We departed Oakridge, OR with Brenda moaning about leaving the trip’s most perfect camp spot. With uncharacteristic psychological wiliness, Garth turned her mood around by promising a return to Bend. Wonderful though it was in the fall, Bend outdid itself in spring: fresh green on the trees, blue skies, hero dirt on the trails.

Downtown Bend, Mirror Pond. Perfect spot to enjoy the Mirror Pond Ale from Deschutes Brewery

On the way there, while commenting on yet another roadside atrocity, Garth became suddenly sick to death of his endless driving chatter. Observations on passing motorists, bad grammar on signs and novelty farm animals range from the banal to the inane and he’d had enough. On apologizing to Brenda for making her suffer through it, he was embarrassed to discover that she had stopped listening to him entirely in October.

Even Garth was, once arrived, happy to settle in and ride and run and wander about town for new brewery choices. Camp site location was fraught, with some being too firm, some too soft, then finally one being just right for Goldilocks.

Some of the forest roads were definitely too scratchy for the poor truck as we drove around, thoroughly lost in a spaghetti-dinner of twisty back roads. We stayed a few nights out in the high desert near Smith Rock State Park, a rock climber favorite and were in awe of the skill and strength and fearlessness on display. Our kids aren’t allowed to climb anymore but still, in awe.

Smith Rock, where fallen climbers are either non-existent or spirited away before the tourists see them

Innumerable eagles, hawks and even falcons circled the bluffs. Garth, always a fan of their cool sleekness and rarity, saw them for the first time for the lazy, finicky things they are: step out of your clifftop bivy as the currents are starting to rise, circle endlessly and effortlessly all day, rarely, if ever, deign to descend to eat something and land back for the night. If they had dreadlocks and an abandoned puppy on a rope lead, they could be West Coast street kids. All this while the maligned crow is industriously risking life and wing, while furiously cleaning a roadside deer carcass. Maligned no more!

I’m an eagle! I’m an eagle! I‘m an Arrrgggghhhh…..

Garth was enjoying a trail run there on perfectly smooth, buff trails when he tripped over a pebble. While he struggled and staggered pathetically trying to remain upright, his thoughts turned to the aging process and how the cerebellum barely bothers to send any messages to the muscles and the muscles hardly respond to what few signals they get. As he continued to stagger, he noticed strains in his neck, then mid, then low back, hips. He thought next how this reminded him, of a similar fall playing football this summer at a backyard graduation celebration for youngest son and his friends (broken finger remains completely CRIPPLING, just in case this ends up in discovery). After fifteen minutes of ongoing stumbling and musing, he was able to continue the run. He remained upright this time but it was a lesson in humility.

Unfortunately, our MEC camp chairs and table for dining alfresco were purloined on our last day in Bend. We had left them at our spot in the woods, international symbol for “site taken” among campers, or so we believed. “Free stuff!” is apparently also an interpretation. Brenda, her faith in the decency of mankind unshakable, thinks they were taken on the assumption that they had been abandoned. Garth thinks scruffy varmints knew exactly what they were doing when they grabbed the chairs they planned to get high in while watching their meth cook on their new table.

Last Chair and table sighting. Hat, surprisingly, left at the campsite.

We timed our return South with unusual organization, aiming to get to the West entrance to Yosemite with summer ascendant. Driving through open range country in North-central California, Garth was struck by the cleverness of making ersatz cattle guards by merely painting bold white stripes on the road rather than making the actual trough and metal crossing bars. He laughed at the pathetic, gullible cows until his laughter was stopped with the abrupt dawning that the same might be happening to him! Perhaps his bovine interpretation of the world is showing him solid and immutable boundaries but any of them could be illusory! Perhaps he should be charging across his boundaries at every opportunity! Thinking further on the cattle, he realized that the two outcomes possible for the adventurous cow would be charging across the fake cattle guard, revelling with joy and getting promptly creamed by a semi, or charging into a real cattle guard, snapping its legs as they went through the grate and cursing its adventurous spirit as the wolves cleaned it to the bone. Deciding nothing good was likely to come of testing his own barriers either, Garth marvelled instead at the scenery. Sometimes it’s nice to be shallow as a puddle.

Mt. Shasta, California. Aged readers will recall namesake dreadfull. off-label cola.

Our route took us through the San Joachim valley, past walnut, almond, orange and cherry groves, all under fire for enormous water use in this extreme drought. Mostly, I think to distract people from the extraordinarily worse water/calorie ratio of making beef. Very complex and it seems politically impossible to undo centuries of mis-allocation of water. We will avoid bathing and will wash our dishes with gravel while here, dump the 50 gallons of water as mentioned last post and scurry back to soggy Canada.

Birth of Cool. Death of Cool, too, with just over 2000 people left.

Out for a run at Millerton Lake, Garth had a hawk cruise over a bluff perhaps 8 ft overhead. As he stared into the cold, killer’s eyes, he thought perhaps he was hasty in dismissing the raptors’ cool when back at Smith Rock.

Add water, feed the world.

Yosemite was full. We’d tried to book something online, aware that we were no longer travelling completely out of season. Every campsite was full and apparently fills within seconds of spaces being offered, which happens monthly. Walk-in tent sites were open and Garth offered to park the Ginormoroamer and walk in with their tent but the rangers thought this might be gaming the system a bit. We elected to stay in an adjacent national forest and went into the park for the day. It is genuinely spectacular but cursed by its own popularity.

Cultish hikers descend the two mile stairway
Full of angry Euro travelers trying to get money back on “Luxury Accommodation”

The conflicting demands of accessibility and preservation give the feeling of the most managed wilderness experience ever. A very long, truly hard hike up to a series of waterfalls was paved and staired the entire way. Many visitors seemed to be having their first ever outdoors experience and a number of folks heading for an overnight in the backcountry were carrying gear in bags under their arms (including paper bags), one had a violin, and were starting out such that the best they could possibly manage was getting a third of their way before dark. An ambulance was parked at one of the main trail heads, seemingly just as a routine. Kudos to the hordes getting at it, mind.

Too perfect to add snide comment.

Given the Yosemite crowds and the long, slow drive in from our forest campsite, we decided to dip a bit further South along the Sierras to unheralded King’s Canyon National Park. Most of it had opened only a day prior to our arrival and a dead-end highway, perhaps the best of the trip, took us properly to the middle of nowhere. We will wait out a bit of welcome rain and snow and then get some backpacking done, both for the pleasure of it and to get Brenda some apparently much needed time-in-tent. Garth has been more than willing to pitch the tent alongside the camper anywhere but it is not, he’s learned, the same.

I thought we were chasing Spring north. King’s Canyon NP

Once the sleepless-for-Garth tenting is wrapped, it’s off to San Francisco to have an end of trip, big city weekend with wonderful friends from Grande Prairie, then home.

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