Me atop a summit next to the Columbia River Gorge wearing a smile of true delight :)
It's been a really full past couple weeks out here in PDX. I've been feeling a lot of gratitude for this experience, and for all those who have supported me along the way. Thank you thank you thank you!
Finishing up my sex ed article for Crazy Wisdom and feeling nervous about it but also feel it's really important stuff to get out there. So "out there" it shall go. I wrapped up my membership at the bouldering gym a couple weeks ago and was really quite sad about it, but am also looking forward to climbing more once I get back to Ann Arbor. If there's one thing I've become sure about the past few months, it's been my own physical strength and ability, and the vehicle for that realization was bouldering. Thank you Maggie and Landon, for the intro in Denver and for the beginner's chalk bag! My chalk sock doesn't quite fit inside of it but I still use it every time I climb!
Portland night skies.
A couple weekends ago I went to a few workshops and open mic at the Bigfoot Regional Poetry Festival taking place right here in downtown Portland. It was inspiring for a lot of reasons. For one, it introduced me to a lot of amazing poets not just from Portland but from all over the States. I also got to hear a lot of really amazing poems from different people, and experience the different flavors, flair, and pacing each poet uses that makes them unique. I got to dive headfirst into poetry performance in a couple of the workshops, which was nerve-racking but also exhilarating and added a whole new dimension to what I could do with my poems! Psyched to try out some open mics in Ann Arbor this summer - stay tuned! I got a peek into life as a professional poet, as well, and some really solid advice from poets who have traveled farther down that road than me. It felt amazing to witness this network of community and support, especially since writing poetry can sometimes feel like such a solitary activity.
Some flowers along the way 🌸
The day after the festival, I headed to the Olympic Peninsula coast for a few days with Rachel and her friend Cody for some beach, camping, and hiking time. It was a totally breathtaking area, but the entirety of the first two days I don't think I was properly warm. That coastal breeze is a kicker! Luckily, we were able to find a campsite that was tucked away behind some foliage and somewhat secluded from the chilly wind. I thought I'd be fine with my (supposedly) "winter" sleeping bag, but 3AM the first night saw me knocking on Rachel's van door to sleep in the top bunk of her van bunkbed set-up. I've been skeptical of van camping until that trip; I'm officially a convert. Not only is it warmer, it also requires essentially zero set-up. I'm hooked. Plus, with Rachel's bunking system, you can easily accommodate a travel buddy.
The first day, Rachel and I had our minds set on a sweet lil' paddle boarding adventure down a river we'd discovered on an exploratory hike the day before. Alas, we couldn't see far enough down the river to realize that there was a felled tree almost every hundred feet that blocked the entire length of the river. Instead of grumping and stumping back to the campsite to re-evaluate our choices in life, we paddled to a small bit of beach along the shore and hung out there for a couple hours; talking, skipping stones, munching on peanuts and M&M's, discovering these crazy little hermit crab things and wondering about how they made their shells, and really just straight-up existing in that serene and magical place.
The evenings were filled with bonfire, late night chats, black skies exploding with both stationary and shooting stars, and tarot readings. We were permitted to gather driftwood for firewood from the beach, and so our fires were long and hot, despite the cold of the night. I volunteered to get the wood myself so that I could revel in the heavens that opened up above the ocean when I stepped onto the beach. Needless to say, lots of wishes were made those nights.
Kalaloch Campground was right next to 4-5 different beaches, the farthest just a 20 minute drive North. The second day, we visited Ruby Beach, much rockier than Kalaloch's, but beautiful nonetheless, with huge, 30-50 foot tall haystack-type boulders marching out to sea from the beach. I'd brought my kite that day because it was a windy one again, and I relished for a few minutes in steering the colorful craft through such strong ocean breezes. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was short-lived; I watched with bated breath as the kite dive-bombed directly on top of a 30-foot tall boulder on the beach, the string catching on some foliage on the top of the giant rock, the kite 20-feet above the ground on the other side, swinging pathetically in the wind. I had a moment of panic, followed by a totally thrilling idea; what was stopping me from climbing the rock to retrieve the kite?
So that's exactly what I did. With Rachel guiding me up and cheering me on, telling me where to put my hands and feet, slowly and cautiously but surely, I made my way up to the ledge on which the kite flapped pointlessly on a ledge about 20-feet up. It was exhilarating. I could feel how much stronger and sure of myself I'd become from even just under two months of bouldering. I was hooked.
As I triumphantly held a lighter to the kite string to break it and tossed the kite down to Rachel and Cody, I noticed bystanders nodding and smiling encouragingly. Some even clapped or voiced encouragement and support. I felt high. When my feet finally hit the ground, I knew this would only be the first of many outdoor bouldering experiences. I'm totally stoked to get back to Ann Arbor and find some places in Michigan to climb.
The following day was the first sunny day; 70s and sunny. The breeze was something you wanted to open your arms to instead of crunch your body into itself for warmth. We headed to the beach. We alternated between jumping into the cold early-summer ocean, tossing a football, and napping luxuriously, our bodies' soaking up the sun. Mine soaked a little too much and I got one of the worst sunburns of my life and am currently still molting like a snake, but to be fair, I feel like I've always needed one good burn at the beginning of the season to remind me of the sun's strength. Sunscreen's high on the list from now on, folks.
I spent the next week working on the article and sort of grounding and recharging and resting in anticipation of all the upcoming adventures in June. I moved all my stuff from my room on the ground level to a room on the second floor to accommodate a new housemate who'll be staying here through the end of the summer. I learned how to clean India Ink off of a wall (I won't get into it. All you need to know is the cap wasn't screwed all the way and that what was left in the bottle was thrown passionately and unceremoniously into the trash after I made the discovery that it had dripped down the wall through the bag I'd been keeping it in). Just basic life stuff.
I returned from my most recent adventure a couple days ago. It was a Mount Hood/Columbia Gorge/Sauvie Island expedition, and it was awesome.
Postcard-worthy view from Trillium Lake of Mount Hood. You could still see tiny ant-people skiing/snowboarding down the snowy trails if you looked real, real close!
I met up with Rachel at Trillium Lake, about an hour and a half away from Portland and 20 minutes away from Mount Hood. The view of the snowy peak of the mountain over the clear, mountain lake, with eagles soaring high above, was like something off of a postcard. We sat on a wooden picnic bench that was half-submerged near the shore of the lake and dangled our feet into the water, salamanders swimming near the bottom, occasionally rising to the top for a short breather.
The trailhead! I left my phone behind.
We headed over to Tawamanas Falls for a picnic and a hike. The hike was a 3.5-miler there and back, but wasn't too difficult. The waterfall that the trail stopped at was so powerful; we looked like we'd just climbed out of a thunderstorm standing 100 feet away from the thing. The mist pelted our faces and soaked our clothes. It was refreshing, and definitely woke me up. I felt so ready for a nice, hot fire afterwards, and a change into dry clothes.
We found a sno-park nearby, which allows overnight parking, and also, luckily, had a couple unclaimed campsites, one of which already had some wood that the previous campers had been generous enough to leave behind. You know when things just work out? Remember when that happens? Wow, what a feeling.
After a dinner of hot Kraft mac & cheese, Rachel and I retreated to the van and watched Goonies from her iPad, which had been hung up on the wall so that we could both see from our separate bunks. I felt like a kid. Wow! What a trip.
Rachel had to leave in the morning the next day, so I had the whole day to figure out what I wanted to do along the Gorge back to Portland. I started off at Catherine Creek and did a short loop on a paved trail with lots of signs explaining the biology, climate, botany, and wildlife in the area. The view of the Gorge was gorge-ous (ha). The grass there was incredibly dry already, and the air smelled like warm hay in the sun. The drought-tolerant summer flowers dotted the landscape like little drops of pink, blue, yellow, and purple paint. Since it was a Thursday, I was only one of three cars in the lot.
A peek of the Columbia River Gorge from the Catherine Creek trail.
I went a little further East on the Washington side of the Gorge down the Klickitat River near Lyle, and found a sweet little county park with a beach on the river and a trail to explore. I found a rock to sit on that overlooked the river and spread out my red and white-striped blanket; it was lunchtime. As I sat and munched, two Kingfishers swooped along the trees lining the shore back and forth from a bit of foliage on a nearby cliff face; I can only assume they were nesting there. Eagles and herons soared overhead occasionally. A dead fish, bloated, white, and about a foot and a half long, was swept along down the strong current to the Columbia River. There was only one other family there, and they left within twenty minutes. It was revitalizing. Along with a short dip in the river afterwards. Brrrr.
A bend in the Klickitat River.
I wanted to see some more waterfall action, so I crossed back to the Oregon side of the Gorge and headed for a waterfall hotspot just off the highway. I could see one just by walking a tenth of a mile into the park called Starvation Creek, but I wanted more, so I walked down the path a bit further to see what I could see. There was a shortcut to the other waterfalls, but the path was closed due to a landslide that appeared as though it had happened some time ago. I thought, "how bad could it be?" And it truly wasn't. There were only a couple parts that were a little dicey, but for the most part it was a really fun half-mile climb to a summit that overlooked one of the most breathtaking views I have ever had the good fortune to witness. I could see the late afternoon sun glinting off the Columbia River far below, illuminating the surrounding mountains in a way that only sun off of water can. I literally screamed out of sheer delight. I also almost dropped my keys off the cliff. A train chugged far below alongside the highway, ants and caterpillars in my eyes. It was only through sheer will that I eventually pulled myself away from the scene and started back down. I ran into one human on the way down, and almost literally ran into a young buck when I rounded a corner and there he was, looking just as surprised as I felt.
View of the Columbia River Gorge from the tippy top of my hike! Heaven.
Me freaking out over THIS VIEW!!!
Once I'd seen a few more waterfalls on the way back to my car (and jumped in one of them; the water was FRIGID, colder than the ocean), I headed towards my last stop of the day: Rooster Rock, one of two nude beaches within an hour of Portland.
Since the water level was so high, the mosquitoes were awful, and the last thing I wanted to do was take off all my clothes and make as much of my skin as possible available to their hungry jaws. But I'd made it this far, and wasn't going to let a few pesky bugs stop me. I ripped off my clothes and threw them over a nearby busy, nearly tripping over myself to get into the water. I swam pell-mell to a sandy, dune-covered island about 100 feet out from shore. When I slipped out of the water, the bugs were gone! I laughed to myself with pure glee. I hadn't been able to bring any of my things across, so the only thing to do was frolic. The island was mine; nobody else appeared to be there. I raced up and down the dunes like a 21st century Eve, the sun setting behind the mountains but still faintly warming the sand my bare feet sunk into with the relish of being alive. I panted. My lungs sang. My feet plodded.
When I'd fully circled the island and returned to the shore from which I'd swam, I found a skunk ambling around the shore by my things, likely snuffling around for my dinner, which I'd completely forgotten about in my haste to escape the swarm of mosquitoes. Ten feet from shore, I said, "hey guy," and scared the bejeezus out of my friend. He/she shot back towards the woods, and I stepped quickly out of the water, robing up and swatting simultaneously in a superbly ungraceful fashion. I ran-walked back to my car, and called it a day.
I drove to Sauvie Island, just north of Portland and a beautiful, farm-strewn area, lush with early summer. I car-camped in a public parking lot so that the next morning it was just a ten-minute drive to strawberry picking with Rachel and her friend Lu.
Our collective strawberry bounty!
Needless to say, we stuffed ourselves pretty silly with the sweet, red jewels, saving plenty for smoothies, angel food cake, and as a topping for vanilla ice cream. I stretched out my day another few hours and visited one more nude beach, just 15 minutes north of the strawberry farm, and after a couple hours of snacking and reading and snoozing and swimming, I headed back to Multnomah to get settled for a weekend of prepping for the following week's adventures, making sure to pick up some vanilla ice cream for a strawberry-themed treat for myself later that evening.