It’s harvest time in Oregon’s Hood River Valley and you don‘t want to be late for the Mt Hood Railroad “Harvest Express.”
The train rolls in to the Hood River city depot at 10am sharp each Friday and Saturday to take on passengers for the valley run.
According to Ron Kaufman, the Hood River Railroad’s General Manager, the ride gives a glimpse into Hood River history and dates back more than a century:
“The rail service is how people got to this town back in 1906 and we’ve been in continual operation ever since. We haul freight year round and we take passenger excursions too. It’s a blast to feel the jostle of the rail cars as you travel a line that’s pretty much the way it was back then.”
Local resident, Roman Fey, is the Mt Hood Railroad conductor who noted that passengers love to step aboard and touch the past:
“There’s something really old fashioned about this that folks can’t find anywhere else. So, I feel pretty lucky to do this and it’s great to do it in my hometown.”
The train rolls out and immediately offers spectacular views to the river and valley that you cannot see from the paved highway – and Kaufman added, there’s a bonus to the pace of the ride:
“It’s a bit slower and that takes folks back to kind of a bygone era when life wasn’t quite so fast. I tell folks to just look out the window and enjoy the scenery and unique views.
Soon, the views include scores of family owned farms and orchards where the fruit trees are heavy with the fall bounty.
Near Parkdale, Kiyokawa Family Orchards entice shoppers with many apple favorites grown on their fertile land. Popular apples like ‘Gala’ and ‘Fuji’ are available alongside lesser known varieties like ‘Ginger Gold.’
Randy Kiyokawa said they offer more than 80 varieties including the dinner plate sized giants called “Hanner’s Jumbo;” it’s an apple variety that can weigh up to 4 pounds.
He also held up a stunner of an apple with an incredible surprise called “Mountain Rose.” With a quick flick of his pocket knife blade, Randy showed off the gorgeous inside that looked more like a crimson red watermelon.
“This has become one of my favorites,” noted the longtime apple farmer. “It maintains this brilliant color and it doesn’t brown quickly – people love its sweet taste and it really is absolutely delicious.”
Be sure to check out the many U-Pick rows of fruit trees too. More than three acres of apples and pears are grown adjacent to the family store and Randy said picking the fruit is "so easy anyone can try:"
“The fruit is within easy reach and no ladders are required. It’s really a lot of fun whether you’re a youngster or an oldster, there will be an apple there for you to pick.”
Ingi Song brought his family to the valley from Beaverton and they were having a blast loading up boxes of beautiful apples. He said the activity was perfect daylong getaway for his family: “It’s away from the city and gets us out to do something different together. We love the scenery too - it's gorgeous up here in the Hood River Valley.”
You’ll love hearing the Mt Hood Railroad call you back aboard to ramble along the Hood River Valley. It’s a chance to leave the driving to someone else on a scenic ride that’ll leave you wide-eyed and slack-jawed for Oregon’s abundant beauty.