Goodreads Giveaway for Picture Imperfect: Win an autographed copy of this middle grade novel! A girl, a cat, a camera, an annoying aunt with something to hide. Fun, mystery, and good values! Enter now! (And please share with your friends. The more, the merrier!)
Early autumn is a perfect time for hiking in the Pacific Northwest. The bugs have died down, the weather has cooled, but the sun is still shining. And thus my husband, Gary, and I headed out Tuesday to enjoy the outdoors. Looking through 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan, I noticed two short (2-3 mile) hikes in the Columbia Gorge, so close to each other that they were together in one entry. Wahclella Falls and Elowah Falls. Despite our proximity to the Columbia Gorge, we’d never hiked either trail. Time to check them out!
The first one as we drove east through the Gorge (Oregon side) was Elowah Falls–with a bonus falls available (Upper McCord Creek) with a little extra uphill walking. The trail headed gently uphill, becoming a bit steeper on the Upper McCord part. It passed through shady forest, unfortunately close enough to hear the freeway sounds for much of the way, but finally heading back into the woods a bit. The McCord part opened up to a nice view of the Columbia River with Mt. Adams in the distance (I was thankful for the railing here, as the dropoff was steep.) before arriving at a nice, though rather small, waterfall. We explored a bit, then headed back toward Elowah Falls. As we neared the cascade, we could feel the temperature cool, until we came out in the rocky area below the falls, a fine place to rest and enjoy the view.
Elowah Falls itself tumbled down from the cliff like a long, feathery tail, its pattern constantly changing, fascinating to watch.
We left Elowah Falls, deciding to drive the three miles or so to Wahclella Falls and see what it was like. We were glad we did. The Wahclella Falls trail began as a gentle stroll along lovely Tanner Creek. We watched a pair of dippers zipping from rock to rock in the stream, whistling merrily. Sunlight sparkled on the creek, but the path was shady most of the way, a good thing as the afternoon was warming up. The path climbed higher above the creek before dropping back down to the falls area. Which was beautiful. Wahclella Falls poured into a deep pool, which emptied into rambling Tanner Creek. We sat by the falls and ate our PBJ sandwiches, then wandered on–with many photo breaks along the way. Gary had to explore a little cave near the river–apparently it went back quite some ways, but wasn’t high enough for easy exploration. We meandered on through the rocky little valley, across the creek and back up to the main trail. It is a hike I certainly plan to return to–a little gem I am so glad we discovered.
Amazing that we can live in one area for so many years and yet miss out on nearby places of beauty. Why had we never thought to hike those trails before? It’s a reminder to me to watch for beauty all around, for even the familiar places we take for granted may be wondrous if we keep our eyes and hearts open.
As we edge toward autumn, change is in the air. The heat of summer slowly dies away, replaced by crisp, foggy mornings and cool breezes. Clouds roll in, sometimes huge, fluffy white mountains, other times layers of gray filled with rain.
Leaves begin to turn color. We harvest the garden—plucking the last few ears of corn, a few fat cucumbers hiding under the leaves, red and golden cherry tomatoes, and, of course, zucchini, which is not yet ready to call it quits. Apples redden on the tree. The pantry shelves hold jars of beans, the freezer bags of corn. Blackberry jam and jelly await winter breakfasts. Our garden has done well.
A hush settles over the street, as children head off to school. I drink in the quiet and let it settle into my soul. September. Even the sound of it is soft and flowing, like the afternoon breeze as it rustles through the treetops. Like a treasure you hold, not in your hands, but in your heart.
And in the evening we stroll down the street as darkness falls earlier and the sun sets in a bright sky.
I stopped at the Post Office to mail a copy of my book (Picture Imperfect) and figured I should pick up a few stamps.
“Any of authors?” I asked the clerk.
She pointed out the Maya Angelou forever stamps. That sounded good to me, so I took a sheet. Only on the way out did I actually read what was on the stamp.
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Sometimes I feel I should have all the answers before I speak, or before I write. But Maya Angelou has a better idea. Sing your song, write your book, paint your picture, or just live whatever life you feel called to live. And do it with joy like a robin singing its morning song. Because the song is the answer.
Our first camping trip of the year—and extra-special because our son who lives in Japan would be coming. In fact, it was planned especially for him. We had done a lot of camping and hiking when he was young, taking two-week camping trips every September (one of the advantages of homeschooling) to places like British Columbia, the California redwoods, Yellowstone Park, and a wide range of sites in Oregon and Washington. He had also camped a lot in Boy Scouts. But now, with trips home mainly taking place around Christmas, he missed spending time in the great outdoors.
We did a lot of planning, trying to find a place that would be dry in May, a bit of a challenge in the Pacific Northwest. However, as the time drew near, forecasts were mostly positive, so we set our sights on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Kalaloch Campground—right on the Pacific Ocean—sounded good for our first stop, once we learned how to pronounce it (Kah-lay-lock). And it turned out to be a good choice.
We pulled into the campground mid-afternoon Saturday, relieved to find many campsites still open (First come, first served can be scary at a popular campground.). The beachside places were all filled, but we found a lovely, large site with plenty of room for the trailer and a tent for our son and a local friend who had come along. Lots of privacy and a Middle Earth feel to it. Surely elves lurked nearby. Sunshine filtered through twisting, mossy branches onto ferns and wildflowers as we set up our camp. A fresh sea breeze blew enticingly, and a feeling of peace settled into my soul.
Soon we were down on the beach, drawn by the surf’s roar. The wind blew us along the rock-strewn, sandy beach, causing us to zip up sweatshirts and pull up hoods, despite the sunshine. We walked and we talked and we enjoyed being out in nature, away from computers and work and all those other things that crowd our lives. Just the four of us and the mighty ocean. We admired agates, watched gulls glide by overhead, noted the scraggly pines above the beach, all bent in the same direction.
The ocean is so big, its motion ever-changing yet ever the same. I feel connected to eternity by the ocean, a tiny part of something great and wonderful. To share that with a son I rarely get to see was the best Mother’s Day gift possible.
A warm, sunny spring day when my work shift is unexpectedly cancelled. What better thing to do than go bike riding on a nearby trail? From our place it’s a short drive into beautiful downtown Boring, a two-block long town which recently became sister cities with Dull, Scotland. Past the only gas station into the gravel parking lot, empty at the moment. Nice. We unload our bikes, strap on our helmets, and hit the trail.
Very little pedaling is required on the trail in, as it is almost all downhill. Sunlight sparkles through the mossy trees and lights up the Scotch broom along the trail. I make mental notes on where to stop for photos on the way back. That is when I will need the rest that photo breaks can give.
We pass a family walking their dogs down toward Deep Creek, but we keep going to the end of the gravel trail. Climb through the wooden fence to look down on the stream below, glittering in the afternoon sun. As we return to our bikes, a man comes down the trail, riding on a fancy recumbent bike, complete with windshield, blinkers, and saddlebags. He’s already gone over twenty miles today and has several still to go. More ambitious than I will ever be.
We start back, slowly now. Pedaling uphill is more work, and I take my time, enjoying the scenery, stopping to photograph flowers, moss-covered trees, and whatever else catches my eye. We take a side trail down to the creek. Trilliums and ferns line the shady dirt path. The air smells fresh, the bubbling water is clear and bright. We skirt the family with the dogs, giving them their privacy. Stand for a few minutes drinking in the spring greenness. Then back up to the main trail and more pedaling, as my face reddens with the effort. Ah, why must exercise be so much work? Still, the beauty makes it all worthwhile.
Stop and smell the roses, the saying goes. And look at the wildflowers in bloom, feel the sunshine on your face, hear the splashing brook. Look and see the beauty that God has made, and drink it all in. Let it fill you up with joy. This world can bring much pain and confusion, but here in the woods, I find the peace I need to keep going.