Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March March

The beauty part is, we can always blame Elizabeth. We're good hikers but we need that initial punt in the heinie, and our niece is a grade-A heinie-punter. She's the pull-cord for our two-stroke engine. So she's the one that suggested we go for a waterfall hike in the gorge in March. The Columbia Gorge hikes all have a lot in common: they're green, full of waterfalls, and straight up. That's a package deal. They're green from all the water. They're waterfally from all the upness. If you start walking in the Gorge, you can't get very far without starting to climb. And once you start to climb, it's hard to finish, because there's always more up. Devil's Rest, at least, seemed to have an end point. Nothing about the name warned us off. Everyone likes rest.

And because the Gorge has so much Up in it, you can run through several latitudes and months in one day hike. You can start at the bottom in September with the happy woodland critters, and emerge a mile up in January, eyes peeled for trampling caribou. Elizabeth promised we'd stop when we hit snow. We were only going to gain a half mile elevation on this  hike, but we're not in our summer shape, and we got warm right away. "Can't believe people won't hike in the rain," we said to each other, too smug. "Look how beautiful it is. We should've worn shorts and a T-shirt," we said, too snug, unzipping everything we had on.

The View
The snow appears abruptly when you're hiking uphill. First you round the bend and see a little starter patch. Then more and more patches, until they coalesce into a snowfield with intermittent mudslides. The weather personages had forecast light rain, and sure enough there was a whole ton of light rain up there. Nearby trees began to disappear. After a few miles, the first viewpoint presented itself as a wide spot with a sheer dropoff, beyond which squatted a cloudbank thick enough to break your fall. It was magnificent: somewhere below us stretched the majesty of the mighty Columbia churning through the basalt. Or, the shimmering pink sands of Waaka Waaka where the plumious frondle-trees waved in the breeze and tiny pocket monkeys played castanets and dropped petals in our Margaritas. Could have been either, it was hard to tell. We stepped away from the edge and kept shlorping uphill through the snow and mud. Devil's Rest was a view-free bunch of boulders in the forest at a point high enough to funnel a gusting wind in our direction. There was a break in the light rain, in the sense that it was now coming at us sideways. We zipped up, hunched over our sandwiches, and speculated about the freezing point of mayonnaise.

Dave, through clenched teeth, sent out something about Elizabeth and me being entirely too gung ho. There was something about a ho, anyway. I mentioned that the guide book said there was a different way down, conceivably through Tahiti, and that we should be able to make out signs. We peered through the fog and finally noticed signs of hypothermia, and went down the way we came, with the mighty Columbia rumbling below and Dave grumbling behind. Periodically the snow, mud, and downward momentum sent him ricocheting down the trail and into a voluntary face plant on a Douglas fir to stop his slide: shluck shluck shluck SHLOOOORP bink-bink-bink-bink-BAM. Ha ha! Funny Dave!

"I thought," he said tightly, peeling bark from his beard, "we were going to stop when we hit snow."

Elizabeth explained. Usually, when we hit snow, it's passable for a while, and then it suddenly gets too deep to traverse, and that's when we were going to turn back. This snow, however, had remained thin, albeit slick. "So," Dave said, "what you meant was, we would go until the snow was in fact impassable, and at that point we would not continue passing. We would not, as you say, violate any laws of physics. Is that it?" Shluck shluck shluck SHLOOOORP bink-bink-bink-bink-BAM.

"Right," Elizabeth said. "You okay?" she called down.

He was probably okay. He didn't say much the rest of the way down. We got to the car and cranked up the heater until we'd knocked the rime off the interior of our cell walls. "That was great!" Elizabeth chirped when her larynx thawed out. "It'll be even better next time," she said, poking Dave until he seized her by the poker.

"Next time," Dave said, "snow means snow."

60 comments:

  1. Glad you went and took some photos for us, while we stayed toasty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comfort is all I ever cared about.

      Delete
  2. Shlorping is one of my favorite words--and that there was some 'mirable restraint, I'd have throttled her!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elizabeth? Sadly, we are counting on her to wipe our butts in another twenty years, so no throttling.

      Delete
  3. Oh, how I love those types of hikes - ten years after they're over, anyway. They make for great memories and stories in much the same way as being involved in an auto accident. I still have friends (a miracle in itself) who refer to one of my hikes as the Bataan Death March.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of my friends refer to all of my hikes as the Bataan Death March.

      Delete
  4. Bwahaha! Is that Dave giving Elizabeth the finger in the poncho photo? We do lots of hiking in northern New England, but in March, all the way to the top? No thanks. You deserve a nice long Devil's rest for that one. Think he'll grant it to you? ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Devil and I are really tight. You probably knew that.

      Delete
  5. That was a hilariously nasty hike.... My idea of hiking is to get off my chair and wander over to the fridge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dear. You're not going to want to visit us.

      Delete
  6. Sounds like you had fun. I would realize all too quickly that I am so way out of shape for any kind of fun like that. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, it really was beautiful. I think. Pretty sure.

      Delete
  7. I see Dave is wearing a real soggy pair of jeans, along with his creative finger gesture. They have a tendency to become heavy and wet in rain, sapping the last bit of warmth from the body. Looks like one of our usual Thursday hikes, lots of rain and no view. Perfect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He lives in jeans. He's got forty pair. We were just discussing that he MIGHT want to get something a little drier for hiking. And possibly some boots.

      Delete
  8. And you did this for fun? I mean, no one was behind you with a taser or a gun? No one was offering you obscene amounts of money? This was not to save lives or even property? You just voluntarily went out and hiked uphill in the rain?

    Y'know, for small fee I could come over to your house, cover your eyes with white gauze, turn the hose on you for an hour and whack your shins with a stick while you try to climb up and down the back stairs. Wouldn't that give pretty much the same effect without the carbon emissions needed to get down the Gorge?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roxie, can you set something up for me with the pocket monkeys, frondle-trees and the petal-filled Margaritas?

      Delete
    2. Sounds like fun. At least the whacking part. Not so much the hose part. And I emit carbon every ten minutes or so.

      Delete
  9. Ah, the various definitions of "snow". Always a grey area...

    Sounds like the heinie-punter was lucky not to get punted over a convenient cliff. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, we can't make ourselves do it. She's so little and cute.

      Delete
  10. Thank goodness we don't have as much upness here. Otherwise it's about the same.Even the sound effects.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Them Spotted or Herbaceous Grumpypants all sound alike, no matter where they are.

      Delete
  11. But, didn't it feel SO good to get warmed up and dried out? It was worth it, right? Right??

    @ Roxie - LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's always worth it. It was grand. And you're right: if you're always warm and dry, you don't appreciate it so much.

      Delete
  12. Seems like this oughta be some sort of portage thingy where you leave a car at the bottom and drive to the top for the hike DOWN. Which, in Dave's case, might have been one long, 5,000 feet, 60mph, fifteen-minute, Shluck shluck shluck SHLOOOORP bink-bink-bink-bink-BAM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, he wasn't any more enamored of the downhill way.

      Delete
  13. The place with the tiny pocket monkeys with castanets sounds like a lot more to my taste.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Bit too busy to do more than scan this...have to sweep more water out of the basement and check latest weather update...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ACK! What's going on? Is the globe warming in your basement?

      Delete
  15. Rain. Mud. Fog. Snow. Uphill. Ok, so there was a pretty waterfall.
    vs.
    Fireplace. Fine single malt. A good book with a lovely description of a pretty waterfall in it.

    Seems pretty easy to me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. oh pish it was just a dusting...who's up for a hike saturday??? Dave...hellooo?? helllloooooo??? Bueller...???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds great, give us a call, 1-800-UIN-SANE

      Delete
  17. Wait, I was in Oregon. I saw a wonderful waterfall, Multnomah, I believe. It was at a highway exit. We did not hike. I think she led you astray.....I wouldn't trust an enthusiastic young hiker to take me into the woods. Ever.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I noticed Dave displaying an injured finger for all to see. Poor Dave.

    ReplyDelete
  19. There's about a two-week window in mid-August where I will venture out into the woodlands to stroll about and gawk at the greenery. The remainder of the year, watching the Travel Channel on Cable is just fine with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robert, you don't sound properly Oregonian to me! Rubber up and moss out, baby!

      Delete
  20. Gorge-us weather for a little refreshing hike in the woods.

    By Canadian standards, unless the white stuff is half way up your calf, it isn't really snow. Elizabeth understands. Dave doesn't. Sadly, for Dave. (Sorry to hear he was so hard on the trees.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Calf? I think you mean thigh, right!?

      Delete
    2. In this family, one person's calf-high is another person's thigh-high.

      Delete
  21. No matter where we go hiking, my husband always finds the uppest part, right about when I'm ready to quit. He's no fonder of doing it in the snow, mud and rain than Dave is, but I can usually count on heat, humidity and bugs being present. He also tends to forget my legs are so much shorter than his....surprised you didn't mention that part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, none of this fazes me much. But heat, humidity and bugs, which are all rare here, make me feel murderous.

      Delete
  22. Oooooohhh...I've been on LOTS of hikes like this one: It's just a little further...just over the next ridge...just past that rock formation...just on the other side of that waterfall...yeah, yeah, yeah, kiss my Yankee butt.
    And then there's always some wise guy when you get back that says, "Oh yeah, the gorge! I've been there.Did you sign the book?"
    "Book???"
    "Yeah, the book! You know, in the niche at the top of the Devil's Nostril???"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan, you have to go back and sign the book. Run along, we'll be here when you get back.

      Delete
  23. I can't decide which "portrait" I like best: the one of Dave at the end of this post, or the one (right under it) of the salamander at the beginning of the LAST post ... neither face portrays the undercurrent of long-suffering that is (most likely) its due - although, to be fair, the salamander would most likely ENJOY being positioned strategically under a waterfall. I confess I was tipped off to this notion by the OTHER picture of Dave that accompanies the post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Salamanders, being the crown of creation, are always content.

      Delete
  24. We would not, as you say, violate any laws of physics. Is that it?

    And then I died.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hey Murr! I understand that you are snowed in at the cabin. There's probably a lot of good meat on Dave, but it might be a little tough. If you are reading this, I trust you made it out all right. Pootie probably enjoyed the snow.

    Mary Ann and concerned Cooper

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for alerting the press! I was so happy to get back here and discover everyone is playing nice without me. Yeah, we were plumb snowed in. Dave is all gristle. Not even any good cracklin's on him.

      Delete
  26. Good one, Murr.

    ReplyDelete
  27. This is a great posting I have read. I like your article.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Peter and I once took a similar hike in the Olympics which guaranteed breathtaking views of the strait and Canada beyond. We started out in a light drizzle and, 7 viewless miles later, reached the mountaintop in a full blown festival of sleet. It really made us appreciate the sun which emegerged the moment we completed our descent.

    ReplyDelete