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Saturday, March 1, 2008


Ever since I trespassed into a mysterious hidden clearing on the Wilson River Trail, I’ve experienced the eerie feeling of being watched, or perhaps even of being followed. It’s the same kind of feeling I had when I crossed the renegade cows on the Bird Creek Meadow Trail near Mt. Adams.

I shared my uneasiness with Monkey-cam and hinted that I could really use some company on the Triple Falls Trail in the Columbia River gorge, but he was still miffed about being treated like an imaginary friend.

“Why don’t you hang out with your corporeal friends?” he pantomimed, knowing full well that I don’t really have any.

I guess he must have seen some transient expression of pain flicker across my inexpert poker face and he relented a little bit. He indicated that he wouldn’t be hiking with me this week, but he reassured me that he would begin negotiations with the cows to see if he could work out some kind of truce for the upcoming spring hiking season. I interpreted his goodwill gesture as a sign that, while tested, our friendship had not yet been damaged beyond repair.

Fortunately, a colleague at work expressed an interest in learning how better to use her camera and it worked out that she and her husband met me at the Triple Falls Trailhead early Saturday morning.

Upper Horsetail Falls

f/3.5 1/100th ISO 1600 -------- f/3.5 1/13th ISO 200 -------f/22 2.5 sec. ISO 200

It was kind of an awkward situation for me since Monkey-cam takes most of the pictures for the Blog, but I tried to remember all the things he had taught me and pass them on as if I were the photography expert.

“See this end with the round circular tube on it?” I asked, pointing toward what I supposed was my camera’s lens, “That’s the side you want to point at the thing you want to take a picture of.”

My colleague and her husband had never seen Triple Falls before, and didn’t know quite what to expect. They were fixated on the ‘Triple’ part of Triple Falls’ name. Since we had passed Horsetail Falls at the Trailhead, and Upper Horsetail Falls shortly afterwards, they assumed that we would soon come across a third waterfall to consummate their expectations for a triple.

“Is this the third falls?” They would speculate.

View from the bridge overlooking Oneonta Creek

Eventually, we reached this viewpoint where it became evident that Triple Falls was a single waterfall split (or segmented) into three. The graphic depiction of a single entity splitting into three immediately reminded me of the puzzle of the threefold nature of God which some faith traditions address in doctrines of ‘The Trinity’.

In my Lutheran tradition, The Trinity (The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) is often symbolically represented by a triangle, its three points all equal in importance yet all part of one object.

Variations of the symbolic triangle attempt to emphasize the distinctness of each component of the trinity while at the same time showing their unity.

Long before the First Council of Nicaea (long before the status of the divinity of Christ was hammered out by early Christians) other more arcane symbols predominated in the religious landscape…but I digress.

We split up and explored the area above Triple Falls. I stood alone high atop the falls trying to unlock the key to capturing a sense of vertigo in a two dimensional image (a goal that continues to elude me). Peering through my viewfinder on that precarious perch, my legs involuntarily trembling, I suddenly felt an icy chill in the air and the hairs on the back of my neck snapped to attention. I whirled around to see if perhaps my colleague or her husband were sneaking up on me…but nobody was there. I would have chalked it up to my paranoid imagination except for one fact. The birds had stopped chirping and all was quiet save for the dull roar of the falling water.
Not frightened exactly, I determined to rejoin my hiking party.

I rejoined my colleague and her husband further up the trail. They stood perplexed before a curious sign. “What’s an endotherm?” I asked after reading the sign.

“Essentially,” my colleague began, “we are.” She had considerable biological expertise.

I stood with my blank expression and waited for more.

“Endotherms are warm-blooded animals able to maintain a constant body temperature regardless of the temperature of the environment.” She added.

The sign didn’t make any sense, so we ignored it and continued walking along the trail

Here and there in the shade were still considerable accumulations of snow.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon that occurred where-ever snow-clods (or perhaps pine-cones) fell out of trees onto snow slopes of a particular steepness. In snow of just the right consistency, the clods would roll down-slope gathering more mass and speed, becoming ever larger, ultimately spontaneously generating into large snow-wheels.

I wondered what other forms might be capable of spontaneous generation.

And then suddenly in a garden of rocks, I experienced another confrontation with mystery.

“It’s a non-indigenous carrot.” My colleague noted.

Like I said, she had considerable biological expertise.

Of course none of us were scared by a misplaced carrot. Even so, the touch of the shade of the surrounding, towering trees began to feel like a brush with claustrophobia. Maybe we should not have disregarded the cautionary sign. While not retreating exactly, I have to admit we felt much relieved to break out into the open again on our way out of the wilderness.

As we passed the mouth of Oneonta gorge, I noticed this graphic warning sign adapted from a photo of me that Monkey-cam took that time last year when I tried to wade up Oneonta Creek in the neoprene bib overalls that I borrowed from Bob.

I wondered what lost world lay hidden behind the formidable log jam at the mouth of the gorge.

The old Oneonta tunnel makes a convenient place to deposit excess snow form snow plow operations. Evidently, state workers with a sense of humor decorated this pile of melting snow to resemble a snowman in prison.

“That’s curious,” said my colleague, “This gate locks from the inside.”


  1. Scott!!!
    Brilliant transition from the trinity to snowman. You had Tim and I rolling in laughter!

  2. You mean it wasn't the Sacred Snowman?

  3. I'm sure the similarities in the symbolic depiction of The Trinity and snowmen are mostly coincidental. But who is to say that during those long ago days at the dawn of human consciousness, animated snowmen were not revered or at least respected? Additionally, an omnipotent being (or at least one able to bench press 400 pounds)who rains boulders down on unsuspecting pagan (or Morman) hikers might easily be confused with the angry war god depicted in some Old Testament documents.

  4. you got me symbolically rolling on the floor here! Priceless....


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