I love to ramble across Oregon at this time of year when the state is shaking off winter’s long, lonesome run. This week, I traveled across the Hood River Valley where the famous fruit orchards offer visitors a stunning carpet of snow from the valley’s spring blossoms.
The Hood River flows from the foot of Mt Hood down to the banks of the mighty Columbia River, and the drive up the valley is a scenic excursion that will leave you wide-eyed and slack-jawed by the journey. As winter’s grip gives way to riotous spring, the mountains’ surrounding countryside invites us to play. “It’s all about the blossoms right now – we have over 40,000 acres of flowering fruit trees so you want to be here to see it soon,” said Kerry Cobb of Hood River County.
Along the valley’s famous 35-mile Fruit Loop, you can experience an endless wash of foamy white, pink-tinged blossoms from pear and apple orchards that rise and plunge toward distant horizons. “The higher you get up the valley, the longer the blooming season lasts. Sometimes it’s a three-week period,” said Cobb. “Even people who have lived here forever – they are stunned by how beautiful it is right now.”
Jack Kennedy is proud to be a life-long local whose family roots run four generations deep across 300 acres of orchards and farmlands; the centerpiece is the family-owned and historic Gorge White House. When it comes to fruit, his family grows it all. “Cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, apples; we try to get the whole fruit table out there and we want people to stop in and see it all too,” he said.
He admitted that he has to pinch himself sometimes because it is all so beautiful. “Especially on a gorgeous day like this one – you wake up and it’s a joy to look out and see two beautiful mountains – Mt Hood and Mt Adams.”
Many roadside stands like Rasmussen Farms are waking up from winter and have opened for daily business. Manager Julie Milling said that their farm offers flowers and vegetable plants and that she enjoys the colorful landscape that surrounds the family farm. “It certainly does make the day go by easier!” said Milling. “When you look and see Mt Hood or Mt Adams or Mt Defiance — plus all the pretty fruit blossoms — it makes the day go by a lot faster.”
The Hood River Valley Fruit Loop is best enjoyed by a slow and easy cruising pace, and it’s best to put on the brakes along the winding roads and pull off the roadway often to enjoy the stunning views. This is how getaway days are meant to be enjoyed – perhaps with a stop that provides a delicious reward for your travel efforts at the Apple Valley Country Store, where they whip up some of the richest, thickest huckleberry milkshakes around.
It’s a place that stays in touch with its local history too. The store reaches back more than a century when hardware, antiques and even fishing tackle ruled the scene. These days it’s all about “pastries, pies plus jams and jellies,” according to owner Bob White: “Many of our preserves and pie fillings are wild fruit that people pick and bring to us too.”
For example, they offer wild blackberry and mountain huckleberry in varied forms. Each offers a taste of the valley that you can take back to your home town.“Mother Nature at its best,” said White. “Just a real beautiful place to come and relax.”
I hope you fall in love with this area for the simple peace of mind that it offers and the absolutely stunning view of Mt Hood – taken together, it’s a thrilling getaway experience.