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We spotted a biplane soaring over the Vista House.

The view is amazing anyway, but I like the addition of the biplane.

The Cherokee Nation puts an earnest effort into maintaining the integrity of Cherokee culture around the country, and into keeping the Cherokee diaspora united. I’m glad the Cherokee government makes connection a priority, because there are many Oklahoma Cherokees who believe that one loses legitimacy if they don’t live in Oklahoma. I often hear them say, “Come home!” For some it is meant as a heartfelt invitation, and for some it is a criticism of my choice to live elsewhere. I have no plans to move to Oklahoma at the moment, and appreciate being accepted as Cherokee with my limited access to Cherokee culture.

One new program Chief Baker’s administration came up with is to have sister communities. The administration makes the matches, and informs the groups. Our Mt. Hood Cherokees were matched with the Stilwell Library Friends group in Stilwell, Oklahoma. The Stilwell Public Library obviously isn’t a Cherokee organization. However, the location is within the fourteen Cherokee counties in Oklahoma, so based on demographics, most of the members of the library group are Cherokee. They are an active group and recently completed a fundraising project to build an addition onto the library. I’d like to think that our groups were matched because we are both active and enthusiastic.

The Nation then supports the pairing further, by sponsoring an annual visit both directions. I blogged about my opportunity to visit the Cherokee Nation for the first time last summer. While in Oklahoma I attended a conference and saw historic sites, and I also had the chance to meet multiple members of the Library Friends group. They looked out for me, gave me rides, and made sure I made it to a traditional country Oklahoma potluck with barbecued bologna. Yes, that is a thing.

We have also had three visits from our sister community so far. Last weekend was the third.

Still a small group, but on this day it’s larger than average.

Susie and Regina gave a great presentation about the introduction and history of loom weaving among the Cherokee, during our monthly meeting. It was a very popular talk and got the attendees excited about weaving. I’m doing a happy dance in my mind because our little group has been fragile in membership attendance for so long, but lately there have been a bunch of brand new faces at meetings. I always hope for a fabulous presentation on the days when new people show up, so they’ll see how much fun it can be, and make time to come again. I got my wish this time!

After the meeting, a group of us piled into cars and made our way into the Columbia River Gorge. The visitors were denied waterfall viewing last year because there were wildfires and the roads were closed. This year we could see the burned trees beside the highway, and along the paths to the waterfalls. The authorities were not joking: the fire was dangerously close last year.

We stopped first at a large parking lot sponsored by the Portland Women’s Forum. It was a great gathering point because it offers magnificent views of the Gorge toward the East, and of the Vista House perched on a cliff along what used to be the main highway here on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

While we stood there, a red biplane came buzzing through! It was a delight to watch it circle the Vista House and then fly away. See the two photos at the top of this post.

Cherokees in the Gorge

The magical postcard view from the Portland Women’s Forum parking area.

The Vista House. It was originally built as a rest stop for people traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Now it’s a tourist location with history, a small museum, gift shop, site interpreters, and unbeatable 360-degree views of the Columbia River and the state of Washington across the river.

A site interpreter explains some of the marble carvings inside.

Tourists enjoying the view from the wrap-around balcony.

Even the bathrooms are photo-worthy. When was the last time you took a photo of a bathroom because it was so pretty?

Much of the Historic Highway road remains closed due to wildfire damage, and we would have to skip some waterfalls. However, what highway remains open does pass three of them: LaTourell Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Queen of them all – Multnomah Falls.

At LaTourell Falls, we were delighted to see a bride and groom having their wedding photos taken. The scene was really dramatic, in that sheltered waterfall cove carved out of thousands of basalt columns and electric green moss. I was not able to resist taking wedding photos myself, though I do not know the couple.

Regina captures a shot at LaTourell Falls

This couple was staging some dramatic wedding photos.

I mean. Really dramatic.

The path at Shepperd’s Dell Falls is still closed because of fire damage. Luckily there is a bridge that crosses the canyon and allows a view of the falls for the intrepid and determined.

I tried to capture a creative shot of Shepperd’s Dell Falls between posts on the bridge.

Next we hiked down a steep hill to get a good look at Bridal Veil Falls. Yes, we asked ourselves whether the bride and groom should have been here instead. But I think they made a good choice because the canyon was a little more cramped at Bridal Veil and there were more tourists lounging around having lunch with a waterfall view.

Susie at Bridal Veil Falls

Crepuscular rays light up the canyon

Tourists pose for photographs that really can’t fail with the backdrop available.

For the grand finale, we went to Multnomah Falls. After we parked, David told us that this waterfall was not the most popular tourist destination in Oregon. Instead, it’s the outlet malls in Woodburn. The people that choose outlet malls over this are insane. Truly. Off their rockers. I mean, look at this:

The glorious Multnomah Falls

Susie and Regina in front of Multnomah Falls

Regina and Susie on the bridge over the falls.

The next day our Oklahoma visitors went to the coast, but I did not join them. I did see a facebook photo of them in jackets with hoods on the chilly beach. I know they were both looking forward to being chilly for a weekend, to escape the Oklahoma heat, so I am happy it turned out that way.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain. Volcanoes are in the background, trust me. No really, they are.

I managed to get out with my hiking group again on Sunday. Saturdays are sooo busy (this one was my Mt. Hood Cherokees meeting), and the option for Sunday hikes is appreciated.

My hike the previous weekend to Poo Poo Point gave me a chance to prepare my body a little, because this hike was 6.8 miles to the summit from the trailhead. It was .2 miles from the car, totaling 14 miles hiked and over 4000 foot elevation gain in one day. Believe me, my legs are still having a conversation with me about what took place…

One fun thing about the trail is that it begins at Multnomah Falls. You will be amazed to hear that I did not take a single shot of the stunning falls while I was in the viewing area with all the tourists. I have hundreds of photos of Multnomah Falls and was trying to practice restraint, ha ha! But if you want a reminder of which falls I mean, check out one of my posts on it from winter 2013  or from winter 2012.

One mile of paved trail leads you to the viewing platform at the top of the falls: 611 feet above the pool at the bottom.

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn't this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn’t this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

The trail after that is not paved, but is in great shape and there are so many more remarkable waterfalls I lost track. I included several photos of my hiking companions on the trail, to help with perspective, and add a contrast to the extravagant opulence of all the green. The ground was wet from a lot of run off and creeks crossing the trails, but we found solid purchase for our feet for the first five miles. We crossed five bridges, if my memory is correct, and each one of those was an adventure in itself. The first over Multnomah Falls, then a Troll Bridge, one that warned us it was falling apart, and two very sturdy bridges built from a single log with the top flattened for us to walk on, and a railing attached to one side. So clever.

Let me explain one aspect of my photos before I get too far. A friend who looked at my photos pointed out – correctly – that if I was in front of the group and turned back, I could get photos of all the lovely faces of the ladies I hiked with. This is absolutely true and it’s a loss that you won’t see them here. However, I am sensitive to the fact that when they registered for this hike, none of them signed up to have their faces on the Internet via my blog. I got permission to post butts (ha ha), but I promised not to show faces or names.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs that had been carved out for us. See the waterfall in the distance here?

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs and is called Dutchman tunnel. See the waterfall in the distance here?

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

To our surprise, about 1.5 miles from the top, we walked into snow. It started off so beautifully: a lovely layer of white to change our forest views. We were very excited, taking photos and giving some accessories to a tiny snowman that someone else built along the trail.

The snow never got very deep, but it did make for some terrible trail conditions. First, the several inches of snow on the dirt trail ensured that it was a mud trail, particularly in the afternoon return home, when many many boots had tromped the slush into a dreadful slippery mess. Second, the snow on the branches of the trees above us slowly melted throughout the day, causing “tree rain” sufficient to soak us through despite the sky teasing us with copious blue that we spotted up through the trees. Luckily we all had jackets for protection, but it was impossible to stay entirely dry at that point.

At 1:00 pm were tired and discouraged and still walking uphill through the mud and tree rain. But occasional bursts of sunshine and the persistent blue above the trees were a tease that we couldn’t resist. Besides, we had come too far to give up.

Walking past yet another waterfall.

Walking past Ecola Falls.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

You go first!

You go first!

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Isn't this just lovely?

Isn’t this just lovely?

The summit was worth it! A lovely little rest spot has been built right at the top of the mountain, with benches and a fence to keep us from tumbling over the side. We gathered with other tenacious hikers and ate lunch. The sun had melted the snow off the tops of the benches, where we were able to sit. There was very little wind to speak of, but it did get a bit chilly when we stopped moving.

Sadly, the clouds had been gathering all morning, so by the time we arrived, all the volcanoes were obscured. Remember my view from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain? On a clear day, the same views can be seen from Larch Mountain. Though the volcanoes (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson) were hidden, we had a great view of the valleys around us, including the Columbia River.

The journey back down was somewhat lighter, since downhill is so much less of a struggle. Typically downhill is my challenge – not uphill – but my bad knee only hollered at me a couple of times, and I was able to get to the bottom without the help of any curse words!

It was somewhat surreal to finish the hike at a popular tourist destination, and I felt distinctly out of place, with my coat and pack and mud splashed up my legs and bleached blonde hairs frizzing out in all directions. The lovely people around me had perfect hair and clean clothes and some wore sandals (and heels! good gracious). But I could still smile to myself because I had just seen things that they would not. 🙂

There it is! We made it!

There it is! We made it to Sherrard Point!

Islands in the Columbia

Islands in the Columbia

Icicles caught my eye

Icicles caught my eye

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Our famous Multnomah Falls, as I've never seen it before

Our famous Multnomah Falls, as I’ve never seen it before

I get to rave about one of my favourite places for scenery in the country: The Columbia River Gorge. I keep finding new reasons to talk about this place because it’s JUST SO AMAZING.

We’ve had a cold snap like everybody else. It makes ice like everywhere else. In the land of waterfalls, it makes our own backyard look like a foreign land.

Portland Public Schools kept schools closed Wednesday.  It’s typically the day I work overtime, but I was scheduled to work only 4 hours of OT, so I had lots of hours to play first. The morning was warming up and a toasty 29 degrees by the time I checked, with a forecast high above freezing, so I knew that if I was going to see the waterfalls with ice, it was now or never.

Sadly, I was too late to find the winter wonderland at its peak. Much of the ice was melting and breaking away already. It was worth it anyhow. The ice was still remarkable and the day was beautifully sunny, though our canyon is steep and forested, and no sunbeam ever reaches the falls in the wintertime.

The picturesque bridge is always a place to experience the roar and spray from the water. This time: icy spray.

The picturesque bridge is always a place to experience the roar and spray from the water. This time: icy spray.

Multnomah Falls Lodge

Multnomah Falls Lodge

Walking up to the lodge

Walking up to the lodge, we could see the top of Multnomah Falls behind it

The Columbia River Gorge

Hard for any Gorge view to compete with this one of the Vista House.

A closer view of the Vista House

A closer view of the Vista House

Miss Tara walking ahead of me on a trail

Miss Tara walking ahead of me under a rocky overhang

Once a weeping cliff; now still

Once a weeping cliff; now still

There is a falls here, but so much water spills that the entire hillside has frozen

There is a falls here, but so much water spills that the entire hillside has frozen

I hiked up to the waterfall in the photo above, and found an ice cave behind it!

I hiked up to the waterfall in the photo above, and found an ice cave behind it!

That's me doing my best to find a good shot

That’s me doing my best to find a good shot

portrait by Miss T

portrait by Miss T

Sparkling, captivating, awe-inspiring, humbling Mount Hood

Mt. Hood on approach to Portland. This is looking southwest.

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.

Tara snapped this shot as we drove into the Columbia Gorge Friday afternoon

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.

A chilly Tara gazing up at the 611 foot sheer waterfall drop.

Multnomah Falls from the first viewing area beside the lodge.

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.

View of the first viewing area, from the bridge over the falls. The Washington state side of the Gorge is in sunshine.

My girl and me

glowing

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.

Tara heading down the steps near the lodge

Moon above the cliffs

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.

Mt. Adams over a fence

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.

My neighborhood and my volcano

pressed leaves under glass

I’m listening to the voices of parents and children getting closer to my house as they make their trick-or-treating way down the street. They get started late and continue late here in my neighborhood. It’s 7:30 and little ones are still coming. The big kids will continue on after 9pm. (it got dark at 6pm). I’ll just slip off and hand out candy when the bell rings, and you will never know!

My girlie took off for her friends house so they could begin their treating sojourn together. What an excellent time to check in with my life and update my blog.

I downloaded some photos from my camera today and was reminded of two things. 1) I have been snapping shots of wall art in Portland, so if you like wall art you should check out my flickr set. 2) Omigosh! I went to see the Vaux’s swifts again, at Chapman school, and totally forgot to blog it. So, if the treaters continue long enough tonight, I’ll get started on a very late post about birds.

First for fun, I’ll show off my little creative art project at the top. I am incorrigible for making the most of my time, so when Arno shows up for a visit, I make him do my chores with me. We recently met for dinner. We walked to the restaurant, and I brought one of those little Chico bags (my Mom adores them and gave a couple to me). On the walk back home we collected beautiful Autumn leaves. I had picked up a cheap frame at Jo-Ann fabrics for $3.99. Lay down the prettiest leaves, press the glass over the top and viola! Gorgeous seasonal wall hanging.

Here, kitty kitty

T and I were very late carving our pumpkins, but we did manage to get that done this weekend, with success! They turned out great. Of course the barfing pumpkin appeals to a 14-year-old. I stole my design from an image I saw online, but the ears are my idea.

Arno and I have been so busy lately that we barely ever have time to see each other. It’s very frustrating but also a relief that he lives 60 miles away (I’ll let you fill in the blanks). I have a feeling that having kids in school is largely why we don’t see enough of each other now. Anyway, I had just dropped off Miss T at Powell’s to meet friends (how cool are friends that meet at Powell’s?!!) and we had the spontaneous idea Sunday to meet halfway through the Gorge.

Imma sucker for foliage. Love these trees over the streets.

It makes sense to split the distance, right? We’ve talked about it, but not put it into practice yet. He suggested Multnomah Falls Lodge, since it was the only public place we could think of that was indoors. I was hoping for coffee. It was raining buckets in the gorge and I passed a couple of cars in compromising positions alongside the freeway, with the accompanying blue flashing lights. Unfortunately, he ran into the same situation and it stopped traffic.

<realtime>Oh seriously, the kids are really hitting the streets now, and it’s 8:14. What’s the deal with Portland? The last little zombie to trick-or-treat here was about 8 years old. <another knock>Oh! Oh! Twin Little Red Riding Hoods and they were, like, 5 years old!</another knock></realtime>

Multnomah Falls, evening, pouring rain

So anyhow, I reached Multnomah Falls first and hung out in the parking lot in the downpour in my warm and toasty car and waited for Arno. I replaced a bandaid from where I cut myself using one of Natalie’s Amazing Knives to carve my pumpkin. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore and climbed out into the rain and took a photo of the magnificent falls right in front of me. Multnomah Falls blows me away. I can’t believe more people don’t wreck on the interstate right here, cuz this place is too stunning to drive past without a double-take.

I’m out there, hiding under the Info booth taking photos ‘cause it has a roof, and Arno runs up! Yay! So we made a sprint for the Lodge. I had heard somewhere that there was a restaurant at the Lodge, but neither of us had been there. So we poked around, found a staircase, and climbed to the top. Wow! It was magical!

Inside is a real, honest to goodness, park lodge. For dining we could sit in either the fireplace room or the vista room. I chose the vista room and we were seated. This place is stunning; I can’t wait to go back. We didn’t really have time to eat dinner, and we were both driving so we didn’t order from the extensive wine list. Instead we had coffee and stuffed mushrooms and talked as the wet dripped from us. Such a gorgeous setting. Even the dishes were beautiful: antique china with a dogwood pattern. The cups, plates, saucers, all matched in dogwood blooms. The walls were stone and mortar, and in the vista room: glass glass glass. So we could look out at the stunning cliffs that hold the falls. Too much foliage: couldn’t actually see the falls. We will come back in winter.

My girl is back home for the night. She had a good time collecting her loot. “No junk gifts this year!” she crowed. “Last year I got a pencil, and coupons, and a stupid bag of uncooked popcorn. This year it’s all good. Well, except the Jesus book.”

“The huh?”

“This booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws.” She handed it to me, “From this guy. But he wasn’t bad. There was this lady at another house that was like all, ‘I want you to know that Jesus loves you. I have had so many miracles in my life since I chose to believe. He does so much good for us all.’ We were all, ‘um, ok, thank you,’ and backing away. But she just kept talking. ‘He loves you!’ We said, ‘thanks’ and mumbled a little. We were trying to make her feel good, you know, like she was making a difference, but we kept backing away. Finally she closed the door.” Aww, my girl is so sweet.

She had a lot of stories tonight. The Chinese couple. “The lady was surprised to see us. ‘oh! You tricker treat?’ and we all nodded. So she counts us, and leaves, and comes back in a little while with five mints. One for each of us. ‘Tricker treat!’ she says. And then, this man was in the yard, and he came around a bush, and was also surprised to see us. Then his face broke into a big smile and he said, ‘ahh! Tricker treat!’ and he looked at his wife and she smiled and nodded. So they were smiling and nodding and bowing and saying ‘tricker treat!’ till we left.”

At one house, a lady opened the door and held two bowls. “‘You can take either two candies, or one dinosaur,’ she said. We were all like, DINOSAUR!!”

Anyhow, we’re both suffering from colds. (I didn’t go to work today – blehhhh) It’s time to go to bed for my way-too-early 4:30am wake up. I’ll turn out the lights and discourage any other treaters, and then my co-workers will get the spoils! Yes guys, you’re welcome.

Holy cow. Seriously? 9:25 and I hear a little girl’s voice outside…there goes the bell.

One of my many guises

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