"I am a woman in process. I'm just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience,and learn from it.
Life is never dull." ~ Oprah

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I *heart* Oregon!

Saturday was an adventure!!  I finally got to go on that that whitewater rafting trip I've always wanted to do...and it was AWESOME!  The entire day 0930 to 1730 was spent with the Sun Country Tours crew and 15 guests.  I arrived and was greeted by some wonderfully nice, helpful people who instructed & fitted me with "splash gear" (which isn't a dry suit, by the way).  I signed a waiver, used the restroom, then boarded the bus.  We drove for 90 minutes to the McKenzie River.  The sun was actually out when we arrived, despite the rain and snow we encountered before leaving Bend.  I was in a raft of six others (2 of which moved to Portland from Texas a couple years ago) and our guide.  Prior to getting on the river, we were taught a few things and given some warnings, too.  I was a bit nervous about the possibility of getting thrown out of the boat into the 42 degree water, but such is life - if it happens, it happens.  We loaded up and pushed off....

The McKenzie river area is absolutely gorgeous with it's brilliant blue waters in contrast to the shoreline's shades of green.  The water enters a lava tube, upriver, where it is filtered by the earth (ash, silt, sand) for three months before it comes out clean and fantastically blue.  The forest area of the riverbank enthralled me, as it has magical qualities and made me wonder if I'd spot a unicorn  ;)
The sun is out, my feet are cold, but I've got the paddling down and my teammates are fine.  Max, our guide, is great!  He's clear and precise with commands and moves us along the river with ease.  We are having fun, laughing, talking and sharing our experiences.  About half way thru our trip (75-90 minutes), the sun disappears behind the clouds, then the rain begins to fall, and eventually some small (not even pea-sized) hail starts pelting us.  OUCH!  At this point, most of us are cold enough that we cannot move our fingers easily and some are getting anxious for the river portion to come to an end....it gets quiet, as we all tend to focus on paddling, etc.  There isn't much enjoying this part.  Finally, we pass the McKenzie bridge and head for the banks.  As I got out of the boat, I felt pretty wobbly.  My legs were colder than I thought, so I moved slowly until I warmed up enough to walk without feeling awkward. I'm sure I looked quite funny if anyone had been looking!  =)  
We removed our splashguard suits, grabbed our dry clothes, and went into the woods to change.  My feet were so waterlogged that after I changed into another pair of wool socks and put my hiking boots on, my feet still felt wet...like they were soaking my dry socks and shoes. Later, I had to take off my boots just to make sure my imagination was really fooling me; indeed, my socks were still dry.
After making my plate of food from the nice lunch wagon they set out for us, I popped back on the bus to eat.  I had a yummy avocado/lettuce/tomato sandwich on locally baked wheat bread, some baked chips, and a couple of cookies.  Perfect!  I warmed up enough to enjoy the ride back to town.
my yurt at Tumalo S.P.
6pm arrival at Tumalo State Park - YURT! for three nights (Saturday, Sunday, Monday).  I have to admit...this is not camping.  But I am extremely grateful that I was able to pick up a cancellation and stay in a yurt all three nights; “looks like I won't be using my tent on this trip after all.”  It's so cold right now, I don't think I would have been able to enjoy myself much if I was tent-camping.  This way, I was able to go inside to get a break from the rain/snow/sleet, warm up, and sleep better.
Sunday morning, the sun was out, so I went to Tumalo Falls.  The falls were beautiful, but the area was very crowded since it was Memorial Day weekend  :(  Then, it started to get cloudy and I simply wasn’t in the mood to fight any falling precipitation, seeing that I may have to sit in it for tonight’s show at the Les Schwab Ampitheatre for the Decemberists concert.  I went back to my yurt and enjoyed the afternoon reading and relaxing.
Once I made it to the venue, I walked around and checked out the place - wanted to see what vegetarian/vegan foods they had to offer.  Some choices were at least available, although by the time I was hungry they were out of most of the good stuff.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela opened the show.  They are amazing!  They make it seem like we are listening to an entire band, yet they are simply playing all these sounds on their two guitars.  WoW!  If you’ve never heard/seen them - you should. 
The Decemberists were fantastic, as well.  They actually sound as good LIVE as they do on a recording - which is rare, these days!  I enjoyed the sense of humor they had.  All the songs they played, most of the crowd seemed to know - of course, that might be because we were in Bend, Oregon and the band is originally from Portland...hummmm.  It was so cold that we were all bundled up in coats, hats, gloves, blankets, sleeping bags...some cuddled, some danced.  It was a fun to watch.  At one point, I ran into a very sweet gal and her brother who were on my raft trip yesterday.  They invited me to their setup and I hung out with them the remainder of the evening.  We had a nice time  =) 

The Decemberists
Once again, I was super excited to return to my warm yurt.  Seriously, I believe it’s a small miracle I got it all three nights.  Ummmm...cozy!
Monday, was a fabulous day!  I woke up slowly and peered out the sunlight to see blue skies.  About 10am I met with my new Portland/Boise friends I became acquainted with thru Megan (my fabulous couchsurfing host).  We had breakfast at Jackson’s Corner while we exchanged weekend adventure stories.  They are fun and I’ve enjoyed hanging out with them!
After eating, we parted ways and I headed to Pilot Butte to see the views.  They are truly incredible - well worth it!  It was super windy up there, so I wasn’t able to hang out there long.  I took the advice of many locals and went to Smith Rock.  I ended up passing the access road and stopped at the Ogden Viewpoint in order to turn around.  I’m glad I did!  It was a spectacular river gorge with three bridges.  
Ogden Viewpoint
 The majority of my day was spent at Smith Rock State Park.  To enable me to truly enjoy my time there, I chose the easier of the trails: Wolf Tree Trail.  It runs next to the river (which I enjoy the sound of).  

Smith Rock S.P.
Funny thing is, I continued UP too far and ended up on the Burma Road Trail (i think) and near the “student climbing wall” - although, I don’t really know where I was in relation to the park map.  On my way back down, I started going to fast and slipped on the scree.  Got my one and only (minor) injury.  I’m okay - just a couple bruises ;)   As I was going up The Chute Trail to make way to the parking lot, I saw an agile looking woman also covered with dust on one portion of her backside.  I am never alone.  But what made my time in the park the most enjoyable was the sun - I got to shed a few layers and feels it’s warmth.  I know it’s been over 100 degrees in Texas (which I’m not missing), but I’ve been cold this entire trip, so this was a bonus for the day!
When I got back to Tumalo campground, the place was nearly empty.  Yipee!!!!  I got my stuff together and nearly ran to the Solar Showers.  Ahhhhh - that was refreshing :)  It helped me muster up a little more energy for an evening hike around the park on the River Trail. 
Tuesday, I got up early and headed to Silver Falls State Park.  I arrived at 11:45a (too early to   check in my reserved cabin).  So I put my green hiking boots on and found the Canyon Trail. There, my heart began to smile.  The large luscious trees, the varied greens, the subtle sounds...this is my idea of heaven!!!  

I hiked for miles in the forest and was mystified by the nine waterfalls I saw that day.  As I took the trail behind some of them, I’d find some peace in the mist it showered me with.  I simply didn’t want this to end... 
South Falls at Silver Falls S.P.

After 4 and one-half hours, I was back at my silver car at Silver Falls  ;)  and it was time to get the key to my cabin.  It was 12x12 (I still need to read that book by William Powers) and was nestled in a sweet little spot near the bathroom & showers.  I enjoyed my evening there - especially when the rain began...
my cozy cabin for a night
As I sit here on the cabin’s porch during my final night in Oregon, I listen to the soothing rainfall.  It bounces off the leaves of all the foliage around me creating an orchestra of sounds.  I am soaking up all the love I’m receiving from this rain forest - may these memories fill my mind and soothe my soul forever.”  
I encountered some sadness having to leave Oregon.  I found such joy in the wilderness that my heart felt like it was breaking as I took the steps to go...luckily, I still find joy in everything around me - it just takes more effort.

TRAVELING TIP:  Bring food with you to the airport.  It’s allowed.  And it’s cheaper. Why pay $9.00 for a tasteless piece of whatever? The only thing you can’t bring through Security is liquids/fluids - but you can bring your own sandwich  :)   Oh!  and bring a refillable empty water bottle & fill it from the water fountain.  The water is fine to drink in the US!  Let’s stop paying over $2.00 for a small bottle of water - what do you say?

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