Heat Wave

I ran when I was younger the county roads of Hood River. From Trout Creek Ridge to Cooper Spur and Lost Lake to Lolo Pass, I crisscrossed the valley, high on endorphins, at 140 heart beats a minute.

I ran loops around the rectangular blocks of apple, pear, and cherry orchards. I noted the seasons as blossoms emerged from their dormant winter and the fruit swelled on the branches and then was picked or fell to the ground and the leaves of the trees turned yellow and orange.

I ran next to fenced pastures under the watchful glower of cattle grazing in fields made tall and green from the plentiful water tables of northern Oregon. I followed graveled roads into the forest where loggers cleared the steep slopes of trees and I then ran back along the forks of the Hood River and its tributary creeks.

I ran and I ran for ten years or more, pounding the pavement, over and beyond the rolling hills in the lower, the upper, and central valleys, down Ehrck Hill and up Fir Mountain, in the rain, snow even, and most trying, the blistering heat of summer.

(Click a photo to view the gallery)

This summer, the summer of 2014, which old timers in the valley say is the warmest in memory, we found relief from the heat with mountain hikes and a visit to the Oregon Coast.

Seven of us followed the dog bone loop from Hood River Meadows to Umbrella Falls. It climbs steadily through the forest’s shade on the northeast slope of Mt. Hood, then descends exposed to the sun. Our group spread apart along the trail but gathered again at a bridge below the waterfall.

We rested on logs, comfortable as beetles among the moss and grass and the sticks and stones of the forest floor. We laughed and took pictures, exhilarated by the thin alpine air and the clamor of the waterfall above, then, refreshed, hiked back to the meadows below.

The next weekend, my wife and I walked miles on the beach at Manzanita. In the evenings, at a house we shared with friends, we told stories and reminisced, then retired to our rooms and opened wide the windows and read books and drifted to sleep listening to ocean waves.

(Click a photo to view the gallery)

In the Hood River Valley, the heat wave continued. Stores sold all their fans and air conditioners and people mulled over what to do as the hot weather marched through July and implacably forward into the second week of August when, finally, a summer storm interrupted the string of sweltering days.

The air, a broth thickened with heat, clung to my skin when I stepped outside. The sky darkened and a sluggish breeze stirred the leaves on the trees and the shrubs. Soon, it stiffened and the rumble of kettledrums rolled forward from the ridges into the valley. Rain began to fall and would continue for several hours and the wind, indifferent to direction, dispelled the heat and something … something in the fragrance of the wet pavement reminded me of when I was a runner.

I remembered that the hardest part of any run came at the start and the first few hundred yards before my body found its rhythm. I recalled the exhausted satisfaction of long runs and the realization that stamina and endurance and well being are earned with plodding effort, with staying at it, whatever it may be. And, I thought, “Today would be a good day to run,” and stood there for several moments surrounded by the storm, in the rain, in the late summer of the warmest summer in memory.

… to be continued

13 thoughts on “Heat Wave

  1. A thoroughbred never loses its desire to run. But reading your latest post, Brother John, I can see that you are still running in your mind, and that’s what we do when we age.


  2. Running taught you a lot. It’s so true that the first few minutes are the hardest. The photos are beautiful. Oregon is one of the few states I never made it to. Your words and photos brought me there. Thank you.


  3. What a lovely post. Of course, all your posts are lovely…I’ve read them all. I’ve been reading your blog for over a year. Found it when surfing the web for items related to multiple myeloma. My husband was diagnosed in Sept 2012. We’re from the Tri Cities. But we’ve spent lots of time in Hood River. My husband is a wind surfer since the late 80s. We have many ties to your neck of the woods….I enjoy your blogs not only for the incredible talent you have for writing but also for the familiarity we have with Hood River. We too spent time at the SCCA for transplants…. Almost all of 2013…..first for an auto followed by an allo because he’s high risk. We, too, have had tough times with steroids. Such an unfortunately familiar path…..I gobble up your blogs because they are so eloquent and touching. You do us a favor by sharing such personal musings. Thank you!


  4. Hello! Yes would love to meet you. I’m sure we’ll be there before too long….just heard from my husband’s donor of stem cells….she lives in Troutdale……what a coincidence…. Short journey away….looking forward to meeting her……and we’ll definitely make a stop in Hood. River….would enjoy meeting up if the timing works out.



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