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Grant's Getaways: The Harvest Express

Harvest season is underway in the Hood River Valley and there's a unique way to travel there. Grant McOmie went aboard Mount Hood Railroad's harvest express train.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. — The Mt. Hood Railroad offers a unique experience to see the sights when the train rolls into the Hood River city depot each Friday, Saturday and Sunday to take on passengers for a run of the lower valley.  

According to Ron Kaufman, 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," Kaufman said. "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."

Roman Fey 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," he said.

RELATED: Grant's Getaways: A wild harvest

The train rolls out and immediately offers spectacular views to the river and valley that you cannot see from the paved highway. 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," Kauffman said. "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. 

Kiyokawa Family Orchards near Parkdale entices 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, Kiyokawa showed off the gorgeous inside of an apple that looked more like a crimson red watermelon. 

"This has become one of my favorites,” Kiyokawa, a 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 Kiyokawa said picking the fruit is so easy anyone can try.

"The fruit is within easy reach and no ladders are required," he said. "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. The scenery is gorgeous up here in the Hood River Valley too," Song said.

RELATED: Grant's Getaways: Fall for color

You’ll love hearing the Mt. Hood Railroad call you back so 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. 

Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the Grant’s Getaways Podcast. Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting. 

You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:  

"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill

"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill

"Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures," Photography by Jeff Kastner

"Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon," Photography by Jeff Kastner 

"Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids," Photography by Jeff Kastner 

The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.  

My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in 2022. 

RELATED: Grant's Getaways: Raptor watching on the flanks of Mt. Hood