Metlako Falls · Eagle Creek · Columbia River Gorge · Bonneville · Oregon · USA
Portland, Oregon, wasn't treated to a White Christmas in 2015, instead having to wait for a change of calendar before the first big storm of the winter season hit. But man, did it ever hit...The third day of the year ushered in Snowpocalypse 2016 with a bang...at least eight of them when I woke up that morning, to be exact, in the form of vehicular smashups and traffic snarls throughout major area thoroughfares that made getting anywhere around town a test of patience, grace, anger management, and bladder continence. I'm proud to say I mostly passed with flying expletives. I mean colors. Flying colors.
Ashley and I had been looking forward all week to hiking that morning, our long days of clinical obligations in sterile, manufactured, alarm-ridden environments having driven us stir-crazy and feeling far too withdrawn from the nurturing touch of Mother Nature. Still, when I awakened to Ash’s text saying that her neighborhood was blanketed in snow and she was concerned we might have to abandon our plans for a hike, I snatched the opportunity to hit the snooze button and catch up on some equally-needed Zzz's. With the report of chaos and calamity going down everywhere, I wasn't all too keen on braving the wintry roads anyway, truth be told. But to my surprise, I awoke a short time later to a second text saying she was still game to go if I was.
That's my girl... ;)
Not long after, I threw my 4Runner into 4WD and off we went, braving slushy roads, blustery winds, rare patches of ice, and an unmitigated cornucopia of brain-damaged drivers whose IQs dropped in direct proportion to the mercury. Despite the slippery road conditions, vehicles with chainless tires would whiz by us on occasion as like it were summer at Daytona. Me? I'd rather drive like a granny and live to lie deny it (or publicly disclose it, I suppose) than risk life and limb, be it mine or someone else’s. An hour-long drive under normal conditions thus took well over twice that long, and we arrived at the trailhead with less than three hours of navigable daylight remaining. The upshot, though, was that there were only a few other people dotting a trail that often looks like the line for Space Mountain under all but the most extreme conditions, and the bitingly cold winds that buffeted us on the ride down 84 East were almost entirely squelched by the steep walls of Eagle Creek's secluded canyon. Other than a couple who chose to keep their unruly pair of not particularly friendly pit bulls off-leash until I extended one of the legs of my tripod and wielded it like a club at the ready (trust me, I'm being very, very restrained in my description right now...), the snowy hike was a sheer delight and well worth the white-knuckle drive to and from. Our Kahtoola MICROspikes served us extremely well, particularly along the cable-lined cliff edge where stalactite-(or is it stalagmite-??)like icicles loomed threateningly above us and steadily dripped down water that refroze and coated the trail in a slick layer of ice.
By the time we arrived at the viewpoint to Metlako, we might as well have been motionless figurines beset in a vast snow globe. Giant snowflakes fell silently from the sky, and the distant roar of water played like music to our ears. If just for a moment the din of city life...of car horns and police sirens...of call lights and bed alarms, pager alerts and overhead code announcements…gave way to the rhythmic slowing of heartbeat and breath, and our skin buzzed with the raw-nerve chill of the cold winter air. It's not that I care to do something else with my life...we all have a calling, and I know that mine, at least at this stage of my life, is in health care. But at regular intervals I need to ensure my ground wire maintains direct contact with the earth, lest the cumulative static charge of human frivolity surpass my capacity to cope with it. Accordingly, we stopped and surveyed the scene: snow continued to drift down lazily, shrouding the familiar landscape under a gauzy patchwork of puffy white down, softening its roughly-hewn edges a bit.
Such, too, was the effect on our worn and weary souls.