Scramblin’ Through the Floods, Part 1

Text: Joseph Marek • Photography: Joseph Marek

The first trip with luggage on a new motorcycle is always interesting. I’ve owned my 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE for nearly two years, but this was the first fully packed excursion. With the “mono pannier” setup, I don’t have as much storage space as with the previous steeds I’ve owned, so packing really made me do my best to be a minimalist. Frankly, I’m not very good at it. After a false start of about a half mile, I rode back home, laid everything out on the garage floor, and trimmed down the luggage. After an hour of repacking, I finally started my adventure.

Ice age floods have profoundly shaped the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. As the last ice age was ending about 10,000 years ago, there were a series of super floods that originated in western Montana and southern Canada when huge ice dams, which had formed lakes as deep as 1,000 feet and several hundred miles long, collapsed. They released immense torrents of water flowing westward to the Pacific Ocean. More than 100 such floods occurred over a few thousand years, creating the landscapes of today’s Ice Age Floods Geologic Trail.

Separating Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River leads to the Pacific Ocean, but my trip began by riding upstream through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area from Portland, OR. Virtually every terrain feature was shaped by these floods. US 30, or Columbia Gorge Hwy, twists and turns along the flood-scoured bluffs and the Scrambler gracefully leaned through the corners, bringing a quick smile to my face. At Crown Point, I stopped to visit the Vista House, a grand gateway to the Columbia River Gorge constructed in 1915. It was built at the same time as US 30, which was an amazing engineering feat at that time. The majestic structure has served as an attraction for adventurers exploring the Columbia River Gorge ever since. 

Proceeding east, US 30 hugs the riverbanks and meanders past multiple waterfalls and roadside pullouts until it drops down to river level at Multnomah Falls, one of Oregon’s most popular attractions. According to the World Waterfall Database, the drop is 635 feet in two steps. It can be crowded here, but very much worth the visit.

After a few miles on US 30, I moved to the open road along I-84, which swallowed me up in a blissful embrace. With the cruise control set, I shot east through the gorge. Often extremely blustery, today it was as calm as could be and the miles melted away as I got acquainted with the Scrambler. Overall, I found it comfortable and the small windscreen seemed to keep some wind blast off my chest, and smooth air flowed by my helmet. Not bad at all.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2022 back issue.