Does the word that just popped into your head show up here? Find out:

16 February, 2011

Backroads: 14 Fog on the Columbia

Route 14 follows the Columbia along its north bank from near the mouth on up to the first big bend. How is a road following the Columbia River, one of the major arteries of North America, a back road? A road about a century old in its current path, laid down aside major rail lines even older, paving trails used by tribes since, as they say, "time immemorial," and before then by all manner of megafauna for whom time ended.

How? The interstate across the river in Oregon. I-84 is the choice of people who want to think that they are getting upriver fast, who feel slowed down when denied a choice of lanes, who want their travel tableau to be blurred and interdicted by semi trailers. More than once, people have looked at me with concern or pity when I say I'm taking Route 14 instead, asking if I know about the real highway across the river.

Last week I headed upriver on 14 from Vancouver, not at the mouth of the river, but in the tide's grip. On that day, nearly strangled in a fog. Up through Camas and Washougal, its white blanket interwoven with tendrils of pulp mill stink. But soon enough, winding through oak, gnarling dendritic silhouettes grasping handfuls of a cleaner fog, holding it to the earth.

My feelings on this are fuzzy. The fog can be cold and dreary, obscurationist curtailer of vistas, curtain shutting out the sun. Or it can be a coccoon, silken pod in which to meditate, swallower of clatter. I wrote about this then.

So popping up out of this into the sun could go either way. Freed from the drabness, exposed to the glare. Whatever. Nature carries on, regardless of whatever metaphor little humans want to paint onto it.

Beacon Rock and its trail (1777 steps to the top, last time I checked), wrapped in fog, is beautiful. From I-84 you can look across the river and see the rock, unless it's foggy and then all you see is guardrail.

Further up the river and into the day, the fog began to burn off. I got to see the end of it, lifting off the river, pushed down from the sun on top, thinning to a tongue, lick receding back down river, not wetting the sere plateau.

No comments:

Post a Comment