The Columbia River Gorge is truly one of the more visually stunning places in all of America.
The “Gorge as she’s known locally remains a scenic but harsh environment that can be ruthless and unforgiving, especially to those venturing in unprepared. Yet never does she act with ill intent, It’s never personal with her she just is the one, the only, Columbia River Gorge. On any given day the Gorge offers two very different views. First one of a rising sun’s rays beating down onto the rock faces of her northern Washington shoreline. Then two on the southern Oregon shoreline ones sheltered from those same harsh rays, while a cool misty, almost balmy breeze caresses ones face.
Then simply bending down to tighten shoe laces might suddenly create the wonderful sensation of ethereal water droplets on the nap of one’s neck. While standing upright again you may catch a glimpse of the onset of thick dark clouds beginning to emerge from just beyond the Northwest fog line, almost always from the northwest. Unexpectedly you realize that’s no longer the balminess of a breeze, but really thick droplets. At first striking intermittently pounding ones cheeks so that for a split second one thinks…Was that!...Is that…! Bird droppings!
Instantly one’s indecisive thoughts are coalesced into more instinctive actions like zipping and hooding up to shield from the relentless pelting of thick drops of wet reality. Oregon rain can sometimes make you wonder, is that hail or rain tearing at my face. This type of weather can be confusing. It is stormy over there in the distance where those dark clouds have gathered, but here the seemingly clear and peaceful skies pour stinging rain down upon me as well. So one wonders is it calm and peaceful over there under those dark foreboding clouds. All the while realizing you’re about to experience firsthand those dark foreboding clouds that you see over there because, those clouds will soon be over here.
Having just reached the furthest point of the days hike, it’s time to turn around and begin the three hour return back to camp. Under the influence of a relentless down pour one might begin to in their minds eye to creatively recall, how earlier that day, how they snugly-securely closed their tent flaps and of course that air vent too!
After an hour or so one’s mind begins to wonder is that perspiration, or rain, creating the vague sensation of moisture between my pack and my back ? Is my thermometer broken or has it really dropped 20 degrees in the last hour. Oh boy, it’s much colder climbing down into the Gorge with the wind in my face instead of at my back. So step after step one returns to the anticipated sensations brought about from a cup of wet but warm barley tea, and an even warmer albeit lumpy instant meal awaiting them back at camp.
Thoughts while hiking back to camp can vary greatly depending on your state of mind. For instance your feet might begin to feel wet and blistery, while your torso begins to feels cold and clammy, and the feeling that the trail seems unfamiliar creates the implication that perhaps this is the wrong way back to camp. Then your mind might enters a controlled state of desperation and begins the long arduous process of recalling stratagem on ones past methods both practical and theoretical on avoiding or reversing hypothermia. Suddenly curling up in the fetal position naked in ones bag to regain the sensation of warmth sounds far more comforting than any tea or meal.
The Gorge as stated previously has no ill will, no bad intent. It’s nothing personal she just is, just down pouring relentlessly twenty four hours a day, day in and day out. Days like these make me wonder what’s worse an Oregon Monsoon interjecting itself into my off duty not driving hike or a winters day for a veteran Gorge driver. Every winter Gorge trucker’s deal with running a 5,000lb Haz. Mat. Loads down the Gorge’s Icy and snow packed roads, winds blowing 50mph, throwing chains, seeing a mud slide warning message light up on amber alert board, hearing rumors on ones C.B. that cabbage pass has been shut down. All of this to deal with when the Qualcomm beeps… your dispatcher wants to know why you’re running late and what’s your legal e.t.a. to the consignee.
Welcome to the Gorge, really this is just her typical way. It’s only mid May, now come on back after all has turned grey.