Monday, May 28, 2007

Flat as a Pancake

Having parked a tearful preschooler with his grandparents, Mojo and I loaded up the wagon and headed to...well, not to swimmin' pools and movie stars. We headed East, to the high desert of Oregon, to spend the first part of the Memorial Day weekend on our own. We hadn't had a vacation alone together since February of 2006, when we slammed our pile of hideously expensive adoption paperwork down (which we're now in the process of hideously expensively re-doing - thanks, CCAA, you bastards...) and fled to the Kona coast.

The lovely rented Ford "Freestyle" skated up the long climb over Barlow Pass and skiied down the even longer descent into the Warm Springs Reservation with the kind of effortless grace I associate with the great climbers; Gino Bartali, Virenque or Leipheimer, or a Republican congressman evading a supoena. We slowed to pass through the ugly sprawl that has developed around Madras, Redmond and Bend, conciously trying to relax amid the slow-moving press of steel and concrete that is the new face of the Highway 97 corridor. I noticed that Redmond's Wal-Mart is in progress but the site I investigated in Bend is still vacant. Win one, lose one...
Finally we ducked out onto the open road again south of Bend and found our turn onto Paulina Lake Road. We began climbing again, up from the sage and rabbitbrush into the pine woods, enjoying the scent and the yellow pillars of ponderosa pine that lined the turning roadway. We payed our now-inevitable fee to enter Newberry N.V.M. and from there to our destination for the day: East Lake Resort.

This little camp has a long history: the first "East Lake Resort" was an Edwardian fishing camp complete with grandiose two-story hotel built in the Nineteen-teens. The current version is a cluster of little green-roofed red cabins along the grey pumice shore of the higher of Newberry's two lakes.

Here's "Teal", our own little green-roofed red cabin, complete with rustic beds and a lovely view of East Lake. We had our own ducks (see above) and our own little kitchen and potty. It was very cozy, and we mean to go back this summer.

The sunset that evening was appropriately firey, but the real beauty was the misty dawn that surprised me the next day. For the first time in what feels like, well, a long time, I had no schedule, no demands, no responsibility of work, or family or fatherhood. I could sit in the sun and just be. Drink hot sweet coffee, listen to the mountain chickadee and the brewer's blackbirds call and watch the silent lake and the dark hills beyond.
So after a slow morning we got back in the rental and drove down to Big Obsidian Flow, a very young a'a lava flow that issued from Paulina Peak in the very final phases of the last eruptive period 1,300 years ago. "A'a", by the way, is a hawaiian word for the rough, clinkery type of basaltic lava; the literal translation is "Ow, my fucking feet!"

Mojo was feeling adventurous and hiked far out on the flow. I stopped where the snow covered the trail and backtracked, instead taking the time to peer down into the convoluted whorls of pumice and glass that formed the flow itself, enjoyed the wild sounds of wind and distant bird calls, or the silence of snow and stone.

Clark's nutcracker's harsh grinding drifted up from the hill below, and a pair of mad chipmunks chased each other around the informational marker at the base of the stairs that led to the flow. The sun was warm and the day was gentle, and the other visitors only mildly intrusive. My favorite were the three young guys, one of whom won the "Fucking D'uh Moment" award by observing: "Fuckin' big rockpile, dude!". Ya think that's why they called it "Big Obsidian Flow", nimrod?
The green body of water at the base of the flow is called "Lost Lake" - I'm not sure who lost it or why, but it's quite small compared to the lakes around it, so perhaps the name implies that the owner is lost between East and Paulina Lakes.

From BOF we stopped briefly at Paulina Resort (a bit more than East Lake and yet less attractive) and then at Paulina Falls (which, despite the linked website's opinion, I don't think were "overrated" at all). Four osprey put on an aerial display, weaving and diving while all the while voicing the odd peering cry they make. The falls were, well, fall-y, all rainbow mist and boulders. I'm not sure what we find so appealing about falling water; is it the sound, soothing and energizing at once? Do we simply enjoy the sight of a river doing what we like to do, leaping about like a primate?

No matter. We enjoyed the lovely falls, the osprey, and the two girls with the matching "White Trash Racing" jackets who pitched their Corona Lights into the pit toilet (hey, I like a good beer buzz early in the morning, too, "ladies", but d'y'mind NOT plugging up the pissoir for the suck truck guy? Guess you can take the girl out into the National Volcanic Monument but not take the White Trash out of the girl, eh?)

We left behind us a lot more Newberry, and our hope is to bring the Peeper back with us in August to enjoy more of this beautiful country. But now it was time to saddle up the Freestyle and ride, cowgirls. We wedeled our way down to Highway 97, turned south, and then southeast down the Fort Rock highway, through the ranked ponderosa pines over the hills beyond LaPine and...

...into the desert.

(next time: forts, swamps, and Lake County's free condom distribution program)


Millicent said...

Great post!!! Loved the bird calls...I could hear them. Ahhh... and that sunset?? Jaysus! Has fire season started already? You little cabina was beautiful. Can't wait to hear about the rest of your travels.

And, yea, "JUG". That one was easy (I think I said something corny about "drinking from the jug of happiness if they choose us as her parents.."). You should've seen Eric try to use the word "GROPE" in a sentence about our dotter to be. He made up something about how she would "grope her way to us in the meeting room.." As if they just put her on the floor and we call to her to come to a dachsund puppy or something. He hasn't read much about the "gotcha day"...yet.

walternatives said...

Your vacation sounds ideal - no schedules, exploring together, enjoying the pines and bird calls and natural wonders; you captured it all in the morning coffee's silence and view. Looking forward to reading more, Chief. Peeper is gonna love that cabin (and the area) in August, I'm sure.

atomic mama said...

Sounds absolutely idyllic. Except for the sweet-coffee part, which made me gag a little. Otherwise, I'm loving it and appreciate y'all sharing your vacay with us!