Interstate 84 westbound was open for traffic through the Columbia River Gorge between Hood River and Troutdale. After a visit to Timberline Lodge earlier today, I returned to Milwaukie via Ore. 35 and I-84. The Gorge looked good until I reached near Starvation Creek where trees were scorched, smoke still billowing, and some visible flames along a trail construction. At the same time, a downpour passed through the area, making it difficult to see higher up the hills.
The view opened up after passing Wygant. The hills were scorched and thinned, opening up more of the cliffsides. The smoke was hard to detect, sometimes confusing it with clouds forming from the evaporating rain.
All exits on the westbound were closed, except for Cascade Locks. In Cascade Locks, businesses were opened, including restaurants and stores. Stopping along the highway was prohibited, and likely not wise anyway given the downpour conditions.
Continuing west, the damage was more revealing and devastating. The trees around the Toothrock Viaduct are gone. The ornamental rails along the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail in John B. Yeon State Park, once were in fine condition on Sept. 3, are destroyed. The hillsides along the Historic Columbia River Highway, was burned as far west as Shepperd’s Dell.
The devastation is emotional and frustrating. It angers me that one of our greatest natural treasures in the Pacific Northwest was destroyed by a single 15-year old boy tossing a firework in the Eagle Creek Trail area on Sept. 2. Oregon State Police say they have obtained a video from a witness. Witnesses also said they heard the boy giggling while tossing the fireworks.