1 hour and 25 minutes to the farthest point
My cousin is like a sister to me and my ultimate travel partner. She, her children, and I take a trip about 2-3 times a year to various local destinations and usually stay at least one night. This time we took a day trip up the Columbia Gorge, an amazing time in a twelve-hour span.
St. Cloud Recreation Area
An excellent getaway with my cousin and her kids calls for adventure so when we stumbled across St. Cloud for a geocache stop, it turned into a lot more of course. Her youngest found the cache and the wonder in her eyes made this side trip worthwhile. The more I travel, the more I find it’s about the little things, the younger ones finding freshwater shellfish and other treasures, spotting wildflowers in autumn, and discovering a new forager’s paradise of apples we took for snacks on the road. St. Cloud is a stop I’m looking forward to exploring more expansively in the future but with four little ones under age 12 and a list of other places we wanted to visit, we had to travel on.
Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center
We headed to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center for a time of educational fun made sweeter by the good deals we got. My cousin used a Groupon (https://www.groupon.com/deals/columbia-gorge-interpretive-center-museum-2) while I took advantage of a free pass from Fort Vancouver Regional Library (https://www.fvrl.org/experience-pass). As we headed to the picnic tables to enjoy lunch, our eyes took in the feast of a glorious view. The children enjoyed playing on the nearby train and various other playthings, both put there for that purpose as well as things morphed into play equipment by their ceaseless imaginations.
The Interpretive Center was a neat experience. The inner exhibits may be enjoyed by older children more so than younger ones. There’s a unique miniature seek and find sculpture upon entering that all the children enjoyed. Other highlights included a Native American fisherman sculpture, a timed waterfall, a quilt exhibit, and an afghan that caused my cousin and me to do a doubletake. It also boasted an exhibit of miniature tractors that tempted my son. The collection of rosary beads is impressive and I loved the floral carpeted sustain and una corda pedals on an antique piano.
The building itself is extraordinary, and the carvings on the outside done by a man in his nineties inspired me to continue creating; gifts, passions, and their accompanying joys are ageless!
I’m a kid at heart in so many ways so seeing the exotic animals at Schreiner Farms in Lyle is an amazing treat! http://www.schreinerfarms.com/ We came at feeding time for the zebras and were fortunate enough to see a dazzle (yep, that’s the name!) of zebras together as well as a mama and her foal, the first I had ever seen. While you may not get out of your car on the farm, you are welcome to ride up to the giraffe barn before turning around. Drive slowly! This is a working farm and workers come and go. The camels and giraffes seemed as curious about us as we were about them. Admission is free so kindly drop a thank you to these kind folks if you visit!
Catherine Creek Recreation Area
From there we drove to the Catherine Creek Recreation Area (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recarea/?recid=29892)for a hike and were rewarded with stunning panoramas. The hike itself held treats as well, autumn foliage, fuzzy acorns, and footbridges. The hike is easy to moderate in my mind. My four-year-old hiked it with help. On a hike, I think the photos speak more than the words, so I’m going to let them do just that.
As it was getting late and we had about an hour drive ahead, we crossed the bridge to Hood River, Oregon to eat at a childhood favorite, Pietro’s Pizza. Excellent pizza and a fun-filled arcade gave the kids a great time, and the moms a chance to relax. This is a very popular destination across from the Mt. Hood Railroad and at the beginning of historic downtown. A quick thank you to the staff at the restaurant; they were very patient as the children picked their prizes.
We drove home feeling relaxed and accomplished with plans of what we do the next time and the joy of memories made.