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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fruit Loop Apples, Pears And Autumn Colors Highlight Hood River Valley

When they talk about the Fruit Loop here, it’s not breakfast cereal that folks have in mind.

Try a 35-mile drive through spectacular fall foliage, with a brilliant white peak rising ahead of you (Mount Hood) and another behind (Mount Adams). And, of course, there are fruit stands everywhere, with fresh apples and pears the chief attractions.

The valley that stretches between lofty Mount Hood and the Columbia River is one of the nation’s largest producers of Anjou pears. Both pear and apple orchards thrive in its fertile, volcanic soil.

The valley is always scenic, but the loop tour is most popular twice a year: in the spring when fruit trees bloom and in the fall when the leaves turn brilliant and the fruit is ready to eat.

We started our tour at aptly named Panorama Point, a county park whose chief attraction is a sweeping view of the valley, from rolling hills planted with fruit trees to the other-worldly white of the dramatic peak of Mount Hood.

From there, we meandered through the valley, stopping at places like Rasmussen Farms, a mile off Highway 35, which operates a Pumpkin Funland for the kids in the fall and sells fruit, flowers, cider, wreaths and more.

Smiley’s Red Barn, at Highway 35 and Ehrck Hill Road, has apples, pears, cider, dried fruit, jams and syrups, wreaths and Christmas trees.

We also visited Phoenix Pharms Fish & Flora, where an affable bearded proprietor with lots of kids operates a pleasant you-catch trout operation with a spectacular view of Mount Hood. This is one of the most popular stops for restless children along the route. While you pay by the inch for fish you catch ($3.50 for a 12-inch trout), we had fun just plugging quarters into the fish-food dispensers and letting our youngsters feed the very appreciative fish.

Phoenix Pharms is at 4349 Baldwin Creek Road, off Highway 35 between Odell and Mount Hood.

From there, the loop winds up toward Mount Hood, through the little town of Parkdale and past more farm stands as you loop back toward Hood River on Dee Highway and Tucker Road.

In addition to the fruit stands, there are country stores, a llama farm, small petting zoos, several wineries, and the Eve Atkins Distilling Co., where you can taste Marichelle Eau de Vie - brandy made from fresh, ripe apples, pears, cherries and berries.

The Marichelle tasting room, open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is at 4420 Summit Drive in Hood River.

As you approach town, the pleasant River Bend Organic Farm & Country Store comes up on your right, with inviting scents, wonderful fruit butters and jams, and a picnic area with miniature donkeys, pygmy goats, llamas and other animals to feed and pet.

The drive isn’t the only way to see the scenic valley. A historic passenger train, the Mount Hood Railroad, also makes the loop from Hood River to Parkdale and back.

The train is one of the few left in the country that still uses an old-fashioned switchback to go up a steep hill early in the trip. It starts off backward, caboose first. At the switchback, the train chugs onto a dead-end piece of track, then pulls back out, engine-first up the grade.

The train ride to Parkdale takes about an hour and a half each way, with a break there for lunch or dinner. Reservations are a good idea. Pick a seat in the middle of the car for the best views both directions. There are also seats in the caboose. , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

IF YOU GO Getting there: The base of the Hood River Valley is about an hour’s drive east of Portland on Interstate 84; about a six-hour drive from Spokane via the Tri-Cities. Festival: The Hood River Valley Harvest Fest is Oct. 20-22 at the Hood River Expo Center. The annual event celebrates the harvest with gourmet, specialty and organic fruit products; arts and crafts; entertainment; and lots of fruit. Information: (800) 366-3530. Fruit of the harvest: Pears and apples are the major fall crops. The valley produces 11 percent of the Bartlett pears grown in the nation, and more than 30 percent of the country’s winter pears. Its Newtown Pippin apple enjoys a reputation as one of the highest-quality Pippins in the world. More information: Visitor information, including maps of the Fruit Loop, information on farm stands, wineries, lodging, dining and other attractions, is available at the Hood River County Visitor Information Center, (800) 366-3530, at Port Marina Park in Hood River. Dining and lodging: Lodgings include numerous bed-and-breakfast inns. Among them: Lakecliff Estate, a grand summer home built in 1908 overlooking the Columbia (call (503) 386-7000); and Mount Hood Bed & Breakfast, a rustic lodge at the foot of Mount Hood in Parkdale (call (800) 557-8885). Another option: the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, (800) 345- 1921. Among the dining options: Santacroces Famous Italian Restaurant, 4780 Highway 35, is on the loop. It serves traditional Italian and seafood entrees; call (503) 354-2511. All aboard: Tickets for the scenic Mount Hood Railroad’s loop between Hood River and Parkdale are $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors and $11.95 for children. The train runs Wednesdays through Sundays. Reservations and information: (800) 872-4661.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

IF YOU GO Getting there: The base of the Hood River Valley is about an hour’s drive east of Portland on Interstate 84; about a six-hour drive from Spokane via the Tri-Cities. Festival: The Hood River Valley Harvest Fest is Oct. 20-22 at the Hood River Expo Center. The annual event celebrates the harvest with gourmet, specialty and organic fruit products; arts and crafts; entertainment; and lots of fruit. Information: (800) 366-3530. Fruit of the harvest: Pears and apples are the major fall crops. The valley produces 11 percent of the Bartlett pears grown in the nation, and more than 30 percent of the country’s winter pears. Its Newtown Pippin apple enjoys a reputation as one of the highest-quality Pippins in the world. More information: Visitor information, including maps of the Fruit Loop, information on farm stands, wineries, lodging, dining and other attractions, is available at the Hood River County Visitor Information Center, (800) 366-3530, at Port Marina Park in Hood River. Dining and lodging: Lodgings include numerous bed-and-breakfast inns. Among them: Lakecliff Estate, a grand summer home built in 1908 overlooking the Columbia (call (503) 386-7000); and Mount Hood Bed & Breakfast, a rustic lodge at the foot of Mount Hood in Parkdale (call (800) 557-8885). Another option: the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, (800) 345- 1921. Among the dining options: Santacroces Famous Italian Restaurant, 4780 Highway 35, is on the loop. It serves traditional Italian and seafood entrees; call (503) 354-2511. All aboard: Tickets for the scenic Mount Hood Railroad’s loop between Hood River and Parkdale are $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors and $11.95 for children. The train runs Wednesdays through Sundays. Reservations and information: (800) 872-4661.

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