While checking into our campground at Bridge RV Park & Campground in White Salmon, WA we noticed a flier for the Hood River Fruit Loop. After we finished checking in and setting up camp, we went online to hoodriverfruitloop.com for a bit more information. What we found out was that there was 30+ stops in a 35 mile loop including wine, fruit, cider, lavender and a lot more to see. The weather was supposed to be great the next day and as we had booked our campground for 2 nights, we decided to make a day of it.
The next morning we woke up and after a great breakfast we packed up Bubbles and we were off to Oregon for the day. The route to the start of the Fruit Loop was quite simple, take 2 lefts out of the RV Park and head across the Hood River Bridge. This bridge however was one of the scariest that we had driven across in 2+ years of RVing. Built in 1924, the bridge is the second oldest bridge spanning the Columbia river. It was pretty scary for us for a few reasons. As it is quite old it was not made for todays sized cars and trucks. Driving on it meant that we had to stay as far right as we possibly could which put us just a few inches to the right of the center line. If any large car or truck came the other way, we would only have literal inches between us. The bridge road surface is metal and that for some reason made it hard to drive Bubbles on. Driving on metal bridges, it felt like the van was constantly hydroplaning or hitting black ice to an extent. It felt like it was almost floating down the bridge roadway and I was just pointing the driving wheel straight and hoping that it stayed that way. We had encountered this in northern Canada and Alaska but as this bridge was so old, the narrowness came into play. Lastly, it’s a very high bridge. At the center of the bridge, the roadway is 245 feet above the water. On a metal bridge that you can see through, it just makes driving over it even worse. We didn’t have much choice though in taking this bridge. There are other bridges that we could cross but they were about 30 miles away in either direction. So, on we went, white knuckling the minute and a half it took to cross the bridge but eventually we made it to the other side!
Hood River Fruit Loop
Once over the bridge we were in the town of Hood River, OR. The Fruit Loops eastern side goes down Oregon route 35, so off we went. It was a spectacularly nice day and the drive was as good as it gets. The road cut past small farms and small patches of forest all with the huge and intimidating Mt. Hood in the distance. Our 1st stop of the day was for peaches at Pearl’s Place farm. I’m not sure quite what it is about buying produce directly from a farm, it just always seems to taste better. We drove down the narrow dirt road past fruit trees and Pearl’s house to the small barn where all the peaches were kept. We chose two different varieties, Suncrest & Red Haven, paid the small amount for them and we were off.
Our second stop on the trail was at Smiley’s Red Barn. Walking around their large barn they had a lot of the same produce as Pearl’s however Julie noticed a small chocolate section where they were selling homemade chocolate covered hazelnuts. While I unfortunately cannot eat them (due to a nut allergy), Julie was in heaven. This turned out to be a perfect snack for her for our next stop, the Wy’East Vineyards. We got there shortly after they opened and decided to split a wine tasting. Their wine barista suggested that we sit out on their side patio while we had our tasting which we thought was a great idea. Here our tasting was brought out glass by glass as we were able to look out into the fields and hills on the backside of the winery. Here they had a small horse pasture too. It was pretty neat to be able to sip on wine in the shade of the late morning while watching a few horses trotting around. Once we finished tasting we asked the server what place she recommended and was told Stave and Stone Winery. Off we went!
Amazing scenery at Stave & Stone Winery
Stave & Stone happened to be just a few minutes away. After taking a few wrong turns (the winery was down a few tiny farm roads) we finally made it. We were told at the last place that this building for Stave & Stone was fairly new and it sure looked it. We walked in and requested a tasting. They said sure, have a seat on the back patio and they would be out with a few samples. When we stepped outside the views almost took our breath away. The seating was laid out in big tiers leading down to a grassy area with a few games and grape vines beyond that. Beyond that however was a picture-perfect view of Mt. Adams, WA. Living in Western NY and stopping at a great number of wineries in our travels we have been blessed with seeing some pretty nice views from wineries. This one had them all beat though. Sitting in an Adirondack style chair, sipping on wine and looking out over grape vines and the 12,280 ft high Mt. Adams; it was such an amazing sight!
Oregon BBQ at its Finest
After we finished our tasting and had a walk around the vineyard we hopped back into Bubbles and continued the Fruit Loop. We soon entered the only town on the Loop; the town of Parkdale. We stopped the van, got out and had a walk around. It was a tiny town that consisted of a hardware store, small grocery store, general store of sorts and to our surprise; a BBQ restaurant! As its extremely difficult for Julie and I to pass up a BBQ Restaurant (this one was Apple Valley BBQ and our 39th BBQ restaurant visited since starting to keep track in Feb 2018). We arrived just after the lunch rush and were seated fast. Julie ended up getting the pulled pork while I got their baby back ribs. Both were excellent and we would highly recommend stopping in at Apple Valley BBQ for lunch if you are driving the Fruit Loop.
From Parkdale we drove north on route 281 back towards Hood River. We had one last stop to make at Lavender Valley. Unlike our other stops during the day for produce, wine and food, Lavender Valley was a you pick, lavender farm. We were told to walk down the path into the field where lavender was planted in rows. We had to walk to the last two rows then could pick a handful. We wandered down the row until we got to a spot where there was a lot of unpicked lavender and using a cutting tool that was given to us started to pick some. Not only did the lavender field itself make for beautiful scenery but the field was also facing south, which provided amazing views of Mt. Hood. The bright blue sky, purple fields and snow-capped mountain in the background. You better believe we captured a few good photos!
After picking our handful of lavender we headed back to the small shop where our plants were bundled together, and we paid the small fee.
The town of Hood River, OR
After driving the rest of the Fruit Loop, we had one last stop for the day, the town of Hood River. Hood River was much larger than its sister city of White Salmon across the river. It had a beautiful downtown with a lot of bustling shops and restaurants. Julie and I parked Bubbles and set out to explore for a bit. We walked down the main street passing a lot of restaurants and stores selling everything from clothing to antiques. As we had not yet had our normal afternoon coffee, we stopped in at Ground Espresso Bar & Café. Julie opted for an iced americano while I got a double espresso. They were certainly good and gave us the caffeine kick that we needed. We walked back through the town stopping in a few shops before hopping back in Bubbles and slowly crossed the Hood River Bridge (and made it…yay). We then set up camp, made dinner and relaxed the rest of the night.
If you are traveling to Portland or anywhere in north/central Oregon, please consider a visit to the Hood River area. We had not done much research on the area before visiting and did not think that we would love it as much as we did. It’s an awesome area of the state!
Next up….weird, quirky and fun! One night in Bend, Oregon.