Thursday, October 29, 2009

Riding the Mt. Hood Railroad–Part 1, the Quest for a place to stay

Howdy folks, time for another little adventure with the trusty Redneck Express :). This time, the misses and I are off to ride the Scenic Mt. Hood Railroad from the beautiful Columbia River Gorge up through the densely forested hills and emerging in Parkdale, Oregon, roughly at the foot of Mt. Hood itself.


Our original plan was to drive to Hood River, Oregon, the base starting point of the Mt. Hood Railroad, and stay overnight just across the river at the Bridge RV Park & Campground

Mt. Hood Railroad

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Bridge RV Park & Campground

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However, when we got to Bridge RV Park, we discovered to our dismay that the park was squeezed right in between the highway and the very busy BNSF freight railway line that skirted the edge of the Columbia River Gorge along the Washington side of the river. 

Given that we’ve slept in campgrounds before that had trains next to them (Ainsworth State Park in Oregon comes to mind)  I walked up to the office to see what sites were open and to get an envelope to fill out our night registration. 

It was at this point I had our second little surprise of the evening in that the price listed on the door at the park was double what was advertised on Good Sam and on their own website. 

At this point, we said, “Forget it” and pulled back out onto the highway to see if we could locate another park. 

The last bit that had really set us off and had us driving east down the Washington side of the river was that we had just paid a toll to cross the bridge over to Washington, and it had been a rather nerve wracking drive across, with the bridge lanes barely wide enough to accommodate the camper and truck with tall concrete “jersey” barriers on either side of us. 

By this point, it was rather late and we were both tired and my memory was a little fuzzy, so we drove on figuring that we’d find a campground of some kind not too far down the road. 

This, proved not to be the case. 

A big detractor to our efforts is my plans for our night stay were kind of last minute and I hadn’t taken the time to detail any other alternative campgrounds in the area.  So, thanks to my great planning skills we were flying blind, watching the sides of the road for signs for another Campground or RV Park as we further and further east. 

After spending at least an hour wandering around rather lost, I managed to find a Les Schwab that had left their complimentary internet on and pulled back up Google Maps and located something that was near to where we were. 

Ironically, in our night-blinded wanderings we’d managed to pull up just shy of Maryhill, WA, location of the infamous WWI Stone Henge memorial that stood far above on the sheer gorge walls.  Down at river level, below this monument on the outskirts of the tiny fruit growers town of Maryhill is a Washington State Park. 

This is where we ended up staying the night, forty miles away from our destination the following morning. 

We drove through the nearly deserted park roughly twice, before locating the bath house and snagging one of the sites in the loop closest to the river.  The water in the park was off this time of year, so we made good use of my onboard tank and the auxiliary that I had filled in the event that the Bridge RV Park & Campground didn’t pan out. 

Settling in took very little time at all and within about 20 minutes we were on our way over to the bath house to grab a hot shower before returning to the camper, having a quick bite of dinner and heading off to a deep sleep. 



The next morning came with bits of blue poking through the sea grey clouds hanging low above us. 

The view of the river and its proximity were unknown to us at the time we’d pulled in the night before was a complete mystery to us.  While we could faintly hear the sounds of water and the occasional barge that made its way up and down the river, we didn’t have a clue as to how far the river actually was. 

It was pretty close.


A quick look around revealed that the park was no less deserted than it had been the night before.  In the spring and summer I can only imagine that this park is extremely full and popular amongst travelers and the wind surfing crowd. 

Right now, its quiet and filled with slowly turning colors of a brisk Washington fall.   If we had more time, this would have made a nice place to work from to explore the surrounding area a little more. 


Pretty soon, breakfast was a memory and we were on the road again, covering miles on I-84 to get us back to Hood River and our waiting train. 

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