The unseen force has left us with time to stare,
past geographic boundaries come to stay.
Time to reflect, gather that Nature can dare
to make mankind submissive, not go astray…
When in cul-de-sac, they know not what to do,
no healers or hakims, their fears can allay!
Until the period of fear and anxiety is around
Let us safely distance ourselves with utmost piety
Soon, the right time will arise for the spree
Virtual sightseeing is not the way-
Be patient, then Go and See
Summers and long weekends in the USA is synonymous with travel. It is a pleasant sight watching families (that includes their canines) in an assortment of vehicles, carrying canoes, paddle boats, camping tents, barbecue grills, bicycles and foodstuffs and driving off to the waterfronts and other open spaces to get that dose of Vitamin D and some tan. With an appreciative eye, I have watched men, women and children dexterously offloading from and uploading the contents atop their vehicles. When in America, do as the Americans do! The travel bug hits most migrants of this country; holidaying in the US in the Summer of 2019 (the pre-corona period), we had the most memorable ‘getaway of the year.’ Our three-day adventure at the ‘City of Roses’ aka Portland, the largest city in Oregon was exhilarating in every way, leaving us with thoughts of an encore to God’s own city!
The three-hour drive at daybreak with stopover for coffee and refreshments on the near-straight breath taking freeways, engulfed by conifers and various other species proved to be an invigorating start to the magnificent sojourn. The Airbnb accommodation with the basic comforts made for comfortable stay with utmost privacy; the cottage located amidst sylvan surroundings had a tall tree in the front with three empty nests, its occupants had already migrated to the South.
After unpacking, we headed off to the famed ‘Bollywood Theater’ restaurant, where I observed that there can be harmony in disharmony; as someone had written - "pure Portland upscale street food amid mismatched tables, variegated artisanal knickknackery and deeply ironized shrines…” We devoured with delight the vegetarian Indian food that was served well in a seemingly different ambience.
Following lunch, we headed off to the Women’s forum State scenic view point also known informally as the Chanticleer Point; we had awesome views of the Columbia River Gorge and the Vista Observatory at the Crown Point, which overlooks the Rooster Rock State Park. An interesting bit of news is that the Portland Women’s Forum had been active in the Columbia River Gorge since 1946. Recognizing the importance of the viewpoint, the founding members ensured that it be saved from private development; eventually gifted the property to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. (May their tribe increase!) A panoramic view of the Columbia River is mind-boggling.
Driving along the freeway atop the gorge, one witnesses stunning landscapes with waterfalls, notable among them the Multnomah falls and the Horsetail falls. The throng of tourists to this roaring, awe-inspiring cascade of water requires mention, as the parking spaces were bursting beyond the seams, there was just no space to park; leaving them at far off destinations, multitudes of people walked back to have a glimpse of the magnificent waterfall, which has an interesting native folklore attached to it. For a closer view of the misty water, a climb up to the Benson Bridge was necessary, which we had to skip due to swelling crowds overhead.
The Bridge of the Gods (modern bridge) is a ‘steel truss cantilever bridge’ spanning the Columbia River between Oregon’s Cascade locks and Washington. A natural dam created during the ‘Bonnevile Slide’ eons ago was breached and washed away sometime by the Columbia River, however, the legend of the Native Americans remains, so does the name.
The next halt was at Rooster Rock State Park. A special feature of this park is the column of basalt that forms a natural obelisk on the southern side of the Columbia River Gorge, in the lee of Crown Point. The spectacular sunset that we witnessed from the rock overlooking the waters is inexplicable in words. For several minutes, the pathway across the illuminated waters was open towards the bright skies, leaving us gaping in utter humility and heavenly bliss even as the cameras clicked non-stop to capture the extravaganza in lens. As the effulgent tangerine ball descended, the entire horizon was aflame in crimson, orange, red and other variegated hues. What magnificent sunsets Lewis and Clark, the first explorers of the monolith would have witnessed!
The itinerary for the second day was Mt. Hood national forest, about sixty miles to the east of Portland. Extending from the Columbia River Gorge, the whole region is picture-postcard perfect with lakes, streams, campgrounds, alpine views and innumerable scenic points. Lake Trillium, in one of the foregrounds, about eight miles south-southwest of Mt. Hood has been formed by a dam at the headwaters of Mud Creek, Salmon River’s tributary. There were hundreds of multi-ethnic people canoeing, photographing, ‘selfie-ing,’ partying and enjoying the warm sunshine on the waters even as the dense summer clouds teasingly camouflaged the lofty glaciated peak.
In addition to gaining the reputation of Oregon’s highest mountain, Mount Hood is among the loftiest in the Cascade range; the Cascades extend from Southern British Columbia to Northern California passing through Oregon and Washington. It is also a potentially active strato-volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc. It is a sought-after destination for mountaineers. Hiking and camping is extremely popular from July until autumn.
Summers usually witness brightly lit days to entice hikers and campers from all over. Other recreational activities include fishing, hunting, horseback riding, mountain biking, berry-picking and mushroom collecting. The berry-plucking season was over when we visited. Favourite haunt of the locals in the winter months are the skiing destinations. Winter months can be most depressing, the local populace believe in taking things head on, that is, brave the winter with winter activities!
Bridge of the Gods. Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi
Among several man-made recreational spots amidst this towering mountain, the Timberline Lodge was built and furnished by local artisans during the Great Depression and was dedicated to the people in 1937 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Apart from being filmed in Hollywood movies, this place attracts tourists from all over. Other recreational sites include the Lost Lake, Burnt Lake, Timothy Lake and Rock Creek Reservoir. There are nameless other spots where one can enjoy the scenic beauty of the hills, the waterfalls, the alpine regions, remain immersed in the kaleidoscopic spectacle for hours.
The last halt of our holiday was the Portland Japanese Garden, located within the Washington Park ( with its famed Rose Garden) in the West hills of Portland. The Japanese Garden has several garden spaces; while the Natural Garden had ponds, waterfalls and streams, the Sand and Stone Garden had tranquil rake patterns on weathered stones, offering the visitor the freedom of thought and exploration, without overpowering them. No Japanese garden is complete without Bonsais and koi fishes. We did not get to witness the customary tea ceremony, although, we could feel a sense of serenity while walking through the ecological settings, subtly complemented by man-made stone lanterns, water basins, pagodas, arbors and bridges.
Crown Point Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi
Reflecting on the magnificent trip as we were driving homeward, I wonderedwho the happiest people are – those who live around water and natural surroundings with ample green spaces, or those who own the world of material comforts and stay confined with gadgets within ivory towers …..