So I’ve been planning to take a few days off for months now. 2015 has been an absolutely crazy year so far, and I haven’t had a proper retreat. I’ve been itching to get back out into the desert, so I decided to take a solo excursion for a few days on Oregon’s drier, less rainy side. My partner is holding the fort down back at home and making sure the garden doesn’t dry up, and for the next few days I’m free to roam!
This morning I headed out I-84; I’d never been further east than The Dalles, so this was going to be new territory for me. While I loved seeing the forests of the western part of the Cascades, I was relieved to see things shifting more toward Ponderosa pine than Douglas fir after Hood River, and in a few miles I could see the broken cliffs of basalt edging the Columbia River Gorge poking through the grasses.
I stopped briefly at Celilo Park; this is the place where Celilo Falls was flooded when the Dalles Dam was completed in 1957. The nearby village of Celilo was the oldest continuously occupied location in North America until that point, with a 10,000+ year indigenous history, but it too was lost in the floods. This tragic history was in stark contrast to the park, where dozens of (mostly white) families camped and picnicked in apparent ignorance. I took a few photos, and then left, too sad to stay any longer.
I then trekked up to Deschutes River State Park, where the Deschutes and the Columbia meet. Here was my opportunity to get some hiking in! There’s a system of trails that more or less parallels the Deschutes for several miles. I opted to start with the Upper Trail, which led me through sagebrush, wildflowers and grasses, and past the occasional willow tree. I saw several species of butterfly, scrub jays and ring-beaked gulls, and a young black-tailed deer bounded through the grass behind me.
After about a mile and a half I headed downslope to the river again, and sat in the shade to eat my lunch. I watched the gulls skim over the water, and damselflies flitting back and forth. Then I decided to head back by way of the river trail–not such a great idea, as it was heavily overgrown with hemlock and Himalayan blackberry (and the occasional poison ivy). I cut back up to the sage brush as quickly as I could, and had a mostly unremarkable hike other than a sighting of a Western rattlesnake (at a safe distance).
My hike complete, I drove on over to Pendleton past countless enormous windmills; I bid farewell to the Columbia around Hermiston. And now I sit ensconced in my hotel room, resting up and planning my adventures for tomorrow!