We’ve been getting eager to travel, but the isolation imposed by the pandemic has made us quite chicken-hearted. We enjoyed our foray to Astoria — especially the visit to Andrea’s friends’ farm — but the whole of it was more work than pleasure for us. So now we’ve decided to take some day trips, to ease into traveling.
The Hood River valley, on the northeast slope of Mt. Hood, is full of fruit orchards. And the spring it can be really lovely as the trees come into bloom. The Fruit Loop is a loop of roads through the valley. We decided to go there. We wanted to go while the trees were still flowering, and Monday was the only day this week we could get away.
It was a gloriously sunny day here in Portland. (What’s with these sunny days during April?) As we crested a rise on the freeway in Southeast Portland we could clearly see Mt. Hood to the east, Mt. St. Helens to the north, and even, briefly, Mt. Rainier more than 100 miles to the north. We had to dig out our sunglasses as we headed toward the Columbia River.
Traffic was blessedly light as we headed east through the Gorge. It is a beautiful drive if the traffic is not heavy and there’s no snow or ice. The road sweeps gently along in the narrow space between the cliffs and the river. We realized it had been 18 months since we’d driven this road, even though it is less than an hour from our home.
We got to Hood River and headed up the river valley. It soon became evident we were at least a week too early — the trees are just beginning to bloom in the lower elevations and not at all toward the top. But we could see Mt. Hood clearly to the southwest, and Mt. Adams to the north.
We had thought we might be able to get lunch in the tiny town of Parkdale, but being Monday most things were shut down. There was a deli in the general store and a food cart selling quesadillas, but that seemed to be it. We decided to continue the loop back to Hood River for lunch.
The town of Hood River, although not large, was bustling, with shops and cafes open and people sitting at tables on the sidewalks. We like pub-style places and went to Double Mountain Brewery for lunch. There were tables outside. The entry door was locked, but signs directed us to an open window where a young woman greeted us. We asked for an inside table, and she opened the door for us and showed us to a seat. There were others inside, but most of the patrons were either outside or going to the window for takeout.
I know my social skills have suffered during the pandemic isolation. It was good to interact with strangers at the restaurant. It gave me hope that my reversion to my youthful social hesitancy isn’t permanent.
The ride around the loop took us a couple of hours, including all the stops for pictures. While we at our pizza at the brewery, we talked about whether we could just keep going east instead of returning home. It was mighty tempting. This small excursion to the Hood River Valley and the Fruit Loop on a glorious day had broken the stasis of our isolation. But we decided that with appointments on Tuesday and no toothbrushes or changes of clothes, we needed to go back down through the Gorge to Portland. Andrea slept part of the way; fortunately she wasn’t the one driving.
It was wonderful weather, wonderful to get away, to go somewhere new, to talk to strangers. It was wonderful to relax and get out of ourselves a bit. Overall, it was just a wonderful day. Perhaps we’ll go back in a few weeks when the blossoms are on the trees.