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Monday, September 5, 2011

Central Oregon Road Trip or Oystergeddon: The Epilogue

Under a pine tree canopy, one would expect to find groundcover consisting of pine needles and twigs. But after the excesses of Oystergeddon, the ground in proximity to the fire is covered in a thick layer of spent oyster shells so that in the foggy gloom of daybreak, the scene resembles a winter wonderland but only because the fog makes it really hard to see.

Hidden in the confines of his tent, Kip, with tremulous voice asks, “Are you guys feeling O.K. this morning?”

Uncle Rico’s voice drifts up through oyster shell covers (I have never seen him sleep in a tent), “Never felt better!”

I respond less enthusiastically owing to a somewhat expected chemical reaction that results from brain cells marinating in rum, “I’m O.K.” I answer, “Why?”

From inside my tent I can hear Kip respond non-verbally - the noise he makes frantically unzipping his tent. I catch a glimpse of him running off into the mist with a roll of toilet paper.

Fortunately (for me and Uncle Rico at least) Kip seems to be the only casualty…or is he?

Fast forward a week to find me on the road in my trusty Ford – clenching – looking for release. Like a hapless half-breed Vulcan trying to rule his emotions with pure logic, I try to exert a similar discipline on my sphincter.

I pull into Madras. It isn’t too late to utilize a fast food establishment’s facilities (Give the KFC in front of the theater credit for a spotless restroom). Tragedy has been averted for now, but the ominous hydraulic noises emanating from my colon suggest I’m not ready to go anywhere just yet. So I watch a movie while waiting for nature to take its course. 

Still photo from Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Photo by WETA - ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Caesar the chimpanzee consoles me. “Don’t forget to keep clenching.” He warns me, “You’ve been so forgetful lately!” He does his best not to let me see his worried expression (He reminds me so much of Monkey-cam).

Did I say ‘trusty’ Ford?

Smith Rock State Park at dawn

Sure, it’s kind of pretty, but I was really impressed with the restroom located in the day-use area. After a couple false starts, I begin to recognize a pattern – the third time’s a charm.

I don’t think deer worry about bowel irregularities very often.

I take the River Trail. By this I don’t mean I actually wade in the water. It’s just the name of the trail. It snakes around the rock-climbing-structures of note, following the path of the Crooked River.

These structures make me homesick for the olden days when I used to be able to pass something more substantial.

I’d only ever seen pictures of Smith Rock State Park, and the pictures led me to believe I’d be seeing a natural wonder comparable to Yosemite. But being there in person…well, it was like looking at a bonsai mountain range. That’s not to say that the rocks are small – they aren’t – I’m just saying there was a brief moment of cognitive dissonance. Later, after taking the Misery Ridge Trail to the summit, I gained a better appreciation for how big and scary these rocks are relative to primates.

On the way to the summit, I passed the structure called ‘Monkey Head’…

…and marveled at what passes for fun for some people. Maybe the feeling you get from rock climbing is similar to the feeling I got that time I didn’t die at Willapa Bay, but I imagine it is more intense, direct and visceral.

My fear of heights seems to be growing in proportion to my age. It has something to do with a lack of confidence in my body's abilities to follow my brains directions. I started getting nervous just walking on the trail and looking over the edge. 

The next stop on my central Oregon loop is something called Fort Rock which I learned about in William Sullivan’s book, Hiking Oregon’s History. According to Sullivan, Fort Rock is the remains of a maar – a volcanic explosion crater that erupted in the middle of what was, at the time, a vast Pleistocene lake.

The resulting ‘tuff’ ring formed an island like a great walled city.

Over time, waves driven by the prevailing winds from the south breached the ring giving this geologic feature the crescent shape it has today…very much reminiscent of commercial toilet seats found in public restrooms. Once again, the local restroom facilities prove to be immaculate and I am forced to adhere to the ‘third time’s a charm’ elimination protocol (you have to walk around a bit between each ‘event’).

If it hadn’t been for Sullivan’s book, I don’t think I would have realized that the notch in the rock above is evidence of the action of waves on the shoreline of a long vanished lake.

From a vantage point at a gap in the ‘tuff’ ring another volcanic structure can be seen across the sagebrush plain which is said to house a cave – the former repository for woven sandals (the worlds oldest shoes) manufactured in this area 9000 years ago. This is pretty good evidence that people with feet were roaming/swimming in these parts about 8000 years earlier than was previously thought.

The location of the cave isn’t immediately obvious to me. The volcanic butte is on private land and scheduled tours are limited. I spend a few moments trying to imagine the prehistoric lake. I try to imagine setting out for the shoe store in the family canoe.

Subtle gurgling noises begin emanating from my colon and my imagination begins to veer off course. What would you do if you were in the middle of a lake in a canoe and your body received the imperative to ‘go’?  My real dilemma is not all that dissimilar from my imaginary one. I could not be any further away from the rest room. I stop walking and concentrate and wait for the contractions to pass. When they do, I am worn out and sweaty, but my pants are unsoiled. I double time it back to the restroom – I know I don’t have much time before the next set of contractions.

I do wonder about sanitation 9000 years ago. Did the prevailing taboos of that time anticipate germ theory? What did they do with all their poop? Are outhouses universal? What did they do when they got sick? What kind of medicines did they give each other? I know we ‘modern’ humans think we’re the pinnacle of evolution and often express the conceit that pre-industrial cultures were hopelessly primitive, but have you ever tried to weave sandals out of sagebrush bark?

In route to a crack in the ground, I pass a red horse in Christmas Valley.

Yep. It’s a crack in the ground.

It’s refreshingly cool in the crack, but sometimes smells a little like a thawing freezer.

For a whole lot of nothing…it sure is beautiful.

Somewhere in the night in the long gap between towns, I confront all those philosophical conundrums about ‘life’ and ‘meaning’. I wonder what my special purpose is. And then suddenly it strikes me like a thunderbolt. I have a special power, like those characters in Heroes (or Misfits). It turns out that I can transform anything I eat into a brown liquid.

Honorable Mentions

Porta-potty at Pacific Pride gas station just South of Bend.
There’s no reason this commercial fueling card-lock facility needs to have un-locked porta-potties available in the middle of the night…but they did.

Outhouse/Rest Area West of Mitchell
Nice placement for this typical State of Oregon, well maintained outhouse. Extra points for fascinating illustrated reading material detailing the garbage that maintenance workers have to retrieve from the poo puddle.

I hadn’t been to the Painted Hills since 2007.

The thing about the Painted Hills is they don’t look real. The other thing about the Painted Hills is that you’re not allowed to walk on them.  Once those two facts are taken into account, it’s just one small step to a conspiracy theory (i.e. the rangers actually paint the hills every couple of years when the tourists aren’t looking). So this visit I spend some time at The Painted Cove Trail where the boardwalk allows for up-close detailed examination of the strange popcorn-textured surface of the hills.

Having once been a professional painter, it seems entirely plausible that barefoot rangers with airless paint sprayers could easily achieve this effect.

It kind of looks like it must have rained before this year’s coat of paint dried completely.

All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain...

- Roy Batty

In previous postings, I’ve expressed wonder and admiration for the rock art I’ve been privileged to find. I wonder about its purpose, and what messages from across time are still stored in canyons and caves around the world.  But I don’t know… Is it me? Today it just looks like stick figures are experiencing a brown discharge between their legs. 

This repeated vandalism explains why people who know the location of this artwork won’t tell you.

I stop at Blue Basin briefly, but once again the message at these archeological sites is, “Don’t touch!”

I travel on to Fossil and Condon to find Indian Pictographs that I read about in a book dating back to the sixties. I pretend to be an investigative reporter and visit the post office and the newspaper. I get some leads, but nothing pans out (so far).

In the meantime, I run an experiment utilizing Tabasco as a distinctive identifier. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but the results of the experiment seem to indicate that it takes about 3.5 hours for me to work my special alchemy.

No reason really…it just looked old-timey to me.

I notice some Transformers joining ranks outside of Condon, preparing to defend the town from Decepticons.

I can remember back to a time when all we were able to harvest from a field like this was wheat.

I don’t think I will ever know the full story behind why this house lies deserted and in ruins.

But if I were a betting man, I would put my money on the story these discarded oyster shells might tell.

I look around to get my bearings, and head home.

1 comment:

  1. Great episode! Now we'll have Richie steer the boat over to the beach so you can release the rope and ski right up on to the sand and be mobbed by your adoring fans. I'm really excited about the direction this series is taking.


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