Sunday, December 5, 2010

Through the Columbia River Gorge

     It takes fortitude to survive boredom. It's too easy to fall asleep on long straight roads. I pulled into a rest stop and fell asleep with my face on the window and froze my cheek, out of sheer boredom.  
     Then I got to the Columbia River Gorge which is not at all boring. It was just stupid good luck. Since Google planned the trip I was unaware what treasures lay along the road. After the snowplows, blizzards and freezing rain on the road from Pullman, the weather had improved from wind whipped ice crystals to painfully cold rain. Tourists had vacated the gorge leaving the normally jammed trails and parking lots blissfully empty. Dripping trees, gloomy skies and soggy trails led to waterfalls that could flatten a car. Raging rivers had shoved fallen redwood trees over the cliffs creating log jams in the rivers below like nature's version of a traffic accident.   
     Ponytail Falls flowed over a cliff with a trail winding behind the falls into a gloomy cave. Multnomah Falls had a picturesque footbridge facing a torrent of falling water. Leaning over the rail stimulated intense vertigo as the river rolled over another cliff below the bridge. People skipped off that bridge red from the cold and radiant with joy. I called my sister and shouted above the din in a misguided attempt to share the experience. It probably sounded like I crawled under the hood of a Mack truck climbing a mountain. At the bottom of the trail no one milled around the concession for a free taste of fudge. Apparently people who hike in freezing rain storms are not fudge eaters.
      When I visited the Grand Canyon a teenage girl standing next to me at the railing telephoned her friend and exclaimed “Gawd, it’s just like a postcard”. I’d waited for half an hour for parking at each of the designated viewpoints. I eavesdropped on a woman pleading with her son through their car window. The boy kept his head down over a Gameboy, but she persisted anyway, “You have to come see, it’s just like the Imax movie!” Pitching the kid's Gameboy into the canyon was the only way he was ever going to look. I shuffled in line to the safety rail on the edge and crawled along in my car to the next wondrous peek at scenery. Then I went to the Imax movie and vowed I’d never tell anyone. We can’t all hike or boat through the canyon.
    Hunkered inside a roaring cave temporarily out of the freezing rain or standing alone on the thunderous bridge did need redemption with a movie. Although on a sunny summer day in the gorge when parking is scarce, children are whining for fudge while jostling through crowds for a glimpse of nature, all bets are off. I’m going to travel in shitty weather more often.

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