Forest languages


Taking a hike in the woods seemed like the thing to do on the first full day of summer, so my wife Liz and I dusted off the hiking shoes, packed a lunch and got the leash for our dog, Duke. And it was a glorious summer day!

We hastily decided to drive out to the Eagle Creek trailhead in the Columbia Gorge near Bonneville Dam. Eagle Creek Trail moves hikers deep into the woods away from the highway. We decided to eat lunch at Punchbowl Falls, about two miles up the trail – but to our disappointment, upon our arrival the Forest Service host told us all the parking stalls were taken.

As it turns out, many, many other people had the same idea that sunny Saturday. There must have been 100 cars. Luckily, after a few minutes a parking place opened up and we began the hike.

While ascending the narrow trail, we encountered several groups already returning to the trailhead. It was nearly noon; we should have gotten out earlier. But what really amazed me was the number of languages I overheard.

Many were easy to pick out: German, Dutch, Scandinavian dialects, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese. One or two others I couldn’t discern. What were they all talking about? The trail was packed with locals along with a healthy percentage of people from elsewhere on our globe. But all seemed to be enjoying the moist old-growth forest and the vistas we sometimes take for granted.

Then I remembered a clip I had seen on the Weather Channel the previous day. The host was giving advice on places to visit and said to not forget beautiful, quirky Portland, because of our commitment to locally produced food, great restaurants, food carts, wine and beer. Then as an afterthought she said there are literally hundreds of hiking trails just outside the city. It was the “closer” argument for a vacation huckster.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “we should have taken a less popular trail.”

If you haven’t hiked Eagle Creek, it’s worth the trip, even on a drizzly day. However, remember to keep your dog on a leash and your small children close by, because in several places the trail hugs a steep cliff that drops off precipitously. And, as many people from elsewhere are discovering, all those things the lady on the Weather Channel was peddling are available to us full-time.

Dave Kvamme
Director of Communications


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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