Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sandy River Rambles: Sandy to Gresham Via Orient Drive on a Stormy Winter Evening

Sandy River Rambles: Sandy to Gresham Via Orient Drive on a Stormy Winter Evening


Seeking Shelter From the Storm and Finding Healing in a Sunset

I lived in Portland more than 17 years before I discovered Orient Drive.  I normally drove home from Mt. Hood on the road most often traveled -- Highway 26 from Sandy to Gresham, Oregon.  The first time I traveled Orient Drive was on a stormy winter day.  The drive and the storm inspired me in multiple ways.  First, I found myself fascinated as I recognized bits of history along the road.  Second, when I looked at my photos after the drive, I immediately saw two metaphors for very important aspects of healing:  Keeping yourself safe in the storm and finding healing in a moment of beauty such as an awesome sunset.

In 1846 during the days of the Oregon Trail, there was no Sandy and no Gresham.  Perhaps a few scattered farmsteads occupied their place.  The main road from The Dalles to Portland, Oregon, other than the Columbia River, was the Barlow Trail.  It was not a road for the faint of heart.  In places it was barely a road at all.  The infamous Laurel Hill on the western side of Mt. Hood was a one way passage from east to west; west to east traverses of the hill being impossible in a wagon.  Pioneers removed the wheels from their wagons and guided them down the 6o degree slopes of Laurel Hill with ropes as they traveled east to west.

Even after the Oregon Trail days ended, the Barlow Trail remained the main east to west route.  When the Mt. Hood Highway was built in the 1920s, it followed the Barlow Trail in places.  In others it followed gentler passages.  Plans to turn the Mt. Hood Highway into a freeway were scuttled in the 1970s, but much of the road was realigned as the freeway was partially built.  Some portions of the old highway remain visible if you look for them.  When we drove on Orient Drive for the first time, we recognized development that seemed like Route 66 -- mid-century motels and restaurants.  I have not been able to find confirmation anywhere, but I suspect that Orient Drive is the remnants of the old Mt. Hood Highway between Sandy and Gresham.

That first time on Orient Drive came on a winter day during a burst of driving rain.  The rain flowed so fiercely, almost as heavy as if someone was shooting a fire hose at the windshield, that I could not see. So I pulled off the road and sat out the drenching.  Now I am a cautious driver.  Others less daunted by the rain passed me by, but I would rather be safe than sorry as the old saying goes.  Then, as the rain flow tapered, the clouds parted and the sun peaked through, silhouetting in gold the now forested cinder cones of an ancient lava field.  The drenched pavement mirrored the golden glow.  As we drove on, the car headlights and tail lights and the traffic lights at intersections shimmered red and green and white on the wet macadam, and the road through exurbia became breathtaking.

As I looked through my photos after this breathtaking, rain soaked drive, two aspects of healing became obvious.

First, when we are stressed whether by interpersonal conflict or by other difficult events in our lives, we can lessen our stress by taking breaks that remove us from the heat of the moment.  

If you are arguing with someone you can simply say, "I need a break right now;  I can't talk about this right now.  After a break we can resume discussing this issue."

For your own healing and development, you should keep your commitment to resume the discussion as complete avoidance of difficult issues tends to worsen them.  However, healing yourself so you can respond from your heart instead of reacting from your gut usually improves the situation.  After working on healing yourself and working out a better approach to a difficult topic, go back to the discussion.

There are many ways to heal one's self, but exposing one's self to beauty is an easy way to automatically calm the mind.  I like to walk through my garden filled neighborhood to heal and uplift myself.  Evening walks around sunset reinforce the healing beauty off the gardens and charming older bungalows.  Driving through the sunset, as you can see in the following blog, works too.

We can't schedule drenching rainstorms when we need them, but I am sharing my experience with you.  So enjoy.

On a rainy winter evening, the wind blasts from the west, and the sky opens up and pours, obscuring the road.
We pull off and wait rather than risking the driving rain.

Others, braver or perhaps more reckless than we,
pass us by,

kicking up the storm water around them.

Before the flood ceases, the sun peeks through a seam in the rain blurred sky.

The downpour pauses,

but scattered drops still sprinkle the pavement and camera.

We drive onward, consumed with awe.  
Sunset and streetlights reflecting on the wet macadam,

creating a color filled tableau in the fading light of the day: bright red, streetlight green, and lush grass green.

Roiling blue grey clouds, highlighted in gold and peach and pink silhouette the tree lined bluff beyond the boulevard.

Even after the downpour passes, and the soaked landscape glistens brilliantly in the last blazing rays of day.

We head home, mesmerized by the fey vision of the storm drenched fray.


Do you ever feel as though life has rained down upon you so forcefully that you cannot move forward?

In what ways is your life stormy?

How long does the downpour last?

What kinds of things can you do to seek shelter from these storms?

What kinds of beauty in your life have you experienced after a downpour?

What can you do to help yourself to heal yourself after an emotional storm?

Driving west towards Gresham turn right off Highway 26 onto SE Orient Drive just after Sandy, Oregon.
Follow SE Orient Drive to SE Powell Valley Road.  Turn left onto SE Powell Valley Road to Highway 26. 
Follow Highway 26 to I-205.
Follow SE Orient Drive until it becomes SE Kane Drive.
Follow SE Kane Drive until it becomes NE Kane Drive.
Follow NE Kane Drive until it becomes SW 257th Avenue.
SW 257th Avenue becomes Graham Road.
From Graham Road you can merge with I-84.

Oregon Encyclopedia: Barlow Trail (
Wikipedia: Marmot, Oregon (,_Oregon)

© 2014 Virginia Pickles Jones

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