Category Archives: Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge: There and Back Again

Hood RiverIf I thought saying goodbye to the Columbia River Gorge was hard, what’s even harder is living a liminal existed commuting to the gorge and back every week.  Today when I checked into our motel of the week, the clerk at the desk asked for my driver’s licence.  “You live in Hood River!” he said, rather surprised.  “It’s complicated,” I answered.

Complicated isn’t the half of it, sigh.  The future is about as complicated as the past… at least my present is usually peaceful, depending on the moment.  When Ben got laid off in February, his whole company went out of business… or well, everyone but the CEO and owners, so it seemed pretty well dead to us.  With no prospect of a job in Hood River itself (the only other company in town with electrical engineers wasn’t hiring and even the Unemployment office sent a tactful letter suggesting he start his own business instead since he was likely to run out of benefits before finding a job), we decided to move back in with my parents in Lake Oswego.Dog mountain

The job market is not favorable at the moment, as any of you looking for a job knows.  Despite getting regular interviews and looking hard, Ben still hadn’t found employment when out of the blue, his old company asked if he could work again part time.  Well, three days a week driving out to Hood River would pay a bit more than Unemployment.  We couldn’t trust the company to stick around, but well, some money is better than none, so thus started my grand commute.  I’d hang out in the library for three days trying to write while he worked, and he kept apply to jobs.

top of wind mountainWhile it’s long, the drive is certainly beautiful. I’m sick of I-205 and would happily never see it again, but every time I-85 opens up just east of the metro area and ahead the sky and river spread out, every day I see a new stunning view. Clouds and mist, sun and glittering water, there’s endless variety on the gorge, sometimes all in one morning or evening’s drive, as we might go through several patches of rain, sun, fog, hail, rainbows, etc.  Even as it wears me down, it remains stunning.

Now, come June, now the company is asking him back full time.  Leaving us in a truly liminal position.  For one thing, Hood River is now filling up with vacation rentals, so anything not for vacations wants a year lease. We hardly expect the company to last six months, let alone a year.  For another going from 20 hours to 40 hours a week in Hood River is a big jump. We’ll be spending more time in a hotel than we will at my parents’ house.river from the side of wind mountain

Good thing under “occupation” I can put author, or I’d be a homemaker without a home. (sigh)

For the two weeks we switched from commute to motels.  They’ve been a parade of forgetting things, spreading cream cheese on the lunch bagels with the handle of a fork the first week, and eating cereal out of a plastic container every morning the second.  I think I have everything this week, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Small waterfall

The month of May at least, my writing did not suffer. I picked something straightforward, a full book edit of “Dragon Boy” and accomplished it.  Now I’m regrouping, and my focus will be on “Much Ado About Villains.”  I’m not sure how well I’ll hold up, but on the other side of things, I do have long periods of time in motels ahead of me, which at least is quiet and not too uncomfortable.  I think by the end of it though, whether we get an apartment here or Ben manages to get a job elsewhere, I will have done enough traveling and motel staying to be satisfied for years to come.  My idea of “vacation” will be to live in one place and go nowhere for longer than a year.

At least there’s mountains, rivers, and waterfalls.

Columbia Gorge: sad goodbyes and new hopes

gorge: wind mountainIt’s been a very hectic last 3 weeks.  I apologize for the blogging silence, and ought to be able to stay on track now.  As many of you know, my husband’s company went out of business, and since there’s not many companies in the gorge, and none of the ones there are are hiring positions he fits, we had to move.  Moving quickly meant we saved money, since we’re going to live with my parents until he gets a new job.

I’ve had a hard time leaving the gorge.  I loved it out there, the stunning natural wonders, the long hikes, and the people in the community of Hood River.  I’m still planning so long as I’m in the Portland area to keep on with my new writing group with Zoe (pronounced rhyming with Joey, not toe) once a week.  Every Tuesday since Nanowrimo we’ve kept up the write in, although we end up debating what makes a good story more often then actually writing.  I’ve also promised myself to go hiking out there regularly as the weather gets better, it’s such an inspiration.

gorge starvation creekWhile I’m hopeful that there’ll be new and exciting things where ever we live next, it’s a bit stressful I have no idea where that’s going to be.  Sigh.  We’re pretty much job searching in all of Western Oregon.  On the bright side, we have wonderful families to support us during this time of transition, something I’m really grateful for.

I hope to come back to the gorge (perhaps when I’m a famous best selling author with an independent income, right?), as I’ve really loved living out here, but if not, I will let it remain a very active part of my life.  The depth of the inspiration to my writing and spirituality here has been amazing.  There’s so much I still have yet to explore.  I’d like this summer to explore every single exist between Troutdale and The Dalles once the weather is nicer.  There’s a few I’ve never taken (like Wyeth) and some I’ve only done a couple things on that have a ton of interesting hikes I have yet to try (like around Bonneville dam).

gorge: bigen washington

The gorge is also recognizable in several quiet ways in my novels, and I expect it’ll keep showing up.  It’s on the same scale as the stunning natural scapes we see in the Lord of the Rings movies (I’d love to see New Zealand also) and close to home so I don’t need to save up any money to just spend a sunny afternoon hiking in it.  But I also remind myself that Oregon and Washington have plenty of other great natural things to see, even if they aren’t as breathtaking, and so wherever I end up, I hope to be able to keep featuring interesting hikes I’m taking as regular blog posts.


Nanowrimo Fallout, Umbrellas, and Disaster

Well, it was a rather harrowing Nanowrimo.  I struggled every day of the month to keep up on the word count.  Usually I don’t have much trouble with Nanowrimo, but MAAV apparently decided it was going to challenge me for every word.  I’ve hit 50K, and I’m pleased to be a Nanowrimo winner, but the novel is a mess.  It’s going to take a couple of months to sort out, but I’m still hopeful of making a June release date for the book.  At least I can be proud of myself for sticking it out this year instead of switching novels when it get hard.

One thing that might change that is ironically if I find my muse for the books.  I’ve decided if I ever find my groove while writing MAAV, I’ve decided I plan to ride it as long as I can and draft OHAV (book 3) until it floats away again.  So I hope for that, and I believe Nanowrimo even has a camp in March, which I might try redrafting whatever I need for that.

In a moment of un-Oregonian-ness I bought myself a new umbrella.  In general, the “real” Oregonians don’t use them.  Usually the rain is more mist or drizzle on and off, plus they’re awkward and annoying.  Umbrellas are for foreigners, and by foreigners, I mean people who are not from Oregon or Washington (the state).  You wear a waterproof coat and just dash from the car to the store and back again.  If hiking, you button up your coat and put up the hood and get only reasonably damp.

But, I want to keep up with my walk all winter long, and I hate having my head all bundled up in my waterproof coat, it makes me itchy.  Plus, despite being out in the middle of nowhere, my walk is wide and paved, keeping my feet dry (if it were an actual mountain trail, I wouldn’t bother and plan to just get wet feet as well as the rest of me). So, not getting soaked on my walk won out over my Oregon pride.

I’m the one crazy lady for miles, just me and my umbrella in the middle of nowhere… I haven’t yet run into a park ranger for a while, but they’re the only people I ever see out there, with their hoods of their waterproof jackets up like true Oregonians, as they ride their small cart/car thingy through the drizzle to pick up the trash at Starvation Creek.   I can hardly wait to bump into them, while I walk along twirling my splendid, and very large umbrella.

Now that Nano is over, I’m taking a short break from MAAV and focusing on getting Disaster out!  I’m hoping to release on December 12th, in both hard copy and kindle. I’m going to try out select for a couple months so I can try out the free promotion feature, but when I do giveaways I’ll have epub versions available too, as soon as I figure out my formatting.  I’ve gotten a bit rusty in the year since I did ASFV, and so I have to relearn my html all over again.  Ah well.

I’m really excited to be getting Disaster out before Christmas!  Both my illustrator (Leo DeBruyn) and my editor (Word Vagabond Editing) have been fantastic.

Columbia River Gorge: Starvation Creek

This holiday weekend has been all about hiking. My parents visited and we went hiking to Wahclella Falls and Elowah Falls, both rather stunning in dramatically different ways.  I didn’t write, but hiking among all that beauty did knock loose some ideas.  I’ve been stuck on the YA book for a while, and while I didn’t get unstuck on Saturday, I did get a flood of great ideas for the unfinished Nano 2011 book that I’ve let rest so far this year.

I was raring to write, naturally, and snuck some time in Sunday afternoon after my parents left, but I also didn’t want to miss the Monday holiday with Ben, so decided the rest of the ideas could wait and I’d go hiking again.  While looking at places to hike to with my parents, we’d debated something called “Hole-in-the-wall Falls” supposedly an oddity created by the need to divert a stream for building the highway.  A tunnel was bored through the rock of one of the points along the gorge to let it drain.  We made a lot of jokes that it might turn out to be just a pipe coming out of the rock with water and the tackiest waterfall in the gorge, and didn’t get around to it in favor of the others.

I was still curious though, so Ben and I went on Monday.  The trail is located at Starvation Creek, a site I was sure had to do with dying pioneers, but instead is named after a marooned train that hit a snow drift there in the 1910s where the passengers were stuck there for three week.  Despite the name, no one actually starved, they were just quite hungry (food was skied in from Hood River eventually).  To get to Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, you have to hike a trail that goes back west along 84 for about half a mile.  Its noisy since you’re near the cars, but it finally does go back into the woods.

Hole-in-the-wall Falls is surprisingly beautiful.  Perhaps its techincally man-made, but from the ground the only sign of that is the fact it comes out of the middle of the rock.  Otherwise its graceful and natural looking.  If you climb the rocks off the trail a bit, you can get a view of the tunnel, but overall quite worth it (although not as stunning as Wahclella and Elowah).

Even better, there were a couple of other small waterfalls along the trail.  So despite being near 84 we felt the whole thing was a great success.  After Hole-in-the-wall we keep going, and some other people on the trail suggest we go up just a short ways on the Mount Defiance trail for yet another small waterfall.  Rather than go back down though and walk back along 84, we decided to try to make a loop by taking the Starvation Ridge trail.  

This gave us some stunning views of Wind Mountain and Dog Mountain across the Columbia.  In college I worked at a girl scout camp between the two of them so I’m familiar with them both.  It’s a lovely section of river and slightly different than the one I’m used to at Mitchell Point or Moiser tunnels.  We also saw what I think was a couple of ospreys… they certainly weren’t turkey vultures anyway.  It makes me wish they’d get around to reintroducing the California Condor to the gorge, yet another wonderful bird that used to be native here.

While the views were great, I must say the trail was often steep and harrowing.  There were a couple rather scary points.  Most people seemed to be walking it the other direction, and on the descent we found out why, it’s easier to go steeply up than down.  It seemed a toss up though which way was better or worse to me though, since the scariest point of the trail (along a sheer drop off) I was relieved to be going up on instead of down.  Not one to bring young children on for sure.

Probably the biggest surprise though was Starvation Creek Falls itself right by the picnic area. It’s the best roadside picnic waterfall I’ve yet seen, even better than Wahkeena I think if you can get the table right under the waterfall.  Even better, there’s a section of mile long section of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail going East to Viento State Park.  Since that comes out round trip to about what my usually hike on the highway trail in Hood River is, I tried it out this morning, parking at Viento and walking to Starvation Creek.

Its a little shorter, and you have to start out near 84 again, with traffic a bit noise, but the fact that you end with a reward of a gorgeous waterfall, as well as a couple of great view of the river, I think I’m going to favor this one as my daily walk until the weather gets nasty.  And, during my walks ideas for the middle grade novel are still boiling away.

Oh, and after all that, when I got home, this big boy was climbing the side of my glass sliding door.  Isn’t he cool?