Back in University, there was a group of my friends who would take annual trips out to Oregon to ski on Mt. Hood, and to climb at Smith Rock. They called it something along the lines of “Big Sky adventure”… which I never quite understood. They showed some pretty photos, and shared some awesome photos, but I never really understood what they meant by “Big Sky” until I first moved out to Hood River.
Even here in Wilsonville, which is basically a paragon of suburbia, the sky never ceases to amaze me…
Portland doesn’t really see much winter. Sure, there’s a dusting of snow once or twice. Every few years a bit of accumulation, maybe. But nothing that sticks around for very long, and temperatures almost never get below freezing. Wilsonville’s a bit further South, and farther from the river, so we see even less out here.
Less doesn’t mean none, though.
This time, we got ice. Not a little ice either, but quite a lot of ice. Tree-snapping, power-line breaking, road closing and car enshrouding ice. Multiple inches thick, solid accumulating ice.
It was quite a surprise, actually. I’ve gotten so used to the regular weather of Oregon (sun in the summer, rain in the winter) that I don’t really even look at the weather reports. If I bike in the summer, I don’t bring rain gear. If I bike in the winter, I wear the rain gear regardless. It’s simple and predictable.
When I heard trees starting to shatter on Thursday night… well, that’s not quite what I expected to hear on Thursday night.
When I got going in the morning, the first order of business was to sneak outside and assess the damage… mostly because I’m understandably paranoid about my freshly-repaired convertible… since everyone knows that Mustangs, while clearly the coolest thing on the road, aren’t particularly resilient to falling trees. You know, unarmored canvas tops and all.
Thankfully, while quite a few limbs had fallen nearby (or slid into the car, in some cases) no real damage was to be found. The real issue was the sidewalks – with so many trees and limbs down, most of the roads and sidewalks around my place were impassable.
The roads were out of my reach – the trees fallen across the roads were huge, and fell in ways that weren’t safe for me to try and remove without power tools and far more experience than I have.
The sidewalks, however… those were small enough branches that my axe and I could do some solid work. A quick breakfast was had, and then branches were hacked apart by the energized Ben. Partially energized by the breakfast, but mostly energized by finally having a chance to swing an axe for a good cause!
With all of that completed, I put all the tools away and set out for a bit of a winter wonderland walk.
With rain gear secured, and a helmet on my head to protect against the constant icefall from the trees, I headed out into the great Wilsonville arctic wilderness! My first stop was exploring the nearby park, though on the way I ran into a few other adventurous souls exploring around, and we even grouped up to pull a few of the larger branches out of the streets and off of the sidewalks… but overall, I saw almost no one on my wanderings – the park was beautifully quiet, though the ever present sound of icefall and snapping tree limbs did keep me pretty well focused on the present.
It was really nice, honestly, and quite helpful for keeping a present mind. Which makes sense, since… you know… falling tree limbs and such.
I wandered, explored, enjoyed taking photos, and greatly appreciated the chance to feel the cold. It’s been ages since it’s really felt like winter…
In Oregon, winter almost always stays in its little box up in the mountains, which can be nice when you’re commuting, but it definitely leaves me feeling a little sad and stuck. I’ve missed waking up to a snowstorm, to snow days, and to forging around town through the cold on a completely unnecessary quest to get some silly thing to cook for dinner. It’s not about the destination, but it’s about forging out into the cold, and feeling like an intrepid explorer!
Thanks to this unexpected ice storm, I got to relive a bit of that adventure – and even better, it was all melted away by the time I had to get in the car and drive to work on Monday morning.
I guess there can be some advantages to winter staying in its corner, after all.
Sometimes, I just need to get out of the house… Usually, I’ll head toward the snow and the cold, but thanks to a whole issue with the Mustang being in the shop for repairs, I wasn’t quite feeling confident enough to brave the snow and ice. As strange as it may sound to some, I trust the rear-wheel drive Mustang in the snow implicitly… partially because I’m used to driving it in Bostonian winters, and partially because it has all my emergency gear in the trunk – chains, self-jumpers, extra food, that sort of thing.
Without that safety net, I didn’t feel up to an artic adventure.
Instead, the coast called out to me. Clean, cool air, salt spray, sunsets, clouds, rain and wind.
The drive out was long… and frankly, pretty boring. The little EcoBoost that the shop had given me did fine, but the drive out to the coast has few views aside from some interesting forest scenes. Thankfully the drive went by fairly quickly with a liberal application of loud singalong music, and soon enough I was scrambling down the muddle slope toward the sea.
I’d never been to Ecola point, and it was actually my second choice for a destination – I was originally targetting Indian Beach, but unfortunately the recent wind storms (I think?) had closed the parking lot off… Or COVID restrictions had closed that parking lot? Or… possibly it’s seasonal?
Meh, doesn’t matter in the end. These days, there’s a thousand and one reasons a place may be closed. After parking, my only concern became how to best descend the slope; soon enough I was scrambling down the muddy trail, hand-over-hand down a climbing rope toward the rocky shore. It was amazing – the views were second to none, and the descent itself was worth the entire drive out there.
There was a trail, of course, but I use the term “trail” very loosely in this regard – it was more of a series of braided pathways leading in the same general direction, with a few trail markers strewn liberally about… possibly by rangers, but also possibly by the sea breeze. I… honestly couldn’t quite tell if they were intentionally place, or just detritus blown in on a storm.
The rope helped things, giving me a singular descent point (and peace of mind that, yes, this was an actual trail) to trend toward, and one place to keep an eye on as the tide came in.
I didn’t go too far offshore on the rocks, but I did spend quite a while sitting on the beach. I read, I watched the sun fly toward the horizon, and I just enjoyed the misty rain and the sound of the surf. It’s amazing and beautifully calming, and I was taken a little aback when I realized just how late in the day it had gotten.