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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day after Yosemite was spent in the Gorge....

Saturday morning I wake in my home bed. Only a few hours ago I was still on the train coming home from my visit to Yosemite National Park in California with a brief stop in San Francisco to visit friends and family for a quick New Years celebration. A bit groggy and uncertain what to do with myself now that heat is supplied by a furnace, water by a tap, and food via the fridge. I stumble around the better part of the morning attempting to find a rhythm. Gina, my life partner, understands me incredibly well and knows that I'm a bit lost without the towering Sequoias and sheer granite walls surrounding me, and she takes care of me as usual.

As I start to feel somewhat comfortable again in the confines of my modern walls, I noticed my pup Duke. First Gina was gone for several days, then once I left, he was taken care of by our good friend Kati. You can imagine how confused he must be. I noticed that Duke was hoping for an adventure. He always has this way of simplifying our necessities, and made me realize that I too wanted an adventure.

With the Sullivan NW Oregon hike guide in hand, we flipped to the first saunter in the Columbia River Gorge section. And found Cape Horn, hmmm, sounds interesting, close, and a relatively quick jaunt in the Gorge, considering it is already lunch time and the sun sets at 4:45. We must get moving if we want to be out by dark. I throw my running shoes on, grab a quick snack and a few essentials such as a compass, map, water, headlamp, extra layer, and a small toy camera. Not sure what the weather had planned for us, aiming me to grab a wind breaker as well. Formerly a rain coat but all of that high end, breathable, bougie stuff only keeps rain out for a few months at best until it breaks down from being used, oddly enough. I guess they will keep you dry forever if you never actually wear them. Duke of course needs absolutely nothing and is bouncing off the walls with excitement.

After a bit of searching we found the correct parking area off of Hwy 14 in Washington. The first thing we noticed was that every plant, blade of grass, tree trunk, etc. was covered in ice. Mother Nature unleashed a healthy supply of freezing rain in this area recently. Some ice very thin, but also entire limbs in-cased in softball sized ice cubes as well. How beautiful, but also slightly intimidating wondering what the trail will be like on my light runners a thousand feet up from here. Duke doesn't have the patience for my concerns and darts up the trail to enjoy and explore this wonderfully wintry place. I too am equally excited to find a winter journey. Although there was a small amount of snow in the Yosemite Valley and much much more in the high country, the overall weather was barely winter like. I wished for a more wintry Yosemite.My time in Yosemite did however make my lungs deep and my legs strong, for the 1200 feet went by unnoticed. It also helped that the scenery grew more and more spectacular the higher we went. Large spruces bowed all the way to the ground bearing the weight of massive amounts of ice. And the trail was completely covered by low ice tunnels of limbs causing me to crawl on my hands and knees often. All of this beauty delivered a fair amount of riskiness as well. The gale force winds came regularly teeming ice bombs all over our armor-less vessels. The safest course of action seemed one of sprinting. The energy of the experience gave me a smile from lobe to lobe and a strength that seemed infinite. Duke too was running back and forth with little leaps of joy when he got close to me. We would stop at the overlook views of the Columbia River and soak them in, but only for a minute or so each time, concerned that either the winds or the ice bombs would force us into a long dive down the steep Gorge face. Once we made it over the hump and onto the lee-ward side we felt a bit more in control and slowed our pace again. The descent down the Southeast side was uneventful but always beautiful with ice sculptures in every direction.
Around Cape Horn was windy and powerful to the soul. When we came to the second waterfall I guessed that we had traveled about 5 miles leaving us with around 2 miles to go. We ate our quick snack and made the switchback turn away from the waterfall so we thought. Actually, there was one more switchback that lead us directly through and under the raging fall. My spirits lifted again knowing that we would have to run through this mighty fall in freezing temperatures and gale force winds. I knew that we would have to run the last 2 miles back to the car to keep our body temperatures above the blue zone, especially with my cotton pants that would most definitely become soaked and remain so in these conditions. I also knew that I could have searched for another way around the fall and probably would have been successful, but life is about living and this experience seemed inviting.
I turned my little toy camera's video recorder on and lunged full steam ahead, hollering with intensity as I made my way through. When I turned around to see Duke's progress he was still working up the courage to make his move on the other side. Then he let it fly and danced over the wet stones with quick foot work. The most important article of clothing I brought with me that day happened to be my full brimmed waxed canvas hat with ear flaps. It acted as a mini umbrella and kept the fall from running down my neck, back, and chest. Time to get jogging, towards home. Then I realized, in my excitement and body clinching, I turned the camera off halfway through. Well, I guess we will have to run through again for arts sake. This time was equally energy filled and Duke stayed tight on my heels. Okay, got it, and one more time back through towards home. This time we kept running all the way to the trailhead.

A worthy welcoming home adventure.

My next post will be soon, filled with images, and all about my first travels in Yosemite National Park....

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