After a lovely visit to the Columbia River Gorge, Mom and Dad delivered us to the Laurelhurst neighborhood and house that would be our home for the next four days. Our Airbnb hosts were expecting us. It can be an odd thing approaching a stranger's home, in a strange neighborhood, in an unfamiliar city. No one answered after my first tentative knock, but a kitty ambled gingerly across the garden and up the walk, and without pretense or formal introductions, he began meowing a welcome greeting to us. He coaxed me into knocking again... even if I wasn't sure we were at the right house, the kitty was quite certain we belonged here.
Welcome to Portland, put down your bags, let's be friends.
Hello. This is Steve, the white kitty with the pink nose and toe beans, who lives in the house 'round the corner in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. He keeps company with two little boys, and their mama and papa. He cannot hear you call him, but he knows when the door is open, and he wants to tell you about where he loves to get scritches. Ah, yes, that's the spot. purrrrrrrrr
Steve is very good at purrs, and scratching the floor, or bed, as a sign of contentment and appreciation... it's a gentle, kneading technique, paws alternating, rhythmically.
He's also good at kisses, which perhaps could be mistaken for baths. Hold still, he missed a spot.
He watched us, thoughtfully, while we studied our maps, and considered our options for exploring the city.
He gazed at us, reassuringly... we felt fortified, and bolstered. Traveling by foot, meeting city buses, the metro, navigating cross streets and across town, seemed less daunting, more achievable, in the presence of his calm and cool cat confidence.
And by the second day, Steve was a fixture, a confidant, the warmest, most convivial host any guests to a big city could hope for.
Or. No, maybe he was more like an unexpected roommate. A stowaway, applying for passage south. He would complete our black and white kitty collection, we couldn't help but notice.
But first, a selfie, Steve, because we love you so.
And Steve opted to sit this one out, stay home, wait for our return.
Then welcome us back.
He sympathized about our tired feet, the heat.
He relished our happy company, as we sorted our bookstore finds, read aloud, gave him affectionate back rubs.
Thank you for snuggles, Steve.
For letting us sleep in.
Thank you for your natural affection, sweet demeanor, agreeable companionship.
And when it was time to gather our treasures, pack our bags, we sighed wistfully for everything we knew we could not pack, for everything we would very soon be missing. Dear Oregon, and family, dear Portland, and you, Steve.
This entire Oregon adventure was very spontaneously executed, yet was years in anticipation. On the surface, I can seem impulsive when it comes to heading out on a trip, but the thing is... I daydream trips, read maps, collect itineraries, follow train routes, and imagine. There are travel dreams stored up in me, waiting for their moment to be suddenly initiated, seemingly impromptu. When I called my mom, to ask if this would be good timing, if she and Dad would be available, around for a visit from me, and Maria, I decided to rope them into my daydream and asked, "What if we go up to this place, Multnomah Falls? Now, that was a very spontaneous thing to do, and a question I will always be thankful that I asked, because they answered, "Yes. Yes, let's do that." And it turned out to be a quite wonderful daydream-come-true!
Multnomah Falls has been living in my mind for quite some time, mostly as the iconic image seen in countless Pinterest Boards... it's the verdant face of the cliffside, a picture of a long waterfall bisected by a graceful, arching pedestrian bridge. The photographs are beautiful, breathtaking. I've seen it in blogs, in FB posts from friends visiting Portland, and I've longed to go there, to be there, to touch the scene and know it for myself. A wholly romantic and aching daydream... Multnomah Falls. The Columbia River Gorge. And in my typical daydream fashion, I deliberately kept it a secret, even from myself... and what I mean by this, is that I learned as little about the Falls as possible. Enough to get there, but not so much that all of my impressions and understanding of the place would be informed by what I'd read, or studied. I wanted to get there and discover Multnomah Falls for myself. This proved to be perfectly and satisfyingly fulfilled. I recognized the iconic images I've pined for, and happily felt delighted and surprised by my own first impressions, and discoveries. What a happy experience.
Here's a glimpse of another daydream worthy rail trip... a rail bridge for The Empire Builder. I enjoyed that Amtrak ride, March, 1990, starting in San Diego, and finishing in Minneapolis. It was amazing. The only thing better was Geoff meeting me in Minnesota to ride home together.
Pinch me! I must be dreaming.
We rose fairly early, and drove up from Albany. It was cool in the shadow of the cliffs, about 9am. But we'd beat the crowds, and the heat to come. And once we began walking up to the falls, then around a few ascending loops, we were plenty warmed up.
There was only a little memory space on the phone Maria borrowed from her brothers, and she used most of it here!
My elation matched the beauty. I really felt utterly delighted to see all of it, from the parking lot, to the entire vista, in every direction.
Moss. Lichen. Tiny, white dew drop flowers in fern covered nooks. Stone paths, damp ground. The mist off the falls, the heights and expanses. Shades of green, layers of green. The air, and the breathless way I felt about all of the beauty. There's poetry in all of it, somewhere. I cannot compose it, not yet, but I feel it.
Maria is a precious companion. We travel so comfortably, happily well together. Let's go! Her words, her attitude, her energy, marked every step and each day with fresh eagerness to see things, try things, and appreciate all of it. We agreed on when to explore, when to pause, when to move forward, when to step back... and we coaxed new steps out of each other, too. Neither of us had strict plans or expectations for any of the trip, and it was a pleasure to discover where we would go next, how far we might climb, what new corner we might turn.
One thing I learned... there is a whole lot more to the Columbia River Gorge than just this beautiful waterfall. There are many waterfalls, parks, sights, and worthwhile stops. Maria and I, like many other times during this trip, were planning the next trip, and how it had to be with the brothers, Bambi, and Geoff.
Ron, taking our picture. He walked a bit further up the trail from here, then Maria and I hiked even further from there. It was lovely, invigorating. We only missed having the rest of our family with us. Next time. Yes, yes.
I really felt I had been greedy enough by asking for this out of the way excursion, and I had not imagined Ron would have more in store for us. The plan was to get me and Maria to our Airbnb destination in Portland, so Mom and Dad could travel back down to the coast, home. But, no rush! Ron drove further up the compelling highway, further into the Columbia River Gorge, until we came to the Bonneville Lock and Dam, built by the United States Army Corp of Engineers.
Like I said... I daydream my trips, pouring over maps, forecasting the entire thing, but I am always open to something new, a twist, a detour, and the way this side trip came about was even more enjoyable, because of how unexpected it was. The whole dam thing was frickin' awesome! And huge! And fish ladders! I love fish ladders!
We could see the fish swimming up, and through this constructive solution. And I haven't read data, or studied this sufficiently, to say 'it's working!' But I love that someone is trying, that thought and effort are being applied to the concern for the lives of the white sturgeon, steelhead, and salmon. It really was a fascinating system to observe.
Just brushing up on her Sasquatch tracking skills!
Sassy is a big deal in Oregon!
Near where we stopped for a riverside lunch, where we want to return with tents, and more family, and stay for days.
Even when we were "stuck" in traffic, and it did get really busy along this scenic byway, we were as happy as could be. Falls, creeks, flowers, shady trees, and beautiful sights surrounded us, and we loved it.
Now, I am daydreaming about seeing this place in fall, winter, spring. Take us to the Columbia River Gorge, anytime. We're ready!