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Mt. Hood and Goldendale Observatory

We took a drive around Mt. Hood today. Took Highway 97 south, we passed a small town Goldendale. A grand vista jumped into our eyes under the big sky. In an expansive open land, three glaciated peaks rose above the horizon! Looking across the fallen old barn on the farmland filled with ripe golden color crops, the majestic Mt. Adams looming in the northern sky was the biggest. Looking closely to the right of Mt. Adams, there was another snowy peak in the northern sky. It might be Mt. Rainier. Mt. Hood dominated the southern sky. A group of windmills was dancing in the breeze on the yellow hilly mounds, adding some dynamic elements to this beautiful vista.

We climbed up to the naked yellow mounds and more and more windmills unfolded on top of the hills. Mt. Hood appeared at the end of the road greeting us. Down the hills, we met the mighty Columbia River again. The dark colored Columbia River cuts through the Columbia River Gorge. Cliffs with black basalt rock guard the gorge. The summit of Mt. Hood peaked out from the flat mounds. Down in the gorge, a long train was moving along the river. The view was gorgeous! As Stephen said it has all his favorite things: the snow-capped mountain, the cliffs, and the train.

Continued driving on Washington 14, we saw a boat on the river for the first time near the little booming town Bingen. Soon we crossed the Columbia River at White Salmon and into Hood River, Oregon. While driving though the narrow two-lane Hood River Bridge, we saw lots of colorful windsurfing sails on the river. It might be the paradise for windsurfers. The marina was packed with boats. All these water sports made the Columbia River lively.

We stopped at the Packer Orchards for fruits. But the blueberries we bought were mushy and not very sweet, and the peaches were a little tart. It was a tourist’s trap. But it had the killer view of Mt. Adams. We drove by the foot of Mt. Hood on its south on highway 26. The glaciated peak played hide and seek game with us. We uttered “WOW!” whenever we saw the beauty. Lots of wineries lined the road but we didn’t stop.

We drove into Portland area and took I84 at Gresham to return. I84 skirts the Columbia River on the southern bank and cuts through the cliffs by tunnels. There was more traffic on I84 than Washington 14 on the other side of the river. But the bridge is a lot wider than the Hood River Bridge. We will take this road to Portland tomorrow.

Goldendale observatory is a public observatory. We went there at 7:30 in the evening for the 8 O’clock program. There were just a dozen people there at the beginning and we took turns to view the moon through the 24 ½ inch reflector. More and more people came and filled up the dome. The park interpreter explained the mystery of the astronomy. It was a beautiful evening with a bright half moon in the sky. The view of the half moon was not very sharp, however. When the sun set at about 8:30, the landscape was glowing with a warm reddish hue, and the windmills twinkled with red lights. The twilight accentuated the silhouette of Mt. Hood. The stars started to pop out. We saw a better image of the half moon through the outside telescope. Craters on the moon were clearly visible from the telescope. Some people used apps to identify stars in the sky. That was cool! As the sky getting darker, we saw the ring of Saturn and its moon through the telescope, although the image was very small. We also saw Jupiter and its moons from the reflector in the dome.

The International Space Station flew over the sky at about 9:40. It was a fast moving white dot across the sky. There are 6 astronauts on the station right now. As we walking towards our truck on the parking lot, a bright meteor was falling fast in the sky. That was the first time I have ever seen a meteor! When we were back to the campground, we were excited again by the millions of shining stars in the dark sky. This land became magic at night.

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