Posts Tagged ‘camping’

It has been six years since we went on a road trip, and forever (plus a day) since we went somewhere we haven’t been before. Here’s a little background on this road trip: when I was going on ten, my folks pulled us all out of school early to make a long trip to Durand, Wisconsin, to see my oldest cousin (on my mother’s side) graduate from high school. We pulled a rented trailer and Dad promised us all these fun stops: St. Louis to see the Budweiser horses, Mt. Rushmore to see the presidents, the Little Bighorn Battle monument, nd Yellowstone National Park.

The car over heated pulling the trailer and we cut out St. Louis and Mt. Rushmore – the two places my ten year old heart wanted to go. I won’t say I was disappointed in the site of Custer’s Last Stand as I had just finished reading biographies of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, but I was disappointed that we did not stop in to visit the memorial for Comanche, the sole survivor of the US Cavalry on that fateful day. If you are not familiar with the story, Comanche was a US remount (cavalry horse) of a dun color (buckskin) who somehow managed to escape being mortally shot by anyone on either side, and who became a sort of legend of survival of a battle that signaled the end of a way of life for the indigenous peoples of the American continent.

I just cared that he was a horse.

I loved Yellowstone, also, but Old Faithful was a huge disappointment (we were there less than a decade after the 1959 earthquake that put the geyser into a momentary tailspin) but I got to meet a grizzly, up close and personal (not a tale for this post, sorry. I got very close).

We have always camped rugged: we had a six-man tent for years, then we moved up to the back of a For Explorer, and then life intervened and we lost both the rig and the tent – so we purchased an inexpensive tent for the trip. All other camping gear was on hand: stove, pads, sleeping bags.

I left the itinerary rather open: three days to get there & three days to come home, who knew where we would land?

Day #1 was a long day as we passed from Oregon into Washington State (who said self serve gas was cheaper has never pumped gas in Washington State!) and into Idaho at the narrowest point of the panhandle. My only goal was to get to Montana, and we did that.


The requisite campsite photo: we paid ten dollars for this site, had wonderful hosts, and they even had garbage dumpsters. I thought we entered a time warp. If you are interested: Cabin City Campground. 1980’s prices, clean, well-maintained, highly recommended. We were there for the overnight, so can’t say anything for the sights.

Day #2… We drove into one helluva a lightning storm near Livingston. Cloud to ground strikes and cloud-to-cloud strikes, pouring rain. I stepped off the gas pedal a tad in case we had hail and the person who was about to pass me decided I was the wiser driver and pulled back, too. Fortunately, no hail. We did, however, see two elk carcasses where some hapless truck driver came around a corner and – SURPRISE! – there were elk in the road. Oy.

We pulled into a campground just outside of Columbus, Mt. FREE. Unheard of. It’s a city owned campground run for the benefit of travelers Donations accepted.


The threat of more rain kept us from setting up our tent (which has a crappy short rain fly) and we spent an uncomfortable night sleeping in the KIA. I love the Sportage because it is built for short people to drive, but for sleeping in…? It sucks. The guy with the snowy beard ended up with a bad crick in his neck. But we did have flushing toilets, even if they were for giants.

The people camped next to us had no idea of camping etiquette and crossed through our camp site to go to the restrooms more than once. They didn’t seem to be “all there” so we didn’t say anything, but – really?? They were nice enough, just a little unfamiliar with how one should behave in a campground with designated sites. Oh, hell – do I have to spell this out? You don’t walk into or across the site next to you. There’s a little road or you can circle wide through the grass, but you DO NOT walk through a site.

I picked up a friend and carried him over to meet Don.

He’s some kind of moth. I haven’t bothered to look him up. If you can ID it, I would gladly appreciate that. It was newly hatched.

We were outta there before 6AM Pacific.

I’ll post more later. Blessings.


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One of the places my husband wanted to go to was a place in Idaho called “City of Rocks”: it’s a “National Reserve” which is somewhat like a National Park but without the status of a park. Being the rock hounds that we are, it sounded pretty inviting. The history of the California Trail was something of an attraction as well: City of Rocks was one of the places where the westward-heading emigrants parted ways. Some stayed on the Oregon Trail but others were drawn by tales of gold and riches and opted for the southern route through Nevada and into California.

First, we had to get there. It didn’t look like we were going to have nice weather, either: big thunderheads chased us across north-central Oregon to La Grande where we spent our first night with family (and where I snagged a copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett – and if I remember, I’ll do a book review on it sometime).

By the time we reached the State of 75 mph (otherwise known as Idaho – Oregonians who are relegated to 65 mph and 55 mph will get the reference), the clouds were all gone. This is the view over the Snake River from Idaho looking into Oregon. Nothing but blue skies (what song does that remind you of?).

City of Rocks is south of a small town called Burley. It’s all paved roads until you get to the actual Reverve, and then it’s gravel. We stopped at the park headquarters to review the kiosk, looking specifically for fire restrictions and any information on campsites. There was a little map that we picked up that gave a general history and showed where all the camp sites were. We didn’t go in to the HQ as we didn’t feel we needed to. Perhaps we should have, because – perhaps – they could have told us the camp grounds were nearly all full.

It’s a world of amazing granite spires.

Emigrants who came this way carved their names on the smooth sides of some of the granite boulders. Those names are still there for us to see, along with the names of more recent travelers who feel a need to deface anything and everything historic. But, then, I guess their ancestors were the first ones to carve their names on the rocks.

I have a theory about petroglyphs, too. My father handed it down to me: petroglyphs are ancient Indian grafitti.

We couldn’t guess from the early panoramas what we would be facing when we actually got to looking for a camp site.

Aw, it’s in bloom! These suckers jump out and grab you, so you have to be careful around them. We had Murphy, but he was very good. Don said he’s had to pick cactus thorns out of Murphy’s feet before: this is a widespread cactus of Oregon and Idaho. And no, I really have no idea what the Latin name is for it but I’m sure there are cacti experts who could tell you.

I have one growing in a planted out front. It’s a bear to repot and extremely vicious when I try to weed around it. And it has never bloomed.

It’s beautiful, desolate land.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get any photos of the massive spires we drove through when we reached the center of the Reserve. For one thing, we were on a one-lane dirt road and we were starting to get desperate for a camp site. And for another thing, the place was crawling with tanned athletes and their climbing gear: walking along the road or rappelling and scaling the vertical walls of the sometimes 300-foot tall spires.

And every single camp site we pulled up to was either occupied or reserved for that day. So many empty camp sites and so many RESERVED tags!! We found the one place where you pay for your camp, but we didn’t know where we were going to camp yet. We picked up an envelope and set back out on our search for a site.

That search took us to the very western edge of the Reserve, away from all the scenic rocks, to a site marked on the map. We pulled in next to the outhouse and Don said, “What is that scrunchy noise?”

I looked in the side-view mirror and groaned.

The funny part about this is this: Friday morning before we even left for vacation, I walked out to get into my car to go to work and I saw the very same thing on my car. Called my boss from Les Schwab’s Tire Center and told her, “I’m not really on vacation yet. I just stopped for a breakfast of stale popcorn and good coffee.”

(And she laughed and said, “Oh, Les Schwab’s!”)

We were not laughing about this. We didn’t even know if there was a Les Schwab Tire Center in Burley, some 20+ miles away.

What we did know was this: we weren’t going anywhere. We weren’t looking for another camp site. The place where we were at was vacant. We were staying.

So, we unloaded and Don got out the spare. Murphy was very happy to be able to roam freely since no one else was within miles of us.

Unfortunately, the camp site we were stuck at was a designated Group Site for no less than 12 people at a whopping $38/night. Plus a fine for camping there if you weren’t a group. And no discount for the lack of interesting geology or rocks to climb.

And the pay station was five miles back the way we’d just come. Where we got the rock that stuck in the tire that let out the air in a freaking big hurry.

It really wasn’t a bad site. One picnic table, lots of shade, some old corrals. What it lacked in vistas, it gained in privacy.

And in the morning, we were back near the northern entrance of the park, taking photos of an old stone house situated on private land within the Reserve.

The old cottonwood hanging over the remnants of the homestead and the huge boulder next to it made for a nice framed photo.

There was even an old wooden structure out back, framed by granite mountains.

On our way out of the Reserve, we passed a VW van that was parked on the side of the road, its occupants still snoozing and dreaming of either finding a camp site in the morning or slipping out the back way before the Park Rangers went out to check for permits.

We smiled. We left without paying, too.

And in Burley, we found a busy Les Schwab’s with stale popcorn and an open bay for our rig. We bought two new tires plus an extra spare and wheel. $316.00 and some odd cents, less than we were quoted.

It was Murphy’s second visit to a Les Schwab during a vacation. He’s getting to be a pro at listening to air ratchets and waiting to be lifted back into the rig in his doggie crate.

He was a conversation piece: some old Idaho farmer stood and bent Don’s ear while the tires were put on and I paid the bill. It was so nice and so “small town”.

*We would not normally skip out on paying for a campsite, but we weren’t going to drive back up the same roads where we’d just put a rock through our tire just to pay for a site we weren’t even supposed to be in because there were only the two of us. We felt like there should have been a “Camp Ground Full” sign back at HQ or on the sign-in board. And there should have been one site for single party camping at the place we ended up at. Why should that entire area be designated as a Group Site?

** I’m jealous of all the tanned athletes climbing rocks. Not of their tans, but of their physical prowess. I’ve never been much of an athlete. And I don’t think I will ever desire to go off of a rock backwards! Don tells me it is fun, but I am skeptical.

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I took off last Friday to drive over to where my husband was working on trails as a volunteer for the US Forest Service in the Ochocos. I wanted to stop in Sisters, OR, just to check out all the little artsy shops along the highway through town. I imagined it might be as fun as the artsy shops in Truckee, CA, but was greatly disappointed. The shops in Sisters are much more touristy or cater to quilters (they have a huge quilt show that I missed by one weekend) and are not very big on history. In Truckee, the shops were pretty touristy, too, but there was a strong mix of history, antiques and art that I found lacking in Sisters. I did go into one art gallery that had sculptures that made my heart go “pitter patter”! Nothing like a truly great art display! (Friday was my parents’ wedding anniversary and my mother would have loved to have wandered through Sisters. Wandering through Truckee was what we did the day after she died because it was something she would have loved to have done.)

The drive was enjoyable. I rather liked the freedom of being off on my own and finding my way to a place. I had a dim idea of how to get there and a mental map, plus an idea of how far out of Prineville I needed to drive. It’s sort of like putting together a puzzle: can you do this and not get lost? My inate sense of direction always wins and I did it without a misstep.

It was so pretty! The mock orange was blooming everywhere and the grass in the fields was still green. I arrived in the middle of the day, so the men were still out working on trails. Got settled, visited with the wife of one of the volunteers, and went exploring around the campground with my camera.

There were several American Dipper birds…

And lots of butterflies like these little blue guys. These are Melissa Blue butterflies. I also identified the Common Wood Nymph (western) and saw several I just could not get close enough to identify: a frittilary, a skipper, a comma and a sulphur. there are so many myriads of butterflies!! I also noted a western tiger swallowtail and a pale swallowtail, but who can get a photo!? I was lucky to capture the Melissa Blue butterflies.

These little monkey flowers were among the few wildflowers still blooming. Wild daisies, sticky asters, mullein, and a lot of flowers I only got “close” to guessing what, exactly, they are. I did pin down the hot rock penstemon, but not with a photograph. It’s white instead of blue or purple.

Saturday was supposed to be the day Don and I had to ourselves. Instead, it started with a disaster. Our first hint of a disaster was finding the hard black case to Murphy’s electronic collar tossed out in the brush. Certainly Murphy didn’t do that (he hardly feels the shock so please don’t tell me how cruel it is — I felt the same until I met Murphy and discovered the use of such a device). Then a back pack was missing out of the cab of a truck. And two bottles of whiskey had been removed from the picnic table. Friday night and only twenty miles from Prineville: our fine group of volunteers had become the victims of a crime. Darn, I am so mad!

We searched high and low, hoping the thieves tossed out the items they deemed useless (like the black case, tossed because it didn’t hold a gun, no doubt), but there was nothing. The mood was dark as Don’s compatriots packed up and readied to head home. These men give their time, energy, and personal finances to rebuild historic trails and keep the West open and accessible to anyone able to get out and hike. They spend their own vacation time or retirement hours, and they don’t get paid – and some pair of young twerps sneaks in and steals from them. Lost was a personal GPS, some hard-earned handles to a cross-cut saw, and a USFS digital radio. Gone was a sense of security.

After everyone finally left, Don took me up to the head of one of the trails they worked on and showed me the work they’d done. They cleared about a mile of the upper trail into the Mill Creek Wilderness, hacking out some very large downfall trees. The wilderness burned about six years ago and most of the downfall was a result of the fire. It took the men two days to clear that mile with cross cut saws and Polaski axes. (It is illegal to use power tools in the wilderness and these men prefer the old style of the CCC.)

PArt of this trip was nostalgic: when Arwen & Levi were 4 & 6, we drove down through this country. We stopped at the agate beds where Don’s crew worked on trails but we decided not to camp there. I no longer remember why we didn’t want to camp there. We drove past the campground (we were poor and didn’t want to pay money to camp), finally deciding to pull in at the trailhead to Stein’s Pillar.

The pillar is a result of volcanic activity in the area. the trail in to it is about two miles long, coming in from the south along the sidehill. We did walk in, then headed back to camp separately: Don was busy looking for agates along the trail and I took the kids back to camp. Or thought I did. It’s the only time I lost a child. I turned around and only one child was with me: Arwen. I had no idea where Levi was!

My first thought was rattlesnakes. Nowadays, it would probably be cougars. Levi had no thoughts: he just decided to turn around and go back to find his dad. Good thing he inherited his dad’s sense of direction and he stayed on the trail – Don brought him back to camp. Don was a little bewildered by how he ended up with Levi, but he wasn’t mad at me for losing him. We were both well aware that Levi made a choice somewhere along the trail and just wandered off the other direction. It could have been a disaster, but it wasn’t.

Back to the present: we returned to the campground and enjoyed just sitting around and visiting. The camp hostess came over and shared some of her vast knowledge and store of tales. She’s 79 and has been doing the campground hostess thing for 19 years. She’s “donated” two tents to the bears. She harvests the wild herbs and berries and cans almost all of her own foods. She told me how to make “canned cake” (well, almost the entire recipe – timing was not included in the instructions) and she shared some of her chokecherry jelly with me. (But she did not share the location of her chokecherry bush, darn it!) She makes tea out of the wild mullein and rose hips. She’s spry and healthy and does this all summer long: April – November. Then she heads to warmer climes.

This is our campsite. Murphy did pretty good on the line.

Isn’t he just adorable??

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Imagine that! I set this blog up to record our wilderness adventures, then I haven’t been camping since last July. I think I’ve been out in the woods once in that time period and not at all in the high desert. I’ve felt like my world was slowly closing in on me, suffocating all the life out of me.

With the 4th of July rapidly approaching and all the noise associated with it, we thought we’d best be out of town with Murphy. He isn’t afraid of firecrackers, thunder or loud noises. He even sleeps through thunder and lightning. But what he is not immune to is the other dogs barking at the firecrackers. He rages from one end of the yard (or house) and back again, barking loudly and furiously at all those other frightened dogs. We really did not want to put up with that and I really needed to get out of town myself.

Our destination was a place we’ve visited before: the first time when Arwen was just a year old and still riding in the fancy REI baby back pack. That was the year I dubbed it “It’s Just A Quarter Mile From the Road Honey Lake”: Don assured me this was a short hike into a lake he found on a USGS map. We were new to the Mt Hood National Forest, fresh from the eastern side of Oregon and high desert. So we parked at the base of the hill and loaded up: one of us carried a daypack with 2 beers (one for each of us), some snacks, and miscellaneous survival stuff we always carry. The other one carried our marshmallow baby (so called because she didn’t help you carry her: she marshmallowed into the pack and became dead weight). The dog we had then was a mutt named Rosie, and Rosie took the lead.

The hike proved steeper than anticipated. When we reached a lake, it was a glorified newt hatchery – and on the wrong ridge. Somehow, we’d ended up to the south of where the lake we sought should have been. I was tired. We were hot. Surely this would be over soon. We drank our beer and put our empties back into our pack, hefted the baby and headed out on the sidehill. After clamboring over deadfall, rocks, and a small stream, we found another lake: a marshy little number that was decidedly further up the hill than we thought it should have been. No more beer left, so we drank some of our water. Then we headed out over even more deadfall, steep gullies, and another burbling little stream forded by more deadfall. Finally, we began a descent and I thought our ordeal would soon be over.

We came out on a road. A road on top of the ridge. We still had a long way to descend back to our car. Don decided we should follow the newest little stream back down, assuming it didn’t suddenly descend in waterfalls over granite. We stumbled through a maze of rhododendrons. Don tends to forget I am behind him, and lets go of the branches right as my face is level with their natural habitat. The dog was running circles around our feet, but the rhodies were so thick, I couldn’t see my feet. They grabbed my feet, tripped me, pushed me back and slapped me in the face. I began a life-long hate relationship with wild rhododendrons. To heck with Big Foot: the Pacific Rhododendron is out to kill people.

And there it was: the lake. The Lake. The one that was just a quarter mile from the car. Four hours, many scratches and bruises later, just a few hundred feet from a road ON TOP OF THE RIDGE, and full of shiny beer cans. BEER CANS?! What idiot 200-pound man carried his full beer in and then couldn’t pick up the empties to haul back out? This 110# woman can (I was 110# then – I am not that now)!

Another two hours later, we were back beside our car pulling ticks off of the baby and the dog. 17 ticks off of the dog to be specific. I keep detailed journals. The lake? It really was only a quarter mile off the road, but it was also only a few hundred feet from the other road, the one on TOP of the ridge.

We’ve been back several times since, always via the upper road. It’s an old logging spur and there’s a small spot where you can pull off and pitch a tent. A nice fire ring backs against the berm and if you walk a hundred feet to the north, you come out on a ridge with a view.

I almost died there. That was the year we renamed the place “Mossy Rock” because we explored more to the east and discovered the more fascinating aspects to the topography: ancient old granite boulders so covered in moss that they form a soft bed, a hollow of old growth timber with dead falls forming bridges over the gullies and rocks, and a myriad of cedar trees that have been scratched by some large predator. We imagined it was a cougar, but I suppose it could be a bear. In some places, the scratches are ten feet up the base of the trees. We uncovered the complete skeleton of a four point white tail buck (we have the skull in our possession but left the rest of the skeleton where it lay).

On our last day there, I meandered down to the view point to have my cup of coffee and enjoy the last smoky view of the upper Colowash River and North Fork Clackamas River basins. Our little weekend jaunt happened to coincide with opening weekend of deer season, but we hadn’t seen any hunters. Heard a few echoing rifle reports, but nothing to get excited about. Don was walking out of the trees when something sounding very like a missile came rocketing down the ridge, whistling in its mad descent, and passing just over my head. Had I been standing, it would have knocked me off of my perch. There’s an early scene in “Dances With Wolves” where Kevin Costner is hunkered down under a split rail fence and bullets come whizzing over his head. I jump every time I hear that sound.

It wasn’t my time to die. I lived.

I relate all of that to get to the point: we returned to Mossy Rock this past weekend. It’s been three years since my brush with fate. 23 years since we first ascended that miserable granite maze of ridges and angry rhododendrons. We’ve hiked into the fishing lake several times and dropped lines in the water. Once, we hiked back into the second lake (what a miserable hike that was)! We’ve taken three dogs into this country: Rosie the mutt, Sadie the Pointer, and Murphy.

This is a great place for a picnic: soft as a down mattress, yet it’s all granite underneath that moss! This was a short hike on Friday, just in and around camp.

Later, we stumbled down to The Lake, only to find the level had dropped significantly. I didn’t have my camera with me: we were just checking out the trail from camp into the lake and found the trail obliterated by downfall. The rhododendrons tried to wrap their long arms around my feet again, and pulled my hair, slapped my face and constantly tripped me. They’re worse than poltergeists.

The boys atop the last ridge before the upper lake. The hike was a s miserable as I remember it, but this fifty-plus year old body held up to the climb. Mostly, that is. I was huffing, puffing and crying by this point. Then I remembered I am always huffing and puffing and crying by this point and that made me feel better. I mean, if I am now 50 years old and still able to get to this point, that’s a heck of an accomplishment! Of course, there’s no rhododendrons to try and trip me up. Only old dead trees and wind blown logs.

This is some of the stuff we climbed to get where we wanted to be. You can either walk the logs or go up and down the draws. My balance isn’t what it used to be and the hiking boots I was wearing were not trustworthy on slippery objects: I climbed up and down instead of over. Murphy ran back and forth over.

The upper lake was not much more than a mud hole this year. Murphy still sank out of sight. Don and I rested here before heading back to The Lake and the circle of rhododendrons protecting it.

Ta da! We sidehilled back toward camp and dropped down low enough to come back out at the earthen dam end of The Lake. It’s much lower than in previous years – more of a pond now than a lake! We did see one lonely trout in the bottom.

Murphy is the first dog we’ve owned that loves to swim. He jumped out into this log dam and then climbed back up on the rolling logs. He was having a blast in the water and not doing half-bad at playing like a logger.

This is a killer Pacific rhododendron in bloom.It is deceptively pretty. But just try to walk against those long branches! Bwahahahaha!

Tomorrow: How hard it is to find a good campsite and Wednesday: all the pretty flowers!

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The new picture on my blog is from somewhere in Northern Nevada, close to Dufferena Hot Springs: an old abandoned homestead. I have been busy downloading photos to use for a presentation at work. I’m not thrilled, but I volunteered. What am I doing?? I sort of planned on just doing a slide show of places I like to go (mostly in Oregon, with a little Nevada thrown in), but how many people in a professional urban environment are going to appreciate desert photos, back country camping, no toilets, and rattlesnakes?

I personally am no fan of the latter, but I believe it is “live and let live” and I let them live as long as they let me live. So far, that hasn’t been a problem, although I have been known to jump several feet the opposite direction when I set off a rattler. (That isn’t to mention the times I have hesitated and considered leaping when I have set off a cicada or dry brush or nearly stepped on a bull snake. Pardon me, a “gopher snake”. Who cares what the proper name is when it startles you??)

I thought I could tell of near misses, like when the rattler buzzed in the rocks at Succor Creek and I was located some ten feet to the east of it and leaped ten more, heart thumping (after having restarted) and cursing myself for my stupidity (rock hopping along the river’s edge on a hot day and thinking “there ought to be a rattler hiding in the shade in these rocks somewhere…”). Or of the time a bullet whizzed over my head as I was sipping coffee on a ridge. Now THAT was scary. The rattler is business as usual compared to that. You stand a chance of survival with a rattler: it may not inject enough poison to kill you, you could pump the poison out, you could lay in a cold creek and slow your heart down, and it nearly always WARNS you. Not to minimize the danger (I am afraid of rattlers), but a bullet… THAT comes out of nowhere and you can’t predict it, you can’t see it, you can’t project it, and most of the time you don’t even hear the report from the rifle that shot it. As it was, the bullet whizzed over my head by a few feet and continued on down the slope of the mountain. It was probably an opening-weekend-of-deer-season ridge shot (never take a ridge shot – you don’t know where the bullet will go) that was on it’s final passage to earth.

Most of our close calls have been weather related: the lightning/hail storms that come out of nowhere. One in particular was up on the northern end of the Steens, hiking up a trail that took off from a road going to some rock formation. Don and Levi were, of course, right up on top of the ridge. We didn’t know where our friend, Frank, was. Friends Kathy & Jesse, Arwen and I were in the aspens when it hit. We huddled until Frank came down and joined us. We decided it was best to get OFF THE TOP of the canyon and head for the rigs, so we hustled down hill. Somewhere, Levi joined us. Then Don. Trees were sparse, the lightning was real, and then it began to hail stones as large as a quarter and as small as a nickel. We broke the rules and found the lowest big juniper (lowest as in off the ridge line – it was off the ridge line) and huddled in our summer clothes under the juniper like wild horses or cattle: kids in the center, adults circled around them in protective fashion, and two big dogs whining and yelping and trying to get under where the kids were, too. Those of us with hats fared better than those without. Afterward, we had hot soup and cocoa in Frank & Kathy’s VW van.

There was the badger, too. Well, a couple of them. One attacked the tire of our F-250 when we came around a corner on a dirt road he was crossing. We backed up and gave him his space and he ambled angrily up the hill. The other badger just hid in the brush and growled at us as we gingerly removed all of our camp gear and got into the rig as quickly as possible. Hey, we had no idea he was living under the bush when we decided to camp there! We’re just lucky he decided to growl and warn us.

We had a close encounter with a mustang once. The palomino stallion was herding his harem of six or seven down toward the water hole and we were trying to sneak close enough to get a good photo. He saw or smelled us but didn’t know what we were, so he charged us. He came within 150 feet, neck arched and snorting, straight on at us. Fearless. I couldn’t get a picture of him because he was looking right at us. That was in northern Nevada, just south of the Ruby Mountains and north of the old Pony Express trail. Horse dung littered the trail, piles in heaps three feet deep. We saw no fewer than seven bands of horses plus the band of “bachelors.” I could live there.

I love all that. The bugs, the birds, the beasts. Sneaking up on an antelope to see how close I can come before he gets up on all fours and thinks about running… I don’t mind having no toilet and we travel with a solar shower. I’m not sure I can explain all of that to a room full of people who probably have never camped before (or only have camped inside the boundaries of a State Park with shower facilities and a hundred other people). It’s a different life. I’m just doing this because it is the only thing I know to present and it is, in its very essence, who I am: a desert rat who is currently living out her life in the rather cloudy, wet, and urban lower Willamette Valley.

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