Oneonta Gorge

August 8, 2008.

This quick, 1 mile jaunt into a narrow chasm was one of the more adventuresome routes I’ve traveled in the Columbia River Gorge.

Leaving from a gravel parking area near a bridge over Oneonta Creek, we descended a steep set of stairs and walked along the water on a well-traveled user trail. Soon we left the trail and approached an enormous log jam that a “Caution” sign near the trail head warned us about. Several people were in and around the creek, and a couple folks had just set about tackling the log jam. Brad and I found our own way up and over the logs tossed together in a wild, wooden bird’s nest. My Vibram shoes came in handy, as their flexible rubber soles allowed my feet to grip the contours of the logs securely.

Once we cleared the log jam, we got a better look at the gorge up ahead. The steep walls were covered with bright green mosses and ferns. The creek bathed an uneven, pebbly surface. As the gorge widened, bare ground was revealed. As the gorge tightened up, the water levels rose. Water clung to our ankles and shins, and soon made its way past our thighs. The water was cold, but not unbearably so. We waded through the deepest parts to catch a glimpse of our prize. Our ears were greeted first by a boisterous group of urban youth enjoying the cold pool and waterfall. I smiled as I thought of the book I’m reading, Last Child in the Woods, that reports on the sorry state of child-nature relationships in this technological age. I knew that this experience for these young adults could help bridge the gap between the passive, consumptive American lifestyle to perhaps a more active, engaged lifestyle. I let their loud screaming and yelling pass softly through my ears as they had their precious moments in nature. After they began walking towards the cars, Brad and I advanced to spend a scant second in the final pool alone.

The waterfall roared above us and dove into a broad pool of water at the end of the gorge. We waded out to get a few blurry pictures before surrendering the space to the father and son team behind us. This sure was a busy place, especially for a weekday. As we turned towards the entrance to the gorge we took our time noticing the unique rock formations and the clingy green plants that smothered them.A quick ten minutes or so brought us back to the log jam and then the short walk out. We chose to avoid walking across the last log out (which appeared to be the favored route) and lowered into the water instead. We were already soaking wet, anyways, what’s the big deal?

This was a short, fun, interesting hike that was doable even on a busted up knee. I did have the help of my neoprene brace and hiking poles. My Vibram shoes performed well on each part of the hike, from trail walking to stony river bottom to slippery logs. They provide so much more control and flexibility than stiff soled shoes or even sneakers or Tevas. I will continue to sing the praises of these shoes for many trips to come, I imagine.

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