I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau

Saturday we decided to go for a hike down the Columbia River Gorge, home to thousands of carelessly occurring, unnamed waterfalls scattered about in abundance, as if there were not places in the world where the wind blows only sand. We went with friends who are constantly active and have been known to bike 60 miles, just for fun. We let them pick the hike. In retrospect, that might have been a mistake.

unnamed waterfall, no biggie, just one of many

We started off by parking a half mile from the trailhead, just for fun. Actually just because Saturday down the gorge is now packed with people! Who knew? We hefted our water and lunches onto our back. Ok I will be precise. Elliot carried the backpack full of camera and lenses, Donn his tripod, and Abel the lunch/water backpack. He and Ilsa and I took turns. You other mothers out there already know that meant Abel carried it with joy for the first half-mile, Ilsa whined for about ¼ mile, and I ended up carrying it most of the time.

We started up near Wahkeena Falls and endured the switchbacks with much stoicism and dry humour. Sort of, that is. We reached the top and the first lookout with great joy, as we remembered that after that, it got a lot easier. I was shocked to discover that the strict regime I’ve been under, where I sit around on my butt and eat Arab pastries (the artist’s wife told me “3 cups flour, 1 cup oil and 1 cup butter” but surely she was wrong) did little to prepare me for a six-mile hike, most of which was uphill. (Seriously, four of the six miles were uphill) We have done part of this hike before and I’ve even blogged about it.

But this time, we hardly stopped at all at Fairy Falls (although I did park my butt on a bench there till I’d caught my breath a bit) before heading on further, onward and upward! Ed opted to turn left instead of right, and so we kept going up. Up and up and up. Finally in the middle of steep hillside, we mutinied and stopped for lunch.

We opted not to do the highest loop to Devil’s Rest (which is higher than Angel’s Rest…go figure) and finally, finally, started going downhill. Donn kept stopping to photograph, as usual, and the younger kids had scampered on ahead, so for quite a while I found myself walking with Elliot. He’d put his earphones in and the silence of the woods—full of small noises of water and wind and leaves—was infiltrated by earphone noise. “You should listen to the forest,” I told him. “I have,” he said. “You should read Thoreau,” I told him. “I have,’ he said. “I went into the woods…” I began. “I know,” he said. Stupid AP US history/Amer Lit class he’s taking! I resorted to mumbling Yeats at him underneath my breath, but he remained unmoved, although we did have a nice chat about the essay he’s writing on “Night” before the headphones went back in.

this is a tiny waterfall over mossy rocks by the side of the trail


By this time, we were on a trail I hadn’t hiked before, and we came down by the prettiest little falls. There was a plaque, and this falls is named something like Weizendanger, which totally sounds like a name Donn would make up.

Abel and his friend Van scampered everywhere.

At the time this didn’t bother me at all but I woke up in the middle of the night and had nightmares about this. What if he’d fallen? This river is about to fall 627 feet onto sharp rocks. I had to get up and hug Abel.

We came eventually to the top of Multnomah Falls, which is the biggest and most famous of all the falls. My very earliest memory is of these falls; I have a vague memory of walking a small part of the trail and what I really remember is that my Mum bought a cup of hot tea (she was addicted) and spilled it on my arm in the car and burned me. That is my earliest memory—beauty and pain. I’m pretty sure that explains something but I don’t know what. Any psychologists out there?

Donn and Ed refused to believe I came up there at the age of 2, in spite of the myriad toddlers and babies that were there, in backpacks and strollers and exhausted parents’ arms.

So we stood at the top (see the parking lot far below? And remember, we’ve already come about a mile downhill at this point) and admired the view, then we staggered down another 11 switchbacks to the bottom, where there was a toilet. Thankfully.

Most of the first part of the falls

view from the bottom showing both parts of Multnomah Falls

I could barely walk the next day.

So we’re going back next Saturday.

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