Despite having lived around mountains all my life, or perhaps because of that, I remain in awe of the awesome sweep of snowy mountain slopes that rise from valleys in the way that volcanoes do. I am simply not able to drive along our highways and not feel an emotional surge of admiration for volcanoes when I see them rising beyond billboards and 18-wheelers. In 2000 I traveled by bus through central Anatolia in Turkey, and felt the same inner gasp of appreciation when I spotted astonishingly high white peaks soaring above wheat fields, so I know it’s the volcanoes that capture my imagination and not just my love of the Pacific Northwest.
I currently live within a stretch of landmark peaks called the Cascade Range. Mt. Hood is closest to me. Hood is the highest peak in Oregon and the fourth highest in the Cascade Range, which stretches north and south along the western United States from northern California to British Columbia. It is 11,240 feet high and hosts 12 glaciers and permanent snow fields.
Yesterday the weather was clear and sunny, though windy, and Tara and I decided to treck into the Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately the winter sun rises and sets behind the steep high walls of the Oregon side of the Gorge, so the waterfalls remain in shadow all day. Still, it was worth the trip. Tara finished making her homemade shortbread, and we packed up individual containers of strawberries and homemade whipped cream on the shortbread for delicious snacks once we arrived at our destination.
We drove for half an hour to Multnomah Falls, our most famous and most remarkable falls in the Gorge. The hike up to the base of the falls is quick, so we were there in no time. It is thrilling to stand at the base of the 611-foot falls, where the booming thunder of the water hitting the pool makes it too loud to be heard without shouting to each other. Spray whips around in unpredictable bursts and spirals of wind that is generated from the falls. Our glasses and the camera lens were constantly mucked up, and we dug out inner layers of dry clothing to wipe the glass with our frozen fingers.
I’ve mentioned before the appeal of historic stonework in Oregon’s parks, and Multnomah Falls includes two of the many gorgeous stone bridges in the Gorge. If you have seen a photo of Multnomah Falls, you have certainly seen one of the stone bridges that arcs above the lower section of the falls. Standing on the bridge allows you to stand directly in front of the most tumultuous part of the waterfall, allow yourself to drown in the roar, and get soaked if you stand there too long.
The trail showcases more stonework under thick pads of moss, in the form of retaining walls, steps, and plazas, not to mention the fairytale-like Multnomah Lodge itself.
When we finished hiking the falls, we pushed through the wind and back to our car to eat strawberry shortcake and watch the glow of setting sun across the Columbia River on the Washington side. On the drive home, I spotted a pink and orange Mt. Hood in my rear view mirror.
So I decided that, rather than go directly home, Miss T and I would head up Mt. Tabor and see if we could find a good view of the mountain in the setting sun. Hey! I lied to you: the closest volcano to me is the Mt. Tabor cinder cone – within walking distance. (It escaped my recall there for a bit because, at about 400 feet above my house, it isn’t as remarkable as Mt. Hood.)
Anyhow, we stopped at one place that didn’t afford a decent view of Mt. Hood, but did provide a view of the less-easily-spotted Mt. Adams. Then we drove the steep neighborhood streets until we finally found an excellent place to take a photo. Unfortunately by then the coral glow on the snow had almost completely lifted. But it’s still a lovely shot of my neighborhood (Montavilla) at the base of the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, with Gresham in the background, and yes, that stunning peak on the horizon in the pink evening sky.