Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tourist Traps

Tradition: Outdoor Adventure
I grew up in a gorgeous state with an interesting climate. The part of the state that I lived in is consistently green and grey. Two thirds of the state is a desert with hot, dry air. My homeland is full of amazing, palpable light and the flora is ever green and ever growing. The excess of water in the valley makes the natural landscape bloom and leaf year round. The excess of water comes from the slow, drizzly, daily Willamette (pronounce Will Am Ehtt not will-uh-met-ee) rain. Summers are gloriously perfect, with sporadic days that are too hot or too chilly, but normally sunny and not too humid. There are exceptions to this summer description and apparently 2010 is one of those exceptions. It is late in arriving and the perfect 70-80s temperatures are fleeting.

One thing I notice about the landscape out there is the lack of soupy, shoe sucking mud. The mud is firm and it still makes a mess, but the texture is completely different than the mud found after a heavy, steady downpour (also known as spring in the northeast). This means that as long as heavy rain (as opposed to normal, grey drizzle) is not forecasted you can enjoy the outdoors most of the year. There is a very tall waterfall just east of Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Falls (I have no idea why it is plural, there is really only 1 big waterfall). Multnomah is a year round waterfall and it falls roughly 620 ft, making it the second tallest year round fall in the US. The park, which is free, includes a relatively short -1.25 miles- paved trail from the bottom to the top of the fall. The close proximity to a major city and the non-existent parking and admission costs makes this a common tourist stop, for people traveling through the state and also for those visiting their friends and family in Oregon. There are large groups consistently getting in one another’s way on the bridge, and generally pretending to enjoy the beauty before them.

I was tasked with driving my older sister to the airport and realized that driving home would mean rush hour traffic on a highway. I decided, instead to grab my mom’s camera and continue eastward after dropping her off. That is how I found myself in a gorgeous tourist trap last Monday. I headed there thinking I would just go up to the bridge and breathe in the mist from the fall and be done. Then I was on the bridge and felt compressed and generally uncomfortable so I figured, the hike is short enough, I can handle a quick jaunt up Larch Mountain. I walked over the bridge and continued on.

While I had my mom’s amazing camera, I did not have her amazing photography skills so my pictures did very little to capture the atmosphere than engulfed me as I walked up the paved path. It was a harsh incline for those of us used to walking on flat sidewalks every day, but there were plenty of people in less than ideal hiking shoes and clothing (including one couple in flip-flops dragging an adorable little girl along for the torture adventure) and they all traversed the path pretty easy, if uncomfortably.

There is a spot a couple of switchbacks after this picture was taken with a little bench facing the fall, it's one of the last places on the trail where you can still see the fall. there was someone there, but my heart longed to sit, contemplate and soak in Oregon surrounding me. I left my soul on that bench and my heart aches to return and retrieve the untouchable.

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