A tour with our favorite things (all at once)

I have a new favorite tour: our Hiking and Biking Columbia Gorge Hidden Waterfalls tour. No really. It’s my favorite!

All we tour guides know the question well: “what is your favorite tour?” — we know it because we are constantly seeking the answer to that question. THIS might be my favorite tour (whichever it is I am on today), but some of us do have our favorites: Jeri’s favorite is the coast tour; Carrie’s favorite is the Mt. Hood loop tour (unless it’s the coast tour). But maybe our favorite this week is different from the rest of the year; this past week, early May, I’d rather do nothing so much as a wine tour, rich with these amazing fields of crimson clover, which peak only for several days each year in which hillsides are covered with startling shocks of giant red blossoms before they fade to pink-brown and the summer, then, is underway.

If you know me at all, you know I am crazy about the Columbia River Gorge. The vistas from the western viewpoints (Chanticleer Point and Crown Point most especially) are so much a part of my heart that I conduct conversations with the view in my #ladygorge series on Instagram. When I started this company, I wanted to do two things more than any other: wine tours in which we could talk more intimately about how to taste wine, and tours of the Gorge with longer, slower-paced hikes and better bike rides.

Edwin and I rode the Gorge all winter and early spring. I’d take him on my gorge driving tours and let him ride the parts we were just seeing from the window of a Sprinter van. Whenever we had a day off together we’d hike anywhere we could, or hike separately, me with a wonderful group of friends and their children and little dogs, him with his loyal friends. Together we made this thing that is absolutely, completely, once and for all, my favorite tour of the Columbia River Gorge.

Here’s what I love so much about it: it’s both placid and easy, and a great deal of exercise; it’s absolutely chockfull of stunning vistas and fast rides but it’s slow-paced too. We do the bulk of our bike riding on the most amazing, sweet downhill ride in the universe: cool and shaded, absolutely rich with wildflowers and moss, but open to the sun (when it’s shining) so it can dapple through the trees. For the first nearly four miles (7k) of bike ride you get mostly downhill, a downhill ride you can take easy. “This is the best bike ride I’ve ever done!” exclaimed one member of my first tour group as we rode through the first mile and a half. I’ve been on substantially more bike rides than the average tour guest: and I thought so, too.

Once you complete that first long downhill ride, it’s uphill for you — but on foot, and at your own pace, a 2.5-mile (4k) loop meandering up and back down Latourell Creek, to get a truly intimate connection to its two beautiful waterfalls (we call this our church; to some local tribes, this waterfall was a goddess, daughter of the Beaver family wedded to Coyote and turned into a waterfall when she tried to run away). It’s not just water and rock you’ll see, but wildflowers of all colors and fragrances and berries in the late summer; huge redcedars and hemlocks and big leaf maples covered in mosses and lichens; birds everywhere.

Return from that hike and I’ll be waiting for you (I get to ride up the hill — my very favorite thing). You’ll bike a few more miles, this time with some gentle uphills, but that’s all I’ll make you do; you just climbed up over 800 feet in elevation.

This is all there is: sweet comfortable mostly downhill bike rides, lovely but not overly intense 2.5-mile hikes. If you have time and energy, we’ll throw in a bonus waterfall at the end. If you don’t, we’ll swing by another big waterfall near the road for a gander. It’s everything altogether right, in all the right ways.

We’ve done this hundreds upon hundreds of times, and finally, we can say: this is my favorite!

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