Travel

The Oregon Trail

Alex and I took some time off in early May to go to Oregon. Neither of us had ever been there and we were excited to do some hiking and napping, sans children. What follows is a mish-mash of thoughts from the trip- the good bits.

***

Day 1: It’s good to be small

Airports always make me feel pensive. You’re around so many people that you will never see again. In my normal life, it’s very easy for me to get center-of-the-world syndrome, that all those people around me just background characters and as soon as I exit the scene, they just float away. But at airports, I’m reminded that all of these people have lives that are as full as mine- people who love them, worries, hopes, dreams. They’re all going somewhere too. Thinking about how much life is represented at Terminal D at DFW makes me feel so small. Not insignificant, just small. It’s a good reminder that I am not the center of the universe. If I take this train of thought too far, then I start thinking about all of the people in the world and how their lives are as full as mine and I get overwhelmed. It’s so much to keep up with. It gives me the same heebie jeebies as trying to think about how the universe doesn’t end.

We rented a car in Portland, hungrily gobbled lunch at a weird place that did rice bowls with a sauce that tasted vaguely of vomit, grocery-shopped at bizarre alternate-universe-Kroger, and then drove an hour to our AirBnB. After getting settled in our grandma house, we explored the property behind the house that backed up to the Salmon River. We wanted to get some info about Mount Hood National Park so we drove about 3 minutes to Zigzag Ranger Station, where Alex read about mushrooms and I looked at potential hikes.

There were a few trailheads off the parking lot so we started up something called Humpback Mountain, which should tell you something about the elevation gain that we did in a very short distance. God, it was beautiful. There were plants on top of plants on top of plants. Moss and ferns and algae and grass and trees. So much green, it was almost overwhelming. The setting felt vaguely prehistoric, like we could easily find a diplodocus around the next switchback.

Also, I snapped this picture of Alex and was so proud of it that I submitted it to a puzzle company because I think it’s just that good.

Day 2: It’s good to be small (part 2)

Rain. We already knew this. Alex had been obsessively checking the weather forecast leading up to the trip and we expected it to be bad. So we packed for the weather. I brought a light jacket, a rain jacket, and my giant yellow cold-weather jacket that is more like a blanket than a coat.

Alex let me borrow a pair of his wool socks to repel some of the water. I donned my raincoat and my dorky hat.

I’ve resisted wearing hats for several years now. For one, my head is literally ginormous and it is hard to find cute hats that will fit my melon head. If you think I’m joking, I have the largest head in my immediate and extended family. I find that hats usually squeeze my head or give me weird pressure lines when I take them off. Hat hair is a given. Secondly, I just don’t like how hats look on me. Really any kind of hat- baseball caps, straw hats, fedoras. You name the hat, I guarantee that I’ll look stupid in it. Thirdly, I like to wear my hair up off my neck and hats make this impossible. “Just wear a visor,” you insist and I will strongly assert that the only time you would ever catch me in a visor is in my open coffin if I’ve been dressed by a retired tennis pro.

My dad and Alex favor the big wide brim cotton hats that are common to fishermen. On occasion, both of them take it a step further and wear a wide brim hat that has a large piece of cloth that hangs off the back, like a very dorky wedding veil. For years, I have teased them about those hats.

Recent events, like losing hair at my temples and developing a mustache noticable enough to warrant shaving, have me reconsidering hats. I must preserve whatever vaguely attractive features I’m still holding on to, starting with protecting my stupid freckled skin from the stupid sun.

So, I’ve become a proud card-carrying member of the Dorky Hat Club.

I’m still a little salty about it.

Card-carrying members of the Dorky Hat Club also wear their rain jacket hoods under their hats

However, that hat did a great job at keeping the rain out of my face and my Eddie Bauer rain jacket did not let even one speck of water touch my t-shirt.

The day before, we’d mistakenly discovered that there were some National Forest trailheads just down the road from our AirBnB so we decided to do the Old Salmon River trail- an ambling trail through old-growth forest along the salmon river. The trail was quite long and there was no real goal so we could go as fast or as slow as we wanted.

I developed what I can only describe as nature delirium. I almost didn’t have words for how beautiful it was. I kept stopping at trees and peering up into their branches as raindrops fell on my face. “It’s SO tall, Alex! You can’t even see the top. Look at how many people it would take to hug this tree!” This would happen about every ten minutes.

I’m used to big, fat, lazy Texas rivers that kind of meander their way through the landscape. The din of the rapids of the Salmon River did not let up the entire 6 hours we were hiking. There was no part of this river that was lazy. The sound of the water rushing towards the Pacific was our constant companion.

At one point, we had to cross a not insignificant stream that didn’t have a bridge but did have a log that had fallen across it. The problem was that the rain made the log slippery and it got progressively thinner as you crossed. Mr. Athlete handled it no problem. I did okay until about halfway when I started to lose my balance and just sat down, straddling the wet log. Had I been male, it would have been one of those nut-buster falls but my pelvic bone took the hit quite well. My shoes went in the water and it was a deluge that not even wool socks could repel. I then awkwardly scooted the rest of the way across the wet log, leaving an unpleasant dampness on my backside.

We found a campsite and an old man smoking marijuana as he puttered down the trail. Alex found several mushrooms and I discovered that I’m a pretty good mushroom photographer. We located a few geocaches, walked along a road, looked for macrame sticks, and just enjoyed ourselves until it was time to turn around.

On the way back, Alex figured out that I could use a long stick to help me balance as I crossed the creek and it worked like a charm. We started to get a little cold. I worried about trench foot and, due to the dampness the unfortunate outbound straddle maneuver had delivered to my yoga pants, crotch rot.

The car appeared quicker than we expected and we spent the rest of the evening eating pizza and watching Netflix.

I’m happy to report that I developed neither trench foot nor crotch rot as a result of this particular adventure.

***

The rest of the trip was cold and rainy. We had delicious food from a weird house that served Japanese food. We drove 30 minutes up the mountain into what was basically a blizzard with all these crazy Oregonians skiing in May and then we drove as fast as we could back down the mountain because Texans don’t like driving in the snow.

On our quest for a souvenir t-shirt, I took us to “the best thrift store in Clackamas county”, according to Yelp, and…it was not a good thrift store. Alex took a solo hike while I napped and came home with a macrame stick that was too long. After deciding that it would be classified as a “battering ram” on the plane, I scrounged around the AirBnB for an axe or something to cut it down to fit in my suitcase. Coming up with nothing, I thought about walking to the neighbor’s house because they sold firewood, but alas, it was early on a Sunday and it was also Mother’s Day.

I threw the stick in the trunk, expecting us to find a roadside firewood stand or something, hoping against all hope, that we would figure out a way for it to fit in the suitcase. Lamely, we did not pass a friendly hitchhiker carrying an ax (isn’t Paul Bunyan from the Pacific Northwest? What the fuck, Oregon.)

As fate would have it, there was a Home Depot right at the entrance to the airport. We passed it and I thought, “Aha! Maybe they would cut it for me” so we did a U-turn at the airport. As my Mother’s Day gift, Alex did not make me go inside to awkwardly ask an associate to cut a random stick that we had found on the forest floor. Finding no associates, Alex used a saw that was already out of its packaging and was out again in less than 5 minutes. We stowed the stick safely in my suitcase and I now have a great reminder of our trip to beautiful Oregon and of my husband’s undying love for me.

We will definitely go back. If, if, if life circumstances didn’t prevent us, I think we would move to Oregon in a heartbeat. I would love to be nature-high all the time.

Alas, we have so many ties to Texas that we are tethered here for the time being (or probably forever).

See you soon, Oregon!

4 thoughts on “The Oregon Trail

  1. I looove to read your thoughts, it’s like being inside your brain which I fear is a lot like my own brain😬.
    I get wilderness delirium as well, my kids actually count how many times I’ll say something like, “wow! look at that strata”!
    I’m SO happy you don’t have trench foot or crotch rot…yet 😉

  2. Beth, long ago you posted more often. And Angst was your muse. It was enjoyable to read how your upsets became graceful prose.

    Then as I understand it you began to take medicine and the posts became less often.

    Yet the Oregon Trail post says to me that alternative muses are Nature, Travel, and Adventure.

    Your writing was again captivating, fun, and revealing about your internal world.

  3. This was so much fun to read. I have only ever been to Portland, which we thoroughly enjoyed, but I wouldn’t mind going back again!

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