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Hood River weekend: Windsurfing, skiing, orchard touring--do it all in one day, or three, in this Oregon town. (Travelers Recreation).

There's an energy to the town of Hood River, Oregon, that you don't find many other places. There's not an empty storefront on Oak Street, the main drag through this former orchard-and-lumber hub on the Columbia River. The sun is usually shining in summer and the wind is blowing, and everyone seems to be going somewhere and on vacation, all at once.

For the question in Hood River isn't "What is there to do?" but "What shall we do first?" Windsurfing, of course, and its upstart cousin kitesurfing--the reliable wind here draws enthusiasts from all around the world in summer. Then there's summerlong skiing on Mt. Hood, looming magnificiently south of town. There's rafting on the White Salmon River to the north. There's cycling and kayaking. You can, in fact, get in 10 runs on Mt. Hood in the morning and spend the afternoon skimming wavelets and dodging barges on the Columbia.

If you must. To work out the aches and pains after all that, there are also Pilates, Bikram yoga, and aromatherapy classes--whatever it takes to get you realigned.

And of course there are brew pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, and comfortable inns just right for whiling away a few hours. Those would be for the "on vacation" part of the vacation.

Friday

Get a latte or a smoothie at local favorite Holstein's Coffee Co. (12 Oak St.; 541/3864115); it serves sweet and savory pastries too.

Catch some wind on the water. Several windsurfing schools offer lessons, among them Big Winds (207 Front St.; www.bigwinds.com, 888/509-4210, or 541/386-6086). Two-hour beginner-level lessons ($59) are taught at the Hook, a protected lagoon on the Columbia River's edge; those with some experience can opt for a lesson to fine-tune their skills ($60). Some say kitesurfing is even easier to learn. Find out with a two-hour "sky pilot training" session ($179) at New Wind Kiteboarding Schools (www.kiteschool.com or 541/387-2440).

Lunch, bikes, and brews. Peel off your wetsuit and refuel at AnnzPanz (closed Sun; 315 Oak; 541/387-2654), a lunch counter with noteworthy soups and sandwiches, tucked in the back of a chock-full kitchen store. Then, after a morning of upper-body exercise, find balance with an afternoon of cycling. Rent gear and get trip tips at Discover Bicycles (205 Oak; www.discoverbicycles.com or 541/386-4820). If it's not too windy, follow the 5-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway (now for pedestrians and bikes only) toward Mosier, or pedal the quiet roads in the Hood River Valley above town. Got a taste for dirt? Ask at the bike shop for off-road ideas.

Now relax. Come evening, it's time to sample the local ales. The tasting room at Full Sail Brewing Company (506 Columbia St.; 541/386-2247) is open until 9 P.M., or walk a few blocks uphill (and we do mean up) to Big Horse Brew Pub (closed rue; 115 State St.; 541/386-4411) for some Scottish ale or a chocolaty porter. You could stay for supper at Big Horse, or for a more romantic evening, head to Stonehedge Gardens & Bistro (dinner only; 3405 Cascade Ave.; 541/386-3940). The food is fine, but even more memorable is the setting--a broad, multilevel stone patio dotted with three cabanas behind a gracious 1898 home (open to indoor diners).

Saturday

No time for breakfast if you're going skiing on Mt. Hood at Timberline Lodge (reservations recommended; www. timberlinelodge.com or 800/547-1406); the lifts open at 7 A.M., and it's an hour-long, drive from Hood River. Grab a bite at the Wy'East Kitchen at the day lodge. Rent your gear at the mountain (or bring your own), and no, don't wear a bikini; it's cool at 8,500 feet--the top of the runs--and the morning ice isn't kind to bare skin. The slopes start off fast but get slushy toward the 1:30 P.M. close.

Mellow morning. If skiing's not your thing, take it easy with breakfast at Pasquale's Ristorante (102 Oak; 800/386-1859 or 541/386-1900) on the ground floor of the Hood River Hotel. Grab a sunny streetside table and do some people-watching over your eggs pasquale (the restaurant's version of eggs Florentine). Then wander down to the Hood River Saturday Market at the city parking lot (on Cascade Avenue between Fifth and Seventh Streets) for crafts and produce--watermelons, tomatoes, zucchini, and more. Back on Oak, don't miss Twiggs (305 Oak; 541/386-6188) for gifts and accessories. Afternoon in the orchards. Head to orchard country, or take a detour there on your way back from the mountain, to enjoy lunch and a pint of Parkdale Pale Ale at Elliot Glacier Public House (4945 Baseline Rd., Parkdale; 541/3521022). Kick back with a ride on the Mount Hood Railroad Excursion Train (closed Mon; $23; www.mthoodrr.com or 800/872-4661), which makes trips between Hood River and Parkdale, or just follow your nose to the p ear and apple orchards and vineyards scattered from Parkdale to Odell.

Dinner and tunes. You may have to wait for a table at Abruzzo Italian Grill (dinner Tue--Sat; 1810 Cascade; 541/386-7779). Chic and lively, it offers flawless Italian fare, from the chopped salad and homemade gnocchi to the fresh organic berries and panna cotta. Not ready for bed yet? Check Out who's playing at River City Saloon (207 Cascade; www.rivercitysaloon.com or 541/387-2583), a good bet for live music.

Sunday

Take a 10-minute drive east to the tiny town of Mosier and dive into a stack of tangy buttermilk pancakes at WildFlower Cafe (closed Tue; 904 Second Ave., Mosier; 541/478-0111).

Pampering and a picnic. Put your feet--and the rest of your body--up for a bit. Back in Hood River, consider a deep-tissue massage at A Salon Day Spa Boutique (reservations recommended; 209 Oak; 541/386-2112). Then pick up picnic fixings at Hood River City Market (406 Oak; 541/386-9876)--maybe a sourdough artichoke roll or a sandwich on artisan bread, and a chilled bottle of wine. Spread a blanket down at the marina and watch the sailors and kitesurfers, or cross the Columbia and find a spot along the White Salmon River.

One last hurrah. The weekend's not over yet! Don a wetsuit and helmet and spend the afternoon on the White Salmon's class III and class IV rapids--thrilling and doable for beginners with a good guide and a self-balling raft. Among several outfitters offering half-day rafting and kayaking trips here is River Drifters (www.riverdrifters.net or 800/972-0430), which offers guests the option of a burger barbecue at a scenic local winery after the float. Finally, for a sit-down dinner that's anything but formal, consider the Sixth Street Bistro (Sixth St. and Cascade; 541/386-5737) hack in Hood River. Dine outside in a shady courtyard or inside on a linen tablecloth. Offerings are a little bit Asian, a little bit Italian, and include (as the menu promises) "a damn good cheeseburger."

RELATED ARTICLE: Where to stay

Hood River is 63 miles east of Portland off I-84. It's reliably sunny in the summer--afternoon temperatures are generally in the 80s--and windy; duck into the mountains north or south to escape the breeze. For more information on staying and playing in Hood River, contact the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce (www.hoodriver.org or 800/366-3530).

Columbia Gorge Hotel. Posh hotel, restored to its 1920s elegance, perched on a bluff above the Columbia River a short drive from town: room rate includes five-course breakfast feast. From $179. 4000 Westcliff Dr.; www.columbiagorgehotel.com, (800) 345-1921, or (541) 386-5566.

Hood River Hotel. Charming restored 1913 inn downtown; many of the 41 rooms and suites have river views. From $69. 102 Oak St.; www.hoodriverhotel.com, (800) 386-1859, or (541) 386-1900.

Inn at the Gorge. 1908 Queen Anne--style home is now a lovely B&B offering genuine hospitality to windsurfers (and others); enjoy a savory full breakfast on the wraparound porch. From $95. 1113 Eugene St.; www.innatthegorge.com or (541) 386-4429.
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Title Annotation:tourism; related information and services
Author:Henderson, Bonnie
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Aug 1, 2003
Words:1336
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