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Posts Tagged ‘September’

And now for another waterfall hike!

After a few gray, rainy days, the sun burst out on Wednesday. Perfect timing, as my brother was in town, and we all (brother, husband, and I) wanted to go hiking. So out the Columbia Gorge we headed, winding along the old highway past Multnomah Falls, with its usual crowds, on to Horsetail Falls, where the hike begins.

We started at Lower Horsetail Falls. I watched a car stop in the middle of the road in front of the falls. A young man hopped out, struck a pose, then jumped back in the car after the picture was snapped. Silly tourists.

Like most hikes around here, this one began with an uphill climb. However, the breeze blew cool and refreshing, giving me energy to keep going, even when the menfolk disappeared around the bend. I enjoyed the lush woods, the ferns growing thick on the hillsides, and the tall trees shading the path. I had fun testing my new camera, a Canon Rebel DSLR T3i, on sights big and small.

After a few switchbacks, we came to a fairly level stretch, a nice place to catch my breath and watch the sunlight flickering through the maples. Soon Upper Horsetail Falls loomed up ahead through the trees. The trail went right behind the falls—what fun!

Next we descended toward the Oneonta Gorge, crossed by a footbridge. We paused to stare down into the deep canyon and at another falls pouring through the narrow banks. Then back up again, out of the gorge and uphill for another mile to reach Triple Falls, a picture-perfect place for lunch. Sunshine, a cooling breeze, a crashing waterfall: what more could we ask for?

It was all downhill after that, an easy ramble to the old highway, a walk along the road and through a tunnel back to Horsetail Falls. A beautiful day for a beautiful hike!

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Peace and beauty are two things we look for when selecting a campground. We found them both in abundance this week–and less than an hour and a half from home. And an amazing hike to boot!

We (husband and I) only had two and a half days for the camping trip, so I honed in on areas close to home. We settled on Paradise Creek Campground on the Wind River, about twenty miles north of Carson, Washington. We found ourselves a big, well-shaded site where river sounds could lull us to sleep in our tent. Facilities included outhouses and a hand pump for water, but we like primitive, so it was perfect.

We woke early our first full day there, eager to get out hiking before the temperature rose too high. We drove a few miles back to the Falls Creek trail. It was an easy hike, the book said, and so beautiful that you wouldn’t even notice the small rise in elevation. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. We did notice the climbing trail, which was a bit steep in places, but we also noticed the bigleaf maples and cedars towering above us, the graceful curve of the vine maple branches, and the freshness of the air. We saw the changing character of Falls Creek, splashing loudly over rocks in places, settling into deep, dark pools other places. We felt like wanderers in Middle Earth as we stopped beneath trees heavy with moss to admire the busy stream.

Then we reached the falls. Falls Creek was, indeed, aptly named. The creek cascaded down basalt cliffs lined with moss, thundering into the deep pool below, forming two distinct falls. Mist sprayed out, cool and refreshing after that uphill climb. Wavelets splashed against the dark, always-wet rocks at pool’s edge. Maidenhair ferns clung to the cliff in small patches. The late morning sun stretched long fingers into the canyon, highlighting the moss and edging the trees with light.

The roar of the falls drowned out all background sounds. Were birds singing? Planes passing overhead? I had no way of telling. We sat there for quite some time, drinking in the serenity. I took lots of pictures, too, trying out my new camera. I tried to fit the beauty of the place into a small rectangular frame. Success could only be partial.

The way back was a pleasant downhill jaunt with time to visit hidden pools and bright cascades, time to enjoy the wonder of a place I definitely hope to visit again.

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Garden before weeds

Garden before weeds

We returned from a short camping trip, and I went out to pick a few lingering zucchini and tomatoes. The garden has more weeds than vegetables now. Every year I vow to keep ahead of the weeds; every year, they win out. I turn my back for a few days—kept away by hot weather or vacation—and they stage a coup. It always amazes me how quickly an orderly garden can degenerate into a jungle.

As I pass our few fruit trees, I see pears scattered on the ground. I should have canned them, but I didn’t. The house we planned to paint this summer still carries its faded and chipped coat of green. In our neck of the world, summer ends in three days. And I know that just as many chores await me inside–everything from house cleaning to writing assignments.

I hear a sparrow sing from a nearby bush. How simple life must be to a sparrow. It looks for food every day, builds a nest and lays eggs in the spring (if a female), feeds the young until they can feed themselves, and sings to announce its territory (if a New World male). Of course, it must also avoid predators, and finding food could be difficult at times. I’m not saying its life is easy, just simple.

A sparrow never worries if the neighbor has a better nest. It doesn’t have to spend years in singing school or nest-building school (or pay for its children to do so). Whatever instinct doesn’t cover, it learns by watching its parents. While there may be some individualism in songs, the sparrow doesn’t worry that it won’t find a job if another sparrow sings better than it does. It doesn’t concern itself with being a role model or contributing to the community. Because it has no possessions, apart from the nest, the legion of chores that awaits me has no meaning for the bird.

Of course, I could simplify. I could trim my possessions, drop outside commitments that drain my time, and concentrate my energies on what is really important. Live a little more like a sparrow. Yeah, I think I’ll put that on my “to do” list. I’ll get on it right after we finish painting the house and cleaning up the garden…

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Early September

DSCN1208Even though the temperature is edging up toward 90 degrees F, it doesn’t feel like summer anymore. A healthy breeze is whipping the leaves around and rattling the drying cornstalks. The neighborhood lies strangely quiet, children’s voices stilled by the beginning of school. I feel a restless longing to be on the road, searching for new places to explore.

A few years ago we would have been packing up the tent trailer, preparing to head out for our annual September camping vacation. Homeschooling gave us the privilege of vacationing whenever we chose, and early September was the perfect time. Campgrounds were less crowded, but the weather remained warm and usually dry. Each year we would check out someplace different—the Oregon coast, the Olympic Peninsula, California redwoods, the Cascade Range, or our favorite, British Columbia. One year we drove to Yellowstone, exploring the geysers and watching for wolves and bears.

Then the boys grew up. Our vacations became trips to college, hauling out their stuff for the new school year, or short trips to the beach when they were home. College expenses limited vacations beyond that. Now college is over. This year, vacation meant a trip to Indiana for graduation. Next year will include a flight to Georgia for one son’s wedding and, we hope, a visit to Japan to see the other son. After that, however, our options expand. The tent trailer is gone, but it may be time to look for another. The winds of September call to me, speaking of magical, hidden lakes, majestic mountain peaks, and forest trails that elves might have walked. One day soon, I will follow.

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