A welcome outing

The pain has let up enough lately that Peggy and I took a two-night camping trip to the nearby Willamette National Forest, a tract of land the size of New Jersey. We had planned to stay in the vicinity of Elephant Rock, but one lane of the road had fallen off the mountainside a mile from our destination (the road is shown in the first photo—note the horsetails growing in the nearly vertical slide area), so we walked to it instead. That night, as always, we slept in the van on an abandoned logging road. The next day, we set out for Windy Pass, but snow turned us back at 4,100 feet (1,250 meters), so we decided to drive to the top of a small mountain for the night. Near the summit, a crosswise section of the road had sunk considerably (photo two—the gray area at the top of the photo is where the sinkhole reappears), and Peggy had to hit the brakes hard to keep from running into it.

We are accustomed to deteriorating roadways along with other backcountry travel hazards. For example, I frequently have to clear the road of rocks, and I carry a bucksaw and loppers for fallen trees and branches. Yet, our most common challenge is that the downhill side of a road will have slumped in preparation for collapsing altogether. Logging roads are often too narrow to avoid driving over slumps, so since Peggy prefers to drive (leaving me free to navigate and to remove obstacles), I will sometimes get out and guide her. If she’s worried that the road might collapse while she's on it, she’ll have the dog get out too. As she drove over one such slump on this trip, the van was so tilted that the rear wheels slid sideways. I would prefer that she be the one to get out when there's danger, but Peggy's unwilling to give up the driver’s seat unless there's much maneuvering to do. I tell her that I will never live down the embarrassment of headlines that say, "Local Man Saves Self, Allows Wife to Perish in Horrific Fall from Mountainside," but Peggy is nothing if not obstinate.
Our 3/4-ton van only has two-wheel drive, but it’s high off the ground and will take us down some hellacious roads if there’s not much mud or snow. We learned early on that it’s worthless in slippery conditions due the fact that there’s not enough weight on its backend to give it adequate traction. On one occasion, we made it most of the way up a long icy hill only to slide nearly to the bottom. As we slid, the van started to leave the roadway in the direction of a precipice making it necessary for me to jump out and push it sideways to keep it from going over. I don't know how much good I actually accomplished, but it was all I could do. Peggy kidded me about abandoning her and the dogs, but if the van had fallen, it would have taken me with it.

You might wonder why we drive such bad roads. It’s because we value solitude. On our recent trip, we didn’t see or hear anyone from the time we left the paved road on Wednesday until we regained it on Friday, yet we were never more than 35 miles (56 km), as the crow flies, from town. In fact, we could sometimes look back and see town with its metro area of 352,000. I spent most of my life in the country before I realized that I’m a city boy at heart. Even so, I need wilderness, and Oregon gives me that. Of course, in real wilderness, there are no roads, but my days of faring hard and liking it are over. In fact, we came back from this trip so sore and tired that I’m wondering how much longer we can continue to camp. It’ll be a sad day when we have to give that up.

All photos are from this trip, and were taken in the Old Cascades, a 40-million year old chain of igneous mountains that parallels the younger High Cascades, several volcanos of which are expected to erupt again (Mt. Saint Helens being a recent example). The columnar basalt rock formation and the waterfall in the bottom two photos are unnamed because such beauty is so commonplace in Oregon that it's considered unworthy of note. Waterfalls in particular often number several per mile, although most of them are seasonal. The flowers in front of the one pictured are coltsfoot. 


Strayer said...

That's just beautiful Snow and you guys are intrepid!

Helen said...

This makes the hikes and drives I master here in the Bend area seem trivial by comparison! Love the images, the stories are terrifying. Be careful out there!!

middle child said...

What a beautiful place to be! And I never knew you and Peggy were such dare devils.

Elephant's Child said...

How absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

Robin said...

AH...BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I am thrilled you, Peggy and Blue were out in the Forest/Mountains/Streams....this (depite the huge potholes) was what you all needed! I can almost smell the sweet Mountain air!

Beautiful, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL! (Can you tell I loved these photos?)

One question....how did Brewsky cope without everyone?

Love to all 4,

♥ Robin ♥

lotta joy said...

Peggy is a good woman. She saves the dog before herself and (as Joe noticed in the photo) she is wearing my clothes!! Clean down to the sandals. There comes a time when we have to give things up, and if you drive roads more passable, there'd be people ahead of you. I know.

But maybe you could try stopping midway and pitching your tent/truck before it gets so treacherous???

I don't want Peggy hurt any more than I want you to have cancer.

Charles Gramlich said...

I know what you mean by solitude. Not much better in this world.

Mim said...

it's so gorgeous - why the purple water?

Snowbrush said...

"why the purple water?"

I didn't retouch any of the photos, so I guess it's just the way the light was reflecting.

"Peggy is a good woman. She saves the dog before herself..."

Yes, but if the cat were along, I don't know but what she might save it before the dog.

"One question....how did Brewsky cope without everyone?"

Our neighbor, Ellie, came over and spent time with him.

"This makes the hikes and drives I master here in the Bend area seem trivial by comparison!"

What! No bears or mountain lions on Pilot Butte?

Myrna R. said...

I love nature, but I'm a wimp. I could never do that kind of camping. In fact, I don't camp at all. I admire your tenacity and bravery. And most of all, I'm glad you had a good time.

ellen abbott said...

I totally get why you go to remote areas. I loved going wilderness canoe camping.

Phoenix said...

This post made me look forward even more the annual trip to Yosemite that my family and I plan each year. I miss hiking and camping, I don't get to do it nearly as often as I'd like these days.

I had to laugh out loud at your imagined headline of "Man Saves Self, Allows Wife to Perish...". I would hope that Peggy is so tough, she'd climb up from the wreckage just to keep giving you a hard time. :)

Hope all is well with you. Glad to hear you are feeling a bit better.

All Consuming said...

"Local Man Saves Self, Allows Wife to Perish in Horrific Fall from Mountainside," - Hahahahaha, oh that's brought a smile to my face this morning, that and seeing you both out in such beautiful countryside. And such rocks! Wow, stunning. Love the photos. Xx

Marion said...

I'm so glad you and Peggy had a fun outing. The photos are awesome. And Peggy is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your trip with us. The mosquitoes are so thick here, you can cut 'em with a knife. I'm hibernating indoors till Fall or until we can drive to the nearby Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi or Galveston. Love & Hugs! xo

PhilipH said...

Seems like you like flirting with disaster as well as peace and quiet Snowy old bean.
Glad to read that your pain had eased somewhat, thus enabling this "away from it all" break. Some great photos - vielen danke!

Snowbrush said...

"I'm hibernating indoors till Fall or until we can drive to the nearby Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi or Galveston."

Does Biloxi still have a beach, or did the hurricane take it out to sea? That whole beach down there in Mississippi was brought in to attract tourists. It's 90 miles long making it the longest in the world, although Dubai has probably surpassed it by now. Oh, is Beauvoir (Confederate President, Jefferson Davis' home) still around?

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I so understand the value of solitude.... that's why I treasure my creek and am livid over the Conservancy turning it into a "park".... Your trip sounds like heaven!

Chartreuse said...

"Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, Rage against the dying of the light."
Sorry, but that came to mind as I read of your adventures. Good on ya's for getting out there.