I missed out on the fateful winter of 1996 in the Northwest, having left Hood River for a spell to attend grad school back East. I heard from friends and saw news reports about the massive flooding that came after a trifecta of weather events — snow, then a deep freeze, then a warm, wet Pineapple Express that bore down on the Northwest that February. It caused some of the worst flooding in the region in decades. Even President Clinton flew out to survey the damage in Portland, where the Willamette River rose more than 10 feet above flood stage.
In the Gorge, the flooding caused its own set of problems. Landslides closed roads and even buried a house in Dodson nearly to its roof. After the floodwaters receded, it was clear another casualty of the flooding was the vital network of century-old irrigation ditches in the Hood River Valley — the lifeline from the glacial waters of Mount Hood to thousands of acres of fruit orchards in the valley.
Writer and photographer David Hanson delves into the story of what came after, when a few enterprising Hood Riverites used the catastrophe as an opportunity to build a better mousetrap in the form of an innovative irrigation screen. That effort has completely changed the irrigation scene in the Hood River Valley and is now poised to help reshape irrigation and water use throughout the western U.S. (page 44).
In another story about forging ahead in the wake of calamity, writer and photographer Ben Mitchell joined a volunteer trail crew from the Pacific Crest Trail Association to see firsthand the work being done to restore trails after last year’s Eagle Creek Fire. A long day on the Herman Creek Trail was enough for him to conclude that the restoration efforts are in good hands — and legs (page 62).
I got to spend a much less arduous day on an electric bike tour with Sol Rides, the Gorge’s only e-bike tour company. Owner and guide Charlie Crocker brings a long history of teaching and guiding to his endeavor, offering a rare opportunity in the Gorge for an all-inclusive activity (page 52).
In celebration of the National Audubon Society’s Year of the Bird, we showcase photographer Linda Steider’s often-breathtaking images of our avian neighbors. Steider, one of the foremost wildlife photographers in the Gorge, spends countless hours observing birds in their habitat, and has stunning photographs to show for it (page 58).
You’ll find a soul-filling variety of other stories in this issue, including a feature on Goldendale blacksmith Joe Vachon (page 28); a look at Anson’s Bike Buddies, a nonprofit whose goal is making sure every kid has a bike (page 16); and a story on Wet Planet Whitewater, the largest outfitter on the White Salmon River (page 32). Enjoy, and here’s to summertime in the Gorge. Cheers!
—Janet Cook, Editor