Hood River, Oregon

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The Columbia River Gorge, the nation's windsurfing capital     Photo: Eyewire

LEST THERE BE ANY UNCERTAINTY about what put this Columbia River Gorge town on the map, consider a few local businesses: Big Winds, Windance, Realwind, Windwing, and Second Wind. Or the fabled 20-knot clause," the assumption that when westerlies blow hard into the gorge, productivity at the office takes a backseat. Over the past two decades, windsurfing has made Hood River—an hour east of Portland amid towering basalt cliffs—the fabled adventure hot spot that it is. The jocks that have stuck around have cultivated a taste for bistros, "brasseries, and manicured, century-old Victorian landmarks. They've also contributed to a tight-knit community. Parents take part in school programs, and pausing to chat with friends in the grocery aisles is an everyday occurrence.

OUTDOORS: Boardheads dominate the athletic scene; thousands windsurf the Columbia each year. But there's also hiking, camping, and mountain biking in Mount Hood National Forest; glacier skiing and alpine climbing on 11,235-foot Mount Hood; and cycling on the Fruit Loop, a 47-mile road ride through apple, cherry, peach, and pear orchards, and the gorgeous Cascade foothills.
REAL ESTATE: The oldest east-side neighborhoods, adjacent to the downtown corridor rising from the riverbank, have some of the most coveted properties: Craftsman bungalows for $250,000, turn-of-the-century two-stories for $400,000, and 1970s ranch-style houses in the $200,000 range.
HANGOUTS: The Columbia Gorge Hotel is a quaint country inn with chandeliers in the lobby and a 207-foot waterfall on the grounds (doubles start at $199, including a mammoth breakfast; 800-345-1921, www.columbiagorgehotel.com). Brian's Pourhouse, the 6th Street Bistro and Loft, and Three Rivers Grill are great spots to get your fix of organic greens and free-range cuts of meat.

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