Photo-Exploration No. 9: The Historic Columbia River Highway

I have been feeling restless.

This month, one of my oldest friends—Kaitlyn, the same Kaitlyn I mentioned in Of Witches and Wind’s dedication—is on an epic road trip from the Carolinas to Alaska. She is chronicling her trip via blog and Instagram (both of which you should definitely check out). The pictures, in particular, are stupendous, and they’ve awakened memories of the cross-country road trip I took a few years ago and a good, old-fashioned wanderlust.

I’m grateful to her for that.

I love to travel. Back when I first moved here, in the days when I had free time, I used to hop in my MINI and venture out on day trips to see more of my new state. (You can find some examples in these old posts.) But when I get focused on something, I forget how much I love to explore.

Recently, I have been VERY focused. In the past few years, The Ever Afters and all the accompanying book deadlines have dominated my brain. In the past few months, my focus shifted to my new job, which is challenging, demanding, and fun (most of the time). It is also a lot. I haven’t worked this many hours in an actual office for a long, long time, and the rest of my time goes to house- or family- or book-related business.

Yesterday, my job took me to the Dalles. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Northwest, that’s a city on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.) I-84 is the swiftest way back.

But inspired by Kaitlyn’s journey, I took a different road: US-30, the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Highway A

It’s slower. The speed limit is way lower—for very good reason. It winds more than the Interstate and covers more perilous terrain.

Highway B

But it is rich with natural splendor. I took as many pictures as I could before sunset.

Highway C

Rowena Crest

Rowena 1

Rowena 2

Rowena 3

Rowena 4

Rowena 5

Rowena 6

I forgot how much I loved this—how a drive through a beautiful place could make me feel settled and connected, alive and awake, exhilarated and calm.

When the storm blew in, I remembered a conversation years ago with my friend Angela. I mentioned how I love storms and oceans. She didn’t and told me so. She preferred calm lakes and sunny skies.

I replied: Maybe we love our opposites. She is of a stormier temperament, and I’m a calmer sort. She thought that it might be true—even though she didn’t want to admit it.

(I was sending her pictures as I drove through, btw.)

Memaloose Overlook

Memaloose 1

Memaloose 2

Memaloose 3

Memaloose 4

Horsetail Fails

Horsetail 1

Horsetail 2

Horsetail 3

Horsetail 4

Multnomah Falls

I’ve been here before, right before I decided to move to Portland and again when I have visitors, but it is enchanting at night, almost empty of people.

Multnomah Falls 2

Multnomah Falls 1

I thought of my mother, who—whenever people ask why I moved to Oregon—is the first to admit that she secretly hoped I would lose interest and move back to the East Coast. Then she came to visit, and she saw the trees and the moss and the waters of the natural landscape and their thousand shades of green. Then she knew, as she says, I wouldn’t come back. This place looks like a fairy tale.

Highway D

Highway E

Highway F

I don’t always like when she tells this story, but there’s truth of it. This chunk of Oregon has always felt magical to me. The denizens of Portland seem determined to make their own brand of it but less than an hour away, it’s like I can feel the landscape thrum with magic.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena 1

Wahkeena 2

Wahkeena 3

Highway G

Shepherd’s Dell

Shepherd's 1

Shepherd's 2

Shepherd's 3

Shepherd's 4

Highway H

Vista House

This is the actual Vista House:

Vista 1

And this is its actual vista:

Vista 2

Vista 3

Vista 4

Vista 5

My iPhone’s panorama did something weird, but I love how surreal the curve is. Plus, you get a general idea of what the gorge looks like from there.

Vista 6

That’s the magic of yesterday’s trip: It reminded me of exactly who I’ve always been—writer and explorer. Today, I woke up feeling fuller and braver than I’ve felt in months. Already today, I returned with a couple new projects that had stalled until today. I forged ahead into new territory.

Here’s to more exploring. 🙂


  1. Lauren Ashley May 25, 2015
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  13. Amanda K Thompson May 31, 2015