(Don't forget -- you can click on any image to enlarge it!)
Oregon, Here I Come!
While the Land Rover is getting finished up, I decided to take a little jaunt into Oregon before it got too cold and snowy. I know, snow covered landscapes are beautiful... they just make for dangerous driving. I do wish I had the Land Rover in tow, though. It sure would make it a lot easier to explore the little side roads where America's real treasures lie. As it is, I'll go as far as I can in BABS, and hike or bike the rest of the way. (And, for those of you who don't know, BABS stands for Big Ass BusS. Cute, huh?)
On with the story...
It was a great drive up Hwy 299 to the Oregon Border. And, everywhere I stopped, friendly people would always ask me about Vanishing America. I'll tell you, that artwork on the RV is just the ticket to get people thinking about this project and about what's disappearing in their communities.
My first stop was just outside of a tiny little former logging town called Lakeview, just north of Goose Lake where Hwy 395 meets up with Hwy 140. It was a gorgeous drive, especially when I hit the snowstorm.
That's right, I ran smack into a snowstorm. But, not to worry, it only lasted about 30 minutes and nothing stuck. I have to admit, though, it was fun, and beautiful. It occurred just as the sun was setting over Goose Lake. And, as luck would have it, I had the dash video camera running the whole time.
I've uploaded the video below, but since this is the first video I've tried to upload to the blog, I'm not sure if it will work on all platforms. So, if you can't play the video, please let me know. Oh, and let me know if you like the soundtrack. It's a song called I Wish You Would by the Breeze Kings. They're a hot blues band out of Atlanta, GA. You can check them out at www.myspace.com/breezekings. They have two albums out now and just got voted Best Blues Band in Atlanta by the readers of Creative Loafing. If you're in Atlanta, you absolutely have to go see them. And, if you're not in Atlanta, and you like blues, you have to buy their CDs. Every song on them is PURE GOLD!
Alright, enough of that. Back to the trip...
When I got into town, I got a few groceries at the local Safeway and headed out Hwy 140 West to a little RV campground called Junipers Reservoir RV Resort for the night. It's a great place, situated on an 8,200 acre ranch in Oregon's high desert. And, Mary, my host, was a perfect angel. The next morning she and I talked about how the area is changing, how we need to find a middle ground between environmentalism and development, and how there are still a few folks hardy enough to spend a full 12 months out here, even when the snowstorms hit (and don't let the video fool you. The storms out here hit HARD!) And, Mary herself is a hardy soul. She and her husband (grandparents both of them) head south about 350 miles during the winter when they take the cattle down to "greener pastures." And they do it the old-fashioned way -- via a bunch of cowboys and a good ole' cattle round-up. I'll tell you, I am impressed!
As I'm writing this, I'm recovering from Mary's recommendation of the 7 mile hike around the ranch that the Resort is built on. And, no, I'm not such a wuss that I can't hike 7 miles. It's just that it's a tad uncomfortable to hike 7 miles with a twisted ankle and a blister. (I got the blister today, but I got the twisted ankle back when I camped at the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown, CA.
Despite the pain, it was a great hike. The air was brisk and cool, the scenery was gorgeous, and I felt like I was a kid again, exploring the woods and fields around where I grew up.
Most of the hike was easy, along a dirt road that runs around the property, but being the curious adventurer that I am (don't laugh!), I wandered off the trail and into the high desert backcountry from time to time. And, I'm glad I did. I got to commune with nature. I know that sounds like something a hippie tree-hugger would say, but I mean it. I wandered off the beaten path and stepped into the wilderness that few people get to see. In amongst all the beautiful blue skies, green trees, and yellow pastures, the most interesting things I saw, and the most photogenic (at least for my style of photography), were the scattered tree trunks left over after the 2002 fires that swept through the area. Much of the forest has had time to regrow, but the new trees are so small compared to the hulking behemoths that the fire left behind. It was almost as if the fire selected certain trees and left others intact.
While the ranch raises cattle, the whole area is host to deer, antelope, elk, coyote, the occasional mountain lion, and plenty of ducks and geese. It's real wilderness. And the potential for becoming part of the food chain is real, too. But, the most dangerous creatures I came across were deer, a few chipmunks, and a little grass snake. But I was ready! I had my bear spray and my machete at the ready. (Hey, that rhymes.)
Well, it's getting late, I'm getting tired, and my writing is beginning to ramble. I'll say goodnight, and as always, stay tuned. The adventures are just beginning...