Girls in the Gorge

The aptly named Vista House, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, with snowy peaks of southern Washington in the distance

Locally, we have been breaking the kinds of records that are no fun to break. Climatology has been kept at the Portland airport since 1940 and the Spring of 2011 is trying to be the coolest spring since records have been kept. It was the 5th coolest April, with an average temp of 47.9 degrees. The March/April rainfall total is 11.47 inches (normal 6.35), making it the wettest spring on record (and wettest April on record). I got all this handy info from the National Weather Service’s latest Record Report, dated May 1, 2011.

The gorgeous gorge, and the Vista House on a cliff
Inside the lovingly restored Vista House with stained glass windows

When the seasonal affective disorder symptoms were about to make us want to gouge out our eyes with forks, Mother Nature blessed us with ONE gorgeous day before the rain and cool temps rolled back in. On the phone that morning, my mom told me to forget the laundry, let the shower remain unscrubbed, and go outside, I realized she was probably right. I gathered my kid and we hit the Gorge.

The last time we were at the Vista House, the winds were fierce and frightening. I know you won’t believe me, so I’ll just say this for my own entertainment: as we watched, a man took hold of the railing at the steps with both hands. He carefully lifted his legs out behind him, one at a time, and the wind HELD him in the air! Tara and I climbed out of the car, and crawled along the pavement, but were too chicken to cross, unprotected, the two lanes of the road to reach the other side where there was another short wall to hide behind. So we crawled back to the car and inched down the cliff again.

Miss Tara on the balcony

So Vista House was our destination on May Day. The winds were practically gentle, compared to the last visit!

We went to Shepperds Dell Falls, a falls we had not seen yet. There are so many along the Historic Columbia River Highway that parallels Interstate 84 that we usually only stop at two or three each time. This means that there are still falls we have not seen. We will undertake a couple of longer hikes this year, so that we can get to more of the falls off the highway. Each one is a worthy destination on its own, so we are sure to never be disappointed in the trail we choose.

The wide Columbia River and the southern Washington border
stone wall beside trail to Shepperds Dell Falls

Despite the record-breaking slow start to spring, Persephone has still returned to us. The Gorge was filled with pale green and splashes of white and pink blossoms in the trees. Rivers are running high, making the falls crash dramatically for our entertainment. Shepperds Dell Falls is at the end of a short paved path, bound by the inevitable moss-covered stone wall. These stone walls are everywhere along the Old Highway, adding an unmistakable Oregonian charm to every yard of highway and park in these parts.

bridge over Shepperds Dell
typical gorge bridge

Then it was time for lunch, and we found a lovely (only slightly damp) meadow to spread out our picnic. We lounged in the beating sunshine in lush grass amidst zillions of dandelions and tiny daisies, which looked perfectly landscaped here, though in my back yard they would be a catastrophe of weeds. Tummies full, it was time to walk to Bridal Veil Falls.

The trail is in excellent shape for this time of year, when often small landslides can make the path treacherous before Park employees come and sweep up and rebuild retaining walls. I wandered well off the path, snapping close-ups of flowers. That was self-indulgence, and mainly because my camera is still new and it’s a thrill to be able to photograph close-ups in focus! Notices warn to STAY on the trail because of poison ivy, but I’m a plant girl and I could easily identify them. I did not see any poison ivy. I did see plenty of nettles, however. I hopped deftly about but still managed to catch a leaf across my knee on my way back to the trail. (The burning went away by evening…)

the creek below Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls met and exceeded expectations. The only down-side being that the lovely warm dry day had brought many of us out to the trails. This popular falls was packed with people. I play games with the camera to see how cleverly I can crop the image to make it look like no one is there, but I can’t always keep the brightly coloured tourists out of the shots.

In true Crystal form, I moseyed and dawdled and all those other lovely means of travel on a sunny day in the forest. Finally we climbed back into the Dragon-Wagon and moved on once more.

We had originally intended to stop at Multnomah Falls – easily among the most tourist-mobbed stops in all of Oregon. But the masses of parked cars along the sides of the road – miles before we got to the parking lot – were too much. We live here; we can go another day. Instead we made our way back home. My girl ran off to play frisbee with the neighbor kids, and I had time for a couple of loads of laundry.

Bridal Veil Falls
Shepperds Dell Falls

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