Sunday, August 7, 2011

July 2011 Road Trip V: Painted Hills to Eugene

Dawn and back to the Painted Hills. Breakfast in the empty day use area: overcast and windy, but that’s what oatmeal, protein powder, and a banana are for. Dull light at the sites of the previous evening’s display, so I proceeded to a trailhead that I knew would get me close to a small cluster of the Painted Hills. Up close, texture is as prominent as color; the clays that compose the Hills have a “popcorn” texture caused by irregular absorption of water, subsequent expansion, and erosion. Good to photograph, especially when I could contrast multiple hues at the same time.

I did not know where today was to end. I had a general plan to rendezvous with my sister Sarah in Portland today or tomorrow. She flew out from Maryland to visit family, meet me, and drive back to California. I knew she’d arrived safely at PDX a couple days previously. But, here in the Oregon outback, mobile phone reception was dicey at best. I decided that I’d better head west, iso a zone of communication from which I could either bolt all the way to Portland or hide out for longer in the woods.

So a commute commenced: north on Rt. 19 from Mitchell to Fossil, west from Fossil to Clarno and Antelope on Rt. 218. Trixy and I wound over many passes, down innumerable stream drainages, and through many variations of farmland, forest, and sagebrush. I paused in each town; no mobile reception, no messages, no luck with outgoing calls or texts. Each of these little towns intrigued me. Here were communities that have persisted, that felt authentic and real. Alas, no time for other than such fleeting impressions.

Over a ridge west of Antelope, and the Cascade volcanic arc spread out before me. Mt. Hood just north of west, Mt. Adams to the north in Washington, and further south, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters. I faced a choice. I could drive west northwest, touching the south flank of Mt.Hood: the slow, scenic route. Or I could go north to The Dalles and west up the Columbia River Gorge. Fast and populated. Still no phone contact. Intuition pointed me to The Dalles route. Thus down a long hot ridge and across the Deschutes River on Rt. 197 through Maupin, Tygh Valley, and Dufur. A dog leg west, onto Interstate 80. The Gorge scenic at 75 mph.

Distal Portland. My sister was staying with one of our aunts. I knew her place was on the west side of the Willamette River. I wondered around, finally parking west of downtown. On the phone: contact. I was only seven or so blocks from her place.

My intuition had been right. The salient reason for this trip and rendezvous is the major illness of another aunt who lives in Eugene. Sarah had made contact with her; today was the best window for us to visit. So south to Eugene, meeting yet another aunt and an uncle for dinner, then a good visit. I am sorry if this is confusing, my Oregon family is large and complex.

Nighttime in Eugene; we found space to sleep at my aunt’s old house in south Eugene. I’d lived here in 1980, spending the summer buried in chemistry at the University of Oregon. I did not want to break my trend of camping, so I spread out my bivy under the apple tree in the backyard.

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