Oh knees, don’t fail me now! was my silent plea as Kailyn and I descended the steep switchbacks to view Elowah Falls last Friday morning. After pouring over the “Take a Hike Portland” book, we had decided to try a less popular, and supposedly less strenuous, hike a few miles past Multnomah Falls just off 84 east. The hike was only 3 miles, with 600’ elevation changes, and was considered “easy”.
The day dawned beautiful, sunny and clear, promising to be a good morning for a hike. We arrived at the trailhead by 9:30 and after a short, gently sloping trek, came to the crossroads of either going up to Upper McCord Creek Falls or down to Elowah Falls. We chose the high road first and enjoyed the shady journey to our destination. The trail up was pretty rock strewn and root crossed, so I carefully kept my eyes on the ground to protect myself from falling, something I tend to manage every time I go on a hike! We made frequent stops for photos along the way, as always.
We could hear the falls as we approached, and the excited calls of children reveling in nature’s playground. Two women and four kids preceded us. The oldest boy was having the time of his life, scrambling over rocks and fallen logs, exploring skinny pathways around huge boulders that were strewn haphazardly throughout the area. The falls were gorgeous, as was the incredible rock formations, many clothed in thick, green moss. Kailyn climbed a huge rock, to see what she could see, while I sat, watching the kids, gulping in the beauty close by and fortifying my energy use with a healthy snack!
After returning to the cross road, we started down to Elowah Falls, and it wasn’t long before my poor old knees were crying out, STOP! But, of course, I didn’t stop, because I didn’t want to miss the falls or the remainder of the hike we had planned. Once at the bottom, we oohed and aahed the sweet falls and captured the view on film. I was a bit leery of the trek back up, but worried needlessly, as it was much easier going up than coming down.
Still had some scary moments, when I wasn’t sure I would make it back out of the woods and to the car. It was the first time this summer that my knees gave me grief and it surprised me. I felt I was in pretty good shape, especially after the Ramona Falls hike, which was more than twice the distance and more elevation! I think the problem was the steepness of the grade going down, and fortunately, I found it much easier coming back up to the “Y” trail marker.
As we made the final descent to the car I found that at any point where the trail pointed downhill, I found myself with achy knees. Kailyn had the good idea of having me descend sideways, and that worked well to protect my knees. Ironically, once I was on level ground again, my knees didn’t hurt at all, so we enjoyed the rest of the day by stopping at Multnomah Falls to use the restrooms, and purchase a bag of pretty rocks for my students this year. We then continued on old Highway 30 and stopped at Vista House before reconnecting to 84.
I am treasuring these last moments of summer, in the company of my daughter. It is good to be healthier than I was two years ago, when I couldn’t have attempted a hike of any duration. However, this hike reminded me forcefully of the wear and tear that excess weight has put on my body over the past several years. It crept on so insidiously, and became all-encompassing, overtaking every moment of my life. The weight and inactivity came close to destroying my knees, and this hike was a painful reminder of where I was. It was also a clear reminder of where I want to be.
I want to be healthy, and able to hike and explore this vast and marvelous world. My goals are pretty simple ~ spend time on this earth appreciating what nature has to offer, on my own power, as long as humanly possible. Instead of regretting the “lost decades” I want to look forward and make the best of what I have. And, one step at a time, that is what I intend to do.