In early June, I wrote this on a calendar as a goal-setting part of the On the Move process then going on at work, bound to get those of us who would participate into better shape: Sometime after June 24, walk Larch Mountain trail to viewpoint with Lamont and Leland. After June 24 because that would be the end of On the Move as an organized process, and we were asked to set a long term goal. Little did I know that not only would my two sons accompany me, but also two dear friends visiting from California, Danielle and Meehan. There's a back story to why I picked Larch Mountain and the viewpoint and reaching them as my goal.
I had a vacation day and a Zipcar July 30, 2012, and planned to drive into the Columbia River Gorge to enjoy myself. As I drove through Troutdale on my way to the Historic Columbia River Highway, I decided to take the road to Larch Mountain to see if I could walk from the parking lot to Sherrard Point, the viewpoint at the end of that short trail. I had seen photos of the hand rail and chain link fence surrounding the area, so I felt safe as relates to my fear of heights. I jumped to the conclusion that seeing those photos meant that the trail also had a railing along it. Nope.
I posted about my efforts on September 13, 2012: Life's path, filled with ups, downs, and curves into the unknown
According to the Exif info about this photo at my Flickr account, I took it on July 30, 2012, at 3:32 p.m. PDT. Those are facts. Later on I realized it's a fact that the image is a fine metaphor for life. Life is not always a smooth direct path with its end always in sight. And along the way, one must stop and assimilate what has gone before, one must seek the best help and knowledge about how to continue, one must strive no matter the circumstances, and one must never, ever give up. And now and then, one must seek help from those in your life who love you because of who you are.
I stood here, took this photo, and thought about what I was doing on a the narrow path, paved, thankfully, but still situated on the steep side of Larch Mountain, very near the top of the 4,055 foot peak. I knew not where the bottom of those trees on the right actually touched Earth because, in my ever-present fear of heights, I could not get myself to look that direction except in a speedy straight-out glance, much less follow with my eyes a tree trunk downward, out of sight. To do so meant I just might lose control of myself for an all-important instant and go right on over the edge. The fear of heights is nothing if not irrational. My choices, turn around and walk the short distance back to the parking lot or continue down that slight slope and go around that gentle curve that went somewhere I couldn't yet see and continue on towards Sherrard Point at the top of Larch Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge. I took slow, deep breaths, softly talked to myself out loud--after all, I stood there alone so no one would overhear me dealing with my fear--and stepped forward. I didn't know what would happen next, but I had faith in myself to deal with it successfully. Faith based on my ability to face whatever life brought my way. I'd made it this far, hadn't I? Not without help over the years, of course. I could hear everyone who had ever loved me telling me, "You can do this." I kept walking.
I never followed up on that post with what happened next--I don't remember why. I do remember that when I had walked farther than photographed in this photo that I could see steps made from what looked like railroad ties going I knew not where, nor did I know how many of them existed, but I did know that there were no hand rails alongside the steps.
I sat down to get my breath on a low retaining wall made of the same ties--you can just see it on the left side of the photo--and tried to convince myself to go on, without success. I then convinced myself that I could make it back to the car in the parking lot without all of a sudden losing control of my body and going of the edge of the hand-rail-less path.
I took this photo on the way back to the car--remember this rotting tree trunk. The photo's deceptive in that it looks like I'm on an innocent, nearly level path in beautiful woods. All those trees to the left of the path have their roots way down below the level of this path. I have no estimate of how many feet below because I never looked over the edge. I concentrated in walking on the right side of the path.
I visited Vista House, Multnomah Falls and Horsetail Falls in the Gorge, then drove on home, mixed feelings running through my body. It had been a fine drive on the road to Larch Mountain, lots of beautiful trees and flowers sprinkled beside the road. I got out of that Zipcar intent on doing something I'd never even gotten close to doing before. When I had realized that there was no railing along the path, I didn't turn around and go immediately back to the car. I kept walking. So, the mixed feelings brought about by partial success stayed with me for miles and miles and through enjoying those waterfalls. Finally, I believe they steeled me to making an effort again, but next time I would make certain that my two sons went with me, walked alongside me if necessary, so that I could make it to Sherrard Point. Impressed, and surprised, by my solitary effort, they agreed to do just that. More on that in the next post.
Extra treat for you, photos of various flowers I found, either along the rode to Larch Mountain's parking lot or on the path from it to Sherrard Point.