By Kevin Gorman
If you love the Columbia Gorge but don't live there, you probably heard me and others discourage you over the last two weeks from going out to gawk at the Eagle Creek fire and its aftermath. With firefighters and road crews hard at work, limiting traffic congestion was critical. But we've turned a corner and I'd like to ask you to consider reacquainting yourself with the place you love so dearly—for yourself as well as the Gorge communities.
Two weeks ago, in the midst of the Eagle Creek fire, the primary question I was asked was "what can I do to help?" While that question may feel less urgent now, it certainly is not. The Gorge communities have been devastated by the fire and they need our love and support. These communities help make the Gorge a wonderful place to visit. You can't take for granted that your favorite restaurants, museums, brewpubs and wineries will always be there. Hotels and restaurants have already laid off staff. Vacation rentals experienced massive cancellations. Several businesses are wondering if they will make it through the winter.
Here is my pitch to you: after weeks of stifling heat and then heavy rains, we are in for a nice stretch of weather and no place is more beautiful than the Columbia Gorge in the fall. Friends' website offers over 47 hikes not affected by the fires
. Consider venturing out on a new hike and explore the wonders of the Gorge. Or sign up for our Foliage and Fall Wine Play & Stay week
Oct. 6-8 in Dufur, OR. Or create your own adventure, but make sure you visit one or more of the affected communities: from Cascades Locks, North Bonneville, Stevenson, Carson and Home Valley to Hood River, Bingen and White Salmon to Mosier, Lyle and The Dalles. All have been affected and would welcome you. Thank the merchants and businesses for their perseverance and resilience during these past few weeks.
While your love for the Gorge likely resides in its wild places, it is the communities that have put on the finishing touches to make the Gorge a world-class destination. Let's use the coming weeks and months to extend our gratitude for all they do.
Note: Though we have turned a corner, please exercise caution and patience when you visit the Gorge. Many trails and forests are closed, please respect that and allow these places to heal. Eastbound I-84 may still be closed. Recognize that your drive may be longer, plan for it, and enjoy the scenery. If you want to observe the effects of the fire, do so from designated parking areas only; not along the side of the road.
Photos from top: View of White Salmon and Hood River looking west from Burdoin Mountain (Debbie Asakawa) / Lyle Cherry Orchard (Debbie Asakawa) / Looking east from the Cape Horn trail (Jeremiah Leipold)