Haystack Rock

My friend and travel companion Zach and I were traveling to Haystack Rock and along the way we were smoking weed cigarettes. Not joints, but cigarettes I had made by rolling them to look exactly like regular cigarettes complete with filters and I just remember thinking I was so careful and clever for it. We would smoke them and have never ending conversations about life, the universe, and everything.

I mention the smoking because my memories of Haystack Rock involve being in a dream-like state that was euphoric and therefore, entirely biased towards loving Oregon. One of the many reasons I like Oregon so much is because of the perfectly God-crafted sea stacks off the coast.

We arrived at the beach at low tide. This was important because it meant we wouldn’t have to swim out to Haystack Rock. We walked along the tide pools full of starfish, sea aneome, crabs, and sea slugs to the rock. We found a spot where we had planned to have a picnic.

So we climb the rock and immediately start smoking weed.

Zach and I start eating our sandwiches or whatever and we were completely silent and awestruck by our view of the other sea stacks and the vastness of the ocean. The color of the water is surreal. It’s as if a new color was invented that I had never seen before.

When I go to a place like this, I like to figure out how nature created the entity. What hand went into creating these bizarre giant rocks that erode slowly into the sea?

“The sea stacks were formed by lava flows emanating from the Blue Mountains and Columbia basin about 15-16 million years ago,” Zach replied, right behind me, having read the answer from wikipedia off his phone.

I kept feeling a fear of getting swallowed by the ocean and having my skull crushed by the rocks below if I lost my footing. I would think about how I could get my leg stuck in between some rocks and then I would slip and not be able to get out and have to eat my own leg off or whatever.

I get a lot of those anxiety thoughts. I’d say on a scale of 1-10, 1 being no anxiety and 10 being the anxiety is so bad I want to end my life forever, I get level 5 or 6 anxiety at times. But it’s a hard feeling to describe, it’s actually a good thing for me.

I can’t articulate it as well as I’d like, but I think there’s something about facing your fears that gives you a good adrenaline rush. There has got to be some kind of feel good chemicals that come out in frightening situations.

The feel good chemicals in frightening situations hypothesis I have has taught me a lot about mental health counseling techniques for phobias and anxiety. I think facing your anxieties and not trying to reduce the anxiety, but even just pushing into the anxiety with all your concentration and allowing it to happen to you ends up reducing the anxiety you were trying to reduce in the first place!

As I got lost in thought at the concept of my own mortality, I turned to Zach and said, “what would you do if I took your pipe and threw it and smashed it against the rocks below?”

“I’d probably laugh and say it was only $10.”

Multnomah Falls

I think I was sober for this one.

The pictures of Multnomah Falls don’t do it justice. Actually, photos never capture the awe you feel when confronted with an assault of nature from a place like Multnomah Falls.

I actually don’t recommend ever taking pictures when you travel. I know this is a hot take, but it actually ends up distracting from the awesome experience of traveling.

Imagine you’re giving birth.

You’re screaming your head off like in the movies, sweating and crying and cursing, and then your aunt shows up with a camera and directs you where to sit to hold still and look perfect and not like yourself at all while she takes a picture of your happy day.

All you’re trying to do is push a baby out of your disgusting body. That’s literally all you want to do.

And yet we decide this is a photo opportunity?

But Shannon! But Shannon! How will we ever remember the moment? What if we want to look at the picture later?  We can’t just not have photographs of our memories!

Sure you can. All those baby pictures? Just set them on fire. You don’t need them. They’re a waste of space. Nobody wants to see a picture of your stupid baby. Nobody wants to see pictures of the time you went to Ireland. Just burn it all.

Take a look at the Multnomah Falls picture. Do you really think it looked like that? Well it didn’t. It looked “better”.

Let me tell you what didn’t show up in the photographs.

When you arrive at Multnomah Falls, no matter when it is, it’s full. There are cars and trucks lining the scenic highway all the way to the falls. I highly recommend getting there at some ungodly hour in the morning. It’s open to the public 24 hours of the day but the visitor center opens at 9am.

To get to the falls, the hike is only 1 mile, but it’s very steep. There are switchbacks and you can get vertigo if you look down. But that’s all part of the fun of it! Because you get to the top and there’s a beautiful fucking waterfall and you are at the top of it looking down at this huge, unfathomably tall spout and your certain death if you were to peer over the railing a little too much.

And everyone’s taking pictures but you should be meditating.

While everyone else is thinking, you’re observing fully with all the senses. And I don’t just mean sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. I mean the pain you are experiencing as a result of having climbed up a goddamn mountain to get there, the vertigo you feel from being so high up and looking down so far, the feel of the humid, cold air on your skin, and alteration of time itself when you realize you’ve been experiencing all of these senses in an instant.

Then you snap out of it and your friends are calling to you that they’re tired or maybe you’re the tired one and it’s time to return to the car because you can feel a sunburn starting.

Columbia River Gorge

How can you talk about Columbia River Gorge without turning into a huge geology nut? Allow me to blow your mind with some facts I found doing a simple wikipedia search:

  • Columbia River Gorge began “roughly” 17 to 12 million years ago. You know, roughly.
  • Human habitation has been in the Columbia River Gorge for only the past 13,000 years.
  • The most drastic changes took place at the end of the last Ice Age when the Missoula Floods cut the steep, dramatic walls that exist today, flooding the river.
  • This quick erosion left many layers of volcanic rock exposed.

I cannot express verbally or visually how massive the gorge is, it’s something you just have to see and experience yourself. It’s hard to fathom being at the vista at the top of the gorge and understanding you’re 4,000 feet high up from sea level and you can see. it.

My experience being at the vista and on the scenic highway was that of awe and fucking terror. The trees around you are moss covered and create a tunnel or a canopy around your car and all those you love in it. The terror part is that you are literally on a one lane road with a line painting down the middle of it as if two cars could fit on the road comfortably. Then on the other side of you is just the atmosphere because you’re driving on the edge of a cliff.

But isn’t that also an adrenaline rush to your otherwise boring life?

Then, you arrive at the top of the vista and you see this lush, Jurassic Park ass looking landscape surrounding you.

And you realize,


I’ve just time traveled in one place.

Signing off,

Shannon O’Brien