’ve seen the propeller blades carried on 18 wheel trucks that use a flatbed that is twice as long as a normal truck bed.  Imagine an 18-wheel truck and realize that just one of these blades is almost twice as long as a full length truck.  There must be hundreds of these windmills up the river valley and it is nice to see so much green energy.

Once I cleared the river valley and climbed up the plateau on the north side the land flattened out and Hwy 97 snaked through some beautiful hills that were covered in green pine trees.  After a year overseas in a desert-like country it was so refreshing to see (and smell) the beautiful forests.  It was a very relaxing and beautiful drive – if you ever have a chance, give Highway 97 a try, you won’t be disappointed ;-)


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