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Wanderings: Multnomah Falls

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It was peaceful here, contrary to my expectations. Shutters clicked and tripods scraped on the paved ground as photographers fussed with their equipment to my left. Behind me, a handful of people murmured as they sat on mostly-empty benches. Before me, a high cliff loomed overhead and down its face tumbled a wispy waterfall, water hissing against mossy rock. The iconic hundred-year old bridge visible in front of the falls was empty of visitors. This was my first visit to Multnomah Falls, and it was not at all what I'd expected.

My sister and I recently took a quick overnight trip to the Portland area, and I had been a bit hesitant at her suggestion that we visit Multnomah Falls on our drive back home to the Puget Sound area. In the handful of other times I'd visited the Gorge as an adult, the locals had generally advised me to avoid Multnomah in favor of quieter waterfall hikes tucked off the beaten path, as this popular tourist attraction right off the highway draws huge cro…

Musings: Rain in August

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Sitting on the kitchen floor sipping coffee while my two-year-old son plays beside me with his bulldozer, I revel in the silence of a house that this time of year is typically filled with the somnolent sound of droning fans and buzzing air conditioners. A misty rain falls outside, providing just enough precipitation to make the downspouts dribble, leave puddles on the patio, and soothe the soul of a person who has come to dread the summer season. All the windows in the house have been flung open wide to welcome a healthy breeze that scours out the stale air we've been breathing for the past few days, replacing it with the fragrance of ripening blackberries and the sweet damp-hay smell of a rather crispy lawn breathing a deep sigh after finally getting a drink.

It's not lost on me what a gift this summer has been.

This is not the sort of August morning we've grown accustomed to over the past couple years, as much as one can grow accustomed to sweltering heat…

Musings and Wanderings: Ingalls Creek

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So I walk down to the river,
where the troubles, they can't find me...
-"River" by Josh Groban These song lyrics repeated over and over in my mind, and I swayed unconsciously to a silent melody as I watched the water rush past. Shifting my weight against the sun-warmed boulder at my back, I dipped my bare feet into the icy current of Ingalls Creek, but quickly pulled them back out as the frigid water imparted a sharp, squeezing pain felt all the way to the bone. The creek was clear, revealing the smooth boulders below that alternately flung the water into frothing white rapids or corralled it into slow, dark eddies as it ran fast down the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. I dunked my feet again then rested them on a rock to warm in the sun. An inchworm landed on my arm from the vine maple overhead, and I watched its vibrant green body scrunch and stretch, scrunch and stretch, as it passed from fingertip to fingertip, eventually running out of fingers and stretching i…

Wanderings: Northwest Stream Center

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Squinting through the glass, my eyes searched the clear water steeped as brown as my morning tea, looking for movement other than the flowing water shot through with sunlight and the strands of algae waving gently from the shells of freshwater mussels. A few moments later, the form of a small trout materialized, swimming languidly against the current. After pointing the “fishy” out to my two-year-old son and spending a few minutes watching its unhurried progress upstream, we turned from the trout stream and continued along a path leading into the forest.

Fish encounters are not typical of my hikes and nature excursions, but then there are many things about the Northwest Stream Center that are not typical, in the best possible way. On this sunny Saturday morning, my husband, son and I explored this fascinating place that I’d heard good things about, but hadn’t yet visited myself. This particular day, the Stream Center was holding a special event and offered free admission to the public…

Wanderings: Seeking Spring (2019)

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I was late to the trillium party this year. Very late, despite the invitations extended seemingly everywhere I looked: in the social media feeds of friends and family, in photos and memories that popped up unbidden on my computer, in the green light of forest-edged roadways as I drove to work. The siren song of those beguiling white flowers was a constant murmur in my ear, and the longer I put off responding as life got in the way, the more anxious and guilty I felt. I missed out last year, and didn't want this annual tradition to gradually fade away with another year gone, forgotten.

My annual trillium hunt typically takes place the last weekend in March, when the trees are still bare of leaves and earth is squishy with mud underfoot; when the only indication of the impending arrival of spring are a few salmonberry blossoms and the bold white petals of trillium flowers contrasting with their drab surroundings.

This year, during the first weekend in May, it was not the arrival of…

Wanderings: Lime Kiln Trail (again)

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Wrens warbled their melodious songs from moss-draped branches that hung still and quiet in the windless morning. Sunlight strained to dissipate a thin cloudcover that halfheartedly spat a few raindrops at us here and there. This overcast Sunday morning, I was hiking with my book club friends and revisiting the Lime Kiln trail I had hiked three years ago, in much different conditions!

You can read about my first adventure on the Lime Kiln trail here, but in summary, let's just say it involved a continual deluge, chilly February temperatures, and jackets and boots that unfortunately did not live up to their "waterproof" labels. It was wet, cold, miserable, and exhilarating.

Favorable weather afforded me the opportunity to pay more attention to the scenery around me this second time around, and to ponder the sounds that last time had been drowned out by the hood pulled tightly over my head, and the sights that had gone unseen due to my gaze being preoccupied with navigatin…

Wanderings: Gold Creek Pond

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Snowshoeing was a much noisier endeavor than I'd expected. A snow-covered landscape is usually associated with soft silence and muffled noises, the sound of spoken words extinguished as the vapor of your breath dissipates in the chilly air. Instead, as our group tromped along the path toward Gold Creek Pond last Sunday, we were accompanied by the sounds of swishing snow pants, excited voices chattering and laughing, and of course, the loud scrape-crunch of boots and snowshoes themselves, rasping against the icy crust of snow.

By happy coincidence, my birthday fell on the same day as our January book club outing. I had looked forward to this day for awhile, and was eager to finally try my hand (foot?) at snowshoeing. Heavy mountain snow prevented me from attending this same outing last year, and this year I'd been keeping an eye on the weather, warily reviewing the expected snowfall totals as the day approached. However, with the blessing of a favorable forecast, it was amid t…