SOL Oregon

A FAR PIECE

Oregon was perhaps the most majestic state we crossed during our travels. Upon venturing into another new area, Sam grew quite fond of saying “Man, it just smells so damn good and it’s just so damn … pretty, dammit!”

The area surrounding Bend presents a unique visual challenge. You drive somewhat submerged within the landscape as the mountains seemingly loom within an arm’s grasp, but in reality sit a good distance away from the city. It presents a disorienting, yet calming affect upon the mind, easily disarming the traveler. Arriving late, we opted for another hotel clean up, real beds and caught up on a few e-mail’s.

Our plan the following day was to meet up with transplanted Coloradan, Brad Goettemoeller. I headed out at first light to pick up my coffee cup from the car. It was a beautiful sunny morning, the scent of pine filling the air. As I reached to grab the mug, Sam’s paddle clipped me in the side of the head. It was out of place, but I didn’t give it much thought. Then I noticed the rear window was down and I thought, oh man, how’d I space that one out… I must’ve been really tired last night. I hopped in – turned the key to roll up the window, but nothing happened. I pressed the button again, hearing a clicking sound. That’s weird . . . I thought as I stepped out to see what was wrong with the blasted window. That’s when I saw the shattered glass all over the ground. Okay, so at times, I’m a little slow on the uptake, but NOW I had finally realized what happened. “Oh well, it’s just stuff.” I said to myself… they must have needed it more than me. I headed upstairs to let Sam know what had transpired, called the police department and contacted my insurance agent. We ended up meeting Brad later that afternoon. He generously offered to drive to the evening’s river destination, which, having been sworn to secrecy, I’m not at liberty to divulge to the general public… suffice to say, it’s a pretty sweet play spot.

It never ceases to amaze me at the generosity I’ve witnessed within the paddling community. I’ve watched as these athletes are constantly attempting to one-up their friends with bigger tricks than have previously been seen. But almost without exception they’ll turn to mentor each other while each one patiently waits their turn to throw down another acrobatic move. New, inexperienced paddlers are carefully watched over like the babes they are, by the more seasoned veterans. Perhaps it is the rhythm of the water which bonds these disparate souls together. I like it that Sam has found a home amongst this group of nomads.

That evening several boaters were taking turns at surfing and looping the wave. They seem surprised to hear we’ve traveled from Kansas, but upon learning the details of the entire trip, they nodded their heads in appreciation of the travels. I came away thinking that most of them have pursued a similar path at least once in their lives. We stayed until the sun has left this side of the world and evenings air began to work a quick chill on us. We enjoyed our brief time with Brad, he was a most gracious and informative host… another river brother bond was made. Tomorrow morning, a new car window would be in place, we’d spend an hour or so shopping for our newly needed threads and then it was off to the pacific coast of southwestern Oregon. We departed Bend by late morning arriving at the ocean just before the sun sunk over the horizon. Perfect. Heading south on highway 101, we pulled into the secluded seaside hamlet of Charleston. While making our way towards the water we spotted, Capt. John’s Motel (Yarrrrr!) and couldn’t resist the temptation. We pulled in for a night’s rest.

We’d begun the final week of our trip and the one remaining item on our agenda is a little paddling for Sam with Jessie Stone’s group of teenagers from the Harlem Boys and Girls club Upward Bound program. I first learned about Jessie through one of Sam’s kayaking magazines. This remarkable woman is a world class playboater and adventure paddler, who also happens to be a physician running a nonprofit organization in Uganda. Her group, SoftPower Health, is helping people thrive in one of the worlds tougher regions. A month before our trip began, I spent a few days with Jessie, her longtime Oregonian friends, Margie and Hayden Glatte, and the kayaking phenom, Emily Jackson, documenting these dynamic teachers as they introduced the kids to kayaking. Now, barely a month later, the entire group, along with their diligent chaperones, Rosanna and Anthony, a.k.a.: Mr. Means, have jetted across the country where they’ll spend the next 5 days paddling through a remote section of Oregon’s pristine Rogue River wilderness. Tonight we’d camp next to the Rogue, just upstream from where we’d meet up with the entourage. We were greeted with yet another celestial delight, but unfortunately this was a public campground and it was filled with the typical grouping of weekend party animals, a stark contrast to the sublime solitude and beauty we’d experienced back in Idaho. Thankfully, we were afforded the luxury of building a roaring fire with which to pass the evening. We turned in early, hoping the evenings crescendo would soon fade away.

The morning sun greeted us with the sights and sounds of our fellow campers still safely tucked away within the confines of their campsites. We made a quick escape, tossing our sleeping bags and tent into the car and left the campground largely unnoticed… NICE!

Our NYC connection was running a bit late, due to a delayed evening flight. Sam found a small rapid worthy of an attempt, but there wasn’t much to it and soon he returned to shore. Soon enough the group arrived. The kids, hampered by jet lag, were lethargic, but seemingly in good spirits. Rosanna and Anthony were as feisty as ever. It was good to see everyone.

Sam’s welcomed by his newly acquainted peers with smiles and a few questions about his paddling ability. After a short orientation speech concerning various personal responsibilities and dangers of the wilderness area – the rafts, duckies and kayaks were launched. At long last the group began its quest of the Rogue.

I drove the river road, stopping for the occasional picture. A steady stream of laughter echoed throughout the gorge. It was a warm, sun drenched day, reenergizing the spirit. Much too soon, the flotilla of boats reached its designated lunch rendezvous spot. We exchanged goodbye’s, packed Sam’s gear, and began our mad dash East for the first day of high school. Over the next few hours, Sam occasionally lamented his wish to have continued along downstream with his new friends on yet another unique river adventure. His face was full of smiles.

The remainder of the day was spent traversing northeastern Oregon as we headed towards Montana via Spokane, Washington. With the exception of a brief visit to Crater Lake, it is a forgettable route. I think about the lavish views that have spoiled us. Truly, we’ve been lucky. We drove well into early morning, making good time into southwestern Washington, finally stopping for a few hours of rest before resuming our sprint eastward. It was 9am as I turned north on I-82, a long haul to Bozeman laid ahead. For the first time since leaving Kansas, the thermometer drew our attention. Still, we resisted the temptation of switching on the AC, opting for a dose of dry western air whipping through the car – it seemed comfortable enough.

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