Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wind Mountain Ascent

   I now own a black 1992 Dodge B250 van with tinted windows; a diamond in the rough.  With this van Eli and I drove to Northwest Portland to pick up her friend John who was in town for business and wanted to see us and more of the area.  That first day I took us up to Leif Erickson hiking road/trail at Germantown Road.  Picture walking on a bed of damp leaf compost over asphalt through an emerald forest that rose up 200' above your head.  Everything green covered with moss.  The sun came and went behind clouds.  We saw hummingbirds and wrens.  Then we went to lunch. 
   After lunch we drove up to the Japanese Garden at Washington Park.  It was chilly up there and a similar scene of beauty I remembered from other visits around this time of year when things are just about to burst into full color.  Rhododendrons budding, cherry blossoms wide open and dropping their white pedals on the moss the clouds shrouding Mt. Hood from view.  John is a naturalist and between he and Eli the names of nearly anything were revealed as well as growing habits and what climates they may thrive in and their medicinal benefits of what part of the plant.  I like knowing these sort of detail and I only wish I could retain the information. 
   Back at the van we again sipped on coffee still warm from the morning's press and ate a few bites of snacks we brought along.   Minutes later the rain and hail came down beating on the metal top of the van.  We drove out of the park and down the hill to drop John off for the evening.
   The following day we again drove over the river and picked up John.  The three of us picked out some sandwiches and fruit, chocolate at a market before heading off for the day's adventure.  I had looked up hikes in the Gorge on the Washington side and found a short but beautiful sounding trail about an hour from Portland.  Eli had also gotten directions from a friend of ours for another hike further out.  I thought we could do the short hike and if we needed more, continue on to the next. 
   We found the Wind Mountain trailhead no problem.  The van parked and the three of us drank one last sip of water and up to the road we went.  The start of the trail was marked with road cones.  Without them we may have not found it.  It turns out the area had been severely affected by the ice storms in January.  Many old trees had come down the mountain, pulling more trees with them.  Younger Douglas Firs were broken off at the top.  The trail had been severely obstructed and at places took a lot of climbing over or under, around, scramble to move along.  The forest was still beautiful despite the loss of trees along the way.  But the description of the hike being 'moderate' no longer applied.  The work was worth the view at the top which had me feeling as if I was standing on a stack of rocks overlooking the world from thousands of feet above.  The winding Columbia River was directly below and you could see it wind through the Gorge all the way to Troutdale.  We looked directly across at other mountain sides that looked so tall with snow dusting the trees.  I was frozen for a few minutes looking out, a little afraid to look as it was so very far and looked like a sheer drop to the bottom. 
   As with anything the return to the bottom was much quicker.  We had made our pauses for discovery on the ascent.  I made a few recordings of sounds that interested me along the way, always with the powerful river gorge winds blowing through the pine bows.
   That hike had given us everything.  We needed nothing else from the world that day.  At the van we finished up the last of our sandwiches and snacks and started talking about where we might go for dinner.  The sun was filtering through the trees casting long shadows on the road.  I took us across Bridge of the Gods to Cascade Locks into Oregon where we picked up the Historic Rte. 30 Highway.  We stopped to visit a few of the falls along the way ending up at the Vista House for one last view along the span of the Colombia. 

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