I interrupt this account to tell an anecdote:
While I was waiting for the bus home on Wednesday, I met a person. She was walking down the street towards the bus stop and something about her struck me as incongruous with the surroundings...my thought was 'she looks like she's from New York not Portland'. She had skinny jeans, a sharp jacket and high heeled boots - the first person I'd seen in high heels in 3 days.
She sat down next to me and asked how long I'd been waiting, and we struck up a conversation. It turned out I was almost right on the money. She was from Portland originally but had been living in New York for 10 years as a stand up comedienne. She actually lives in Park Slope, a Brooklyn nabe very close to my own. We chatted about the difference between NY and Portland, and about hustling theatre life and I got her name, Natasha Ellis, for Facebooking purposes. When I did connect online with her it turned out we have a friend in common.
The purpose of this anecdote was merely to illustrate the cliche 'small world!'
And to reinforce my belief in serendipity.
And now Thursday. Thursday was preeeetttty special.
So when I was initially messaging hosts on Couchsurfing, I didn't get many responses since I was going in so last minute. But on Tuesday I had a message from a guy called Ross who apologised for not being able to host me but was available to show me around if I should desire. I expressed to him my wish to get to a beach, a river, a mountain, something. We made plans to meet on Thursday and oh boy, did he hook me up.
Got up, took shower, greeted a couple of people, trekked out. Here's the side of Justin's house and a painting on the road on the nearest corner.
Walked towards the bus stop, went to eat a crepe, then got a message that Ross would pick me up. So instead of waiting for bus I sat on a chair outside a bakery and read...what was I reading? I think it was Love in the Time of Cholera. But I might be wrong. As I sat there I enjoyed sights like
This very snazzy car in front of a pretty beat up car
THIS definition of Gnarly: across the street from my chair there was a knife making workshop. The door was open so I could watch a guy in there working.
Hey, guy who is making knives, working metal, in a gazillion degree heat, with a ponytail, WITH YOUR BARE HANDS
BARE HANDS BARE HANDS
and enjoy the chalk drawings behind him
Shortly after I creeped on this guy and took these pictures, a red jeep pulled up, and Ross appeared.
While I'm normally socially inept and terrible at meeting new people especially my peers (better with older people I think) this was already a situation where it was kind of all or nothing so my lack of social skills was taking a convenient break.
Ross is a very tall Portland dweller from Tennessee who was getting his Masters in renewable energy engineering. He brought Vietnamese chicken and rice, and
THAT is a bucket of doughnuts. They are not fucking around in Portland. Voodoo Doughnuts is a pretty famous doughnutery and at the restock times instead of throwing out unsold doughnuts they fill buckets with 'em and sell 'em for $7 or $10 depending on bucket size. This is the $10 one. It is a bucket full of doughnuts. That doughnut on the left has bacon on it. This is definitely in my top 5 happy surprises of my entire life. I couldn't believe my eyes.
For size context, Ross is like 6'3 so look at the bucket compared to his torso.
Or my taste buds.
We set off in the red Jeep eating Vietnamese in our laps. We stopped after a few minutes in a tiny town outside the city to grab me an iced coffee. And then hit the road for real.
I don't want to write too much about these because they live vividly in my memory and by trying to recreate that verbally I think I'll damage it a bit. I have a few pictures and some location refs.
Ross was a great tour guide and insisted that I close my eyes as we approached certain things so that I would have the full impact. He was also good at encouraging me to just dive in, quite literally. As an experienced Couchsurfing host, he was knowledgeable about the places we saw and had fun facts and good ideas on the best way to experience each place.
First stop Columbia River Gorge
Second stop Multnomah Falls. It reminded me of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. So perfect, so magical and beautiful. I heard a crazy story about a wedding that took place on the bridge and a huge rock broke away from the top of the falls, causing a strong enough wave to knock the wedding party off the bridge. Terrible terrible disaster though noone was critically injured.
View from the bridge looking down on the bottom half of the falls.
Then the water gets abruptly deep. At that point we stashed our tshirts and my phone behind a high rock. You have to wade up to your chest or swim through the deep part then it's briefly shallow again and then you make it to the falls. This waterfall was a bit shorter than the previous one and was pounding and thrashing a little more. There is a big, deep pool at the bottom with a rock to the left pretty low in the water. There was a gnarly 7 year old little blonde girl swimming across the pool and on to the rock to jump off, so I did exactly the same. It was very deep so I went for two huge jumps and felt completely exhilarated beyond anything in recent memory.
The second time I jumped, I surfaced to find a wet doggy face an inch from my own - a family who were also enjoying the river and the falls had brought their amazing log and rock climbing dog with them and the dog had taken it upon herself to 'rescue' me when I leapt to what I suppose she thought was my doom. So fantastic to break the surface of icy clear water to a fantastic dog paddling frantically at me.
On the way over the log jam I was a little nervous - it was slippery and tricky and its so many many years since I did anything that agile. On the way back I practically ran over the whole thing without a thought.
Where the water got deep
I don't have pictures of the third stop. I have a picture in my mind that I will keep I hope forever. It was the Eagle Creek trail ending in Punchbowl Falls.
I can't do it justice but I'll try to express a little of what I experienced - total serenity. On the walking trail high above the creek all you can hear is the faint sound of water and all you can see is the other side of the valley rising high above dense with pine trees, and a perfect sky.
At the end of the trail is Punchbowl Falls - upper and lower. I skipped across rocks, I waded into the river (more Pocahontas) and I breathed in deeply. We spent some time just chilling on a nice flat rock with some wine and cheese, enjoying the beginnings of dusk. Then after a lot of cajoling I jumped. Off a 12 foot waterfall into the depths of Eagle Creek. I jumped once, and it was freezing and freeing and whatever the thing beyond exhilarating is. I then hauled myself back up the cliff face and marvelled at what I'd just done. I'm the first to admit I'm a big wuss about way too many things so this jump was a big deal to me. I did it when I was 12 but 25? Much more to fear. But I really truly heard the words 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and so I jumped.
After enough time spent breathing in the surroundings which I could have done for days, we turned to hike back along the trail so that we could make our final stop just in time for sunset. I saw a chipmunk on the trail. I consider that a win.
After a 4th doughnut for essential sustenance, we drove to our final destination. It's called Rooster Rock, or if you want to be crude there's an alternative colloquial name, guess what it is.
After a long day of climbing, swimming, jumping, gazing, inhaling and facing fears I'll tell you the only place you want to be is somewhere completely quiet, next to a river, with a clear sunset in front of you.
Also, I saw a skunk AND a RACCOON who snuck up from the riverbank to take some of the crisps that had been spilled and left about 10 feet away from us and we watched him for about 20 minutes, they are the craziest animals they move like a cross between cats and monkeys, and when this one was snatching crisps with his little paws he was almost human in his movements. With the amazing bandit mask eye markings and stripy tail. I was enraptured. Initially he would sneak up from behind a rock, snatch a crisp then run back behind the rock and we could just hear little munching sounds in the dark. After a while he decided we were ok since we were sitting so still and he started eating them in front of us, in big handfuls. So cute and so funny and so amazing to see my first ever raccoon!
And it really helped top off my Pocahontas fantasy. As we all know her sidekick is a raccoon.
Skunk! Black blur = skunk
It's so hard to tear yourself away from such a perfectly peaceful place but as it got darker we headed back to the jeep.
On the way back to Portland we stopped off at a service station which is called...Love's. Come on. At this point you must be being ironic. No? Wow. I love you too PDX.
This is the face of elysium
This is the Jeep itself
And that's the end of pictures though not of the day. Our final act was distributing our leftover doughnuts amongst Portland's homeless population. I don't want to go into too much detail because it gets political and I want to enjoy my memories with bliss not politics. 99% of Portland's homeless are friendly, warm people who were happy to chat and delighted to have a doughnut. It was a strange and wonderful experience. As a hardened adopted New Yorker I am not used to this level of mutual smileyness in an urban environment.
That was my adventure day. Ross has my eternal thanks for being the greatest tour guide ever. I'm going to hold on to this wonderful day as long as I possibly can.