Looking for respite from a pandemic by escaping to the woods? You're not alone.
Oregon transportation officials say car traffic in the Columbia River Gorge has jumped to midsummer levels as anxious, recently jobless Portlanders look for solitude at the region's most popular waterfalls.
"The Historic Highway is seeing midsummer traffic volumes this week, with a number of people choosing to social distance in the great outdoors because of COVID-19," the Oregon Department of Transportation said March 20 in a press release. "Parking lots and roadside parking overflowed this week, with cars parking in ditches and blocking intersections."
Hiking remains one of the few safe activities outside the house available to Oregonians. The ski slopes are closed, as are campgrounds and state landmarks. Not to mention bars and the restaurants.
To make matters worse, ODOT needs to remove dead trees from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire that threaten to fall onto the highway.
"Expect big delays Tuesday on the Historic Columbia River Highway," the department writes. "ODOT will stop all traffic for more than 20 minutes at a time between 8 am to 4:30 pm at Horsetail Falls to remove trees threatening the road. Flaggers will control the closures. Crews will work to keep each closure to a minimum.
"Drivers should plan for delays and heavy traffic in the area," the announcement concludes, in what is probably an understatement.