Oregon Trail, Day 5 (Resting the Oxen)

Today we decided to stay put due to a combination of road fatigue and loving our hotel. With just a day’s drive from our new home, it would be tempting to pile everything up and finish out the journey. But, our belongings are at least a day behind us still, and sometimes when you push too hard to get to something, you find yourself unable to enjoy it, because you’re too tired. So, on this day, Allyson and I treated ourselves to the thrills and comforts Baker City has to offer.

We had breakfast in a place called The Lone Pine Cafe on recommendation from the desk clerk in our hotel. The breakfast was so good we went back for lunch. All our meals in Oregon, going back to when we were here for the interview, have been great–there hasn’t been even a mediocre one. It seems like everything is farm fresh and local ingredients everywhere we eat.

Allyson and I each opted for solo morning and afternoon activities, each of which is a good recharge for us. Allyson lounged in the hotel room, watching TV and went to the local shops in town. I went exploring and hiking. It was good for both of us, and individually perfect for each one of us to take a break from the many hours on the road we’ve maintained the past few days.

IMG_3192I went to the Oregon Trail National Interpretive Center. I had begun to snow as I drove out there, then a heavy fog set in. I parked, but couldn’t see 20 feet in front of me, so it looked like the hike would be a bust. I waited, though, about 15 minutes and the fog began to clear. I realized I was parked on top of a tall hill in the middle of mountains and a huge, beautiful valley. I got to hike the trail and watch the fog lift completely until the sun was out. I walked down the trail to remnants of the actual Oregon Trail where you can still make out the path dug out by wagons crossing the country.

This new world in front of me seemed so enormous and free. I had this great feeling of adventure and awe come over me. This move still doesn’t seem completely real, but Allyson and I have both talked about how we feel like we are embarking into something huge for the two of us. There is a great freedom in taking a journey like this–the geographical part and the altering of our life. As I looked out over that valley, those mountains, the clouds of fog moving over the earth, those feelings of freedom welled up inside me–it was like I was looking at a real life picture of all those feelings. A cold wind blew and I shoved my hands in my pockets, feeling the awe, the excitement, and the harshness of it all at once. It was good for me to be out walking. I am one that needs to hike through things, to use all 5 senses on a place.

IMG_3207After lunch, Allyson and I walked Main Street and came back to the room to look at my morning pictures and relax. I wanted to get out some more, so I decided to set out on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, seeing if I might make it to Hells Canyon and back by dark. I knew it would be great scenery, but this was by far the most beautiful scenery I’ve encountered the whole trip. The road wove next to a stream between huge hills, mountains, and rock croppings. At one point I crossed a mountain pass and the green hills almost immediately changed to snow covered. Tall pines began to rise up where only sage brush had been. I wanted to stop at every pull-off there was and had to limit myself. I’m not posting many pictures, because they are pathetic compared to what my eyes took in.

At the end of the night, on they way back to the Geiser Grand Hotel, Venus began to light up the west sky. In my rear view I caught the full moon glowing through the clouds. I pulled over one more time, leaned against my car and watched the daylight fade and the evening stars take over. I found the local NPR station on the radio dial, and they were playing All Things Considered. I felt this comfort come over me, and it felt like I was back in Studio A at WKMS, moving from segment to news to funders onto the next segment, then underwriters and weather. It is such a fantastic feeling to be in this new, wide open space I am in love with, accompanied by these old friends keeping me grounded enough to make some sense of all of this.

Allyson and I closed out the evening in the hotel dining room, telling each other about our day. Tomorrow we will pack up clothes, toiletries, and the cats and make the final leg of this trip. We’ll meet up with the Columbia River and follow it nearly to the end, sort of like Lewis and Clark. I wonder what it will feel like crossing the gates into camp, this new thing that is also now home. We’ve crossed most of the mountains. I think our wagon is going to make it. It’s waiting just over a few more hills.

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