Secretly, everyone hopes to find themselves in an utterly hopeless situation, out in the middle of nature with no cell phone or way of contacting anyone. Food, water, and shelter would have to be sought out and all chances of survival rest on your shoulders. This is what I was attempting to explain to my fiancee on our first hike of the weekend at Horsetail Falls. Apparently this is something only I dream of, as she shot me a quick look that assured me the thought had never crossed her mind. Thinking like this has fueled every adventure I have ever found myself in, including two hikes I did this week within an hour of Portland. The trails wouldn’t leave me looking for edible plants to survive, but they would help me realize my true capacity for adventure.
My fiancee and I began heading east on the 84 into the Columbia River Gorge, a highway I’ve become familiar with since moving here from Las Vegas. Today we were going to finally brave the crowds and check out a hike by Multnomah Falls. There were cars lined along the exit, and once we finally parked, we settled on a trailhead that read Horsetail Falls, about a mile east of Multnomah Falls. We had no idea where we were going but knew we were outside and away from any worry, and we wouldn't let the trail become the first. The climb followed switchbacks through fleeting trees and downtrodden branches. The sunlight played tag with us as we careened up the trail, passing families, couples, and even a poodle who didn’t seem to mind he was just a tad out of place. Following the brief 20-minute climb, the trail came to a peak before a quick descent to an old wooden bridge. The bridge ran over a small canyon which housed a small stream I believed to be snow run off, which I would soon learn for certain.
Downstream from the bridge the canyon narrowed, and echoes of enchanted hikers could be heard from hundreds of yards away. Upstream there was a 20 foot water fall that trickled off a rock face before plunging into a pool below. It looked like a great place to go for a quick swim, and the water appeared to be deep enough to make the plummet into the pool. We worked our way across the bridge, shimmied along an edge and plopped in upstream of the waterfall. The top of the waterfall trickled down the ridge for about 10 feet before leaving the comforts of the rock and dashing straight down. In order to reach the part of the boulder that was capable to jump off of I would have to maneuver down this 10-foot section of algae covered rock. I left my camera above and made my way down slowly, eventually looking over the edge into the pool. With a semi close investigation of the water below me from 12-feet above I deemed the depth acceptable for jumping, and leapt off. Luckily it was affirmed that it was deep enough, while also confirming it was snow run off as soon as I hit the water.
My fiance eventually made her way into the pool as well, and it became our private pool and diving board, as long as we ignored the numerous people passing by from the bridge overhead. Not wanting my camera to walk off, I decided to climb my way back up to the top of the waterfall. After being reassured that people who hike generally aren't people who ever take what isn’t their's, I tried to make my way back down the waterfall. Unfortunately, this time I took the rock face for granted, allowing myself to get turned around and lose my footing at the upper reaches of the fall. Before I realized what was going on I was on my back, playing pinball down 10-feet of rock and spiraling into a part of the pool that was hidden by the mist of the fall. I popped my head out and heard my fiancee in a mini-panic, but somehow I only had my whole back and elbows scratched up after the awesome ride. As fun as it was, it wasn’t worth a second try.
Continuing on the trail, past the bridge, we begin to climb again. At the summit was a view of the whole Columbia River Gorge in all its glory. Chartreuse parasails looked for waves as speed boats whipped by. Small lakes came into view with patrons peppered along the shore under speckled umbrellas. Plateaus across the Columbia blended into the horizon as clouds floated past their peaks. Although the trails were busy, the lookout provided an opportunity to reflect and relax with just my fiance and myself. For being just forty minutes out of Portland, the hike was whimsical and simple. But my thirst for adventure reminded me of a 60-foot bridge someone at work told me about called Moulton Falls.
The next day we headed north on Interstate 5, through Battle Ground, to parking at Moulton Falls. Although I had heard about trails around the falls, what I was really excited about was a sixty foot bridge that could be scaled and jumped off. All I had was a general idea of what to look for, but my intuition, hopefully, wouldn’t steer me wrong. Once parked, the Lewis River came into view. It was slightly cloudy, but the river ran so clear that every boulder could be made out below the surface. We decided to hike up along the river, following volcanic rock along the bank with the roar of the river in our ears. As we came to a bend in the river, the bridge came into view for the first time.
Hiking up through the brush, we found a trail that would lead us to the bridge. It was an arced metal bridge, that looked at least 50-years-old. I expected to see people jumping from the bridge, but we were the only ones here today (although from the looks of trash along the banks, it was apparent on warm days this spot was very popular). As we walked across the bridge and looked down, the 60-feet seemed much higher. A skinny corridor of safe landing zone was in view below, but without ever seeing anyone jump from the bridge, I couldn’t be sure which side of the bridge to jump from. A sign cautioned no jumping from the bridge and another hiker felt the need to mutter they give citations for jumping off. But even with everything pointing to not jumping, I would still have to jump, my pride and sense of adventure at stake. But something happened.
Sometimes we're defined by moments of bravery. Sometimes by moments of cowardice. But sometimes it’s important to realize that bravery and idiocy do not go hand in hand. Neither do cowardice and intelligence. I couldn’t jump. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to get a ticket, it was because I didn’t want to shatter my foot on a protruding boulder. Rather my fiance and I decided to gather the trash strewn along the trail. Although jumping off the bridge would have been more adventurous, I couldn’t have helped anybody if I hurt myself. I’ll leave that adventure for someone else, and continue to just hope to get lost in the woods, were I can truly prove my worth.