The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful place. Spanning some fifty miles between the Deschutes River to the east and the Sandy River to the west, the Oregon side of this deep-walled canyon boasts more than fifty waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls, which drops 620 feet in two drops as Multnomah creek carves its way to the Columbia River. Almost every creek and river has a trail heading south toward Mt. Hood, a glaciated cascade volcano feeding dozens of those streams. Walking beside an ice-cold fast-falling creek, the tea-drinking hiker is rewarded with stunning vistas of mountains, moss, wildlife, rock formations, old growth timber, and wildflowers in every color of the rainbow. A hike in these forests is a magical experience.
Last summer, I decided to methodically hike every gorge trail. Doing so required a certain level of commitment: given the popularity of hiking in general and hiking The Gorge in particular, one has to be at the trailhead by 7:00 AM to get a parking spot and to avoid the crowds of one-time hikers. My pack was loaded with the Ten Essentials for Wilderness Travel as well as a thermos of hot earl grey tea. Lunch at the summit, or the base of the waterfall, or at an overlook, is always accompanied by a few cups of tea and an almost melancholy desire to linger. Inspired by a post on this blog a few years back, I decided that one way to extend the hike beyond the few exquisite moments at the destination would be to fill one of my empty water bottles with water from the stream. At home, I could re-live the beauty of the hike with a cup of tea from the creek.
From early May through the end of August 2017, I drank tea from Pelham, Herman, Gorton, Buck, Multnomah, Oneonta, Cold Springs, and Wahkeena Creeks. Of course, I filtered and boiled the water before brewing it into tea. These creeks are perfect because they originate from springs rather than glacial run-off, resulting in water that is crystal clear rather than cloudy with rock powder. The magic of my morning tea ritual was made even more so by the announcement “This tea comes from the pool just above Triple Falls,” or, “This is Doke Black Fusion from Lochan Tea after a short stop at Pelham Creek.”
The decision to hike those trails was prescient. On September 2, after a long dry spell, teenagers playing with fireworks sparked a fire that burned thousands of acres in the area I methodically hiked. Drainages in almost every creek burned furiously over the next four weeks, causing freeway closures, evacuations, and millions of dollars in damage. Just one of the trails will be open for the 2018 hiking season; some will not reopen for years. All will be forever changed.
Next time you hike along a pretty stream, take a liter of the water home with you and hydrate your body and soul with the water in a cup of tea.
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