About once a year I try to take a long hike through the Gorge and admire the changing leaves, and the stark contrast of parched golden grass and deep cobalt of the river. My day hikes used to be up steep cliffs and through rugged terrain, but as I get older, and my knee angrily reminds me of poor decisions made as a snowboarder, I tend to take long but gentle walks.
The Old Highway, also known as the Twin Tunnels hike, is a long, paved stretch through the Columbia River Gorge that connects the town of Mosier with the city of Hood River. Once the main road for any motorist in a model T, the highway has since been retired from motorized traffic on the 5 mile stretch.
It is an easy enough walk, and one barely notices the slight dips and rises in elevation. The only catch is it takes a good chunk of an afternoon, but with the right friends or fully-charged music player, its a great way to spend a sunny October day.
This weekend’s hike was spent with one of my closest friends. He serves as a sounding board for plots, does a fair bit of beta reading, and his job as a nurse has helped me piece out battle scenes, subsequent injuries, and the consequences of particular types of wounds. So we spent the ten-mile hike gossiping about the latest fantasy books. I recently discovered Outlander, so I urged him to read it, since I think he would get a good kick out of the nursing side of Claire’s experiences as much as anything else.
Of course, our discussions always range along the topics of “what would you do” with regards to fantasy and plotting. As we enthusiastically discussed various character deaths and plot devices, we got a few raised eyebrows from the cyclists and joggers who raced by, overhearing snippets of conversation centered around sorcery, curses, and injuries.
Along the way we found rattlesnakes, lizards, an impressive amount of birds, a rusty car covered in blackberry vines, and large furry clumps of gut refuse that might have belonged to a cougar. Not to mention the ancient graffiti found at the eastern edge of the twin tunnels. I spoke to a historian at the library, and no one really knows the true story behind what happened. We can only guess they were trapped by the snow in the tunnels for a week.
Hikes always re-energize me, and I was ready to hit the ground running with my book when I returned, but there was little time for it! I had a book signing, and a sushi coma, and the loud laughter of friends.
It was a completely full and happy weekend.