December 23, 2009

At the Edge of the Columbia River Gorge


As a child, I spent a lot of time 45 minutes due east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge. Protected by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the land has strict and drastic growth limitations. State Highway 14 connects the sprawl of Southwest Washington to the tall forests, basalt cliffs, and waterfalls of the Gorge (as its called by both x-pat Portland yuppies and local loggers).

After ten miles of dense spec homes and sewage treatment plants, the suburban sprawl evaporates, exposing the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and its flood plains speckled by the occasional tree.

My parents now both live in the Columbia River Gorge and I frequently drive through this game reserve on my way to and from Portland. Despite making the trip thousands of times in my 21 years, the beauty of the contrast between the gross urban sprawl of the Portland area and natural beauty of the Northwest always forced me to look up from my phone or magazine and take in my setting.

While driving home after a few errands in Portland on a despicable December day, the wind, rain and clouds flowing out of the Gorge inspired me to stop. I parked my car on the side of the road, turned off the Dire Straits, grabbed my camera and headed towards the fields. I hopped the barbed wire and strolled aimlessly through the fields. The minutes melted together as my mind started racing, keeping pace with the whistling of the wind through the grass and the pendulum like bending of the leafless branches on the occasional tree.

Drawn to the creaking of limbs, I followed the sounds, eventually settling on this lone tree. Bending and shaking from the winds rushing west from the desert east of the Cascades, I stood watching the clouds fly towards the big city like bubbles towards a bath’s drain, or to those of the Luddite persuasion, toilet paper towards the sewers.

Here are some more links,
The Edge of the Gorge (Picasa).

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