Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Take Us To The Columbia River Gorge

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.

August 13, 2016... Maybe not the "best" picture of the Falls, but definitely my favorite.

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.

Shudder. Hahaha... I love it when nature challenges me to love it, all. of. it! Lampreys are not lovable.

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!