• carla moreno

On Solitude

Being a Concierge is a fun job, but it takes an enormous amount of energy to make people feel welcome and happy - All. The. Time.

At the end of the day, I’m pretty tired.

Living in the city has its challenges as well. I love the hustle and bustle, but sooner or later, it all just becomes too much.

I need peace and quiet.

I need solitude.

I planned a 3 day trip to the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon to exercise my mental, spiritual, and physical self.

Far away from the city and noise, my first stop was Bagby Hot Springs.

Nestled in the forests of Mt. Hood, Bagby Hot Springs was discovered by a hunter and prospector named Bob Bagby in 1880.

The hot springs are one of Oregon’s most popular destinations and being that it was summer, I planned to hike out early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

I paid my park fee and gathered my trekking poles. With bear and cougar warning signs at the trailhead, I proceeded with caution down the lonely 1.7 mile path to the springs.

Streaks of sunlight beamed through the morning mist; the air was cool and crisp. My senses heightened to my surroundings and it was clear to me how much I craved the aroma of the woods. I’ve done a few hikes in Oregon before, but I always find it interesting how still being in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s landscape is different compared to that of Washington.

The forest is quiet. It’s intensely beautiful and eerie at the same time.

The trail crosses Nohorn Creek on a footbridge and follows the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River up to the bathhouses. There was a mother and son taking a soak in one of the tubs. They were kind enough to show me how to fill the tub as they’re frequent visitors.

The water was absolutely pristine.

Once the water temperature evened out to my liking, I changed into my bathing suit and slowly entered my tub.

The steam rising from the surface, I closed my eyes and let the springs do its magic.

About an hour later, I strolled back to the trailhead and thought about a close friend who recently passed away. She was a bright spirit who died of advanced stage cancer. It’s still quite surreal knowing she’s not here anymore. Memories of our 7 years of friendship flooded my mind.

By the time I made it to my car, there were tears running down my face.

The Cozy Roller was the vintage ‘59 Overlander airstream where I’d spend the next two nights. Located in the small town of Boring, in the foothills of Mt. Hood, there was no tv, internet, phone, or shower. It was my every intention to nourish myself with good experiences, good food, and a good book. I couldn’t have found a more perfect place. I unpacked my groceries and prepared my evening meal. I watched the sunset as I enjoyed my dinner and a glass of wine. I savored each bite slowly listening to the wind blow gently through the trees.

As the night closed in, I shut myself inside the airstream and got into bed to read a book. There was a storm that rolled through that night. It was a noisy night that didn’t allow for much sleep. Once daylight broke, it was as if nothing happened at all. The air was dewy and the ground, moist.

I chopped some mushrooms, tomatoes, and green onions and made some scrambled eggs with coffee. It was the fuel I was going to need for the upcoming hike/bike tour that morning.

I've been pretty lucky to find some wonderful and unique adventures and the Hike and Bike the Columbia Gorge offered by Around Portland Tours was spot on.

Three other women joined the tour and our male guide, Edwin was friendly and accomodating. Our tour started at Chanticleer Point. We rode for a few miles and then stopped to hike a waterfall loop. Once again my senses heightened, the adrenaline rush was exhilarating. Edwin regaled us with stories of the area and while we hiked, he biked up the steep hills to bring our van down to each stop.

Ingrid was a woman from my tour group who I quickly befriended and who shared a similar hiking pace. A Canadian, it was her first time to the Pacific Northwest and the first time she’d ever seen waterfalls!

Hiking is an amazing and powerful thing. More than just physical exertion, hiking stimulates your mind in ways you don’t get in everyday life. I was pleased to see how hiking affected Ingrid. She talked about doing something for herself when she travels with her husband on business trips. Ingrid talked a lot, but that didn’t bother me because I knew she was really thinking out loud. That’s what hiking does to you.

Five hours later and my legs felt like jelly. It was the exercise I wanted and then some. After a not-so-healthy burger dinner in town, I drove back to the Cozy Roller for my last night.

All cleaned up and with my book in hand, I sat outside with a glass of wine and watched the sunset. I walked around the property and looked beyond the trees. It was a much quieter night than before. I took deep breaths and tears flowed down my cheek. I didn’t want it to end.

That night I didn’t sleep but a few hours, this time the silence kept me awake. I heard an owl hooting for a short while and then nothing. Of course, the pitch black forest only intensified the fears perhaps because I was far away in an unfamiliar place and really alone in the woods. For the longest time, I layed in bed with my eyes open. It was so dark, I couldn’t see my hands. I wasn’t just alone, I felt lonely.

Morning came and I sat on the bed motionless for a few minutes. I looked around the airstream taking in this little place that sheltered me for two days. The birds were chirping and in the distance was a farmer working out on the field. Where did he come from? It was only until then that I noticed a house way out beyond the field. Turns out, I wasn’t alone after all.

As usual, my final hours on my adventures bring about a deep sigh and sadness that eventually lead to a few tears. It’s not the return to reality that makes me sad, it’s the fact that I don’t get the opportunity to experience the myriad of feelings and emotions that only come about on my adventures.

For as much as I yearned for solitude, the silence frightened me because I forget how powerful it is to be alone. I was reminded of good things and bad things; mistakes and accomplishments. My solitude brought great joy, sadness, and made my loneliness palpable. I thought about life and I thought about death; my gains and losses. I thought about how I have no companion to spend life with or comfort me.

It’s only been a few weeks since returning to my busy life making other people happy and I already know I’ll be looking for solitude again, because It’s the only way I can take care of me.

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