Friday, August 07, 2009

Columbia River Hwy being reborn as a Trail

The Columbia River Gorge has been my mental and spiritual "escape" ever since I was in college. My best friend and I lived together for a year in Troutdale, and on really stressful days after juggling full time school and 2 or 3 part time jobs, we would sometimes hop in the car and race time to see if we could catch the sun set over the Gorge fromthe Vista House at Crown Point. It's like stepping into a painting. Every second at sunset the light changes and splashes incredible new hues on the canvas of your senses. The Cascades and Mt. Hood recede to the east, and every shade of lavendar/purple/indigo you can imagine paints the headlands as they jut out into the river. To the west are displayed whatever intense shades of pink, yellow and red the sun has in store for you that evening.

As the minutes progress the grey clouds above seem to act as a conduit of color, transferring the darker, warmer shades from the sun-burnt red hills of Eastern Oregon onto the cooler pallet of the marine-influenced Western mountains and valleys, one by one until the navigational lights of the river traffic wink on and the red faces of the forested basalt cliffs grow dim. Soon enough the lights of Portland/Vancouver take over, symbolically - turning my attention from the magical back to the mundane reality of my obligations in the city.

It is a place where she, a devout Christian and I, the agnostic can sit together in awe and bask in the glory of nature and love of a friendship that transcends any religious differences. To her, God is revealed in nature. To me, the beauty of nature is God, if there is such a thing. Undoubtedly she marvels at His divine creation. I marvel at the amazing geological forces that have shaped this landscape (and continue to do so) and the fascinating demonstration of the natural laws of wavelength, light and color that plays across the evening sky.

Now that we've both settled down and have kids we don't get to the Gorge for that much needed stress relief as much as we used to. This weekend we're trying again, and I think we just may pack the picnic basket, grab our old hiking shoes and check out the new stretch of the Columbia River Hwy State Trail that has just opened between Starvation Creek and Viento State Park.

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