let's be adventurers

We can all agree that this whole waiting-a-week-to-post-about-the-previous-weekend thing is part of my charm, can't we?

Can we at least pretend and you're all smiling and nodding and making me feel better about my poor post scheduling skills?

Let's at least make believe that punctuality is, at the very least, not in my bottom three worst attributes (if you've ever been wrapped in email and/or Facebook message correspondence with me you're shaking your head right now and reaching for another swig of whatever beverage happens to be closest).

Moving on...

Where I'm attempting to steer this back to is a now long-gone Saturday through Monday.

Or, as it will be affectionately known from here on out:

The Weekend That Almost Wasn't

So at some point in the last last weekend, (as opposed to this current weekend where I find myself in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the Firestineiest wedding of them all) (you'll hear all about it at some point within a fortnight if you're lucky) Bryan and I started throwing around the idea of going camping the following weekend because a) it was supposed to be gorgeous and b) I had two consecutive days off. Since we seem to be pretty good at scheming and plotting capers, a plan began to come together pretty quickly and we settled on the idea that camping needed to happen.

The plan was that he and some friends would head out there Saturday morning, hike all day, then I'd meet them all out by the river for bonfires, beers and lots of food. 

All day Saturday at work I was on the edge of my seat. It was stunning outside and the mountains were just beckoning me, taunting me even. I was also getting text messages and attempted FaceTime calls from Bryan because I was "missing out on the greatest FaceTime EVER" (they were at Table Rock which I've never been to and am dying to hike). 

So there I was all day, ready to leave as soon as we closed up, car packed and ready, and I get the doomsday text just as I'm ready to head out.

Camping wasn't going to happen. 

For a myriad of reasons, chief among them that it was still getting down to freezing temperatures at night and that somehow, Clifford the Big Red Dodge had come to be broken. Again. Because no toy is Bryan-proof. 

I don't have to tell you how disappointed I was. All week I'd been excited about this and it was the first time in a long time I felt completely and truly disappointed. Like finding out your favorite ride at Disneyland is closed for maintenance kind of deal here.

It turned out well enough though because it afforded me the chance to hang out with some folks after work which actually turned out to be a blast (momentary shout out to my coworkers - y'all make work so much fun, I swear).

It also lent enough time for a text to come through with the idea that we should go hiking the following day instead and head up through Forest Park to Pittock Mansion and watch the sunrise or sunset, whichever seemed more appealing. 

Boy, he knows his audience. 

With that loose plan in mind he headed down from the mountains to cause some trouble with his friends back in town and I settled on a nice night in after all. Actually I made a quick stop at REI to finally invest in some actual hiking boots because, as he had warned (and because it's still March), the trails were still pretty muddy and it was sounding like my usual hiking attire of tennis shoes probably wouldn't end well for me. 

So I swallowed the cost of said shoes (worth the investment) and headed home for the night, excited for the next two days off and curious to see how things would eventually play out. 

As it turned out, after dinner with a buddy, B swung by my place and crashed there for the night so we could, theoretically, get an early start the next morning being that my apartment is so much closer to Forest Park.

What actually happened was he decided the giant sheepskin rug on my floor was pretty comfortable (I blame it on his years of sleeping in questionable places the army decided were fit for human slumber) and I realized that buying the 3" foam mattress topper for my bed was at once the best and worst decision ever... Neither of us woke up fully until about 10:30. 

Sunday. The day of rest. And how.

Plans once again got reshuffled. We ended up scrapping the hike all together and felt food was now necessary as it was closing in on noon and he remembered various games were on so we settled on Buffalo Wild Wings (because sometimes that just sounds too. dang. good) and split some soft pretzels and had lunch. 

At this point he was getting harassed because he'd borrowed his mom's truck and she needed it back and rather than edge closer and closer to feeling like a high schooler who just got his license and swiped his parent's car, we scrapped the day for the time being and went our separate ways: him to fix his truck, me to find an adventure. 

I settled on driving up through the Columbia River Gorge which is always spectacular but seldom as much fun alone as it is with someone whose company you truly enjoy. Still, while parking at the falls I had wanted to crawl around in was just not happening, I found a quick hike at a new-to-me waterfall and labeled the day a success.

Basically, any day you find yourself rolling through a magnificent natural wonder with the windows down and the music loud you can call a win among wins.  

Oh my god, am I still talking? I'm sorry, this is getting long-winded fast.

So at some point in my trek out there Bryan texted me again with an idea...

Hiking tomorrow?

I couldn't say no. Monday was supposed to be the best day all week.

So boom. New plan.

I picked him up at 10am the next day, we loaded two of the three dogs into the backseat (poor little Gypsy, she's just a little too rotund to keep up on a true hike) and dove into the Gorge.

Have I forgotten to mention up to this point that it was Spring Break here in Oregon? Because that would certainly explain the ridiculous amount of people out on a Monday. But no matter.

We stopped at Multnomah Falls because it's a classic and no matter how many times I hike to the top of that 600 foot waterfall I never cease to be amazed.

(I also like it because they have an actual bathroom, very important as girls do not have the same luxury boys do out on the trails)

That plan however was quickly halted due to the tiny, small, fairly insignificant detail that a rockslide earlier in the year had take out a huge chunk of the old stone bridge that leads you over the lower falls and onto the start of the actual trail.

Like I said... Minor detail.

So we packed two slightly annoyed and ready to be out of the car dogs back up (after they gobbled up a least half a dozen compliments on what gorgeous pits they are) and went to look for another spot. 

In our venturing we ended up at the Bridge of the Gods (I have no idea how, I wasn't driving) which, while not where we intended to be exactly, worked out well because we found a trail head for the Pacific Crest Trail which Bryan is going to hike this summer so that worked out well.

Eventually we found ourselves back on the old historic highway and decided on a new to both of us waterfall that wasn't too crowded. 

Wahclella Falls.

Sure, we were excited to get out and get to it, but it seemed Whiskey was even more rarin' to go... He launched out of the car and jumped directly into the cab of the truck parked a couple spaces down. Now don't get me wrong, he's a complete lover of a dog, but you can imagine how freaked out those poor people were when a full grown pit bull hops into their laps uninvited. 

He gave them a few kisses before hearing Bryan's not-so-amused voice and hightailed it back to us.

Meanwhile, after experiencing the most disgusting porta-potty of my life (can't emphasize enough how annoying it is to be a girl when you're trying to stay hydrated on the trail) we started off down the trail. I had no idea what to expect. It was a good mile or so to hike into it along a spectacular little river and for once I wasn't the only one stopping to take pictures every 14 seconds.

Sidenote: New Olympic sport idea… DSLR-pitbull juggling. I'm ready to go pro but I'll retain my amateur status long enough to nab the gold. Catch ya in 2016!

Anyway, after navigating the trail back though the woods we finally started to hear it - that thunderous wall of water getting closer and closer. And… Well… Hell…

There was no going back. I was sold. Gone forever. In love with it. 

It looks like a dream, that place. The light was so far beyond heavenly it may well have been my imagination. And the best part was that even with the dogs we could (somewhat) easily crawl down over the rocks and fallen logs to get right up to the foot of the falls (and basically get baptized in the mist). Bryan and Whiskey went down first while I hung back with our gear and Roxy (who reeaally wasn't into the whole wall of water gushing directly at her thing) and I was basically dying over how perfect a picture it was. I mean really, it was like a game of "how many of Lairen's favorite things can you get in one shot?" and Oregon was winning the day

Once the boys climbed back up I handed off my phone and the now shivering Roxanne and dove down the rocks. 

Whiskey came too.

For an old man (he's nine) that boy is graceful as a gazelle and by every account, far more sure-footed than I am (I'm pretty sure Bryan thought I was exaggerating my now infamous crab-crawl when I start climbing around a waterfall… Oh, friend, you  have much to learn about me). 

If I could have spent the whole day right there, I don't think I'd have minded too much. One of the biggest reasons I keep going back to the Columbia River Gorge is that I just never get over how much there is to marvel at. I love going there and feeling how wonderfully small I am in an incredible and awesome world. 

Of course, there was more adventuring ahead of us and we followed the trail as it looped back around - stopping so the dogs could splash around in the water a little (Whiskey is a goofy little thing and will not only fetch a stick if you throw it in the water, but will actually DIVE for it… As I saw first hand when some jerk ::cough… Bryan… cough:: threw a heavy stick into the freezing cold river) - and piled back in the car to find another trail.

What amazes me is that Bryan has spent he majority of his life in this part of the state and still, there is so much of this corner of the world he's never seen! 

Oneonta Gorge! Ponytail Falls! Triple Falls!

So naturally, I proceeded to take him to all of these favorite spots of mine.

We parked one last time between Oneonta and Horsetail Falls, starting at Oneonta. This is the little gorge that houses a rather impressive natural jungle gym with it's token log jam, but this time - after the gnarly winter we had - there was a fresh slide to navigate. The smell of wet pine and fresh earth was intoxicating - can I bottle that? Maybe Tokyo Milk can get on that or something.

Anyway, the one hitch in the Oneonta giddy up is that the second you descend into it the temperature drops dramatically. Almost like you're in a gorge or something. Now understand, this isn't always a concern. A few years back I hiked back through the damn thing, wading through waist-deep water and crawling over the rocks and fallen logs in March, after one of the coldest, snowiest winters Oregon had had in decades, and did so in a bikini and flip flops (not one of my brightest life choices, I grant you that, but those are the kind of decisions you make when you're 22). But now in my wiser late-twenties, I decided to skip the hypothermia and go no deeper than my waterproof hiking boots. 

The boy on the other hand opted to do the exact opposite and before I knew it he was handing me his shoes as he waded into the water, knee-deep and from what I could tell, trying not to scream like a pretty little girl as the icy water dug into his calves. 

But he did it and only incurred minor flesh wounds (which weren't an immediate problem because he was fairly numb from the kneecaps down) so all in all, mini gorge success!

(note: the dogs were both extremely concerned with their dad out of sight but agreed to let me take some portraits of them to keep their minds off dad's adventurings)

(note also: all parties were happy to be reunited)

And then it was onto Horsetail.

Now Horsetail Falls is gorgeous, no question, but my personal favorite is Ponytail Falls. 

A short hike up a couple miles takes you up to the fantastic waterfall you actually hike behind and find yourself in a delicious little grotto that always makes me feel like a wild child seeking shelter. I swear, if I'd come here growing up I would have launched into full-blown imagination mode and decided on living like a pioneer girl caught in the mountains somewhere on the Oregon Trail. And I'd probably make an impressive pioneer girl meal out of Nutrigrain Bars and beef jerky. 

I'd had totally aced life in a covered wagon. 

Okay, where we were?

So as we passed under the falls I told Bryan that tradition stipulates that all must, upon their first trip to these here waterfalls, dunk their head under the icy stream. He agreed and promised to take to the waters on the way back down. I wasn't entirely sure I believed him as he was just starting to regain sensation in his lower extremities and I didn't think he was overly eager to chill out again. But hey, what do I know?

I won't bore you with any more details than I already have but it was a couple more miles of scenic beauty and natural wonders punctuated by compliment after compliment for the two magnificent pups leading our little parade and we were finally getting close to Triple Falls. 

We stopped to get a drink at one of the perfect mountain streams and then turned a few more corners and, boom

Now truly, I can say that I trust Bryan and his judgment more than most people I know. He is beyond brilliant, wields his strength well and has served & survived three deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows which chances to take, which to avoid, and what limits are worth pushing. 

But when he says he's going to stand on moss-covered rocks at the very edge of a waterfall? It's not him I don't trust… It's the moss-covered rocks and roaring water. So basically, in order to get the photo below I spent approximately 10 seconds actually taking the picture and 10 minutes hiking back to the vantage point from which to take said picture nervously repeating a prayer to God that I wouldn't have to watch him slip and fall to his death.

Cutting to the chase: he survived. 

And the pictures are awesome.

So okay, I've talked your ear off (written your eyes off?) here so I'll wrap it up, and appropriately so because after Bryan hiked back around to meet back up with the dogs and me we started our descent back down past the falls and back to the car.

Oh, but not before he baptized himself in Ponytail Falls…

The tradition continues!

I also want to point out here one more time how many people were falling all over Whiskey and Roxy. Most of the time, when the trails weren't too crowded, we let them off leash and they just trotted along happily beside us. Bryan is the epitome of a good pit bull owner and respects that a lot of people carry a certain concern when it comes to the breed. Neither of us agree with the bias, but understand that it's more about misconception than true discrimination so whenever the dogs, whether on leash or not, started to approach someone he was quick to offer up "they just want to be friends, they're harmless" as they wiggled up to people and doled out kisses.

What was so wonderful and heartwarming was that 99% of folks knelt right down to greet them and accept all the love they offered. And say over and over what handsome and beautiful creatures they were.

Why yes, I couldn't agree more!

So alright, 11 miles later we got back to the car, loaded the now very sleepy pups into the back and tucked in for the drive home. It was still light in the sky with a little more daylight to burn and it was just enough time to get back to his parents' house in time for dinner.

Bryan and I actually ended up taking over the whole show and he cooked up some ground venison while I chopped veggies and shredded cheese for tacos while his parents looked through our pictures and listened to every story of the day we could tell.

After a day in the mountains there was nothing more satisfying than those tacos and a tall glass of water with the company of pretty wonderful people to go along with it. 

I left that night with a smile on my face a mile wide and aching legs.

And you know what? 

That's the good stuff.

I wonder what we'll get up to next?


  1. Cheers to the adventure, the company the wonder, the beauty and Oregon!

  2. Oh my goodness, what an adventure and I loved reading this post so much and the photos...wow...breathtaking, especially that wall of water. Have a beautiful day, lovely. xoxo