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Summer Sun Seeking

The weather this summer has been, well...a little disappointing. There have been many more cloudy days than we have been used to. Normally our summer trips include excursions to the mountains and the coast to escape the hot days of Portland - including occasional triple digit temp days. This year we have been escaping TO the sun.

Here is what we have discovered within a couple hours of Portland. Beyond escaping dreary summer days these will be potential sun escape options for fall and spring:

Kah Nee Ta Resort

This resort/casino on the Warm Springs Reservation is pretty family friendly. We stayed in the lodge and although there is a casino, the entrance is separate from other accommodations so you don't even need to know the casino exists - unless you WANT to know...

Pluses: 20 miles from ANYTHING with sweeping desert views from every lodge room. The lodge has a sauna, steam room, work out room and pool for guests and wifi access by the dramatic fireplace. The Village area of the resort has an enormous pool that is spring-fed and great for kids. Other amenities include a spa, kayak rentals/outings, horseback excursions, golfing (and mini-golf for kids), and nearby hiking trails.

Minuses: 20 miles from ANYTHING which limits your food options to what is on-site.  The food is fine and reasonably priced (breakfast was included as part of the High Desert Escape Package that we booked) BUT there are limited options for vegetarians - vegans may be completely out of luck. The Chinook Room has a kid's menu.

Tips: Bring a cooler with items for lunches and snacks. Do NOT forget the sunscreen and use it liberally. For a little vegetarian variety when dining in The Chinook Room, ask to have the Longhouse Salad which is on the menu for The Juniper Room next door (they share a kitchen). At breakfast ask to substitute fry bread for toast. Rooms are 50 percent off August 26 - 30 and September 3 - 6!

A few family camping options east of the mountains we have visited - within a couple hours of Portland:

Columbia Hills State Park

Pluses: Swim. kayak, and fish in Horsethief Lake, enjoy boat access to the Columbia, hike and climb at Horsethief Butte, and see the petroglyphs and pictographs saved from Petroglyph Canyon (which disappeared under water when The Dalles Dam was built). Few day-use folks and small, comfortable campground makes for a relaxed time. Very close to The Dalles if you forgot something.

Minuses: Camping is first come, first serve but the campground is small - less than 20 sites, the only restrooms are porta-potties (they are building a new bath/shower house), you need to drive to trail heads, and like all camping in the Gorge itself train noise is a nightly occurrence and it can get VERY windy.

Tips: Try to get there around "check-out" (noon-1 pm) to secure a camping spot. Bring earplugs for sleeping (although I recommend this for ALL campgrounds). Stretch your legs in Hood River on the way there or back.

Maryhill State Park

Pluses: Sites may be reserved in advance, you can enjoy the bizarre juxtaposition of enjoying a view of Mt. Hood and of Stonehenge, easy access to the Maryhill Art Museum, swimming and fishing on the Columbia, tour farms and vineyards in the area, showers and restrooms on site (bring quarters for the showers!).

Minuses: The swimming area is small and not that appealing, the wind protection is limited, and there is no real hiking to speak of on site. As noted, all camping in the Gorge itself means train noise at night and possible high winds. Same Tips as Columbia Hills.

Cove Palisades State Park

Pluses: Sites - including cabins - may be reserved in advance, great swimming, boating and fishing on Lake Billy Chinook, 10 miles of hiking trails in the area and plenty of boulders to climb on.

Minuses: Very popular day use area so the number of people and level of boat traffic on the weekends can be significant, weekdays are more subdued. Longer drive from PDX than the above options.

Tips: Take a break on the banks of the Deschutes River on the way there (there is access near Warm Springs). If you want a significant break, spend a couple of hours at The Museum at Warm Springs and learn about the cultural, traditional and artistic heritage of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Let us know your local sun-seeking suggestions as well!


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