Learning to Appreciate Paradise 

I don’t often appreciate things until they are gone.

I’m typically focused on the next great thing – forgetting to enjoy what I have at the time. My mother once told me this character trait makes me high maintenance because I am always distracted scheming the next great thing. She’s probably right (as mothers always are!).

For example, when I was a teenager I lived in Bishop, California. A relatively small town nestled into the base of the mighty Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bishop is one of the most amazing places you could ever find.

sierra_pond_552715

A view of the Sierra Nevadas from Mill Pond in Bishop, California. How could I have ever thought this was a boring miserable place?

People come from all over the world to hike, fish, rock climb and ski there. But for me it was just a little town crawling with tourists and there was “nothing to do.” I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and leave Bishop far behind. Of course now I realize what a magical place it was and I regret that I didn’t take full advantage of all Bishop had to offer in the great outdoors.

I was reminded of my tendency to look past my blessings recently when our friend Thai came from Vietnam to visit the U.S. for the first time.

We took him hiking in the Columbia River Gorge – one of the crown jewels of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve gone hiking in the Gorge more times than I can count. But seeing it through his eyes, as he’d stop to marvel at a vista or a waterfall, or even a banana slug inching across the trail, reminded me that I often forget to appreciate the beauty of this place I get to call home.

DSC01967

Thai hiking to Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

DSC01964

Traversing a foot bridge on the hike – don’t look down!

DSC01961

Thai reminded me to take the time to pause and truly enjoy the view.

So, in the spirit of taking advantage of what we have access to here in Portland, Glenn and I decided to hike the Paradise Park loop on Mt. Hood this weekend. Our goal was twofold: 1) escape the heat by getting up into the mountains, and 2) take in the scenery that we missed due to fog and rain the last time we did this hike.

The first time Glenn and I hiked the Paradise Park loop it was as part of our Round the Mountain adventure where we hiked the circumference of Mt. Hood in three days. The trail was misty and cloudy and bursting with ripe huckleberries. We could tell the scenery was beautiful and the vistas superb, if not for the fog. So, we vowed to come back on a future sunny day.

DSC00671

Our foggy climb through Paradise Park on Mt. Hood last year (September 2014).

DSC00681

Stopping to enjoy the ripe huckleberries along the trail.

DSC00673

“I thought huckleberries grew in pancakes!” said Glenn.

DSC00679

Although the summit of Mt. Hood was shrouded in clouds behind us, we still had a good time hiking Paradise Park in the rain last year.

Portlanders become dysfunctional when the temperatures get into the high 80’s. Most of us don’t have air conditioning in our homes and we are used to moderate summer temperatures that make the humidity more bearable. Heck, it’s usually still rainy and cool for 4th of July. But not this year; We’ve been nearing triple digits for the past couple of weeks.

Escaping up into the mountains seemed like the perfect solution! So, we grabbed some friends, our pups and set off into the cool mountain air.

Or so we thought…

By 9:30 AM we had hit the trailhead near Timberline Lodge and were looking forward to a full day of hiking (15 miles at about 6,000 feet in elevation).

DSC01978

Denali (pup), Michelle and Kate crossing the Zig Zag river.

FullSizeRender-2

Glenn and Linus (pup) enjoying the view.

DSC01982

Hiking up the hillsides covered in wildflowers about to pop with color!

DSC01994

This amazing view was obscured with fog our last time through.

DSC02005

A sea of wildflowers along the trail.

FullSizeRender

Michelle and I (along with Denali, left and Honeydew, right) noticing that the sun seems to be getting hotter and hotter and hotter…

As the morning progressed the temperatures kept climbing and climbing and climbing. By early afternoon the temperatures were nearing 90 degrees!

DSC02008

The dogs took every opportunity to lay down in the cool streams along the hike, packs and all. Kate and Glenn are a little jealous, I think.

Our glorious hike had become a death march across the searing heat of the ash and sand covered trails. Instead of looking through banks of fog like we did the last time we did the hike, we were looking through the clouds of trail dust we kicked up as we ploughed through the parched landscape.

DSC02012

After a day of baking in the hot sun the trail got so hot it was burning the dogs’ feet. We fashioned some “dog booties” out of duct tape to protect their paws.

DSC02010

Denali scored a piggyback ride from Michelle to protect her feet from the hot sand. Denali loved it and seemed to think that the rest of the hike should be like this.

I tried to remember what I learned from Thai’s visit…to take in the scenery and appreciate the beauty of this paradise I call home. Even if I had to wipe the stinging sweat out of my eyes to do so!

Share your thoughts!