by Nancy Bestor
I’ll admit, I’m guilty of forgetting just how beautiful my own backyard is. I’m the first one in line when planning a trip to an exotic location like Thailand or Belize, but am slow to explore parts of Oregon I’ve never visited. Thus when our family had a long weekend to vacation together this summer, I figured Eastern Oregon sounded good. We hadn’t ventured much farther than Bend when heading that direction, and thought we could all benefit with learning a little more about our home state. Unfortunately wildfires in the area had something to say about this though, and at the last minute we had to cancel our trip east and come up with a whole new five-day adventure on the fly. So Hood River became our new destination, and what a great choice it turned out to be!
We found a last minute house rental across Hood River in White Salmon, Washington on www.airbnb.com. Our two bedroom house was spacious, well appointed, included a hot tub, and offered stunning views of Mount Hood. We spent time exploring the town of Hood River and lounging in the Columbia River, watching wind and kite surfers speed through the water, but perhaps my favorite activity was our drive along Hood River’s “fruit loop.” The Fruit Loop is about 35 miles of orchards, fruit stands, farmlands and sweet little towns and communities. Summer is the perfect time to visit, because the fruit and vegetables are as picturesque as they are delicious.
We enjoyed peaches, nectarines, cherries, and delicious jams at Packer Orchards & Bakery. We bought locally made jewelry and caught whiffs of lavender at Hood River Lavender Farms. We petted alpacas and caressed the buttery soft yarns and fabrics at Cascade Alpacas and Foothills Yarn & Fiber. We bought corn on the cob and tomatoes at Kiyokawa Family Orchards, and drank fresh apple cider at Fox-Tail Cider. And we listened to live music and ate delicious pulled pork sandwiches and hearty smoked ribs at Apple Valley Country Store and Bakery. This drive reminded me a bit of my childhood, when we would drive out to Brentwood, California and eat peaches. We may have picked peaches too, but it’s the eating that I remember. Imagine that?
It took us a few hours to eat our way through drive the 35 miles, and we stopped at barely a third of the 31 official stands on the Fruit Loop. It’s safe to say our car was heavier at the end of our journey than it was at the beginning. It turns out my own backyard really is beautiful, and it’s pretty darn delicious too.