Silence Is…?

Sunday night, my eighth here in Jawbone this trip, I doubled what had previously been my longest stay. I still can’t decide if the silence is golden or deafening, it’s probably a bit of both, but there’s an incredible sense of tranquility here that I will have a hard time swapping out for the chaos of the city come Sunday.

I walked down to Opal Pool yesterday with someone who was seeing it for the first time. I love doing that. It allows me to stand on the bridge, look upstream and appreciate, almost objectively, the way Opal Creek surges and tumbles over those rock formations, the gaps in the trees just big enough to make out the ridgeline in the distance. Looking downstream, I appreciate anew the storm that, all those years ago, deposited that rock in the narrow passage the water follows before falling into Opal Pool. Our visitor was duly impressed, and, as happens with every first time visitor, was already talking about coming back in the summer when the air is warm enough to warrant jumping into that translucent water.

I love experiencing the novelties of Jawbone with a newbie – the old car graveyard, shooty-hoops in the shop, Opal Pool, late night jam sessions in cabin 8, an explanation of the Pelton wheel, the serenity of the confluence – but my time here alone has been most rewarding this trip.

The road I’ve traveled up and down dozens of times in the three and a half years I’ve worked for Opal Creek has become ingrained in my head now that it’s my best bet for a quick run or a walk with Sunny: the S-curves, buttslides, the Kopetski Bridge, then the creek with the water flowing through the trees’ trunks, followed closely by the nurse stump with the new tree’s roots wrapped tightly round, the Merten Mill and Cascada de los Niños, the majestic Hewitt Grove, the feat of engineering that is the half bridges, and the Gold Creek bridge and falls.

I had the opportunity on Saturday to experience Opal Creek “beyond the gate” in a new way. I geared up and took advantage of the sunshine and Tucker’s plans to head into town for the day and got a ride down to the Horn Ranch, then turned around and ran back to Jawbone Flats. I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first time riding down that road on a sunny day in October 2008. I had the chance again on this run to enjoy the scenery on that last stretch of road, one that I don’t often have anymore as I’m typically behind the wheel. I stopped to stretch a tight calf on the clickety-clackety bridge and noticed, really for the first time, the beautiful, mossy rock infused cascade that necessitates that bridge. I passed all these places and turnoffs for places that I know in name only, and I began scribbling a summertime to-do list; Three Pools, Opal Lake, Henline Trail. I admired the seasonal waterfalls, the lush undergrowth, the short stretch toward the end of the public road lined with white barked Alders, and the expansive views of the vast watershed in the few stretches of road that go right to the edge of the cliff.

A friend lent me Wildwood before I left on this adventure last week. It didn’t take me long to finish – the perfect complement to this place and this trip. Although author Colin Meloy describes Portland’s Forest Park in his narrative, it might as well be Opal Creek, and I spent the last leg of my run, back on familiar ground inside the gate, applying his descriptions to what I was seeing:

As far as the eye could see, it was green. As many shades of green as Prue could imagine were draped across the landscape: the electric emerald of the ferns and the sallow olive of the drooping lichen and the stately gray-green of the fir branches. The sun was rising higher in the sky, and it streamed through the gaps of the dense wood . . . [it] dappled the ground in hazy patterns, and the air felt pure and untouched to Prue’s cheeks. As she walked, she wondered at the majesty of the place, her fears subsiding with every step in this incredible wilderness. Prue couldn’t believe that no one had ever ventured this far into the Impassable Wilderness; she found it a welcoming and serene place, full of life and beauty.