Off-the-Rails Adventure

Windsurfing aththe Gorge, Oregon

The best windsurfers in the world choose the Columbia Gorge as their playground, a 75-mile-long gully that stretches through some of the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful scenery. (The Historic Columbia River Highway, paralleling Route 84, is a magnificent excursion in itself.) Only one hour east from Portland, the Gorge's Hood River enjoys average wind speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour, making it the perfect spot for high-speed sailboarding. If you're new to the sport, take some time to learn the basics of stance, steering, and sail handling before you speed out to join the wave-jumping wind jockeys. The Big Winds Lesson and Rental Center offers an introductory windsurfing course that will get you up and zipping across the water in no time. The lessons take place in an enclosed lagoon area of Hood River, where the wind is good, but there's no chance of being propelled downwind into the strong stuff. By the end of the course, however, taking on the Gorge will be a breeze. Those who find it impossible to master the intricacies of windsurfing, or who need an end-of-day tipple, might want to consider a tour of some of the area's wineries, such as Flerchinger and Hood River vineyards.
Rail Info
( for full details)
ROUTE: Emeryville, CA (bus from SF to Emeryville, 30 minutes, included in price) to Portland, OR
LINE: Coast Starlight
DURATION: 18 hours
PRICE: $81 to $134
SCENERY: Redwood forest, snow-covered mountains
ARRIVAL TRANSPORTATION: Pick up a Hertz Rental Car (1-800-654-3131) at the airport. They offer a discount to Amtrak passengers and will pick customers up at the Amtrak station.

Activity Info

OUTFITTER: Big Winds Lesson and Rental Center: 1-888-509-4210;
WHAT TO BRING: Sunscreen, towel
DURATION: 3 lessons, 2 hours apiece
PRICE: $135
DIFFICULTY RATING: Easy to moderate
WHEN TO GO: Mid-May to mid-September

Having earned her B.A. in journalism, Sharael is the climbing guide for and has been published in Working Woman magazine, Outside Online, and Wired News. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, where she enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, and rock climbing.

Published: 27 Nov 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »