At the start of this vacation, Ozzie told the two children that this would be their last trip together. The two children were almost full grown by now. Hannah has graduated from college with a degree in journalism. She has a job interview awaiting her when the vacation is over. Besides, she would probably be married within a year or so, and then start her own family. Will is now a senior in high school and looking at colleges here in Oregon, far far away from Ozland. Kids grow up, parents don’t.
The Columbia Gorge is undoubtedly Oregon’s best known attraction. The gorge was carved out of the volcanic rock by the Columbia River. To the north is Washington State with its many fruit orchards and vineyards. On the south side of the Columbia River, is Oregon in all its splendor. Lewis and Clark traveled down the Columbia River in 1803 laying claim for the United States to the region. The homesteaders who traveled the Oregon Trail finished their journey by climbing down the mountain paths and floating on to the Willamette Valley that begins with Oregon City and Portland.
Today one travels the gorge quickly on I-84, an hour or so gets one from Portland to Hood River at the eastern end of the gorge. A slower but better way to travel is along Historic 30. The route is slower but it takes you through the quainter small towns that symbolize Oregon.
Ozzie and the children stopped along Historic Highway 30 at Oneonta Gorge. Multnomah Falls, just to the east, gets more visitors, but Oneonta is more unique. This gorge has eye popping views of granite cliffs climbing vertically 500 feet. The gorge is no more than 50 feet wide at its widest and in spots one can look up into the blue sky and see a tall Oregon pine tree that has tumbled across the gulf of the gorge making an aerial bridge that only squirrels would dare cross. Many of these same trees did not make the span and fell to the creek below where travelers now use them to scramble on.
The trip up the gorge is not difficult, but it is challenging. And those who make the trip are rewarded by the cascading falls at the end of this gorge. The falls is not as big as Multnomah, it falls 300 feet to a small pool at its base. The hardy traveler braves the cold mist and colder water to swim against the current caused by the fall of water.
Everyone who travels up the gorge feels a sense of accomplishment. It is a character building event. The children who were awed by the uniqueness of the gorge came out of the experience with renewed confidence. At the same time they had seen a micro climate that is unique to the United States. Ferns clinging precariously to the basalt rocks, mist constantly swirling about, tiny spider webs tucked amongst the rocks trying to capture the many insects that feed off the tiny flowers in the gorge.
After the trip, Ozzie told the children that perhaps this would not be the last vacation together. The Oneonta Gorge was a religious experience, a baptism if you will, and maybe, just maybe, there is hope for more trips in the future. That would make this vacation the penultimate vacation, the one next to last. Or as I prefer to think of the word “penultimate”, the next to best, for the best is yet to be.