Spring Break Camping – Memaloose State Park

Trip number two for the new camper was a quick jaunt up the Gorge to Memaloose State Park. The park is between Hood River and The Dalles. It was a nice enough place, but the lack of leaves on the trees meant there was a constant presence of noise from the interstate and from the UP trains. This site was pretty deserted save for a few mega-coaches where folks largely stayed inside. Not much for other kids to play with, and the playground wasn’t the greatest. Luckily, we found other things to do. Plus lots of time on the tire swing.

The weather never quite turned great – though briefly on Saturday the sun came out fully and the temperature reached nearly 60F. We went to Hood River to refill a propane tank and pick up a growler from Full Sail, then took scenic highway 30 back. Stoping at the Memaloose and Rowena viewpoints made for some spectacular views of the Gorge, and even a peek down at our campsite.

The girls and I tried geocaching only to be disappointed at the tiny little cache we found. Instead of being bummed, we bushwhacked our way back to the campsite, adventuring down some basalt cliffs (to them), through some scrub oak stands, and occasionally around and over some blackberry thickets. It was fun, and the girls seemed to enjoy the route finding.

We’re in love with the camper. It is spacious, the kitchen works well, and it has a furnace, which we used much of the trip. It never got as cold as our first trip to Stub Stewart, but it never got as warm either. Luckily, we were able to pack the camper away dry this time.

Beacon Rock is a damn cool trail

Ella, Maddie and I took off after cartoons and breakfast and drove east on SR14 (Washington side of the Columbia) to Beacon Rock State Park. I’d seen some cool pictures of the trail, and frankly, they didn’t do the trail justice. We got to the trailhead a little after 9am and after adding several layers (it was cool and windy), we started upwards. Ella is rather fearless on the trail and I kept having to ask her to slow down, not because I cared, but because I could sense Michelle scowling.

The trail essentially winds up a cliff, zig-zagging up the most approachable route, and occasionally doubling back over itself on a bridge. The trail is surprisingly easy, but it’s still a pretty steep climb up. It was easy enough that most of the people we saw were not “hikers,” but they all seemed to get the same enjoyment from the excellent views of the river, east to the Bonneville Dam, and west towards Washougal and Portland.

We hit the top and had a picnic. It was only 10am, but I couldn’t argue with the girls who thought it was the perfect place for some sandwiches. It was – even for simple PB&J. We played on top for about 30 minutes before winding back down. Madeline finally insisted on walking, and made it about half-way down the mountain before I sensed Michelle’s apprehension about the exposure.

I’d recommend the hike without any hesitation. So would Ella.