Angel’s Rest : A Carrying

” Some things cannot be fixed,
   they can only be carried. “
   -Megan Devine

(I posted this quote on my Facebook page yesterday as I was heading out the door for my day. It was prescient in that I was more than halfway through listening to Truth & Beauty and as I drove, the story finished in a way that gave these words a surprising relevance. Truth & Beauty is a story of life and death. We sit with Ann Patchett on the precipice between the two as she shares intimately of her friendship with Lucy Grealy)

It’s a classic battle for me this morning. I’m warm in bed but my body needs to move. I keep drifting in and out of dream but once I’ve awakened for even for a few moments, an awareness of my stiff muscles pushes me out of bed and toward the tub. 

I had a wonderful day on my own yesterday. If there was anything to point to for all my stiffness today it was the 7 plus hours driving, not the 6 hours hiking. And I would say it’s not even the length of the drive so much as the nature of it. Are people more aggressive on the road these days or is it just me ? I’m tense the entire time. 

My destination on this morning is Angel’s Rest on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a short, steep hike with a story. Maybe a lot of stories. Angel’s Rest is an exposed bluff on the western side of the Columbia River Gorge. It appears as a long, rocky spine composed of million year old Larch Mountain andesite lava flow. There is a feeling of entering sacred space as you climb. 

The hike itself is relatively short, but steep. I hear woodpeckers and sparrows and there are flowers beginning to bloom. As I make my way through beautiful forest, the trail breaks out into a place of stunning renewal. Parts of this trail were ravaged by the Eagle Creek fire in September of 2017. A fire recklessly set by a 15 year old boy during a burn ban, it devastated thousands of acres throughout the gorge. 

I walk through charred remains with blackened snags and now bare deciduous trees. A haunting pilgrimage to this sacred, natural temple. Walking beneath basalt cliffs it is apparent that the forest has moved on. I see Western Tanagers (a first for me ) and striking blue jays. Seeing their brilliant colors against the charred black snags is stunning. 

This is not a thing to be fixed.
It is only to be carried. 

The hike is 2.4 miles to the top. The gain to this point is around 1500 feet and portions of this trail are rocky, ankle-twisters. (You can extend this hike to Devils Rest which nearly doubles your distance and elevation. I’ll be back. After all, who doesn’t want to see Lucifer Falls ?) The wind howls as you climb this western slope. There were times at the top where the gusts feel like they could sweep you right off your feet. I found a flat rock just down from the top to take in the views. 

Next stop was lunch at Horse Thief Lake State Park. There is a history here too. For centuries this site was the heart of a Native American village. The basalt cliffs were formed from lava flows before the ice-age floods. There is another full day or more to really dig into the history here. I sat in the quiet and counted the bench layers on the cliffs. I’ll be back. 

As I left, I came upon a fenced off area that looked like a small cemetery. I got out to explore the perimeter but the stones were facing away from me. Later, I googled cemeteries in the area and I now know what my next adventure will be. There are dozens of small cemeteries here and each one full of stories. Oh yes, I’ll be back for sure. 

It was early afternoon and I pondered another hike before my long trek home. I tried the small parking area at Lyle Cherry Orchard but the lot was full. I pushed on and made a bargain with myself that if there was an spot open at Coyote Wall I would hike part of the Labyrinth Trail. 

Bingo. One spot left in the parking area. 

Early afternoon brought the heat. I grabbed water and my hat along with my pack and headed out. The trail takes you along the bottom of towering walls of basalt cliff. If you stay on this abandoned section of the old Highway 8, past the obvious trailhead, you come to the cut-off for the Labyrinth Trail. You’ll have some solitude from here even on a busy, sunny day. 

My phone battery petered out at about 15 minutes in. ( I’ve used it for my photos all day and forget to charge it between stops. My camera should be back in my hands TODAY! ) This trail weaves through a maze of basalt outcroppings up to Accordian Rock, through oak and ponderosa, over the Labyrinth Creek and back down along the rim of Coyote Wall (known as the Bingen Anticline to geologists). 

I’m only a hour in when I hear a rattle. 

I never see a snake, and truth be told I’ve never heard a rattler, but I’m spooked all the same. I turn around slowly and head back to the car. I make a note that I need a snake bite kit in my pack and also note that I probably shouldn’t venture far with a dead battery. I’ll be back for this one, too. There have been 70 species noted blooming in this area and I believe the peak is still ahead. 

I can’t help but think that every time I cross something off my list I add five more. Next time, I’ll spare myself the ridiculously long drive. Maybe a stop at an old favorite spot in Centralia. I’ve been wondering about the dogwood and the Western Tanagers, the Grosbeaks and the garden. And I miss my friends, too. And sharing meals and stories.

May everything continue to unfold as it will in this post-apocolyptic world.

Thanks for coming along. 
I love that you’re here. 

Here’s a link to my last Labyrinth Trail hike, March of last year.

13 Comments on “Angel’s Rest : A Carrying

  1. Thanks, Gretchen. This was an absolutely breathtaking hike.

  2. Wondrous! Thank you again for sharing your retirement adventures and wisdom with all of us.

  3. And the friends you missed seeing yesterday also went to Horse Thief State Park today! We walked the loop at the Tom McCall area yesterday and we did see a rattle snake. A photograph was taken . . . .

    • Whaaaaat ?? I can’t wait to see that ! They scare the beejeezus outta me ! Sorry I missed you two. Hope you had a great time down there. So gorgeous !

  4. I’ve been hesitant to hit Angel’s Rest (much closer to me here in Portland than your other adventures!) since the fire, so I am encouraged to go again. The Gorge is making a bit of a comeback when you look at the ground, but the long view of all the brown/gray trees is still sobering.
    Have you been to the Memaloose/Tom McCall area for the wildflowers? So striking when in bloom. And Labyrinth – on my list. So thanks for all the reminders! Lovely pics.

    • One of the biggest reasons I chose that long drive again was to see the area. I agree, it is sobering, but it is shot through with pure optimism to see it springing back to life. I’ll be back for a longer hike. I have family living near Portland and a favorite retreat in Centralia so I can save myself the drive next time. Thanks for writing !

      • I drove a non-hiking (!) brother out the Gorge way on Tuesday (maybe the same day as you) to Multnomah Falls. It was frustrating not to get further into the forest, but the long views from there and Vista House were stunning. Also, the Columbia water height was much higher than when I was there in late fall, so that was fun to see.

    • Oh, and I missed connecting with friends yesterday that had mentioned Memaloose. I hope to be back before the flowers are done.

  5. The Angel’s Rest hike is lovely. I did the Angels’ Rest – Devil’s Rest loop a few years ago when the trail was covered in snow and it was magical.

    • That sounds gorgeous ! I’m thinking I’ll be back to do the lollipop loop to Devil’s Rest in a few weeks. I’ll bet sunrise is pretty beautiful there too ! Thanks for writing !

  6. Your encouragement is an always valued asset out here. Yes, there are many adventures ahead. Even though the Redwoods are postponed until Fall, I have a growing list. My drive through the Gorge was stunning ! Thanks so much for sharing the journey.

  7. Altho the drive was arduous, your day sounds like a cornucopia of advancing adventures, Bon! You epitomize my all-time-favorite LIG saying: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” YOU are always on the right track…*

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