Columbia River Gorge

Thoughts while camping at Fall Creek

This weekend was made for the discovery of nearby swimming holes and very, very, very, very tiny islands. This one was gorgeous, especially over the hazy weekend in town that made the lake look a little bit more mystical than usual. The water was actually pretty unpleasant at first. A slippery, muddy bottom, then a line of rocks to get through. But if you keep going for about 10-20 more yards, everything gets calm, the bottom gets smooth, and the fresh water rises and falls gently and constantly.

I loved spending the day at the lake. If only it had a better name. Seriously, Fall Creek Lake? Is it fed by the Ocean Lagoon River or the Sea Pond Stream? Fortunately, the place out-performed its name.

Not too far away from here was the site of a recent terrible school shooting.

Roseburg, Oregon is about an hour away. Somebody brought a gun onto campus and started firing, killing at least a dozen people. This happens Way. Too. Often.

I’m not one for taking on much controversy via social media, but does it have to be controversial that stuff like this shouldn’t happen? I can’t buy the argument that the remedy for bad guys with guns is a good guy with a gun. Pragmatically, I can’t imagine that the scene of a shooting is made any better with bullets going in both directions. Spiritually, there is no one righteous enough. Not even one. The conversations about gun control go nasty so fast, that it doesn’t take much to convince me that violence lurks within human nature, even if its only expressed verbally. That instinct is there.

I also don’t believe you can legislate people into being good people, for that matter. But to be honest, I simply just want stuff like this to stop happening.

Prayers for Roseburg, and for our hearts and abilities to see a different way of handling things.

One of the thoughts I’ve been trying to digest lately is how we take in the news. Of course that became all the more real with that horrific scene in the news today, but I can’t help but think there’s got to be a better way than the a self-serving voyeurism that we get invited into, always being a few clicks away from some late breaking details. Voyeurism, or its equally unhealthy opposite, avoidance make things worse.

I think a good place to start is to just let some stories sink in for a little while. There’s room for the sadness they naturally stir up, and I think too often the madness of the debates and speculation that follow a big tragedy often rob us of the reminder that they offer- that feeling for other people is a huge part of the human experience.

A lot of times I wonder what life would look like these days if I took a more traditional job after school. Grad school’s cool, and I know I’m working towards being in a position long term to do something professionally that’s right up my alley, but sometimes I wonder about that alternate universe where I have a bit more of a 9-5 structure, make a bit more cash, and all that.

Then I realize, no matter how busy some moments of my life have gotten, I’ve always made time to spend time with Deanna. I’ve kept time open for writing and podcasting and planning how to go back to Africa and other things that are important. No matter what, I think that these interests would always be putting up a fight for me to express them somehow, and I think the path I’m on right now allows me to have time to cultivate them, along with a career, while having space to balance having time for spontaneity and long talks and writing sessions and a more rounded life.

These are some things I’m grateful for that helps balance out those “what if” moments.

Sometimes I’m such a big picture thinker and there’s nothing like switching from one year to another to set the tone.

Spending the past few weeks around old friends and family kind of helped reaffirm a lot of the things I value most. This time next year will be another crossroads… Grad school will be done and I’ll have to make some decisions about what happens next. That’s where priorities really matter.

It’s still a year away, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot. I tagged along with Deanna’s family to church to hear a sermon about calling- and I liked the way the topic was approached. It’s not always a calling to something dramatically heroic we’re challenged with, but often it’s the task of being faithful to the roles already assigned to us.

Taking that into the upcoming year, with all of its question marks and everything.

Weekend at the Columbia River Gorge

After a couple of weeks of enjoying those man-made creature comforts and having the quiet of the wild replaced with the quiet of the city, the itch starts. It’s the familiar burn to get in your car and drive into a landscape where there are no fences and no rules. This the curse of the traveller and the life of a road tripper. And we embrace it with arms open wide every time we get to pack up and set out on a new adventure.

– Justin Bonello

Decided to finally pay a visit to some of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, starting with the only one I’ve really already been to, the Columbia River Gorge. This included a revisit to Multnomah Falls, but hey, Multnomah Falls is fantastic so it’s well worth revisiting.We had a great time hiking, hunting for swimming holes, and splashing around in waterfalls.

Kind of a crazy weekend for the two of us, but it was one we were definitely happy to be able to spend together.

Deanna and I spent an awesome weekend trying to see as much as we could. Perfect time to be outside and a perfect place to roam.

One item off Deanna’s bucket list- to find a geocache without trying. No using the app or any GPS device… Just pure, unfiltered spidey sense.

We went into Palio’s for some coffee and breakfast and she accomplished just that- catching a glimpse of one from across the room. We got to take home a sweet sheet of Avengers stickers as a result.

This time, I tried to make it a point to go past the stuff that usually tends to get all the attention– Multnomah Falls, Punchbowl Falls, etc., and yet, those still ended up being some of the highlights for us. I got to take a dip in Punchbowl Falls’ pool, which was completely freezing in spite of the warm day. It took a good twenty minutes to adjust to the water, which made it all the more rewarding by the time I got to the waterfall.

It’s a rare instance where the side of me that prefers habits and routines and the side of me that prefers adventure and exploring are both perfectly in sync. Starting off every trip to the gorge sitting at the picnic tables by Multnomah’s welcome center, staring at the massive drop while filling up on a fried chicken breast sandwiched in between fluffy biscuits is one of those instances.

Tall and narrow, the height of the falls are visually divided by a long bridge that joins together two cliffs on the right and left of the falls. It’s a gorgeous view for those who trek up there. I take what was left of the Pine Street Biscuits and finish them off at one of the picnic tables while watching the waterfall.

–Page 116 of If Not For Second Chances

Pine State Biscuits. Multnomah Falls. These two wonderful things pair together so well it’s basically a ritual to do them both together every single time.

As I anticipated, it doesn’t take very long before we reach the bridge. We come up to it and join the company of families and other visitors taking pictures of the water, and the view of the earth below.
‘I bet this would be a really good place to–’
I stop abruptly.
‘To do what?’ inquires Matt.
‘Well, I think it’s actually happening right now,’ I inform him, staring off towards the bridge.
‘It?’
‘There’s a guy in the middle of the bridge proposing.

–Page 227 of If Not For Second Chances

Every single time I’ve been to Multnomah Falls, I’ve come across somebody proposing to their girlfriend. Every single time.

These days it’s often easy to feel like positivity has crashed. Maybe it’s because there’s an election coming up that has gone more bizarrely than any in recent history, maybe it’s because we’re all getting older and slowly turning into the grumpy adults we swore we’d never be, or maybe it’s because we’re so hyper-connected that we’re always hearing somebody’s outrage at something.

Even for the most optimistic people and the biggest idealists, I’d say it’s easier than ever to lose heart. When you see an uncle or middle school friend that you thought was a great guy suddenly post pretty racist things online… When people of either political leaning scoff at the other side by default… It’s easy to feel like negativity has grown dominant.

Perhaps it has in some circles. But believe it or not most people are still generally nice and want to be good. It’s important to not be afraid of the world, even if it looks ugly at times, because most of its ugliness is the result of fear. People being afraid of each other and acting on it.

I don’t have any miracle solutions, but if our hearts go out to what’s familiar, why not increase our familiarity? Travel, and not just to developed Western countries. If you can’t, meet people from Burma, Somalia, Syria, so on. Read their books. Eat their meals. Learn what makes each -stan country unique. Or how Africa really isn’t a country.

In that great story Jesus told, our neighbors often come from foreign places. But when you have neighbors, you rejoice and weep with them. It’s just how you roll.

If anything, a time like this is a more important time than ever to be relentlessly positive. There’s more of a need for it than ever, and the world is thirsty for it. I want the messages I send out to be encouraging ones that remind people of their value and the value of other people whether it’s an everyday interaction with someone for a couple minutes or the stuff I write online. Through whatever medium, turn up the good.

We’ve seen what darkness can do in our world. We’ve actually seen a lot of it lately. In Paris and Mali and Lebanon and countless other places. It leaves families without fathers, without mothers. It steals our sense of safety. There are moments that happen every now and then that make us hyper-aware of how dark and scary the world can be.

I happen to think darkness has a bigger goal than to simply kill. It seeks to rob us of the things that make life worthwhile. Love and human compassion. When we see people in need and fear for our lives, our possessions, our safety, rather than being moved to help them, we’ve lost that.

To all my friends who are actively working to help restore the future hopes of refugees from all over the world, thank you for refusing to let the darkness win. I know so many of you and the work you do is incredible. And for the handful of friends I have who are refugees- I never cease to be amazed at what you accomplish.

Speaking of amazing people, Deanna and I have now been married for eight months.

Month number eight was easily our most difficult one, and a real reminder that hard times are inevitable. Although I think a hallmark for our relationship has been that we know how to have fun together, it’s just as important to know how to endure life’s more unpleasant moments together.

So thankful to have somebody great to go through life’s highs and lows with. I have a reinforced appreciation for even the “ordinary” days of our marriage.

One of my very favorite things about people is the way they change. I remember back when I, along with a lot of people, figured that was a bad thing. That explains why so many signatures in my yearbook tell me not to change. Thank God I didn’t listen to them. High school me was okay back then (sort of, I guess) but that guy really wasn’t cut out for 2015.

We panic sometimes over the idea of people changing. Even though we realize it’s inevitable, it’s easy to see it as a threat to the things that work about a current friendship. A currently healthy relationship. But the trick to allowing change is to committing to a person and being willing to see how things will unfold.

I recently had the chance to hear from a guy who I’ve been friends with for years now. It got me thinking about where we were when we met– quite different from where we are now. It’s crazy seeing how much he’s grown and is committed to growing as a person, and I hope my trajectory looks similar from an outside vantage point. I know some mutual friends who were caught up in some drama years back, and as a result, they pretty much severed ties with him. Knowing their side of the story, I get why, but I also think they’ve missed out on seeing the way a person can change and grow.

He isn’t the only example. I think of any of my friends who I’ve known for over three years, and I can see this sort of beautiful evolution out of almost all of them. Sometimes watching time pass makes me feel uneasy. One thing that helps me feel better about it is realizing the beautiful things that take the passing of time to be developed and seen.

One way to feel instantly cool: walking across a state line.

Whether on not this is actually cool depends heavily on where you started from and the size of the state.

But either way, you’ll feel like a cool person.

Deanna and I hiked the PCT the other weekend… and by hiked the PCT, I mean we found about a chunk of a mile to go on a little stroll until we came to this lovely sign to take a picture with.

But, we did get to meet some through hikers doing the whole deal. Including a friendly Dutch guy we shared a table with at our campsite. He’d worked his way through Washington this summer, but he told us he’d have to take a bus to the Sierra Nevadas and come back to Oregon later so he didn’t get snowed out. He also helped us out with our mini-stove burner when we ran out of gas.

In other words… Wild might as well have been about us.

Speaking of Wild, after a whole day of hiking and exploring the Gorge, Deanna got to treat ourselves to some ice cream in Cascade Locks.

Apparently, this was an ice cream shop that Cheryl Strayed really enjoyed during her journey that became Wild. And Reese Witherspoon came here during the filming of the movie. I don’t remember the scene exactly, but the ice cream shop has a huge photo of Reese Witherspoon in front of it on the wall, so I know they want me to know it’s true. Even if it wasn’t in the movie, maybe Reese just wanted some good ice cream.

On Marine Island in Cascade Locks. This was the first time I’d ever camped right next to a open-to-the-public building of some sort, which doesn’t sound great, but lucky for me it happened to be a brewery. A really great brewery, made for the Pacific Crest Trail.

We hopped out of our tent and came on in to watch the Ducks game. We were given the chance to buy an extra pint of trail magic for PCT hikers. We got a taste of one of the best Cream Ales we’ve ever gotten to try. Thank you, Thunder Island. We spent a night camped right outside.

Eagle Creek Trail. Loved this hiking spot that went deep into the Columbia River Gorge, parallel with the PCT for some time.

The trail wound around the edge of mountains, which meant a few things. It was a great place to shout “Day-O” into the big open space on the other side of the path and hear it echo back for a good minute. Also, it meant that walking along the path which occasionally thinned to be just wide enough for a single person was at times scary enough to keep you literally on edge. You’d figure it should’ve led further and further, through the mountains of Bhutan, and to the tea house at the very top of the mountain where we would be welcomed by monks.

Unfortunately Tumblr was a little misleading and never wound up at a Bhutanese tea house. But this trail led somewhere just as good. Several swimming holes and waterfalls to splash around in and enjoy, and gorgeous sight after sight. The trail stretched on for several miles, but the number of people who carried onwards thinned out as more and more of them were derailed by several of the sights along the way and took them as a sign to turn back. For those who kept going though, the trail only got more and more rewarding.

At the end of a long hike, this was waiting for us… Punchbowl Falls and the perfectly carved out, round, clear-watered swimming hole right where it poured into.

There were a lot of people hanging by the natural pool of water, but there weren’t many people in the water. When I decided to go for it, I found out why. Even on one of the year’s sunniest and warmest weekends, this water was frigid. It took forever to adjust. By the time it finay happened, I scraped up enough energy to sloppily swim up to the base of the waterfall, where I was alone. The sound of its crash drowned out the sound of other people, who were also obscured by the curves of the gorge. I found a rock large enough to stand on in the middle of the pool. It was a way beautiful sight.

After a weekend full of hikes and waterfalls, Deanna and I celebrated with ice cream and wandered next door to the store where they sold random Japanese vinyl figures… You know the kinds where they’re in a limited edition series of keychain sized junk foods with adorable imposed eyeballs.

I’ve always been perplexed by these things but my income isn’t exactly THAT disposable. But they offered a mystery box of random stuff for five bucks. We figured, at worst we’d have goodies to leave in geocaches.

Our haul? A little Hello Kitty phone ornament, an odd devil-Domo I used as decor on a plate of deviled eggs, and some buttons.