Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oneonta Gorge and Sabbath Rest

family photo at the falls
The summer before fifth grade my childhood family moved from the cornfields of Iowa to Gresham, Oregon.  The Pacific Northwest romanced us.  We drank deep of its beauty and majesty.  Each weekend was a new outdoor adventure filled with wonder that such untamed power and awe-inspiring beauty could exist in one place.

Years later MY family is doing the same thing.  We're five years into our Pacific Northwest adventure and still discovering new places to play and rest.  This weekend I guided my family to Oneonta Gorge, one of my childhood favorites.  They loved it as much as I did and we spent a very hot summer day playing in the ice-cold water.
kids playing in the gorge
It's hard to call Oneonta Gorge a "hike" since the total distance is one mile but it is definitely an adventure.  Not for the faint-hearted, there are some perilous sections of this hike which is why we waited until our kids were old enough to handle it.  Paige - at seven years old - was borderline in her physical and mental ability to handle the challenges.  Curt told her he needed her to be tough.  In the parts she was scared she said out-loud, "I'm tough and my name is Paige.  I'm Tough Paige and I can do it."
after Curt's "let's be kind, loving and safe" pep talk, he told us to line up shortest to tallest.  I wonder how long it will be before Grant is on the other side of me?
We parked on the shoulder of the Columbia River Historic Highway and walked to a steep, winding staircase flanking the bridge crossing the Oneonta Creek. We picked our way down the stairs to a narrow trail alongside the creek's edge.  It led us through the brush for about 100 yards before it bled into the creek.

From that point, the trail was the creek.  It feeds into a very narrow and tall canyon with cliff walls rising on either side.  The water is cold and the creek bottom rocky and unstable.  A hot summer day and tennis shoes or water sandals with sturdy bottoms are a must-have to complete this hike.

The first peril is a huge log jam that blocks up the entire gorge.  Hikers must climb up and over the slippery rocks and logs to follow the creek through the gorge.  There is no margin for error and a fall would result in broken bones.  We were there on the weekend and the backlog of people (and dogs) trying to cross the log jam was long and intimidating.  Many well-intentioned hikers turned around at this point.
log jam.  Our oldest three kids are on the bottom right - playing on the low log and swimming in the swimming hole behind it.
Paige was scared and Curt was uncomfortable with the risk factor of slippery surfaces and lots of people.  I convinced them that the hidden waterfall with a swimming hole at the end of the gorge was a reward worth working for.  We chose to wait in line and finally made it safely to the other side.

Once we were over the log jam we took a collective deep breath and followed the creek into the depths of the gorge.  Blue skies and bright sunlight danced with shadows from the cliffs.  The water numbed our toes and kept our bodies cool.  Curt and I hung back and watched our kids explore, laugh, splash and shriek in the water.  It was a glimpse of heaven.
sometimes I wish they would be a little less boring...  
The majority of the time the water in the creek ranged from ankle to knee-deep, with the exception of one section toward the end where the creek bottom drops down and the water gets deep.  I'm 5' 7" and the water came up past my chest.  There is no shoreline so hikers get WET!  Paige hitched a ride on Curt's shoulders, I carried our day pack on top of my head so our phones didn't get wet, and the big kids swam.  The water was take-your-breath-away cold but so refreshing.  A water-proof bag would be essential if I would have wanted to take my fancy camera on this hike.

Half a mile into the gorge, the creek dead ends into a stunning waterfall with an inviting swimming hole.  Grant dove right in, swam to a rock outcropping and jumped back into the water.  Normally I'm a Freeze Baby and avoid cold water like a plague, but it was just hot enough outside to be inviting.  The water beckoned and I kept thinking, "How often in life do I have the opportunity to swim with my boy in the pool of a waterfall?"  It took me a good hour to warm up after our swim but it was the highlight of the day for me and a memory I will take with me for the rest of my life.
the entire waterfall

Grant and I post-swim
When we got back to the bridge, no one wanted to leave.  Our family is learning to practice the art of Sabbath Rest.  It's a teaching we're both learning and embracing.  Woven into the rhythm of creation, Sabbath rest was created by God and he called it holy.  It's the antidote to all the hard work we do the other six days of the week.  Regular rest is restorative and takes planning and practice to learn to do it well.

We chose to spend the remainder of our Sabbath at Oneonta Creek, splashing in the shallow spots and dipping into the deeper holes when we needed to cool off.
doing nothing, something I don't naturally do well.
Grant sat with Alli and taught her how to do the "eggbeater kick," a skill she'll need when she starts water polo next spring.
teaching Alli how to "egg beater"
Katie and Paige threw rocks, chatted, and sat in the sun.
Katie and Paige
We explored the cool tunnel through the mountainside.
Grant and I climbed to the top

Curt and the girls stayed put on solid ground
Beauty was all around us:  blue skies, bright sunshine, babbling creeks, crashing waterfalls, intimidating cliff faces, and people of every shape and size.  We watched our children - healthy and thriving - soaking up the sun and simply playing.  It truly was restorative rest.

As the afternoon lapsed into early evening, we reluctantly left the gorge and headed to church via Target to buy all the things we should have packed to get ready for church (like underwear and deodorant) but forgot.  We converted from hikers to worshippers in the church bathroom and finished our day celebrating the new life we have through Jesus.

The kids fell straight into bed and Curt and I sat at the kitchen counter scheming up what to do next week on our Sabbath.

Thank you Jesus for the gift of rest...

Of family...
family (I forgot I tied my shirt around my head so it wouldn't get wet)

Of beauty...

Of life that is truly life.

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