Oregon - Columbia River Gorge
Part 2 of 5
I feel a little sad and weird writing about my time at the Columbia River Gorge while so much of it is currently on fire. It's devastating. And it's crazy to think that three weeks before this huge fire, I was traipsing through trees and waterfalls and rocks without a care in the world.
It's going to take a long time for the Gorge to get back to its original beauty, if it ever can. I was going to write about how the Gorge made me feel small and whole and in a state of constant wonder. I was going to write about seeing waterfalls I'm sure were created in my dreams and hiking a section of a national trail that I've been yearning to hike for years. I was going to write about how that day, probably my favorite vacation, was the day of four hikes, three waterfalls, two friends, and one bridge.
I'm still going to write about all of that, but now I write with a heavy heart.
Please know I took none of my time for granted in the Gorge and am thankful I got to experience it before this loss.
Let's start with the first hike.
Hike 1 - Latourell Falls
En route to the ever-popular-extremely-instagrammed Multnomah Falls, we stopped at Latourell Falls. Right away we got a view of the falls, so tall and mighty. We decided to hike to the top. The trail was marked as an easy 2.4 mile loop. When Diana and I hear the word loop, we feel a bit of relief, knowing we most likely won't get lost.
Except we absolutely did get lost. Somehow in that loop, we either backtracked or went off trail, because that hike, already a difficult one, took us for-ev-er. We loved every minute of it though.
We did finally find our way back and got to play in the lower falls. Play is really the best word to describe what we did. We let the mist from the waterfall dance across our bodies and marveled at the basalt rocks and greenery. We came away soaked and smiling.
Hike 2 - Multnomah Falls
Next we hit up all 635 feet of Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon. This waterfall is tourist-heavy, but we loved it all the same.
When I say we hit up ALL 635 feet, I mean it.
Something no one ever tells your about this waterfall? The hike to the top is excruciating. To get to the bridge is not a bad hike at all, probably only takes about five minutes. But to get to the top of the falls? That was hard.
The start of the hike doesn't seem bad. It's paved and not at a 90° incline. And then after about three minutes, you get to the sign: "You just completed 1 of 11 switchbacks." ELEVEN? This was the hardest hike of our vacation.
But it was completely worth it. The upper falls felt like something out of an animated movie. We were surrounded by animals and a babbling brook, and I felt like at any moment myself and all the people around me could burst into song. Of course we would all know the words.
Hike 3 - Bridge of the Gods
Next we were off to the sleepy town of Cascade Locks.
If you know me, you probably know that I'm obsessed with Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild. In it, she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in search of herself. Since reading this book, I have wanted to hike the PCT. It's a pipe-dream, and it's probably something that won't happen for a long time, but I'm positive I'll hike the PCT in it's entirety before I die.
Strayed ended her hike with a walk across the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon to Washington. So of course we had to walk this bridge, too.
As we approached the toll-booth, I anxiously asked the toll-woman, "So we just give you a dollar and we're allowed to walk across?"
She smiled, took our money, and gave us directions. "Make sure you stay to the edge and walk toward traffic. That's all we ask!"
As we walked over the grated bridge, we could see the Columbia River beneath our feet. The wind was strong and cars zoomed past us, often honking or shouting words of encouragement, thinking we were thru-hikers on the trail. I was nervous at first, but that soon passed.
I've never felt more alive.
I can now say I have walked across the Bridge of the Gods. I have walked a very tiny section of the PCT.
One day I'll be back to hike the other 2,649 miles.
Hike 4 - Wahclella Falls
After a long day, we treated ourselves to beer and nachos at Thunder Island Brewing Company, a brewery right on the river, which I highly recommend. We could have been done for the day, our bodies were telling us they were done. But we decided to go on one more hike.
And I'm so glad we did.
Wahclella Falls is probably my favorite thing we saw on vacation. Tucked away and less populated by people, it felt like something out of Jurassic Park. We were constantly on the lookout for Jeff Goldblum. And, you know, raptors.
The color of the water, combined with the insane greenery, combined with the unexpectedness of the whole thing, made Wahclella Falls our little secret hideaway.
We spent so much time ogling at the beauty of nature.
So it's gut-wrenching to know that so much of the Columbia River Gorge, so much of that beauty, is on fire right now, all due idiotic teenagers. Cheryl Strayed wrote an Instagram post about it. Her words are better than mine ever could be.
For now, I donated a bit of money to the relief of the fire and am spreading awareness through my words. I hope that one day the Gorge, a sacred ground to so many people and animals, will return to it's full bloom.
I'm so thankful I got to experience its natural wildness when I did.