First Time Sampling the Fruit Loop

Our friend Rick came in to stay in our campground for two weeks and since he was such a wonderful host when we visited him at Hecata Head, I felt pretty bad that we barely spent any time with him when he arrived at our campground.  He knew our schedule was crazy though, and he was mainly using our campground as a jumping off point to explore the area, and with our work schedule he didn’t expect us to be tour guides.  He’s really great about exploring on his own, so I loaded him up with information and in no time he was off exploring the spots I mentioned.  I did want to hang out with him though, so Tuesday I planned a trip for us to explore the Hood River Fruit Loop.  Lee was welcome to come of course, but after the intensity of the weekend he really just wanted a day to himself, so Rick and I jumped in his convertible and off we went.

I was pretty excited about the convertible.  We used to own one before we went on the road and although I don’t regret having only one vehicle there are lots of drives that would be wonderful in a convertible and the fruit loop was definitely one of them.  The first place we stopped was Trillium Lake.  It is one of the National Forest service day use areas, and from what I had read it has the best views of Mount Hood in the area. Wow, they weren’t kidding!  It was a little tough to find, but once we got there the views were absolutely spectacular.  We also stopped along the way to take a Mount Hood trip and through sheer luck stumbled across a piece of the Oregon Trail.  The trail meanders all throughout this area, and I have to say that standing on it felt historical.  Some places we visit just carry the weight of their history (Kitty Hawk comes to mind) and standing on the Oregon Trail felt the same to me.

This picture is not color enhanced in any way. It actually looked like this.


The ducks liked it and since it is stocked with trout there were several fishermen nearby


Standing on a little slice of history


All along the drive we had several glimpses of Mount Hood. I never get tired of seeing it.


That was just the teaser because the real purpose of the journey was the Fruit Loop.  It is a road which surrounds the picturesque town of Hood River and because of the river valley soil it is known for it’s fruit trees and wineries.  I wanted to travel the loop for myself for the fruit trees, but I also wanted to stop at a couple of wineries and see if I could get my Dad a bottle of wine for Father’s Day.  My Dad is not really hooked into what we are doing and generally only has a vague idea of where we are, but he does like it when I send him presents from our travels and since this part of Oregon is known for it’s wine, and he loves wine, it seemed like a good fit.  Unfortunately what I know about wine could fit in a shot glass, and the whole process is a little intimidating to me, so having Rick as my wing man was a good thing!

A map of the fruit loop with 29 different sites to stop at. This doesn’t include the restaurants in the town, just the local farms and vineyards


Our first stop was the Draper farm


The cherry trees were absolutely beautiful and the free samples were amazing. The metallic strips are to keep the birds away


Yes they were this red!

This store had cherry cider, but no samples unfortunately, but I did buy some Rainier cherries which were yummy but a steep $6 a pound.


Next up was Packer Orchards


Which had beautiful views of Mount Adams. There are 5 mountains that are visible in this area at times and almost all the farms had a beautiful view


A hill full of fruit trees!


Packer had some amazing homemade cookies and we bought some for Lee


And these amazing cinnamon rolls although I had to pass or I would have been in a sugar coma.


Almost every farm stand had preserves and other canned items for sale and all the produce came from the farm. Love that!


We nibbled our way through many of the farm stands and I bought some homemade honey mustard for Lee and found some bing cherries for $2.99 a pound which I got to select from a huge bin. We also stopped at Fox Hard Cider, but it was too early in the day for me to start drinking.  What I really needed was lunch, and since it was 12:30pm, we headed into Hood River to find a place to eat.  I had heard that Hood River was full of great restaurants, and I hadn’t really done much research, so we just drove through town until I saw a restaurant I liked from the outside (with a parking place nearby) and we walked in.  We had no idea what the menu would be, and were both surprised when we saw it was a Swedish restaurant named Broder Ost.  I have never been in a Swedish restaurant in my life, but Rick (who is from Wisconsin and whose wife was of Swedish descent) was very familiar with the food.  He was excited at the menu and I was excited for him so we ended up ordering some traditional menu items.  I had Lefse ( a first for me) and Rick had hash with smoked trout.  Mine was really good, but I had no basis of comparison, but Rick of course did and he was VERY happy with both items.  Lefse is a potato pancake and making it in the traditional way is pretty time consuming.  Rick took one bite of mine and said it was absolutely made the traditional way and he loved his hash.  What a pleasant surprise for both of us and it was nice because it felt like Rick’s wife Sonya (who passed away several years ago) was with us in spirit.  Seriously, what are the odds we would randomly walk into a Swedish restaurant?

The hash.  The walnut bread was really yummy.


Lefse. Have to say I don’t like fried eggs, but these were baked and outstanding! I didn’t like the pickled onions much, but I did like that my breakfast came with a salad.


After lunch, we walked across the street, because I had to stop at the olive oil place.  Whenever we travel and see an olive oil store, I have to stop because my friend Deb owned one and has convinced me how much better their olive oil is.  This one had teas, spices, olive oil, and vinegars and I ended up buying a Tuscan olive oil which will make a great bread dipping sauce.

The picture is dark, but there were tons of olive oil tanks to sample from.

I didn’t want to spend more time in town, because we still had to get to the wineries and we continued our drive to the top of the fruit loop.  My first stop was billed as the oldest winery in the area and since their fields were close to the Columbia River and their vines are 35 years old, I thought this would have the best wine.  Don’t ask me why I thought that, seriously know nothing about wine, but we made our way there and despite several twists and turns  showed up at the door.  All I can say was the whole place looked a little sketchy.  I know smaller vineyards are no frills, but the tastings were $5, and the whole layout was not very clean.  I just had a bad vibe from the whole thing and we left and went on to one more place.

The tasting room was no frills which I could live with but didn’t look clean which I couldn’t. Plus the woman who was running it wasn’t very nice

My second choice vineyard was called Marchesi Vineyard and was interesting to me because they had Italian vines.  I like Italian wines and I know my dad does because he had gone to Italy, so I thought maybe this would be better.  This setting was more like what I was expecting with the vines within eyesight and a very nice tasting area.

Unfortunately it also had the air of pretentiousness that I hate about wineries in general.  I walked up to the counter and while I was waiting my turn the manager asked the woman in front of me if she liked the rose.  The woman replied “It was OK,” and the manager said in a snotty tone (and this is a direct quote) “You must not have an Italian palate.  The rose is an excellent wine.”  Seriously, give me a break.  The customer started stumbling and said something about not being new to Rose’s and then someone walked up to help me.  I tried the Pinot Grigio (reasonably priced at $2) because I know what I like in that wine and thought if it was good maybe I could trust the reds were good.  Seriously no clue what I doing here.  Rick, my supposed wingman, witnessed the Rose conversation and went and sat down with his phone and waited for me to be done.  So I was on my own when the manager walked up to me and started asking questions about shipping.

She said I didn’t want to ship it, because the cost would be as high was the bottle of wine and I wanted to pack it in my suitcase.  I took a breath, put on my best corporate voice, and explained I was traveling and I wanted to send my father a present from my travels.  I asked how much the shipping was for two bottles and she quoted the same price.  I raised an eyebrow and she explained it was $30 to ship one or two bottles because the packing was for two bottles.  OK. She softened at this point, when I talked about sending it to my father and I explained I knew nothing about reds. I asked what she would recommend, flattering her a little on her expertise, and she started with a $42 award winning bottle of wine.  I pivoted asking about the Pinot Noirs, which the region is known for and she stated those were also award winning.  Ultimately we decided on the Noir and a Barbera and the wine plus shipping cost me $100.  Normally I wouldn’t have spent this much, but her attitude was annoying and I was willing to back up my attitude with some coin.  That’s what is dangerous about wineries in my opinion, maybe it’s all part of their selling strategy, I just hope that the wine is good, since I still have absolutely no idea.   I am never doing that again though unless I have someone with me who has a palate.

The winery incident aside, it was a beautiful day and Rick and I headed back to the campground.  Lee enjoyed his time off and he really liked his presents and a few days later I took the cherries and decided to make my first ever cherry pie.  I thought with such a sweet and fresh ingredient I couldn’t go wrong, so I found a recipe online and started in.

I read you can pit the cherries with a chopstick. It was messy but it got the job done


They were beautiful


My pie wasn’t perfect looking


But the inside was beautiful


It took me two hours to make the pie, an hour to cook, and another 3 hours for it to cool.  Basically it was an all day project.  We were both very excited to taste the pie, and after all that work, it really wasn’t that good. Yep it’s true.  I am sure it was the wrong kind of cherries (I used Bing) and/or the wrong amount of sugar (I used 2/3 of a cup), but I ended up throwing it away.  I know, crazy right? But when Lee, the lover of all things pie, doesn’t like it, it’s not good.  It wasn’t awful really, it just didn’t taste that good and although I am happy to add the mechanics to my skill set, it is not something I will be trying again in the near future.  It’s a ton of work.  Still it was fun and I am really glad Rick and I got to spend the day together.  Next up, some kayaking on the Clackamas River.


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