I got a new waterproof, breathable jacket for Christmas so I took it out for a test drive on the Wahclella Falls trail. The canyon walls rose on either side of me as I followed the path in along Tanner Creek. Heavy dark clouds scraped across the treetops enclosing the chasm below in a dark gray gloom.
Ice fell from the sky. Soft hail accumulated on the ground here and there. Like water overflowing leaf clogged gutters, streams and rivulets of instant tributaries poured into the valley.
The rain-jacket did an admirable job of keeping exterior water out, but I’m afraid no current technology is sufficient to dissipate the sweat produced by a feverish semi-fat man.
It seemed I had only got started, when the trail forked upward to the left or downward to the right. I chose to head upward and was soon surveying the lower trail as it snaked its way through an evident landslide.
The unremitting precipitation was making it difficult to keep my camera lens dry. I found a dry spot on my t-shirt and wiped the big drops off. I heard a noise behind me and whipped around to find an unassuming old man offering me an umbrella. In retrospect, I think maybe it was Picasso, but I guess I didn’t recognize him with his clothes on.
Some of the clouds were so dark that I thought perhaps night had come.
I took about fifty pictures of the falls, but almost all of them suffered from over-exposure so that all the detail was lost in the white areas. Over and over again, this created a featureless white void as a central focal point of non-interest. I tried to combat the loss of detail in the white frothy water by shortening my exposure times, but this strategy resulted in an associated loss of detail in the shadows. I was getting frustrated, especially because I’m pretty damn sure Picasso knew exactly how to fix this problem, but he continued his policy of not speaking – encouraging me to experience the fullness of ‘the journey’.
The trail looped around so that I could see I would soon be traversing the territory I had previewed from above. Periodically, I’d look back and try to find some award winning angle of the falls that nobody else had thought to shoot, but I didn’t find one, and I started feeling embarrassed, especially with Picasso patiently holding the umbrella for me.
At first I was also embarrassed about the umbrella. I didn’t think any self-respecting Oregonian would be caught with an umbrella in the rain. But time and again, the umbrella allowed me to take pictures without getting drops all over the lens, even when I tipped the camera upwards. When other hikers passed me, I’d say, “It’s not for me, it’s for the camera!” Usually, they would just kind of squint and step way, way out of my way.
For a brief moment, it looked like the clouds might break, and a rich yellow glow permeated the mist.
I felt happy for a minute – anticipating the sun.
But it began to pour.