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THINKING OUT LOUD - OK class, here's your homework for the week

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:10 PM

Here's something a little different. The column below was first printed in this space more than seven years ago. I have always liked it and now I have a reason to re-run it. That reason will be apparent to you when you read next week's column. So consider this your homework for the week.

Here's how to cure a headache.

Okay, it may not be practical for everybody, but it worked for me.

I discovered this cure last week when I was working in Portland, Oregon. By the end of my workday on Thursday, I had a sharp pain stabbing through what I imagine to be the frontal lobe of my brain.

Going to my hotel room did not seem like the thing that would make the throbbing better.

I decided to go for a hike instead.

It is an easy decision to make in a place like Portland. Within half an hour you can be surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States.

I chose to leave Oregon altogether and go to Washington. It was about two miles from my hotel across the Columbia River and I did not have to fight any rush hour traffic to get there.

My guidebook recommended a hike at Beacon Rock State Park, and that became my destination.

The park is named after one bodacious rock that, millions of years ago, used to line the throat of a volcano. Supposedly, the only other single hunk of stone bigger on earth is the Rock of Gibralter. It's a big rock.

I got there by 5:30 and began my ascent. It's about 850 feet to the top (I told you it was a big rock), but the trail (cut into the stone by one man and his son over two years starting in 1915) requires the hiker to negotiate 53 switchbacks to get there.

There is nothing like hiking uphill to make you forget your troubles. Trudge, trudge, trudge ... switchback! ... trudge, trudge, trudge ... switchback! ... trudge, trudge, trudge ... switchback! 53 times on a one mile trail to ascend 850 feet.

At the top, I was alone with the remarkable Columbia River Gorge spread out as far as I could see in either direction the massive Bonneville hydroelectric generating dam in the distance to the east and several stunning Oregon-side waterfalls lining the opposite basalt walls. Unseen behind it all was mystical, snow-covered Mt. Hood. It's quite a place.

And standing there on the second biggest rock on the planet, it was very easy to envision Lewis and Clark laying eyes almost 200 years ago on the very spot I was standing. I could even imagine the conversation: "Is it just me, Meriwether, or is that the biggest rock you've ever seen?"

They named it Beacon Rock although Native Americans had seen it long before Lewis and Clark were born. To the Indians, it signaled the end of the dangerous rapids on the most powerful river in North America. From that big rock, it was smooth, safe paddling all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Actually, I misspoke a second ago when I said I was alone at the top. As I scanned the view in each direction and gulped water from a bottle, I looked over the edge.

Just down from the peak were a young man and woman. They were seated either side of a red checked tablecloth, sipping from red wine filled glasses, a red rose between them.

They were notable, not only because of their choice perch on the Washington State edge of the Columbia River Gorge, but because the man was wearing formal attireright down to the cumberbundand he had just said to the woman: "Will you marry me?"

She had just responded yes, she would.

It was an achingly sweet sight.

And I was pleased that they asked me to be the photographer for the engagement ceremony. As I blazed off eight or ten shots in various poses around the top of America's biggest monolith, the wonderfully happy woman told me the man had somehow kept everythingthe proposal, the wine, the red rose in a bud vase and even the tuxedo pants and cumberbunda complete secret until the magic moment.

I felt very good about this couple.

There we had a man with the sense of romance that is irresistible to most women and a woman who was willing to hike almost a mile straight up a big rock thinking there would be no more reward than a nice view and the companionship of her man.

And don't forget the proposal was made at the exact spot where the rough waters end and the smooth sailing begins.

They'll be all right, I thought as I smiled my way through 53 switchbacks to the bottom.

My headache was gone.

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