Hood River Harvest Express
It’s harvest time in Oregon’s Hood River Valley and you don‘t want to be late for the Mt Hood Railroad Harvest Express. The train rolls in to the Hood River city depot at 10am sharp each Friday and Saturday to take on passengers for a unique 22-mile-long ride.
According to Ron Kaufman, the Hood River Railroad’s General Manager, the ride gives a glimpse into Hood River history and dates back more than a century. “The rail service is how people got to this town back in 1906 and we’ve been in continual operation ever since. We haul freight year round and we take passenger excursions, too. It’s a blast to feel the jostle of the rail cars as you travel a line that’s pretty much the way it was back then.”
Local resident Roman Fey is the Mt Hood Railroad conductor and says that passengers love to step aboard and touch the past. “There’s something really old fashioned about this that folks can’t find anywhere else. So, I feel pretty lucky to do this and it’s great to do it in my hometown.”
The train rolls out and immediately offers spectacular views to the river and valley that you cannot see from the paved highway. There’s also bonus to the pace of the ride. “It’s a bit slower and that takes folks back to kind of a bygone era when life wasn’t quite so fast. I tell folks to just look out the window and enjoy the scenery and unique views,” said Kaufman.
Soon the views include scores of family-owned farms and orchard, where fruit trees are heavy with fall bounty. Kiyokawa Family Orchards near Parkdale entices shoppers with many apple varieties grown on their fertile land. Popular apples like Gala and Fuji are available alongside lesser-known varieties like Ginger Gold.
Randy Kiyokawa said they offer more than 80 varieties, including the dinner-plate-sized giants called “Hanner’s Jumbo,” a variety that can weigh up to 4 pounds. He also held up a stunner of an apple with an incredible surprise called “Mountain Rose.” With a quick flick of his pocket knife blade, Randy showed off the gorgeous inside of an apple that looked more like a crimson red watermelon.
Be sure to check out the many U-Pick rows of fruit trees, too. More than three acres of apples and pears are grown adjacent to the family store, and Randy said picking the fruit is easy enough for anyone to try. “The fruit is within easy reach, and no ladders are required. It’s really a lot of fun whether you’re a youngster or an oldster; there will be an apple there for you to pick.”
Ingi Song brought his family to the valley from Beaverton, and they were having a blast loading up boxes of beautiful apples. The activity was a perfect getaway for his family. “It’s away from the city and gets us out to do something different together. The scenery is gorgeous up here in the Hood River Valley too,” he said.
You’ll love hearing the Mt Hood Railroad call you back to ramble along the Hood River Valley. It’s a chance to leave the driving to someone else on a scenic ride that’ll leave you wide-eyed and slack-jawed for Oregon’s abundant beauty.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.