Friday, August 24, 2007

A Day In The Columbia Gorge

Note to get us started: Blogger is being a PAIN, and has all the spacing for this post and its pictures completely whacked out. It is after one in the morning right now, and I do not have the patience, nor the mental capacity to argue with Blogger about its deficiencies, so whacked out is how this post will stay, at least for the time being. I apologize if it makes any of you persnickety types crazy--normally I would be among you--but it's been a long and tiring day (as this post will demonstrate) and I just can't bring myself to care enough to try to massage it into a presentable form. We must all cope the best we can.
Today was fun. Ked took it off work, and we spent the day running hither and yon, preparing for a backpacking trip we have planned, and getting in a little preparatory fitness training by tackling one of our favorite hikes in the Columbia Gorge. The Multnomah to Wahkeena Falls loop is 5.4 miles of waterfall heaven. The two main falls are just the tip of the iceberg, and trudging up the steep 1,700 foot climb is made infinitely more bearable by the numerous and irresistible calls to stop a while and wonder at the beauty of it all, as another switchback brings another tumultuous cascade, or a panoramic view of the Columbia River far, far below. Hikes like this one make me just about as happy as a Kat can get. There are several waterfalls at each stage of the loop. You get them coming and going, and one tumbles after another in such rapid succession that by the end of the hike we found ourselves just casually passing by scenes of surpassing beauty--that at the beginning of our trek would have stopped us cold--merely because we'd seen so many lovely sights they had become almost commonplace. Then we had to laugh at ourselves, because it was a good reminder of how jaded human beings can become when we get too much of a good thing.
Needless to say, all those pauses to soak in the spectacle, and take as many pictures as our Canon EOS 30D would hold, had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that parts of the climb had us puffing like a freight train. (We've not gotten to hike as much this year as we would have liked, and we're just the tiniest bit out of shape.) If I did occasionally pause just a tad longer than the view really warranted, I'll never admit it. However, it did make me vow to put in more time on the treadmill when we can't make it out on proper trails. I'm going to be taking some hikes soon that will involve having a heavy pack on my back, and I do not want to be reduced to turtle status when that happens. I suspect if I was wise I'd strap that pack on when treadmilling (and start filling it up with canned goods to build up my endurance), but then I do have the excuse that there's not that much camping time left here in the land of rain, and this year it would be perfectly reasonable to keep the goals limited and simple. A trip to the coast to start, maybe another back out to Mirror Lake for an overnight, and then we'll see what we're up for from there.
We came back from today's outing with a few more pictures to send your way. It's hard to capture the total effect on a computer screen, or in photographic images at all, but we gave it out best shot, so here goes...

This is the view that everyone comes to see. Multnomah Falls is probably Oregon's biggest tourist attraction. According to the sign proudly proclaiming Multnomah's glories, at 542 feet, it is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the country. I've seen it before when the falls were a cascade of ice in winter. It's very impressive no matter what time of year you manage to make it out here.

As you climb, other falls follow hard on Multnomah's heels.

By now we've done a fair amount of climbing. That smile on my face is sheer joy at having something on which to lean my tired frame. Plus, having another lovely waterfall right there behind me, its gentle roar cheerfully trumpeting its presence, is making it hard for me not to smile.

The trail is full of switchbacks like this one, that follow one another in a seemingly endless procession, and I suppose, since this is a loop we are talking about, the succession of switchbacks really could be endless for someone with the sanity deficiency necessary to make them circle it in perpetuity.

Sometimes the trail leads toward the cliff edge, and the Columbia River spreads out below. I'm not sure how well the picture conveys the height here, but we're quite a ways above where we started.

All that climbing gets a person pretty hungry, and it's amazing how much sustenance you can find hidden among the trees. (Note to the gullible: eeeww)

We love these deep woodsy places, with the sound of the water and the cool of the shade. When we're not listening to the life of the forest, or chattering away like magpies (well, that would be me, not so much my husband), we have a weakness for turning on the iPod and listening to Sarah Brightman serenade us along the path. We love how light opera soars with the terrain, and makes everything around us a little more inspiring, helping us forget weary feet in the transcendence of it all.

The sun will sometimes burst through the forest shadows, reminding us insistently that light conquers darkness.
And the water tumbles ever downward.
The mist from these fairy falls offers cooling relief to the tired trekker.
We got the chance to survey Washington from the heights one last time before the trail descended.
As the hike comes to a close, the trail offers one (or I should say two) more magnificent cascades before the weary traveller comes to rest.
We got a final look at the Mighty Columbia as we drove home for a well earned dinner and some much needed rest. Our hike would serve as a pretty good metaphor for life--lots of hard work and climbing, but many rewards and beauties to make the journey worthwhile. May your travels be as pleasant as ours were today.