Driving east on I-84, there is this gradual thinning of the clouds that can easily slip past perception, especially when music or conversation has your mind elsewhere. Then suddenly you realize Portland's soft, gray cocoon is no more; blue sky and sun are before you, wide-open and promising.
We crossed the river at Hood River paying our 75-cent toll to drive over the bridge to Bingen -- a structure that may inspire confidence from afar, but is more dubious with the sound of heavy automobiles rumbling across its narrow metal deck. In those moments high above the swollen Columbia River, I have irrational visions of this bridge having been built with an erector set.
But we're across in no time, driving onto Catherine Creek, which I find to be a very appealing name for a state park. Its sweetness seems to predict the mix of landscapes -- meadows dotted with wildflowers; small ponds reflecting the perfect clarity of the sky; shrubs sheltering expressive songbirds; fir trees and shady oaks casting long shadows; meandering, downward spiraling paths with punctuated viewpoints of the big river; unrelenting wind, except when tucking oneself alongside a large boulder.
A group of gray-haired wildflower-enthusiasts were also on the trail that morning, their jacket hoods synched tight and almost every pair of gloved hands clutched a flower guidebook. They pressed on in earnest, despite the gusts. We passed three particularly charming ladies--diminutive in size, huddled together like sister hens; girllike in their vulnerability, yet with wisdom deeply present in their faces. If I was more of an extrovert, I would have asked them about all these wildflowers that brought them to Catherine Creek.
Not surprising in the least, I particular enjoyed looking at a pile of broken bottle and ceramic pieces collected at the trailhead -- the scoop of an old spoon, the creamy curve of a mug handle, a blue wedge of this and a purple-tinged fragment of that. The unknown stories of such pretty detritus could keep my imagination active for hours ... if it wasn't pulled on to other sights and sounds ahead.
Oh, the warmth of a parked car was a welcome haven after our faces and fingertips had been steadily nipped at by the wind. A bit further along the highway, we stopped to see some Native American petroglyphs, rescued before the Columbia River was dammed and collected together at this viewing site. There were some rather spunky, humorous ones. I was partial to this owl in particular:
Onward we drove. I enjoyed being a passenger on a journey where I did not know the destinations ahead of us. The next stop was unexpected and a wonderful surprise for art-inspired me. More on that to come later this week....