Tag: Oregon

Exploring the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

I wake up in Portland city’s confines early in the morning and not surprisingly, it’s raining. The weather doesn’t deter my good mood, because today I’m going to explore the Columbia River Gorge National Recreation area. Nothing makes moss look a little greener than a light mist in the air.

The day starts with a walk around Laurelhurst Park in an ironically named part of the city for such an overcast day, Sunnyside. My couchsurfing host Tom and his shepherd dog Sadie are enjoying an off leash walk while I meander around the lake snapping pictures of ducks and flowers. The park is painfully beautiful, green and lush. It’s hard to hate the cold in the late winter air and the precipitation when you see how enchanted a simple tree can look in the temperate rain forest.

Flowers along the walk at Laurelhurst Park in Sunnyside

My travel companion for the day and good friend Jeff lives in Vancouver, Washington, just over the Oregon border. He picks me up and we’re off.

This is my first visit to the Pacific Northwest and I’m charmed at the scenery. Because of Oregon’s geographic location, snow, especially near Portland rarely falls. This day in March, the peaks of the gorge are dusted lightly with snow, making for a dramatic contrast to the gray sky.

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The Columbia River Gorge view from Chanticleer Point

Our first stop heading east of the Columbia River Highway is Chanticleer Point which gives us our first vista of the gorge including the iconic Crown Point.

I pause to read about the gorge’s geological history and learn that molten basalt from cracks near the Idaho border shifted the Columbia River Gorge north to its current location. Due to some melting ice dams in Montana during the last Ice Age, water surged over the top of Crown Point, cutting through layers of stone quickly, thus creating the greatest concentration of high waterfalls in North America.

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This particularly piqued my interest. Not only was this initial vista impressive, but there were endless waterfalls along our drive to discover. Not a shabby afternoon for a girl from the flat Midwest.

We drive further and enter Guy W. Talbot State Park and I’m astounded by the sheer height of the surrounding trees. Because of the lush landscape, I am immediately reminded of fairy tales of my youth, half-expecting a fairy to grace us with its presence. This place is amazing.

After parking, we follow the paved path from the park for a short quarter-mile hike down to Latourell Falls, sometimes referred to as the lower falls. We access it after crossing a bridge which dates back to 1914 and was constructed with special lightweight materials because of the unstable, wet soil.

As we approach Latourell Falls, the mist from the falling water graces my face and gives me a chill. I’m not slighted or annoyed, but rather, exhilarated. The waterfall is pounding with an intensity I can only harvest respect for. I inch my way toward it, being careful to watch my step over the slippery rock. I finally get close enough to feel the earth rumbling beneath my feet and its power rocks me to my core.

Jeff enjoying the front-row view of Latourell Falls
Jeff enjoying the front-row view of Latourell Falls

We get back in the car and drive down the winding, old highway bursting with basalt lava flows, giant ferns and amazing twists, turns and curves. I love this drive; it’s nothing short of magical.

Jeff and I continue onward to the double-tiered Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest fall at 620 feet. Sourced from the underground Larch Mountain springs, it’s good to visit year-round. It doesn’t dry up in the summer like many other waterfalls.

A gaggle of tourists funnel up and around Benson Footbridge which allows for a bird’s eye view of the lower cascade. The bridge was built in 1914 by Simon Benson who also was one of the original builders of the old Columbia Highway.

I take a moment to look out at the entirety of the gorge from the bridge. The colors are stunning and ethereal; the way the sun refracts on the gorge wall makes the hues vivid and impressive. I can hardly believe that where I stand is place of natural beauty. It almost seems like a scene I might have conjured up in a dream.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls
The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

All of the sights in the gorge are just a short 30 minute drive outside of Portland city proper, each stop along the way demanding proper attention.  Whether it was a short hike, a photo shoot or a stroll around to gain different perspectives of the forest, the Columbia River Gorge is a great place to visit any time of year.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls
The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

On the ride back to the city, Jeff and I talked at length about the Pacific Northwest and its unique geographic location. We pull off at Cascade Locks and check out the Bridge of the Gods which spans between Oregon and Washington State.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls
The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

The scene is romantic: A light fog mists the air as we walk the grassy park near the water. Suddenly the Union Pacific rolls by and blasts its harsh horn into the twilight. It’s chilly, damp, austere. The sun begins to set and the scene is warm, the trees evergreen. The Pacific Northwest in late winter is melting, renewing itself for a new day and season.

Life as I know it

I would like to say that I just got done traveling extensively this summer, but I’m sure part of landing in San Diego is part of my travels as well.

Part of me embarking on the road for so many years now has been to improve my travel writing and enrich my life with experiences. Ever since I left Chicago in 2010, I’ve been a lot of places and have seen a lot of things.

I signed up for a travel writing course through MatadorU, which sadly, I’m only 50 percent done with. Part of my goal of being in San Diego is to get back to working on my writing. In any case, when I first started the course, I was a little miffed over what to write about. I was a travel writer who didn’t travel. I had no idea what to talk about. How could I describe a scene from a faraway place if I hadn’t been to one?

In any case, that’s when I made the decision to travel more. Extensively, curiously, endlessly. Since then, I’ve been all over the place, but I haven’t done too much writing about it.

Since I’ve last updated, I spent the summer in Wyoming. I was shocked and surprised to end up there, but it was a beautiful summer. I was living IN the Shoshone National Forest, surrounded by amazing trees, wildlife, hiking opportunities, padding/rafting, and horseback riding.

Our backyard and playground
Our backyard and playground

Jon and I’s relationship is stronger than ever. We have been together a year now, and we also added a new addition to our family: Pono. He is a 1-year old Australian Shepherd mix who is completely high energy and the epitome of puppy. We love him.

I hate to say that I’ve been to busy to write, but it’s true. Yesterday and today were the first time I hadn’t left the house in months. We’re usually traveling around, letting the dog run around somewhere, connecting as sort of a family unit. I feel like for the first time in a long time, I have something to take care of besides me. I have a man and a pet. We go places and do things together and it fulfills me immensely.

This lil' guy
This lil’ guy

At the same time, I haven’t given up on my goals of writing. I want to tell you all of the amazing things I’ve seen and done. I want to explain to you what Stand Up Paddle Boarding the Snake River was like (somewhat terrifying, but invigorating!). I need to explain to you guys how lovely Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are. I want to reminisce about driving cross-country 3 times in 3 months, the Badlands, Oregon, the coast of California. I still need to write about how I feel about Colorado.

The Grand Tetons
The Grand Tetons

There was a time when I felt frustrated with the mainland USA. I traveled abroad and lived in Hawaii for a year. It wasn’t until I got back and really saw America first hand (slow and intentionally) that I realized that is truly the best country and I’m proud of it. Jon and I drove through so many back roads, fished in rivers with no one around for miles, shared a river fishing experience with two juvenile grizzly bears. We watched the sunset over peaks of giant mountains and cruised on pristine lakes next to the most amazing mountains in the country. We’ve eaten our way around the U.S., trying to avoid the corporate McDonald’s road trip by eating local and finding the best food we could along the way.

Who are those little buggers?
Who are those little buggers?

Then we landed in Southern California, and that’s where we are now. For the first time in a while, we have a kitchen again. Our dog has a backyard to run around and we are nesting. It’s breezy and beautiful here. The seafood alone is great. I take a look at my life and sometimes wonder how it is that I got so lucky. How I get to travel and experience so many amazing, exotic, breathtaking moments. How I get to taste the best foods, live in the most amazing locales and have such a happy existence.

One of the better meals we’ve shared

It’s then I realize that I’m following my bliss. I opened my heart a long time ago, as scary as it was, and listened to my true desires. I wanted to expose myself naked to the world and experience. I didn’t care if would be good or bad, I wanted it. And boy, did I get it.

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place now. I’m looking for work, somewhat desperately after spending a small fortune traveling so much. It’s back to the “real world” for now, but I vow to keep my travel memories alive by writing about them.

I finally pitched an article to a travel-zine which I haven’t made time for in over a year. I was putting it off, feeling anxious and reluctant. Then I thought about all of the incredible emotions I’ve experienced and the trips associated with them and wrote them down. And now, proudly, I can say that I have a travel repertoire. I am no longer scratching my head over what to write about. Now the hard part is which travel memory to write about. I guess that’s a first world problem.

It’s good to be back on the blog and good to stretch my fingers and my brain again. I look forward to putting some more of my thoughts out there, no matter if trivial, vain or enlightening. This is me. This is my life. And I’m going to share it.

Me and my little Pono, Badlands National Park
Me and my little Pono, Badlands National Park