Falls and Sunshine in the Gorge

Oneonta Creek
my pretty girl

Oh yes! Two whole days in a row of sunshine, and my soul is returning to peace.

This morning we decided to go on a short hike in the Columbia River Gorge. Since it is a rare burst of sun and warmth, we opted to avoid Multnomah Falls completely, and explore trails of the less famous falls nearby. We parked near Oneonta Creek and walked down the Historic Columbia River Highway (updated but not replaced by I-84) until we came to the Horsetail Falls trailhead.

Restored tunnel in Oneonta Gorge

Our consistent girl whined with the predictable nature of an almost-13-year-old that she does not like to go on hikes, and we didn’t bring enough food or drink, and—about that time she was off like a forest-dwelling gazelle. She unbound her braid to take in the delicious warm breeze (how sweet is that?) and was off to a strong start on the trail that went up, up, up onto the awesome cliffs that border the great Columbia River.

Oh, Oregon is beautiful. It is SO beautiful here. How lucky I feel when we leave our neighborhood and wander outside city limits.

We first walked through the Oneonta tunnel, restored a year ago to its present beautiful condition. It was built in 1914 for the highway, in order to provide views of the Oneonta Gorge and Horsetail Falls to travelers along the historic highway. Now only foot traffic moves through.

at the base of Horsetail Falls

Next Horsetail Falls marked the beginning of the trailhead we intended to take. Stones providing low safety walls and lining paths and stairs were taken from an old jail. It’s a common sight in public areas around here to find stunning stonework framing the gorgeous displays of nature. (get it? Gorge-ous)

We hiked about a mile up the cliffs on a trail in great shape from years of use, but not yet cleared of winter rock falls. At the top we were treated to stunning views of our beautiful Columbia River. When the river was the highway to the Pacific Ocean all those years ago, I wonder if the travelers stopped at these falls. They must have known they were here: some cascade hundreds of feet down onto the shores of the river. Multnomah itself is 620 feet high! (We had passed it on our way, and it was JAMMED with people, as we had suspected) I wonder if pioneers had the luxury of admiring waterfalls in their difficult journeys.

Though entirely shaded, we were warmed by our exercise and we girls especially, because of all the jumping about from here to there, spotting tiger lilies and columbine and new views at every turn in the trail. We wandered away onto paths off the trail and lost Mark a couple of times, but then we would ruuuuuun down the trail and reconnect.

Looking west toward Portland from the trail

Ponytail Falls was a delight! It’s frothy tumult leaps from the cliff top and out into the air before it crashes below. Our path led beneath the falls, through a deep and dry cave that we imagined could be a good shelter for any of the aforementioned pioneers, if they didn’t mind the roar. Tara and I played behind the falls, getting as close as the trail allowed, and continuously sprayed with water. The misting was refreshing and we dashed up, up, up the cliffs again.

Tara and me beneath Ponytail Falls
...enjoying the great outdoors in the 21st century

Finally the angle turned down toward the highway again, and the going was easier on our legs. In no time we wrapped up our little hike and were ready to head back home and start our day. Mark caught up on some job applications (though he’s employed, he’s always on the lookout for something more directly in his field), and some AA administrative business. Tara must pack for her summer with her dad. I was determined to work hard in my yard in the sun because it’s the closest thing to meditative bliss I can find in my daily life.

While I work outside, I listen to the news from around the world on my iPod. Yesterday I worked so long I used up all my news, so today I returned to Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. (P.S. loving my new audible.com addiction)   I clipped the grass, cut down the spent irises, and mowed. Ahh, my grounds are again in order after weeks of relentless rain.

2 thoughts on “Falls and Sunshine in the Gorge

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