Archive for September, 2009
Growing up, I was a hopeless nerd (shut up) and waited for each long lonely summer to come to an end so I could take my place at the desk nearest Teacher in September. This may be why, no matter where I’ve lived, that fall is my favorite season. Autumn in Oregon—especially east of the Cascades—has a refreshing vibe that feels, counterintuitively, like new beginnings.
If you paddle, cycle, ski, hike or fly fish, you already know about Bend. We spent the weekend just rubbernecking around town (Ralph applying his real estate appraisal knowledge like a tour guide as we passed through the neighborhoods) and hanging out in the sun at the campsite, drinking beer and watching the dogs roll in the dirt.
The inn was full near Glenns Ferry, Idaho. We were unaware that the Three Island Crossing was taking place, the annual (and this year, final) reenactment of (yes) the Oregon Trail settlers struggling to cross the dangerous Snake River with their wagons and horses. Every RV park for miles was full: the state park, Power Pop Campground, everything. (“Power Pop”, that cracked Ralph up. “Is that next to Speed Metal RV Park? Across from Hair Band KOA?”)
We met Stan, the caretaker of Carmela RV Park, who took pity on our ignorance and graciously offered us a place to hook up in the parking lot of Carmela Vineyards, right next to the vines and tasting room.
The Utah scenery abruptly vanished when the wind kicked up and created a brownout of smoke and grit from Provo to Ogden so thick we could barely see the huge temple in downtown SLC. People everywhere were apologizing. (“It’s never like this!”) A crusty guy in line at the gas station convenience store reported that “one of the islands in the lake”—what on earth could he have been talking about—was on fire due to a lightning strike.
When a state park is downgraded to a county park it falls into a bureaucratic black hole for a period, making it impossible to find online or otherwise. Such was the fate of Fort Buenaventura, which we finally discovered hidden behind the railroad yard.
Ripley required only minor first aid after stepping on the cactus but Ralston, age ten, inconveniently fell ill with some kind of undiagnosable ailment the day we left and appeared to be at death’s door during the entire first week of our trip. After consulting vets in three states he was eventually back to what passes for normal. We kept him hydrated and cool along the way with the help of this special mat and bandana.
Soak the mat in water to activate the “cooling crystals”, then plop it down as a place to ride in the car or rest in the shade.
Sorry California. You too, Colorado. In the scenery smackdown, Utah is the clear victor.
My conspiracy theory is that Utah pays New Mexico to be a disorganized empty lot so it can be even that much more attractive by comparison. Almost immediately northwest of Four Corners the attitude brightens and the landscape gets increasingly more striking as you near Moab, which is home to what looked from the freeway to be one of the prettiest KOAs in the West.
Surreal Arches will require a second visit to stop and camp overnight at Devils Garden. (I would love to know how many natural areas in the U.S. have the word “devil” in their name).