Tag Archives: hiking

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.


10 Fabulous Things I did in Dubai

I had a great vacation!  It was so busy I didn’t write hardly at all.  Sometimes, it’s alright to be a tourist.  So here’s what I did:

1. Went up the tallest building in the world.  The Burj Khalifa is not just slightly the tallest building in the world, but right now at least, massively taller.  I didn’t go up it the first time in Dubai because it made me feel a bit sick looking up at it and I thought it’d be terrible at the top.  However, the building feels surprisingly solid and doesn’t sway at all, so it was more like looking out of an airplane window than anything.  The only queasy spot was actually the elevator, and not because of the ride itself (which was very smooth) but because it’s mirrored and has a fancy light show going that’s about enough to make a person slightly disoriented.  Staring at the floor handled that though.  The day was slightly hazy, but I still have a wonderful view and thoroughly enjoyed it.

2. Picnicked in Mushrif Park.  Since most of the surrounding area is desert, to have a nice place outside with plants means going to one of the parks where they water things.  A lot of these parks are large though, with more natural looking areas mixed with formal gardens.  The weather was splendid, just perfect for sitting in the shade with short sleeves and so we went and ate a picnic lunch several times.  The parks are also a good place to see interesting birds.

3. Walked at sunset on the beach collecting shells.  The gulf was perfect weather for an Oregonian like me, 70s to 80s.  The waves are small, unlike the Pacific, more like a lake, where passing boats will send in waves for a while and then die back down.  We had a perfect evening, with a beautiful sunset over the gulf. I also found some lovely tropical pink and orange shells and pieces of coral that are completely different from the sort of shells I find on the Oregon coast.

4. Walked up a Wadi.  A wadi (arroyo) is a canyon-like mostly dry stream bed that when it finally does rain in the desert, carries all the run-off water.  As they’re the only areas with a bit of water in them out in the countryside, they make for interesting walking.  There’s actually a few trees, bushes, flowers, and insects, even if there isn’t any water left in them, and unlike a park, the ground is rocky and dynamic.  We walked up one of the wadis near the border of Oman, where the countryside is more mountainous and dynamic.

5. Rode a camel.  You don’t get more touristic than this, but I don’t care.  I’d never done it before so I wanted to give it a try.  Camels sound rather grumpy, and I suppose if I had to carry people back and forth along the beach I’d be grumpy too.  Their owner however was fantastic.  He took several pictures for us and encouraged us to pet the camels.  I didn’t get spit on either, despite hearing that’s always what camels do… and while the up and down part was rather rocky, the ride itself was pretty smooth.

6. Watched the fountain show at Dubai Mall.  The fountain has several nightly light/waterfall shows that are usually done to music and rather pretty.  This time though, I got a rather bombastic special show, because it turned out my visit coincided with the “Shopping Festival” something a bit like Black Friday but for several weeks.  This meant twice an evening the show was extra long and involving dancers, video, extra lights, and fire.  Yes… fire and water fountain together… quite something.

7. Lit a flying lantern.  There was a comedy show that my friend’s husband was helping put on the first week I was visiting, and as part of their opening night, they had these hot hair lanterns.  After lighting the bottom of them, the lantern slowly filled with hot air until it was ready to fly.  It was rather magical to watch them all floating away through the night sky.  I actually lit two of them, but didn’t have anyone take a picture of me while I did it, so I took pictures of the people around me lighting them instead.

8.  Went to Dubai’s writer’s group.  You don’t get more authorly than this.  The writer’s group alternates between critique one week and write-in the next.  I got to attend one of each since I was there for two weeks.  The group is in English, but truly international, with people from all over the world.  I was a bit shy, but did read some of the stories for critique and offer feedback.  But mostly I was excited to meet so many writers from all over the place.

9. Browsed Dragon Mart for local made jewelry.  It seems most of the stuff in the malls, besides being horribly expensive, is imported from China or India as much as things are in the US.  However, the cheaper local Dragon Mart near where Skip lives, ironically named for being in a Chinese neighborhood is a good place to find necklaces and bracelets in the bead shops.  I had a great time looking at all the beads and picked out a couple necklaces to buy.  They’re something fun that won’t add clutter to my life like other souvenir items.  Who needs a model of the Burj Khalifa or more refrigerator magnets, honestly?

10. Went hiking in Musandam, Oman.  
This section of Oman is separated from the rest of the country by the UAE (United Arab Emirates)  and so while technically a different country quite close.  Mountains go right up to the gulf coast here, but we went hiking farther back in the mountains.  We climbed up a couple wadis, and the rocks were fabulous. I loved the different shapes.  There were also several small nomadic villages tucked away in some of the little valleys, and well as wandering goats.


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?


Historic Columbia River Highway State Park

One of my friends has been poking me on sharing some photos of my daily walk.  I have several nearby options for walking, but I’ve definitely settled on my favorite: Senator Hatfield State Park, a stretch of what used to be the Historic Columbia River Highway between Hood River and Moiser.

This section of highway went through a double tunnel just south of Moiser, but due to frequent rock slides, was eventually closed.  Later the tunnels were re-enforced, netting set up to catch falling rocks, and the whole thing nicely repaved and turned into a hiking and biking trail.  As a highway it must have been horribly narrow (I shudder to think of driving a modern truck on it) but as a bicycle and foot path, its wonderfully wide.  Plus, never muddy or overly steep.  Considering all the rain it’s nice to know I won’t get covered in mud and slide all over the place while taking my daily walk.

The one downside is that such a nice trail like that is very popular.  I cut down on some of the foot traffic by starting at the less interesting Hood River end of the trail.  Since 5 miles is far too far for me to walk, I only walk 30 minutes out  and then 30 minutes back.  If you do this at the Moiser end you get spectacular views of the river, followed by the double tunnels, which is why most people who walk pick that end.  The Hood River end has an initial view of the river, but turns into thick woods rather quickly.  It’s nothing but trees for 25 minutes, until there’s a small waterfall and picnic table.  Another five minutes and I reach my turning point, where the woods gives way to a rather nice view of the river.

Here I stop and rest a few minutes, enjoying it, before turning around.

My friend wanted to know what animals and plants I see while walking…. well, being so popular, there isn’t much wildlife.  I have found some road kill, which boggles me a little… this is obviously a deer, so it’s far too large for a bike to have killed it.  All I can think of is a vulture carried it up from the freeway far below to finish it somewhere quietly.

Other sights include a mostly hidden crashed car remains at the bottom of the cliff… not sure if it’s been there for 30 or 40 years or however long its been since this was  a highway… or got there some other way.  I walk for the exercise, not the sights.  There are some great wild flowers along the opening of the trail though… a ton of poison oak along the wooded section… if it really is poison oak, but I’m pretty sure it is from my girl scout camp days.

At least I’m exercising.  Don’t forget, sitting at a computer all day can kill you.  We writers need to remember to move.