I have no idea why the Small One remembers going to this place, deep in the bosky dells of Marion County, in the lesser foothills of the Cascades. But she did, and her mom didn't want to drag herself down the long road southeast from Portland, so Sunday was a Daddy and Daughter Day Out, on the road to Silver Falls State Park.
So after a lazy morning the Girl and I started our adventure making sushi for lunch.
Yes. Sushi. The Small One is quite the sushi-chef.
She wields her makisu 巻き簾, the bamboo rolling-mat with the precision and flair of the true itamae-san as she crafts her tempura shrimp-rolls (her favorite).
Perhaps it's her small fingers, or, just perhaps, it's her love of the sweet savor and delicate crunchiness of the tobiko that leads her to sprinkle it liberally inside her makizushi.
And it IS a long ride; down through Portland and onto the freeway. South through the surprisingly heavy Sunday traffic choke-points of the Terwilliger Curves, Tigard, Wilsonville, and the Boone Bridge, before finally escaping to the relatively speedy stretch south of the Willamette River where the broad flatlands stretch away, green with summer and dark with a cloudy morning's rain.
The Girl keeps up a stream of chatter because...well, because she's a little chatterer. She enjoys her own silliness, exclaims little-girl affection for random farm animals that would intimidate her if encountered up close. She scoffs at her older brother's idleness in front of a video screen and hopes for an adventure in the woods ahead.
Off the freeway at the greedy sprawl of Woodburn, then east, then south along the faded strip of Highway 99 until we reach the left turn for Silverton. From there it is truly into the undeveloped lands of the east edge of the Willamette Valley.
The valley itself is, to my eyes, an unappealing square flatness of farm field and copse. Southeast of Woodburn, however, the land rises into pleasant undulation towards the cloud-wrapped mountains beyond.
The road itself loses its drab linearity and winds, dips, and climbs in an entertaining fashion, made all the more pleasing by not being blocked by sluggish tractors or gear-grinding heavy trucks. The Girl and I sail through the woods and fields and are passing through the faux-Teutonic hamlet of Mount Angel in short minutes.
Small One is perplexed, then amused, by my insistence that the wooded hilltop east of the town is occupied by actual monks, and laughs at the fakey-German gimcracks as we pass through.
But her laugh is on me when we stop at the IGA grocery outside Silverton to pick her up a bottle of water. It turns out that today is the culmination of "Homer Davenport Days" in the little town and she gleefully predicts a "Tulip Festival", crowing with delight at the prospect of a Furious Daddy.
("Tulip Festival", by the way, is family shorthand for "some unforeseen event that creates incandescent rage in the parent", after the time my father the Master Chief was driving my family to our annual vacation in upper western Michigan and got stuck in the middle of some sort of Holland, Michigan celebration.Sadly for The Girl, the Tulip Festival (or Homer Day, or whatever...) was confined to a side street and we sailed through Silverton practically without a check and up into the close-set woodlands and rising hills above us.
Of course, in those pre-Internet days he, and we, had no idea that this was a thing until the traffic on the little road through town - this being the late Sixties the idea of a highway or bypass up the east side of Lake Michigan was an arrant fantasy - slowed, and then slowed, and then stopped and sat.
So we sat. And sat. In a dark green station wagon. In the August heat. For several hours. While my father, normally a man of moderate temper and inexpressive mien, grew more furious by the moment.
By the time the traffic began to move and we crept through the festive town my father would have cheerfully nuked Holland, Michigan, and all its inhabitants into a glowing slag and danced gleefully upon the ruin.
Ever since then the prospect of seeing the top of the paternal parent's head fly off in rage has been the sincere wish of both children, and Missy was practically chortling in hope.)
Reaching the north end parking lot we find that we're not the only people who decided to visit that day; the lot is full, and we have to look around for an alternative. That turns out to be a gravel side road with a broad shoulder where we leave little Stinky the Honda and walk back to find our path for the day.
That turns out to be, first, "Little North Falls", a pretty box-canyon headed by a pinnate rush of cold, clear water. We admire the pools in the slickrock at the base and the size of the trees felled and boulders moved by the winter floods.
The Girl finds water striders dimpling the glassy surface and makes little wavelets to make them skitter away. I stop to take pictures of the passage of the winter's kolks; the sudden holes in the basalt filled with grindstones where dark gray-green crayfish scuttle into the shadow when we loom over them.
A young couple has, in "defiance of municipal regulations", brought their small white terrier with them to the falls. The little creature is, in violation of normal terrier mores, hesitant about rushing around sniffing and detecting, perhaps because of the water-slick rock.
My own little creature is, as is her wont, entranced. While she found having an actual dog somewhat of a nuisance as a pet she enjoys other people's dogs and is coo-ish and enticing towards this one which, however, is only mildly curious in return about the small cozening human. Perhaps this has something to do with the Small One's lack of food.
"It was a LOT bigger last time!" she declares.
Indeed, the plume is much diminished from the earlier spring when we last visited. The crowds are somewhat larger, however, and I force myself not to make an irked sound as we pass the self-impressed boobs using some sort of scribing tool to etch their little piece of eternity into the rock ceiling.
Missy wants to lob a rock into the fall, so we carefully pick out a spot where we can see all the way to the plunge pool and she lets fly; the palm-sized projectile flies about a quarter of the way out to the cascade before arcing down into the swordfern and vinemaple.
Still; Missy is well pleased with herself, and skips on down the trail to where it meets Silver Creek some quarter-mile or so further on.
There she entertains herself mightily plonking rocks in the water, launching clover petals, and using the swagger stick I picked up to riffle the cold waters not long removed from the snowfields of the High Cascades.
We share this little slackwater with a Filipino family, whose youngest son is rampaging through the water soaking his clothing and generally ignoring the requests, imprecations, and demands of his female relatives with squalling defiance. I foresee a difficult adolescence for Young Master, whose expectation of similar indulgence from the larger world is likely to go as unfulfilled as the Silver Creek channel is today.
The Girl is ready to continue on, but I know the capability of those short legs better than their owner does, so I turn us backward, heading the short way towards the north parking lot. We circle back under North Falls, casting another stone along the way and pausing to ooh and ah at the tree casts, the cylindrical voids in the overlying basalt ceiling formed by millions-year-old trees that were buried in the flowing lava.
These piers are empty, hollow columns rising into the darkness overhead unlike the tree-cast I once told you about. But they, too, to me seem fraught, empty yet full of the vanished forest and the uncountable years.
The Small One is only mildly impressed.
She is more excited retelling another, more recent Family Legend, this one the story of Daddy and Mommy and Pre-Mommy and the Boring Little Brown Bird* ("Mommy was mad because she wanted Thanksgiving Dinner more than the Boring Bird!")
She pockets the two smooth stones she picked up along the creek, momentos of her adventurous day.
The drive home is unremarkable outside the appalling tie-up the begins south of the Aurora exit and continues grinding along in fits and starts painfully slowly almost to North Wilsonville before, suddenly and inexplicably, dissipating.
The Small One is weary from her hike (and a brief hop to our Powell's bookstore for some new stories to read...) and remains in the back seat reading about kitten Chi's newest shenanigans rather than take the few steps into the store we stop to get her brother's much-needed XBOX accessories.
But she is again chatty and excited when we get back home, informing her mother (and her brother, if he cared enough to listen) all the excitement we shared in the Oregon Wild. She bounces off into her back room with her new book in hand.
And returns a quarter hour later, flops down backwards on the parental bed, and announces with a sigh and a voice heavy with the pain of bottomless ennui:
*(The official version of the story of "Mommy, Daddy, Pre-Mommy and the Boring Little Brown Bird" ("Oregon's First Louisiana Waterthrush") is told in the first article in above-linked issue of Oregon Birds, the publication of the Oregon Birding Association (then the Oregon Field Ornithologists).
For some reason I find it richly amusing that the citation for the initial sighting of Oregon's first (and, so far as I know, only) record of this species is shared by my current wife, my ex-wife, and me. My children, for some inexplicable reason, do not find this nearly as entertaining)