A couple of weeks ago, on a Wednesday, at about 4:30pm, I sat dreamily at my office desk, on the 10th floor of a large building in downtown Portland, staring out the window, trying to block the direct view of the I-5 freeway and focus on the vast expanse of trees that make up Forest Park. It was unseasonably sunny and warm for February, and all I wanted, was to be out there, not in here, locked away like a caged animal, eyes glued to the computer screen, slowly being drained of my life energy. My frustration was accentuated by the thought that my 5pm release only meant perpetrating the mundane cycle of the 9-5er, where upon leaving, I would ride home, let the dog out, change, go for my short second run of the day, be home in time to make dinner with my wife, enjoy a little conversation, a movie, or a book perhaps, before laying down and waiting for the alarm to go off so it can start all over again. The day, however, was far too beautiful for that and in the midst of wallowing in self-pity, I recalled a passage I received from a friend in a recent email looking to plan a trip for the summer...
"No matter what you're doing, or where you are in your life right now, it is crucial to be vigilant in a dedication toward the pursuit of adventure. It is immeasurably important and keeps the existential fire burning brightly. Adventure keeps you creative and alive."
My mind instantly drifted to thoughts of sweet high-alpine single track and while tearing off to the Wallowas was not really an option, the clean, aesthetic line up Hamilton Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge became an exciting possibility. I immediately called my friend Nick to gage his interest, and since the view from his desk was either his cubical wall or a five story parking garage, he took little convincing. Within a couple of hours we were en route to undertaking a much more literal interpretation of "hump day" defined by the urban dictionary as "climbing a proverbial hill to get through a tough week".
The run up Hamilton Mountain is neither long, or especially hard. It does, however, present some beautiful sections of trail that make this short lollipop loop particularly compelling.
We engage the first moderate incline at a relaxed pace, still regaling in our decision for this mid-week escapade. Our voices are soon overpowered by the roaring sound of Rodney Falls and we stop to admire The Pool of the Winds, where a turbulent pool of water swirls at the bottom of a chimney like rock formation, continually funneling the wind. Before long, we come to a fork in the trail that points to the direction of the summit, the sign indicating either the "difficult" way or "more difficult" way...we choose the latter and soon
each become absorbed in the luminous globe of reality made up by the beams of our headlamps. I focus on the rhythmic sound of my breath, tip toeing over roots and rocks, gradually making my way up the twisting spine of the mountain. At the first outcropping, we let our imagination wonder as our gaze follows the moonlit cliffs down the ridgeline into the valley. The waxing crescent is fiery red, dusting the starry sky with an eerie pink coloration, a sensuous spell only broken by the obnoxious lights of the Bonneville dam.
Upon reaching the summit, we bask for a few minutes in the strong wind, leaning slightly into it, feeling its texture and force before setting off back down the winding path. We run with the giddiness of children, hopping logs, hooting and hollering, as if this were the best moment of our lives.
We return to Portland just past 11pm and stop by the food carts on Hawthorn street. We walk around assessing our options, before settling for some sweet potato fries and apple cider. Above the cacophony of music, loud conversation and the buzzing of the electrical generators, Nick picks up on the voice of the guy at the pasta card yelling "car being towed!". Without a moments hesitation, he sprints to intercept the tow truck and finds a surprisingly nice driver, who miraculously lets us off the hook...I guess that's what you get for being a little too adventurous on a Wednesday night. When's the weekend?