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Saturday, January 1, 2011

EAGLE CREEK TRAIL: Last Day of the Year


Overnight, supposedly, the temperature bottomed out at 15 degrees Fahrenheit.



With only a 20% chance of precipitation, the odds seemed good for a survivable trip up the Eagle Creek Trail.



The only places that were icy were the places where water perpetually drips down and oozes out of the basalt layer cake that makes up the cliffs to Eagle Creek's canyon.





Perversely, the only places that were icy were also the places that have the greatest exposure to heights.



The water was running much higher than I've become accustomed to, no doubt because of all the recent rain, and the new broad banks made a view of the falls from the lower viewpoint problematical. The water runs ice cold, even in the summer, and the last time I tried to wade out for a shot of the now hidden iconic-waterfall-scene, the nerve connection between foot and brain was numbed so quickly that I endangered the well being of my photo gear as I teetered crazily on senseless pegs, unable to tell if my feet found purchase on the slippery rocks...indeed, unable to tell if I even had feet. Even after leaving the water, my feet continued to experience a pain that resembled the most terrible moments of brain freeze - the pain caused by drinking a slushy ice drink too quickly.

However, Monkey-cam hadn't seen the punchbowl since the ill fated kayak expedition of October 2007. I suppose I could have explained the physiological consequences of wading in freezing cold ice water when the air temperature is somewhere between 15 and 32 degrees, but Monkey-cam continues to be stubborn and contrary and sometimes it's just easier to let him learn by experience.



In this photo, you can see Monkey-cam has managed to wade out far enough to get a suitable viewpoint. Thankfully, this is the year that Monkey-cam has finally learned to wear pants.



The view as seen by Monkey-cam.


Monkey-cam was busy sniffing for truffles or mushrooms or something as we progressed along the trail. He noticed that delicate ice filaments were seemingly extruding out of the soil, sometimes even pushing the top layer of soil inches into the air, sometimes just curling into pretty good impressions of hair curlers. He tried to pantomime several theories explaining the mechanism behind this phenomenon, but none were conclusive.


It is hard, and probably will remain hard to get unobstructed pictures of punchbowl falls from the fenced off viewing area as long as trees and bushes continue to grow. It is obvious that many people disregard the fences and scramble down to alternate viewing points. To be honest, I probably would have disregarded the fence myself, except that the seemingly intentionally ironical placement of ice caused me to imagine how foolish my death by slipping headlong into a waterfall plunge-bowl would appear in the next day's headlines. "Portland Man Slips to His Death at Eagle Creek: Ice is Slippery Notes ranger."

So, making do with the view from behind the fence, I also convinced Monkey-cam to climb out on a tree and tape a single red leaf to a strategically positioned branch, "Let's do that red and green color contrast trick we learned from National Geographic." I said.




It works every time.




In this picture, Monkey-cam takes my picture to prove that I am also an accomplished pants wearer.



This is the view I saw (from the same vantage point) which was supposed to show you how the rays of the sun sparkled so dramatically through crystal ice prisms. I guess sparkling is a function of change over time and not so well suited for still photography.





The path at High Bridge was another slippery area that made the normally psychologically affirming presence of the cable-handrail more of a pragmatic lifeline on which one could practice a death-grip.








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