Thursday, January 17, 2008

Premier Recreation Destination: The Columbia River Gorge of the Pacific Northwest

The small town of Hood River resides at the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, a National Scenic Area and a premier destination for anyone who is serious about recreation. Hood River was once an agricultural center surrounded by pear orchards, but fifteen years ago the town became a mecca for windsurfers. Although it was windsurfing that put the Columbia River Gorge on the recreation map, today the gamut of the recreation industry is firmly established in the scenic Gorge, and Hood River is its base of operations. If you can name it, then there is someone doing it someplace in the Gorge - from kayaking and kite surfing to mountain biking and snowboarding. It s all available within half an hour of downtown Hood River. Passing along the main street of this little town where colorfully painted Victorian homes on the steep hillsides overlook several dozen shops and restaurants, there is a sidewalk bustle of hard-bodies seeing and being seen. They step in and out of boutique sport shops where one can order a custom wet-suit or select obscure handmade flies for fly-fishing. Nearly every parking space is occupied by an all-wheel-drive vehicle sporting a Yakima or Thule roof rack that secures some kind of recreational gear. On one survey of the six block stretch that comprises the main drag, there were one or more of the following on display atop the sporty vehicles: kayaks, snowboards, mountain bikes, windsurfing boards, skis, road bikes, and although there wasn t a canoe this time, there often is. Those roof-top items are just the beginning. A look inside some of the rigs reveals the greater depth of recreational opportunity. Small kite-sailing boards, wet-suits, fishing rods, hiking packs and boots are visible in many of the vehicles. Go down to the marina and there is even more: sail boats, motor boats for water skiing, jet skis, and an outfitter for white-water rafting on tributaries of the Columbia River. If there is an outdoor sport that you love - water, snow, mountain, whatever! - or a sport that you d like to try, then the Gorge is the place for you. It s happening here, guaranteed. And after a grueling day on the slopes, on the river, or on the trail, you can relax at one of the many charming bed-and-breakfasts or historic hotels (Hood River was part of the Oregon Trail, after all). Soothe tired muscles at Carson Hot Springs across the river in Carson, Washington, and then return to the Oregon side of the river to meet people from around the world who share your interest in whatever sport you played that day, or would like to play the next. You ll enjoy funky cafés or fine dining. Choices abound. And cap off the night with freshly brewed gourmet coffees or craft beer, since Hood River is the home of the famous Full Sail Brewing Company. Mmm, mmm good. What are you waiting for? Any time of year, fly in to Portland, Oregon and head east on Interstate 84, along the border between Oregon and Washington state. Within an hour you will find yourself at the heart of the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Be ready to play hard; you ve arrived at the ultimate recreation destination. Judith Schwader loves to travel and tell stories about her traveling adventures. She reviews popular destinations and lodgings, as well as the more off-beat places to explore. Visit A Travel To located at for travel tips and resources.

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