Well, we’ve made it to Portland. Portland, Oregon.
Gates and I have learned a lot about each other in the last 1,113 miles. One thing he’s learned about me is that I am not very nice or friendly after a bad night’s sleep. One thing I’ve learned about Gates is that he is obsessive compulsive. Okay, so I actually already knew this. But the trip so far has solidified the fact. This OCD manifests with him wanting the car to be packed in the most organized and efficient way, resulting in him moving everything around every time we stop.
In the last week, we’ve slept in a caboose, in the middle of the desert, at a 4th generation Oregonian family ranch, at a lake in a volcanic national park and on a king sized bed on the floor at an unfinished house in Portland. Not bad.
Our first stop was Mt. Shasta. This is the birthplace of our very first animal head, Shasta Bear (see the picture from the last post of our headwall), home to many barefoot hippies and an enormous volcano.
After checking into our caboose motel, which is probably the coolest place I’ve ever been, we hiked part of the way up Mt. Shasta, did the McCloud Waterfalls trail and then had a mediocre dinner at the McCloud Hotel, known for it’s history, not it’s food. We also saw 4 bears.
Next stop was the Alvord Desert. Google Maps will actually tell you that there’s no way to get there, but there is. Trust me. Or as Gates’ brother Cooper says, “just follow the road from Fields, Oregon and keep going, you can’t miss it.” The Alvord Desert is a 12 x 7 mile dry lake bed that’s kindof in the middle of nowhere but totally on our way to somewhere. We pulled up at dusk, drove across the dry lake to an area we deemed suitable for the evening and didn’t see another soul for miles and miles. You are utterly alone out there. It’s bizarre. It’s also wonderful. We cooked dinner and listened to gangster rap and slept with our tent fly off so we could see the sky full of stars.
A few things people do in the Alvord Desert are speed and ghost ride. Lemme explain. Well, speeding is pretty self explanatory. You can go as fast as you want in any direction because there are no roads and no hazardous objects and no other people. I myself am no speed demon (speed kills) so I opted out of this activity. Speaking of speed, I just learned on the Wikipedia page that an unofficial women’s world land speed record was set there in the 70’s by a woman named Kitty O’Neil. She reportedly went 512 mph.
Ghost riding, on the other hand, I can get down with… sortof (I need some practice). To ghost ride, you just get out of your car while it’s still moving and then watch as it hilariously cruises on without you. I really don’t know why it’s so funny, but it is. Here’s a video of me catching the car once we let it ride:
On our way from the Alvord Desert to the John Day Fossil Beds in central Oregon, we drove the Steens Mountain Road which is like driving through various other countries and planets at the same time, except on a gravel washboard road. It is a magnificent example of how incredibly majestic the Western US is. The deep canyons, craggy mountain peaks, vast grassy mesas and glacial lakes (all on a sometimes terrifying 60 mile stretch of route 1-like road) make you forget you’re in America.
Here’s a photo of us in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere:
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was an unexpectedly grand surprise. We drove to Land’s Inn, a ranch/bed and breakfast in Kimberly, Oregon. Land’s Inn is beautiful and the couple who owns the land, Bill and Carol, both formerly in the aviation business, could not have been nicer. Bill seemed happy to entertain my 350 questions about his life, the history of the property and his daughter’s upcoming wedding. We settled our tent in the shade of a tall tree adjacent to their retro airplane hangar, complete with diner booths, a full sized bar, an apartment filled with aviation memorabilia, a workshop and a small kitchen. Bill turned two large grain barrels into full bathrooms, which we happily left wide open as we showered, being that we were the only guests on the property.
There were also numerous tiny A-frame cabins that Bill had bought from the Guru Rajneesh’s estate when the ashram went under due to bioterror crimes (fascinating, read about it here). On Sunday morning, Bill and Carol’s friends landed their prop plane on the runway beside the hangar for coffee. Totally normal Sunday morning scene.
While we were there we hiked numerous very short trails in the otherworldly Sheep Rock Unit. I’ve never seen this array of rock colors before. Here we are looking incredibly cool:
Then we headed to the Blue Basin, which contains fossils of all kinds of interesting creatures from millions of years ago, like giant sloths. There were also various fossils of ancient leaves, which are not nearly as cool as giant sloths.
And to round out the John Day Fossil Beds, we headed about 45 miles west to the Painted Hills, which look more like art on canvas than real life.
Our last stop before heading into Portland was an undetermined location. Gates and I left this night open in order to foster flexibility, which actually just led to us hating each other for a hot minute. We will not be doing that again….
We pulled into a closed ranger station just outside of Bend around 4pm without a place to stay. So we started googling. I tried to convince Gates to just drive into Bend and go brewery hopping, while Gates tried to convince me to drive 45 minutes south to a volcanic lake campsite that would most likely be filled up for the night. Gates won. Forty five minutes later we were pulling up to our campsite (that I had booked last minute online) at East Lake in the Newberry Volcanic zone of the Deschutes National Forest. It was (admittedly) lovely except for the young neighboring campers who kept me up all night long partying with their Jameson whiskey.
A few highlights of the Volcanic park were the Big Obsidian Lava Flow where you aren’t supposed to take any of the beautiful obsidian, the natural hot springs along Paulina Lake at the foot of the Newberry Volcano and a 2 mile round trip hike into the depths of the earth in the form of a lava tube. This took some courage for a lady who has become claustrophobic with age, but we survived despite my constant visualization of that impending Oregon mega earthquake striking and leaving us trapped or crushed.
Quick trip through Bend yesterday for that beer that I wanted so badly the day before, then on to Portlandia for a pork dumpling dinner and a seriously hard crash on that king mattress I mentioned earlier, in the house that has just a few walls:
Portland for three nights and then on to the Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park.
(ps – I know I promised short posts but I lied. Very sorry)