Chronicles of a crazy (almost) spring

Portland can’t make up its mind–between ridiculous monsoon downpours followed by brilliant sunshine, from sweating through my rain pants to seeing my breath swirl around me in the cold, I think the last 24 hours have had a little bit of everything.

Always excited by the prospect of fun weather, I took a lovely ride with my camera today, staying along the overflowing Willamette River as much as possible. “Overflowing” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not that much. See the sign taped to this post, for example? How it’s basically at knee level?

That sign has information for sturgeon anglers, and is usually above my eye level. But as the water rises, the path floats up the posts along with it, until things that are usually by my head end up by my feet. It’s one of my favorite indications of how high the water is at any given time.

The downside of all this water so quickly, however, is that the banks along the river, especially as you head south into Sellwood, are quickly destabilized. Last week, a bunch of the hillside slid down onto part of the bike path that connects SE Milwaukie Ave to the Springwater Corridor. I keep wanting to take a picture of how precarious the hilltop houses look amidst all the slides, but ever since I hiked back there a few days ago sans camera, caution tape and blockades have been the theme of the day. It’s too bad, since that path is usually a super convenient way for people to get down to the Springwater Corridor and then downtown via car-free means. And I can’t imagine how scary it is for the people who have houses at the top of the hill.

One of today’s massive rainstorms ended just as I was getting to the Sellwood Bridge; it spawned this amazing rainbow that looked close enough for me to reach out and touch. Aside from upping the contrast just a bit, I haven’t messed with this picture at all–that’s how crazy the light was. And that’s really how brown and muddy the river is right now, too. Add all this rapid floodwater and the Willamette, already not the most pristine of rivers, turns even more gross looking. Up close, you can see all manner of branches, debris–even whole trees–floating downstream. It’s a good reminder that despite whatever we do, nature’s still in charge here.

Being out biking during these crazy monsoony, almost-spring moments is a rite of passage of sorts, I think: as I slog through the downpour, I can’t help but catch the eye of other people also out braving the elements, both of us smiling at each other like we’re in on the same joke. (In this case, the joke’s on both of us, looking like drowned rats;) And when the sun breaks and I feel like bursting out of my skin because of how beautiful it all is, I know that the face-wide grins on the other bikers and joggers barely hides the same joy. Even as the next wave of monsoon lurks in the background, it’s a good time to be on a bike.

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