Klickitat Indian folklore explains the Cascade Mountain Range was punishment for two brothers who could not share. Supreme god Tyhee Sahale had two sons, Klickitat and Wy’east, who fought endlessly. So Sahale banished Klickitat north of the Columbia River and Wy’east south. Sahale built The Bridge of the Gods to allow his family to meet occasionally. An old woman named Loowit was put in charge of the bridge and Sahale gave her youth and beauty as repayment.
Both brothers fell in love with Loowit and the ensuing war destroyed villages, forests and collapsed the bridge, killing Loowit. Angered, Sahale transformed Klickitat into Mount Adams, Wy’east into Mount Hood and Loowit into the youngest mountain in the Cascade Range-Mount St. Helens.
Klickitat folklore does not account for the Cascade Mountain Range that extends north into British Columbia or south into California, and references only those mountains near their land in southern Washington.
Today, we explore the same land Klickitat and Wy’east fought over and pass picturesque views of their eternal resting places. As we ride through the Columbia Gorge and explore the wilderness of the Mount St. Helens National
Monument, let us remember the old cave explorer’s motto: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.” Anything is possible in this mysterious land home to warring Gods, Sasquatch and clues to the 1971-plane hijacking by D. B. Cooper, which are still being removed from the silt floor.
Beginning at the Washington end of the modern, cantilevered Bridge of the Gods (those arriving from Oregon must pay a 50-cent toll when crossing the bridge from Interstate 84), we ride east along SR 14. Against a head wind, we reach the town of Stevenson 3 miles later, where food and gas is available.
Continuing east for four miles along the banks of the Columbia River, we carve north onto Wind River Road/Nf 30, following signage to Carson. Stompin Groundz (21 Hot Springs Avenue) is located off Wind River Road and serves espresso-style coffee and pastries.
Continuing north, we parallel the ice blue Wind River where, in late summer, the river recedes and exposes natural hot springs along its shore. The landscape is colored with Douglas firs and alders that litter the road with needles and catkins while Indian paintbrushes pixilate the roadside in swatches of red and purple. 30-45 mph chicanes lead us deeper into the wilderness, but hazards such as chip sealant, narrow corners and snow banks limiting visibility are present. We carve northeast onto Meadow Creek Road after 15 miles.
The air gets cooler as we near the 3,050-foot Old Man Pass and, after 13 miles, we carve northwest onto Curly Creek Road. Reaching McClellan Overlook, we find a postcard view of Mt. St. Helens’ southern face. Continuing west on Curly Creek Road and later Nf 90, thick fog and birch trees crowd Nf 90, giving the road has a dream-like haze as we negotiate 25-45 mph turns with inconsistent traction. A forest of spindly trees creates an optical illusion of narrowness.
A sign points to the Ape Caves where, in the summer of 1924, miners were attacked by a group of Bigfeet. Miner Fred Beck claims to have killed one of the large apes and, later that night, the apes retaliated by thrashing the miner’s campsite. Today, Skamania County has an ordinance against shooting Bigfoot. Visitors can follow signage to the Ape Caves, where a 2.5-mile trail snakes below the ground to form the longest continuous lava tube in the United States.
Crossing into Clark County, the road becomes SR 503 Spur. The Swift Reservoir‘s sea foam green water rests below guardrail-less corners. Rocks scatter across the discolored pavement, creating a visually distracting stretch of road. On sunny days, the transition between sun and shade is abrupt and distracting as we ride 15 miles towards Cougar, where gas is available.
Herons plucks fish from Yale Lake as we pass a hydroelectric dam, although most residents have no access to electricity. Passing the charred foundation of Jack’s Store, we carve south onto SR 503 towards Amboy, where a parachute was recently uncovered and is thought to have been used by Cooper after his successful hijacking. SR 503 runs east and then south before we junction west onto SR 500. Carving south onto Interstate 205 and east onto SR 14, we enter Camas.
Named for the edible flowers that grew here long before subdivisions were the norm, today Camas smells more like paper mill than an aromatic flower. Entering the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area, 35-45 mph turns ensure riders reach their corner quota although the State Police patrol the area to fill their quotas. Riders can continue east for 27 miles back to the Bridge of the Gods, but for those still seeking corners, head north onto Washougal River Road in Washougal.
Washougal River Road tacks between outcroppings of rock, guardrails and hillsides like a sailboat in low wind. Blue lupines color the roadside, as the road becomes Canyon Creek Road and we continue east until reaching Salmon Falls Road where we carve south. 10-25 mph turns carve near a small airport and, after five miles of banked bliss; we arrive back at SR 14 and continue east. Passing the Bonneville Dam and snippets of Mount Hood, we park at the base of the Bridge of the Gods.
Traveling 150 miles through southern Washington, we can rejoice knowing that lean angles and uninhabited wilderness were explored, we left only a carbon footprint and killed four hours in a land so beautiful even the gods couldn’t share.