I think a lot of us have been thinking lately about the Columbia River Gorge. Just a few weeks ago, ash from the Eagle Creek Fire in the gorge blanketed the city. That fire affected many people here, including me.
The Columbia River Gorge Is In Our Souls
Although the Columbia River Gorge is not in Portland, many of us feel like it’s Portland’s backyard. In fact, the gorge is part of the city’s soul. I know it’s part of my soul. When I first moved to Portland, I couldn’t believe such a beautiful place was just a short distance away. The adventurous cyclist could even ride there from the city. I took advantage.
Not long after I moved here, I took a training ride to Multnomah Falls and back. Immediately, I realized visiting the gorge by bike spoke to my soul. I felt part of the glorious forest. The falls quenched my thirsty nerves. I was riding into a peaceful place in nature and into myself.
I have since visited the area many times, often by bike, but also to hike. When I learned about the Eagle Creek Fire in early September, my heart broke. First came the stench of the smoke. Then, the ashes fell and silenced the city. I didn’t cry alone because I wasn’t the only one affected by the fire.
For many of us in Portland , the gorge is part of us. We identify with it personally, and it partly identifies who we are as a city. We collectively mourned the loss and destruction the fire was causing. Everyone was talking about it, looking for support as we grieved.
I know the forest will survive. The waters will flow again down Multnomah Falls. Yet, I can’t help but feel something is lost. The fire changed the Columbia River Gorge in ways we cannot yet imagine. While its beauty will remain, I am a little nervous to visit the area again. You see, I fear it won’t be the same old friend I’ve grown to love.
Now, visiting the gorge will be like a new adventure and a new discovery. I wonder how the forest will recover and how long it will take. I know I will still love the gorge as its recovery unfolds, but the way it was will always echo in my soul.
I’ve collected some of my photos of The Columbia River Gorge over the years over in the media gallery. Take a look.