Written and Photographed by Chris Liedle, Northwest Photographer
What's the familiar saying? Sometimes the best adventures are the ones you didn't plan for. That's what you could say happened here. My friend Matt and I packed our hiking gear and grabbed our cameras, and then took off for the Columbia River Gorge. Where should we go, what should we see? Oneonta Gorge, yes. Gorton Creek Falls, maybe. What about Spirit Falls? We checked our GPS. It added nearly an hour of driving time. We quickly began passing freeway exit after freeway exit, then missed our turn off to Oneonta. I guess, Spirit Falls it is!
We left Oregon and crossed into Washington, winding our way up to the trailhead. And by trailhead, I mean, goat trail. It's a steep, half-mile scramble on loose rock to the falls, but the trail is used just enough. Swollen from recent rains, Spirit Falls thundered through the canyon. We were there for only a few minutes, when I saw a kayaker in all red, scouting the drop. When I saw him reach for a camera, I knew someone was coming. No time to change lenses. The kayaker plunged, disappeared, then dodged a fallen tree. We cheered him on as he paddled below.
I shot a series of photos, hoping at least one picture turned out. I was stunned. The image was beautiful. The true colors of the Little White Salmon River came to life in the sunlight. Thick fir trees towered above. The paddling kayaker, frozen in time. Luck, probably, but I'm always amazed at what nature has in store. There's an enchanting view at every turn, whether it's a strenuous hike downhill to a waterfall or up the side of a mountain. The wilderness is a humbling place, a place where you can leave worry behind and enjoy what's in front of you. The wilderness, to me, is grounding. It's inspiring. It's home.
I learned the kayaker is Aniol Serrasolses, a professional whitewater kayaker from Spain. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!
Originally from San Diego, Chris moved to the Pacific Northwest several years ago and is a television reporter in Portland. You'll find him in the chilly water surfing off the Oregon Coast or on the trail backpacking in the Cascades. Follow him on Instagram @ChrisLiedle or visit his website.