Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Opal Creek... on the way...


I headed north out of California in mid October, looking forward to my drive and curious about my destination. I hardly knew anything about the place and didn't have an inkling of what I was soon going to be waste deep in...

I knew about where I was heading - east of Salem, Oregon - and I had some very basic directions... you know the kind. The "go 22 miles and turn left at the mailbox with 3 red reflectors" kind... so... I drove straight north on I-5 turned right at Salem and headed east towards the hills.

The next instruction was to turn left at the Swiss Village restaurant and drive until I came to a locked gate and then I had to walk another 3 miles to Jawbone Flats (the cabin in the first pic eventually became my home for the duration of my stay). It was hot and dusty and I didn't have a clue where the heck I was. I did manage to make my right turn and my left turn without error, which considering it was a 1,000 mile drive was pretty dang easy! But the road up the canyon of the Little North Fork of the Santiam River was a twisty sucker and when the pavement ended I hit the gravel road and bounced my way along for the next 8 miles or so on the washboard surface. And I wondered every mile of that drive up the canyon if this was really the right road and did I really want to consider moving to Oregon from my beautiful Cali central coast and damn this road goes on forever and dammmn... thats a looong way down...

I eventually arrived at the gate and parked my old truck ('63 Ford stepside, shortbed, ugly as sin but attractive in its own faded school bus yellow, scratched and rusted way. Afficianados of old functioning but ugly trucks would have loved it!), grabbed my backpack, unloaded my dog Lance (and Lance will get his own section soon enough, he was truly a dog of legend and I'm eager to give him some recognition) and started walking... not knowing, not having anything close to a clue, that I was soon to fall in love.

And I found myself in an immaculate forest with a moss carpeted floor under a canopy of massive fir and hemlock trees that reached high into a clean blue sky, and mixed in with these was an abundance of ferns and maples changing into their autumn colors, alder, wild huckleberries and plants I didn't recognize. The sound of the Little No. Fork of the Santiam River was a constant refrain, really the only sound except for my shoes crunching in the gravel...
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