We woke and I emphasize woke to a cool, wet morning. My imagination didn’t turn to reality: no boogeymen or natural beasts visited us last night. Or they did but the camper provided an impenetrable barrier between them and me. The campground wasn’t as spooky in the morning and we walked the loop to look at the sites. The narrow road was bordered on both sides by a very full and green forest. Campsites broke the density, their angled asphalt pads cutting into the woods, allowing for access.
It is very green here, and the tree are full of moss, some is hanging like I saw in the South. We find a site which brings us down to the river that flowed behind our spot. It flows wider than deeper and its passage over the river stone bottom provides a melodic break in the forest’s silence. Mabel runs around the river bank but stays close, the camp is deserted, my only neighbor has left, so she has free reign.
I looked forward to leaving the coast and seeing the woods. But am I balanced between the two? In Sag Harbor, I grew up near both, but “on” the water is different than “near” the water. How does this make “me”? I think on the water means you work it, the sea is a part of you, while near the water offers possibility to enjoy it. We had boats when I was growing up but I never spent a lot of time on the water and my main interactions with the ocean was sitting at Sagg Main Beach. So, although the sea is a part of my life, there isn’t salt water in my veins, even if my great grandmother was a Lester from East Hampton. She always emphasized a “Round Swamp Lester” though.
The woods feel like home and that’s probably because I spent a lot of time roaming through the trees of Mount Misery when a kid. We would be gone for hours; building forts for summer clubs, playing Army, and just plain exploring. It was a lot of fun during a time when kids had free reign, coming home only for lunch or dinner and then back out. But I don’t know if the feelings that fill me when I am in the woods are any stronger than when at the ocean. Maybe I need to find a balance between the two; a nice cabin in the woods on a large lake would probably fit the bill.
We have seen many road projects on our travels and most employ a flag person to stop traffic. One side of the project waits as the other crosses and vice versa. Sometimes you get lucky and the “Slow” side of the sign faces you and there isn’t a need to stop. I see some drivers talk to the flag person and others sit and ignore them. I always try to wave as I pass and some wave back. The flag person can be male or female and works in the rain, cold, and hot sun. Do they like standing and holding a sign all day? Are they are well paid?
I pull out of the campground and head East on HWY 20 and climb through the Mount Washington Wilderness. There is fog and rain on this 40-degree day and the effects of a forest fire dominate the view. It is sad to see the trees reduced to tall stalks standing stark against the sky. But there is hope in the undergrowth, its fall colors pop against the mountain’s darkness. I wonder how long it will take for the dead to be replaced on an equal footing with life. Tall poles line the road and I believe they show the snow plow drivers what they are up against.
Sisters is a small town that provides a branch to Redmond and a Southern route to Bend. I pull over on its small main street and finish a call with Sheri. It’s a neat little town that spills out to a larger retail section and I am search for a Starbucks to use their internet. A small independent coffeeshop would also do but I don’t see anything that gets me jazzed so I continue heading to Bend.
I didn’t stop in Bend but drive through and it looks like a neat town. Small, but cool and vibrant, the sidewalks allowing for easy walking and the shops all occupied. There are signs advertising an independent film festival and I wonder what they will show. I am a big movie fan and enjoy different types but somehow always find my way to action and adventure. My biggest mistake concerning movies was taking Sheri on Valentine’s Day to see one of the Die Hard movies. It still comes up.
We push over to Mount Bachelor because I read somewhere that it is a place to see when in Oregon. It is a ski area and the drive up is scenic. A lot of flatness but I can feel the car starting to strain with the increase in elevation. The temperature gauge in the car is showing cooler and we start to see snow! It’s not a lot, basically a powdered sugar cover that allows for the dirt to poke through, but I am seeing snow. It feels good to feel the cold and have the snow bounce off the window. I don’t know if Mabel remembers snow as we had a poor winter when it comes to it. The ski hills are covered more than the lower altitude fields but still can’t support skiing. Mabel and I head to the back of the large parking lot, the pines providing better phot ops, plus there was an open porta-potty sitting in the middle of the lot. Not sure why it would be so far out from the lodge, the only thought is that it is left over from an event. We see ATV trails ringing the asphalt and hear a few coming close. Mabel is roaming, happy to be outside even if the temps are close to freezing, and I call her back to the car. Not enough snow to do some donuts and the camper is hitched to the back but I still thought about it.
Mabel and I stay for a while, driving through the park until we find a spot to turn around. We take a meandering route to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, South of Sunriver. It sits within the boundaries of the Deschutes National Forest which I know little of. The only mention of Deschutes I have seen is the brewery and I think the beer is sold in MN United games.
I show my card and feel special in not having to pay for admission. Is this how Telly Savalas felt when he pulled out his Players Club Gold Card? Unfortunately, it doesn’t help with me with seeing the top of the butte; no trailers are allowed and I am restrained to the lower level. That’s ok as the road looked steep and the lava field near the parking lot looked to be interesting. It was larger than the lava field at Sunset Crater in Arizona and provided more paths for viewing.
Wow, what a landscape! Its severity evident everywhere you looked. The field was large and stretched from the base of the butte to as far as you could see. Craggy and angry looking rock had collected into hills that the paths snaked around and through. Vegetation struggled for life, the successful displayed vibrant colors, brilliant against the black rock. It felt like I was on another planet and the strong winds made it feel that much more desolate.
Mabel and I left the lava field and stopped at the cave we saw when we entered the park. It turned out to be a lava tube and stretched for more than a mile. A lava tube is where the outside of a lava flow cools but the inside continues to flow and eventually leaves a hollow pipe. I like caves, ones you can walk in. Squeezing through a small opening freaks me out as getting stuck is one of the worst things I can think of. This cave was one of the coolest I have been in and the 30-foot ceilings remove any claustrophobia I could experience. You need to rent a lantern or bring your own lumination because the cave is without electric lights. I pick one of the many flashlights I brought and head down through the caves wide opening and descend the metal stairs into darkness. An awesome walk through the cool air and I wish I had brought my camera, the cave a great place for photos. The tube lacks the stalagmites and stalactites of Natural Bridge in Texas but it is still worth the time to see it. The urge for photos becomes too great and I leave before reaching the end to get my camera. Another trip into the cave added to my step count and I got a few shots of the entrance.
It is getting late and we need to find a place to stay. There is a KOA at Redmond but I feel like a stay in the woods and there are many opportunities in the Mount Hood National Forest. After heading North on HWY 97 to Madras, we cut Northwest on HWY 26 towards Mount Hood. The road takes us through the Warm Springs Reservation, the mountains and hills so different from what we have seen today. It feels very much like I am back in California, the sandy brown grass all you can see for miles. My map won’t let me check, but I wonder if we are directly North of them. The Reservation is beautiful and sparsely populated with cliffs that would be at home in a western movie. There is elevation here and the car increases its effort to climb the hills. I am thankful they aren’t sheer and there is no chance of falling off the side of the road.
We exit the Reservation and soon find the Clear Lake Campground. I see other campers as we follow the loop and there is even a camp host present, but it just doesn’t feel right. For some reason I feel there is something better down the road. We end up at the next campground, Frog Lake, and I see a sign that it is closed. No barrier to entry so we continue in and see only one other camper nestled far in the back. The lights from his trailer glow through the darkness so I figure it must be ok to camp. No iron ranger to accept my payment so I figure this must be a freebie. Mabel and I walk the camp before the rain starts but see no one other than the far camper. The big, cold, drops, drive me inside and I eat a sandwich as Mabel sleeps, one eye on me and the sandwich. It is cozy here and my imagination is in check, maybe last night conditioned me to the solitude.
Thankful tonight to see the triumphant struggle of life succeed at the lava fields.