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Judy Crowell: The Majestic Mountains, Rivers and Waterfalls of Portland, Ore.

An amazing array of natural wonders includes Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls — all in a day's drive

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Using Portland, Ore., as your hub, you can see an amazing array of natural wonders from your car. A stay at Portland’s RiverPlace-A Kimpton Hotel, located on the banks of the Willamette River, is a perfect launching place for quick day trips to the glorious rivers, mountains and waterfalls of Oregon.

Head for U.S. Route 30 (the Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway) for a day of glorious sightseeing amid the majesty and lush green surroundings of the Columbia River Gorge. Well marked and an easy drive, follow this beautiful itinerary:

» Women's Forum Overlook: The first notable outlook you’ll encounter.

» Crown Point Vista House: One of Oregon’s most inspiring views and since 1918 described as the ideal site for “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia River could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.”

» Latourell Falls: Your first significant waterfall sighting, barely visible from the highway, but a short jaunt up a steep paved path for a clear viewpoint.

» Shepperds Dell: Named for the wife of George Sheppard, who gifted this land.

» Bridal Veil Falls: At milepost 28, this spectacular waterfall is situated in large timber stands and is best viewed from the base, on trails a very steep one-mile round-trip.

» Wahkeena Falls: Hidden away, a cascading, zig-zagging wonder.

» Multnomah Falls: At 621 feet tall, it's the granddaddy of the Gorge Falls and the most visited natural attraction in the state of Oregon.

» Oneonta Gorge: A mossy, magical sight rewarding the hardiest of hikers.

One could spend days exploring and hiking through these wonders, or it can be done easily in one day, making the approximate one-hour return to Portland on Interstate 84.

Another day trip from Portland, although I’ll try to convince you to stay longer, is the hour-long drive to Mount Hood, at 11,249 feet the highest point in Oregon. It’s actually a misnomer, since technically it’s a stratovolcano, really a huge chunk of iron ore, characterized by the U.S. Geological Survey as “potentially active.” Visible up to 100 miles away, its glaciers and snowfields cover about 80 percent of the mountain, creating a haven for skiers and hikers.

Nestled in all this wonderment is Timberline Lodge, an Alpine ski lodge with a storied history. First conceived as an art project in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his Works Progress Administration, it combined the skills of master craftsmen and labor of apprentices sorely in need of work. The beauty of the lodge is a testament to this cooperative effort. Constructed of stone and wood from the surrounding forests, this gem welcomes more than 2 million people every year, giving a sense of permanence to Mother Nature’s bounty in Oregon. Stay awhile and take in all the magnificence.

Oregon is a new discovery for me. Strange and, yes, kind of weird, but OMG is it beautiful! Your bucket list must at least include the Columbia River Gorge. Or as Woody Guthrie crooned:

"Other great rivers add power to you
Yakima, Snake and the Klickatat, too
Sandy, Willamette and Hood River, too
So roll on, Columbia, roll on."

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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