Last weekend we found ourselves staying in Cascade Locks, in the Columbia Gorge for the holiday weekend. The weather was great, and the time with our friends and family was relaxing and fun. On one morning, my buddy Darrell and I headed out towards Hood River to do a little ride he’d picked off his to-do list, the Twin Tunnels ride from Hood River to Mosier. For more about the ride, and history of the trail….please keep reading…
I didn’t plan on getting a lot of riding time in on our little family excursion, but knew I might get a chance for a ride or two, so I’d tossed in my cross bike, shoes, gloves, and a helmet, but figured I’d ride casual in just regular shorts since we’d likely not be doing anything to ridiculous on our ride. For those that aren’t familiar with the history of the Twin Tunnels, or Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail as it’s now called, here is what one of the signs along the route says:
“The rugged landscape of the Columbia River Gorge posed significant obstacles to the design and construction of the Historic Columbia River Highway. Here, between Hood River and Mosier, a right-of-way conflict with the railroad forced engineer John A. Elliott to locate the road away from the river and to design tunnels through steep basalt bluffs. The 17-foot-wide Mosier Twin Tunnels easily accomodated two-way traffic by Model Ts. But as automobiles became larger, accidents were common – despite widening to 20 feet. Although signals eventually regulated one-way traffic, waiting vehicles were vulnerable to falling rock from the bluffs above. With construction of a water grade thoroughfare in the 1950’s, the tunnels were closed and filled. Thanks to the efforts of Oregon’s Senator Mark O. Hatfield, restoration of these famous tunnels as part of a hiking and bicycling path began in 1995. The Mosier Twin Tunnels were completed in 1921 after 3 years of backbreaking labor.”
According to the A2Z Gorge website, “between 1921 and 1955 when the road was closed, the area by the Mosier Twin Tunnels was the scene for regular disasters. Some were the result of head-on collisions caused by cars traveling too far into the other lane, or by cars who came around a sharp turn only to find the slopes above them had recently deposited huge boulders in the middle of the road. It was not uncommon for supply trucks to lose their load, resulting in a debris field of unclaimed products that was a boon to local residents. But some disasters were weather related. A stone just inside the first tunnel is etched with the names of travelers who became snowbound when a blizzard and avalanche blocked the tunnel. They enscribed the words “Snowbound Nov. 17-29,1921″ and included the names of those entombed for 12 days. They were eventually rescued.”
The Mosier Twin Tunnels were reopened in July of 2000 and dedicated as the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. The Mark O. Hatfield East Trailhead is outside of Mosier, Oregon, with the Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead near Hood River. The actual tunnels are located on the East end of the trail near Mosier.
The ride is beautiful, and windy…but really, I’m sure just about any ride along the Gorge is windy. It’s only a 10 mile round trip ride, so distance should not be an issue for most folks, but it is pretty much uphill both directions. Of course, there’s a descent on both sides, but what you go down, you must come back up at the halfway point. The path is also a shared path with all pedestrians, and on the day we rode, there were a handful of runner/walkers out, but the path is plenty wide enough to handle everyone on it.
And if you find yourself in Hood River, the best place to get a snack afterwards is Mike’s Ice Cream, where you can feel good about supporting the local guy who uses plastic forks and cups manufactured from corn and potato products, organic cones and paper cups pressed from the stalks of the sugarcane plant. All smoothie ingredients are organic, and the ice cream is dang good!