Forestbrisketforest (USA Day 97)
Last night, long after I’d written the blog and put away this damned laptop, we scuttled out from our tent to look at the lake one last time. It was a moonless night, without a single cloud or breath of wind, so not only were the stars magnificently clear all the way to the milky way, but the brightest ones could be seen twice: once above, and once reflected in the lake. I’d never seen this before. I can’t think where I even would have had the opportunity. It was truly stunning.
It was a Jack and Jill of a night. Having camped at a bit of an angle, sleep was both hard to come by and hard to hang on to. We’d gradually slide downhill, then crawl back up to re-join my pillow at the summit before sliding down once more. Morning, like so many others before it, arrived unannounced and with a brutality that was instantly quelled once I looked outside and saw the lake again. As the sun rose past the firs, the shallows nearest us glowed green, while the centre remained pale and clear.
Our first thirty-eight miles took us north along busy roads, mainly downhill towards Detroit (not that one). While the quantity of the shoulders varied, we mainly felt safe apart from the very last right-hand bend before Detroit itself, where our little lane all-but evaporated and four large cars took it in turns to frighten the sputum out of us by driving within a whisker of our poor ears and elbows. We stopped, slightly shaken, in town to see another old car show, slightly less impressive than Baker City’s, with only sixteen entrants, one of which appeared to be a golf buggy. Given that in the registration office (also the fire station) lived a table with at least thirty trophies, the competitors were due to go home a lot happier than the organisers.
We sipped free coffee and made use of the tiny glimmer of phone signal to plan our routes, contact hosts and upload a blog, all while watching a country band play some dirges to an unresponsive audience. Despite the sixteen entrants into the car show, there seemed to be half that many actually on the main street. Who knows where they’d gone to avoid the blazing heat and awful music, but the effect was rather sad.
A barbecue van sold us sandwiches filled with smoky brisket and pulled pork, which we ate with glee, expecting it to be the highlight of our day. It certainly would have been, had the next few miles not been so beautiful. We turned east out of town, immediately leaving behind the Labor Day traffic and pushing our way upstream in a sun-dappled forest, with nothing but the occasional lay-by camper for company. The road bounced up and down, wound about the hillsides, and we breathed in the peace of the cascades for the first time in earnest. Between Willamette National Forest and Mount Hood National Forest was a 2-3 mile stretch of demonically steep climbing, but the afternoon’s heat had faded long before our energy would, so we skipped up and rounded the top long before things got too achy.
This forest, as far as we’ve explored it at least, is much more monocultural, with huge firs dominating the landscape and lining up thick along both sides of the road. After five or so miles, we found a lay-by with a promising lack of trees behind it, and went to investigate. Not only did we find a gorgeous little camping spot, but a canyon that dropped away just over the escarpment to a river deep below. It’s perfect. Halfway into our short cascade adventure, and we’re loving it. Let’s hope the roads tomorrow are more like the second half of today, not the first, or the love may wane somewhat.