Hunchback Mountain orients on a northwest to southeast alignment towering about 3000 feet above the Salmon River. Below, river water pours out of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness with crystal clarity, tumbling towards the Sandy River, then on to the Columbia and Pacific Ocean. This high gradient river is steps and pools, rapids, glides and plunges.
Even in summer, sunlight strains to reach the river before late morning. The light is intense higher on the opposing hillside but still filtered by ferns and hemlock fronds just above the bank. The turbulent water turns gold and green reflecting the light from the steep east-facing bank of the gorge. The metallic colorsof the water – gold, silver, copper – hint at the richness and diversity of the Salmon; caddis flies coated in armor of hemlock needles, salmon fry circling in backwater pools, dippers diving from rocks, and mergansers running the rapids. The riparian zone a quintessential old growth fir-hemlock forest complete with ferns, salmon berries, Swainson’s thrushes, hairy woodpeckers, and nurse logs.
With its proximity to Portland, it’s a wonder this marvel still yields the experience of far away wilderness. In today’s environmental era focused on messages of climate change and carbon footprints, I am grateful for the eras that preceded; those decades where wilderness preservation and conservation provided the activists’ focus. And I’m so thankful to those environmental pioneers who preserved this small piece of paradise only an hour from my home. For in this paradise I find affirmation, assurance there are a million golden reasons to keep working to change how we humans function and impact the planet.