The Adolescents

“Maybe we can get a job picking fruit in Hood River or a job working the wheat harvest in La Grande. You know, that’s where we could make some real money.”

I,  too, had an adventurous foot itch. After lining up a summer replacement on my paper route, I was rarin’ to go. My mother warily agreed to the plan. When the time came, Cy’s parents dumped us off on the outskirts of the city, along with our duffel bags and bedding rolls.

We left on one of those postcard-perfect June days in Portland when the rain stops and the. low-hanging cover of gray clouds gives way to sunshine and deep blue sky.


Hitchhiking on the road that summer, we came to know well the raw, windy backend of a flatbed fruit truck, or the jostling backend of a pickup truck whose rusted metal floor was strewn with a patina of dirt, sawdust and nails. And we came to appreciate the sagging back seat of an overloaded jalopy or the occasional back seat of an aging sedan.

Sometimes we stood by the road with thumbs held high for hours on end, as the cars and trucks chugged by. In desperation, once, we tried an old trick from the ‘20s.

And. it worked. We hid our gear in the brush just off the road, A middle-aged couple stopped in a big Buick. Quickly, we grabbed our gear and hopped in before they could drive off.

They turned out to be a jovial pair. She talked, talked, talked. Between the incessant chatter, he told us a few bad jokes.

East of Troutdale, where the river slashes through the Cascade Mountains, the historic, two-lane Columbia. River Highway climbed and curved its way high up along steep, craggy cliffs, through tunnels in the rock, over graceful, arched bridges and alongside one jubilant waterfall after another: Latourell, Bridal Veil Falls, Horsetail Falls, Mist Falls, Wahkeena Falls and the famed Multnomah Falls, highest of them all.

A young couple in a wheezing, old Ford picked us up and drove us over that narrow, cliff-hugging road, a marvel of early 2.Qtil century engineering. When they stopped for a rest at Multnomah Falls, we walked down the trail together to the viewpoint at the base of the falls. As I stood there staring up into that mesmerizing, 600- foot drop of cascading water, a feeling of de ja vu stole over me. Across my mind flitted images of standing on that same ground as a small child, clutching tightly my dad’s hand. I dimly remembered that we had trudged up a trail that curves around and across a footbridge spanning the deep chasm of the falls.

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