Monday, July 6, 2015

Bridge of the Gods

This beautiful bridge can be crossed at Cascade Locks in Oregon.  It crosses the mighty Columbia River into Washington.  The fact that this bridge is actually part of the famous Pacific Crest Trail has always intrigued me.  Once upon a time I thought I would walk this trail from end to end, but I no longer harbor such a dream.  To walk it, here and there for a mile or two, and to cross this bridge will have to satisfy this desire.

I crossed it last week.

I first saw it from a distance, fine white lines against the blue haze of the gorge.  I couldn't help but think of Cheryl Strayed and her deeply personal and riveting memoir, Wild.  She ends her harrowing hike on the Pacific Crest Trail at this very bridge.  She doesn't cross it.  She only needs to put her hand on the rail and look down at the river beneath. She touches the bridge and then she's done.  She goes into Cascade Locks for an ice cream cone.

The ending may seem anticlimactic but it's not; it's extremely poignant.  It took her many years before she could make sense of it all.  She had to move on.  Live.  Grow up.  Forgive.  She marries on this bridge four years later.   She brings her two children here and they buy ice cream cones and sit on the very bench where she ended her journey.  She tells them a story.  Once upon a time she walked "on something called the Pacific Crest Trail."
  Entering bridge from Washington side.

Crossing over.

Bridge of the Gods gets its name from an Indian myth.  There is geological evidence that a landslide once blocked the entire river and formed a natural bridge.  Legend has it that Coyote prayed to the Great Spirit to form a tunnel under the debris so the salmon could still swim up river to feed his people.  The Great Spirit answered his prayer and built an arch so the Indians could still cross the river from above, but the fish could swim below.  However, the two tribes on either side of the river eventually started to fight because their two princes were in love with the same maiden.  The Great Spirit was unhappy with all the trouble they were causing and changed them into mountains:  Mt. Hood on the Oregon side and Mt. Adams on the Washington side.  Even so, they continued to feud, spewing ash and fire from their mountain tops and shaking the ground.  In fact, they shook the ground so violently, the great arch fell into the water.  A new one had to be built.

Another fascinating story.  This area is full of them.

After I crossed over the bridge I headed towards that very same drive-in for a much anticipated ice cream cone, but the line was way too long so I didn't stop.  I realized I didn't really want one anyway.  That was Cheryl's story, not mine.

  Reading travel books adds dimension to my own exploration of the world.  I know I will never do anything as epic as Cheryl Strayed or Meriwether Lewis  (I'm reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose now-- about the Lewis and Clark expedition), but I can learn from them.

  I am at peace with following my own path.  I hope these writers don't mind if I borrow their words from time to time, to define it:

To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough.  That it was everything.  It was my life--like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred.  So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.     

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