Camping: My friend Eric and Nikki’s backyard in Portland, OR!
Today I was excited to get up and hike the rest of Eagle Creek with my friends, and head into Portland. It amazes me that we have already walked the distance of Oregon and are on our way into Washington. This whole thing is becoming more and more like a dream all of the time. We walked through Eagle Creek, one of my favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, and I watched my friends faces light up as they turned corners and saw all of the brilliant green and cascading waterfalls. It was like watching kids see things for the first time in sheer awe and wonder. I’ve always liked the saying, “never lose your sense of wonder,” and Oregon reminds me of that every day. For the first time in many years I feel like I am home, and yet I still have a month of hiking to do.
Our walk was a lot of fun and quite easy. I liked playing tour guide and sharing my knowledge of the area with my friends. We identified plants, looked at waterfalls and skipped among the ferns on our short and easy walk to Cascade Locks on the OR/WA border. At Punchbowl Falls, I sent my friends on the short spur trail down to see it but I walked on. They had agreed to take a ride from the trailhead to town with another hiker we had met, but I was planning on taking every step in the state of Oregon, my home. I know I haven’t been a purist on this hike, but when it comes to Oregon I insist on doing it all. Also, I have been to Punchbowl Falls numerous times and I was getting more and more excited to see my friends in Portland for a day. I hiked pretty fast but savored the moments among the beauty of Portland’s proverbial backyard.
At the trailhead there was a side trail which I would walk to Cascade Locks, but I had a really hard time finding it. I ended up taking a path that led me into a small ravine with a hidden waterfall. I realized this was not where I was supposed to go, but it was beautiful and mysterious. The only way out was to turn back or scale the side of the ravine and I was feeling adventurous. I scaled the steep side of the ravine, getting a little banged up in the process, my feet slipping on the loose terrain. It was worth it though, and I was soon on the bike path that heads right into town. I walked into Cascade Locks and straight to Char Burger where there would be a cheeseburger and milkshake. My friends were already there, but my friend from Portland wasn’t coming to pick us up for another hour. I sat and enjoyed the burger and shake with my pals, looking out over the Columbia river into Washington. It was just right there, straight across the water, our last state, the last 514 miles. It’s that close.
My friend Nikki drove out from Portland with her kids, and she stuffed 4 of us into her van with our packs and drove us to Portland. She has offered up her backyard for us to camp, cooked us dinner, and has volunteered to drive us all over town to get things done. Nikki was my first roommate when I moved out west in 1999, a random room assignment in Yosemite National Park. We’ve been friends ever since, and you can see why. She’s such a kind and giving person, a natural trail angel. I feel so lucky all of the time with the people in my life – it makes me feel special to know people like Nikki and her husband Eric. We all hung out together and had a wonderful homemade meal before visiting some of my stomping grounds. I got a message from a friend saying that some of my old customers from the now extinct Hollywood Bowl were at a different bowling alley for their first night of league bowling. I decided to pop in and surprise some folks and I ran into a lot of people I was happy to see. It’s a strange sensation to be seeing all of these people who have been in the city all summer – and wonderful all the same. It feels really good to be home though I’m actually happy that I’m not really home yet. There is still more walking to do and this will all be here when I get back in a month. Portland is the best place I have ever lived and it will be wonderful to come back and call it home real soon. For now, I’ll savor the brief time I have here before I finish my walk to Canada.
Hometown zero tomorrow!