Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Long Hike... with fragile, old feet.

The hike to the triple falls of Middle Oneonta Falls was deceptively manageable... at first.
This was the first section coming from the parking lot.
The guys were ahead of us. The fun has just begun and the path looked like easy going.
I'm not sure what I was thinking. I guess I wasn't. I could hear the highway noise and a train went by. It all seemed quite doable.
At the first switch back, the trail got considerably steeper. In retrospect, I wonder why I didn't take more photos as I climbed the trail. The setting was so beautiful.
We came to many small waterfall areas that were within hand rinsing reach and they gave me a reason to stop and catch my breath. At one point our fearless leader, Peter, who was ahead of us, called out, "Look, it's the falls." I knew we had not gone more that a quarter of a mile, so I didn't understand what he meant. The triple falls were one mile from the parking lot and unless this was a magical forest, we were not there yet. Peter was laughing when I reached the "waterfall". It was a tiny "fall" of water coming down the hillside and running over the rocky path. It wasn't our destination, but this was the comic relief we all needed.
We passed some folks that looks thankful for the return trip down hill. We exchanged hello's and continued on. As the highway noise disappeared the sounds of the forest became a marvelous distraction from the distress of my tired feet and legs. The beauty of this place was a factor in the budding motivation that I needed to continue on.
This was an enchantingly beautiful place. These ferns seemed to reach out to us as we walked by.
Somewhere beyond the halfway point I decided that "one foot in front of the other" was more like a mind game that I was going to have to play with myself. One of the men in the group, who decided to join me, was in a similar state. His name was Gary. He seemed to have a more Zen approach to what was fast becoming an ordeal. He was my age, had bad foot problems and yet, he kept talking to me and encouraging me to move ahead. We drank lots of water, stopped periodically to give our feet a rest, and then continued on up the gorge toward the falls. Even the conversation became a tool of incentive and distracted us from the rigors of the climb.
We saw some beautiful flowers.
And, at one point, we hear a water fall... but it was the lower of the three falls in the gorge and not the one that marked our destination. 
The path became rockier, steeper and, once in a while, it would level off. I felt like these level areas were little gifts that made me appreciate this immense effort I was making. At one point some young college age kids came down, laughing and running, nodding to us as they flew by. I felt very old at this point. 
Then, when I didn't think I could take one more step, I heard Peter ( leader of the pack). He said "We're here."
I crawled over some rocks, to the edge of a huge cliff and there before us was the Middle Oneonta Falls.
It was breathtaking. I was dizzy and had to sit down. My legs were doing some kind of muscle dance and cramping up. I stretched them out, drank more water, felt a little better, then set up my tripod. 
These young kids came down past us. They laughed and goofed off, ate some lunch, dangled over the edge and acted silly about being so close to a major drop off the edge of the world.
This was way steeper than it looks in the pictures.  You can see how the two older and wiser guys (on the left) are leaning away from the drop off while setting up a tripod... and how the kids are so matter of fact and relaxed.
Youngsters have no fear. 

Take a look at this.
Yep! Two girls... on the very top of the waterfall. 

Finally, we had the place to ourselves. We set up the tripods, ate a Fiber One bar and took some photos of this amazing place. I was slowly getting my mojo back.
The flora and fauna of this area is so lush and beautiful. 
New growth on the tips of the branches make the forest shine with promise. You can see, in an area where man only comes to visit, that the less man impacts an area the more beautiful it is. When you limit man's ability to affect nature, you let it become what it was intended for. There's balance... and that's stewardship. We need these places.
As we sat there listening to Peter talking about about camera skills, ISO, focal points and framing, I realized how important this workshop was to me.
 These three days were not only going to teach me a skill, they were also going to teach me something about myself. Pushing my limits physically is not something that I have done for a long time. I almost drowned last summer, at Lake Tahoe, thinking I could still swim like I did in my 30's. The water was scary for me and getting back to shore a struggle. I remember the awful feeling of fatigue while I was swimming to shore. I made it back, but I promised myself that I would never go that far again.
Learning my limits as an older woman. Testing what I can and cannot do. These are the moments that teach me more that any classroom could ever instruct. But, the pride of doing something like this, knowing that I can hike a mile up hill without having a heart attack or falling off the edge of a cliff, is HUGE.
That this 68 year old was still capable of this kind of physical accomplishment made her day... that is until she turned around and looked at the road back.
In her euphoria, she forgot that she must retrace her steps.

We walked another trail around to the bridge crossing the river and looked at the falls from the top.

Yes, that's another crazy youngster, or two, standing on the edge of doom.
What are they thinking ? Is this about challenging yourself too... only the "twenty something" version? If they were my boys, I would have had a heart attack right then and there. I could just see one of them slipping on some mossy rocks and going over the edge. I wanted to yell something to them. But, I could just hear what they might say to each other...
"What's that crazy lady saying? Get off the rocks? Is she nuts?"
They finally left and I relaxed... and  they didn't die.

This is looking up river from the bridge.
See that very green rock?
I believe it was radioactive.
I have never seen moss so green.  It was ELECTRIC GREEN. I have done nothing to augment the color. This was just what we saw. I'm sure it was some new organism that will spread and wreak havoc on the world. But for now, it's just an amazing anomaly in the middle of the Oneonta river.

We started back back down the trail. It was going to be a piece of cake. Right? It's all downhill.
How very wrong we were.
For our thirty something mother of six, with bad knees, it was very painful and she stopped frequently, to ease the pain. For myself and Gary, it was again, the feet. We both had good hiking shoes on, but having neuropthy (he did) and neuromas (I did) on already sore and tired feet it was like walking on fire. The rocks were sharp and my legs were starting to jump with muscle spasms again.
Good grief! This was suppose to be the easy part.
Peter, our wonderful guide and teacher, took my camera and my tripod. I told him I was all right but he insisted. He said that this is what "Sherpas" do. Bless his heart. I guess he was worried about me. I must have looked worse that I thought. I was trying to put up a good front, but my legs were vibrating and he kept telling me to drink more water. I actually felt so bad that I wasn't even embarrassed. I just wanted the hike to end.
One foot in front of the other... one more switch back... where are the others... don't fall... keep going.
Where is my new friend with the bad feet? Did he stop somewhere or did he put himself in overdrive and speed down the path.  He was nowhere to be seen.
Down, down, down... we moved toward the familiar noise of the highway and I was seeing light at the end of the trail.
Down, down, down... finally I heard someone say... "This is the last turn." Peter was right behind me.
It was. There ahead of me was the parking lot of my dreams. We had reached the promised land.
I was afraid to stop... or sit... or try to get into the car. I walked around for a while and realized that Gary was still not with us. A while later he came down the trail. He said he had gone ahead of us and made a wrong turn. He had gone to another waterfall before he realized he was in the wrong place but he found his way back and was all right. His wife, who waited for us in the parking lot reading a good book, (smart lady)  was relieved. We all were.
We ate ice cream at the Multnomah Falls concession and continued on to Horsetail Falls. This was right on the highway and there was no hiking involved. I was bushed. I mean totally wiped.
We stayed there for about 30 to 40 minutes. I don't remember much.
Just this...
and this...
and a bumper falling off of Amy's car because she backed up and pulled away from a stone parking wall. We were amazed at how it snapped back on.
 It's all kind of vague.
I was driven back to my home away from home in Troutdale. "D" was there, waiting. She was on the phone with her hubby, so I  removed my shoes, carefully, making sure that my feet didn't come off with my socks. I started some bath water and sat on the edge of the tub with my feet under the running water.
OH, I can't tell you how good this felt. I was there for quite a while. I didn't trust myself to take a bath yet. I might have gone to sleep and drowned. That would have been a less that auspicious end to a rather amazing day.
I dried my feet and fell onto my bed, head first. I heard "D" laugh.
Tomorrow we would meet at Starvation Creek Falls. I wondered what connotation that name might have.
Another day to learn something about myself. Another day to learn... something... about...

postscript: I found a video of two young men hiking the same trail we did. The call themselves the Trail Dudes. If you have a few minutes and you're thinking about doing this. Please watch the video. Please remember that these "dudes" are probably about 20 years old.
These photos, for those of you who care to know, were taken with a Nikon D5100 and a Tamron SP AF 10-24mm wide angle lens for Nikon cameras. The  ISO was usually at 400, F/20. Exposure times varied.
I shot RAW and JPEG. and aperture setting or auto. I didn't trust my manual skills enough yet.
This was a three day Waterfalls of the Columbia River Workshop offered by Peter West Carey in Portland.


  1. ha. amazing pics....love the falls...wow...and your radioactive rock...ha....what a cool adventure...

  2. incredible...those pics take my breath away and reading your adventure has me panting and my feet aching...you are my hero!

  3. Well, like I said in my email, good timing on the age old topic of old age! That last photo of the falls is so beautiful and has so much movement in it, almost like I can hear it. I'm not buile for those kinds of hikes anymore. Bad hip, you know.

  4. Beautiful photos. Takes me back when hubby and I went to Portland, Oregon to visit out daughter and her family and we went to the Columbia River Gouge to see the waterfalls etc. It is truly a beautiful place. The moss on the rock is truly fantastic. Glad you made it up and back down with your feet hurting like they were. Have a blessed day. Madeline

  5. Spectacular scenery!! Wow...double Wow. It is so lush...and the Falls are unique! Thanks for the trek!

  6. Thanks for taking me along on your journey into the forest and into YOU!

  7. Thanks for taking me along on your journey into the forest and into YOU!

  8. Kudos for finishing that hike...not that you really had any choice, LOL!
    We do a lot of hikes like that. Hubby bounds up the hills, and I go ever so slowly, breathing hard the whole way. Last one was so bad folks were stopping to ask me if I was ok...that's when I promised my body to loose weight so it would be easier. 25 lbs so far! Your photos are spectacular and I see the water pics just getting better and better! Really nice!

  9. Amazing!!! I can sort of understand where you were in your mindset of plodding on. I just returned from 10 days with my daughter and her family in Florida. The first four were at Disneyworld and this 67 year old had to keep up with the six of them who all run and are in great shape. Thought I would DIE the first day but each day got easier. By the fourth day, I was keeping up just fine. Maybe that's an indiction I should exercising more?! ;-) Your photos are stunning!


Please leave a comment here.
I love to hear what you think about my blog. Feel free to speak your mind. Please be honest.., but remember your manners.