Easy day trip: Oneonta Gorge

Having spent my childhood in the great plains of the Midwest, my world was flat. Flat cornfields, flat roads, flat everything made distant rolling hills and far off craggy mountaintops all the more majestic. There was something magical and mysterious about them; they were out of reach. To this day, I am still captivated by landscape that is not perfectly horizontal.

Midwesterner or not, the Oneonta Gorge is a delight for thrill seekers of all ages. A tall, narrow ravine only accessible by climbing slippery logjams and plunging chest deep into icy water, this gorge is a riveting experience. And just 40 minutes outside of Portland, it is well worth the drive for those wishing to actively participate in a slice of Oregon magic.

So, how do we get there? It’s actually quite straightforward and for those of you that have been out on the scenic route 30 have probably passed right by it. Just east of Multnomah Falls, there are signs for the Oneonta Gorge Trail. Go ahead and park in that designated area. To follow the trail, there is a bridge leading into a tunnel. But rather than go through the tunnel, you’ll want to take the overgrown stairs just before the bridge in the southwest corner.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

This is where our adventure began. These steps led us down to the bottom of the ravine, rather than the marked trail. Initially, the trickle of water is not even ankle-deep and easily avoidable by the wide riverbanks. We walked along the bank until we got to this:

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Yep. It’s a huge logjam with dozens of enormous, slick trees. It doesn’t look that treacherous, but trust. It’s taller and wider than it lseems. Climbing across it is somewhat dangerous. I mean, this area is unmaintained and there are no handrails. But we did see small nimble children, fit older folks, and even brave dogs making their way across. Know your own limits. It is NOT safe.

being a nerd.

being a nerd on top of the log jam

Once we successfully crossed, we understood the reason why so many people do it. Ahead of us was a deep cut in the mountains that looked like they were split apart with a jagged knife. Walking through it, we stared up in amazement.  It was otherworldly. We were not be the only ones murmuring, this is awesome. It is awesome. It invokes awe.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

As we walked along, we realized our legs were tingling. Looking down, we saw that the earth dipped and the water slowly crept up and was hugging our calves. And the riverbanks had disappeared. The water was so clear we could barely tell. But, not wanting to be wimps, we forged on. (You can’t forge a river though.) Surprisingly, our legs numbed got used to it quickly.

The water receded just as fast as it rose, and we thought we were out of the danger zone. That wasn’t so bad! But a few steps ahead then the ground sank again. The stones on which we were walking kept dipping lower, and lower and lower beneath the surface of the water. This time, it wasn’t just to our knees. The water was now chest deep. And ice cold. Since we knew there was more ahead, we kept going, the cool water wrapping around our skin like a snake with a deathlike grip. It. Was. Freezing. But after a few minutes of torture, we were released and back on dry land.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

deep!

Walking a few more paces into the canyon, we came to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Before us was a massive waterfall. We reached the end! After a few obligatory jumping photos, we traversed back out.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

That entire adventure took us about 90 minutes. Well worth the drive from Portland to visit this natural treasure.

xxx

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Road trip: Northern Croatia

We are now entering the fast forward section of our two week, ten country road trip (i.e. when we started to cram way too much into the last 5 days). It was Saturday afternoon and we sped to Croatia. Once we were out of Italy, we went old school. As in, we used fold out maps. Our GPS did not have information for the rest of the countries on our trip. And we weren’t about to rack up roaming fees on our iPhones and iPads. Let me tell you something, in an age of dependence on all kinds of electronic devices, it feels really good to manage without. So paper maps. Bring. It. On.

Didn’t get to Pula until nightfall, but again our campsite was gracious enough to let us crash and pay in the morning. (This was a theme throughout our trip.) Since it was dark when we arrived, we couldn’t see much, but camped right on the shore and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves on the rocks below. Nice! The next day we wandered around Pt Kamenjak, which translates to rocky point and it’s application is quite literal. The area was a huge rocky beach with kayaking, windsurfing, beer shacks outdoor bars and an overall bohemian/hipster vibe that we were really digging. Except that we were a month too late. Everything was closed up for the season. Still, it was a nice place to walk around, if not a little disappointing. We just missed the party.

That afternoon we drove around the (very scenic) coastline, through tiny, pretty villages, stopping in harborfront Crikvenica for a burek lunch, to a small coastal town called Senj. Quickly became obsessed with burek (Croatian pastries filled with cheese, spinach or meat). Camped just outside of town at a site that was right on the water and filled with VW van-driving hippies families. Loved it. The town itself was really quaint, with a waterfront boardwalk and crooked streets. We ended up finding a random pub for dinner where we feasted on local dishes like Ćevapčići (spicy sausages, ražnjići (grilled pork skewers) and frothy Croatian beer. So, so good. Couldn’t even finish it; there was so much food. Don’t worry, a little feline friend (this is the theme of my life) came by and once I dropped a small piece of meat, she ran off, must have brought it to her family and came back for more. I She eventually cleared my plate and I was happy to not let that meat go to waste.

The next day, we headed to Plitvice National Park, a gorgeous area with ever-changing pools, waterfalls and the clearest lake water I have ever seen. So pretty. We spent most of the day there, riding the ferries to different areas and hiking around. Felt good to walk for most of the day after all the driving!

No time to head further south to the most popular destinations like Split or Dubrovnik. Couldn’t even get to the islands. Maybe next time. There will be a next time.

Ahead: Slovenia’s Lake Bled & a hot minute in Austria’s Salzburg…

xxx