I doubt that Wall Drug, “the world’s most famous drug store,” has changed much since I went there in 1989, on a roadtrip from Memphis to Wyoming. It may well be bigger and weirder, though that’s a little hard to believe.
10 years later, I must have been looking at a Memphis Flyer travel column deadline and an empty ideas bin, because I dug up a photo and the 10-year-old memory of a place which, as I described it in this article, was “a drugstore, yes. It’s also a museum and a restaurant and a mall and a tourist attraction. It is essentially the only industry in the town of Wall, South Dakota, employing more than 100 of the 800 residents and taking up a quarter of its business district.”
Another from my years a travel writer for the Memphis Flyer — and in this case, “Memphis” is an important part of the story.
Not that the story happened in Memphis; far from it. It happened in Mount Shasta, California, which as someone told me in the article is “Just down the road from Weed.” I had only lived on the West Coast for three years at the point this story went down, so I was still, well, let’s say reserved about the spirituality I encountered there.
I got a chance on New Year’s Day 2021 to go and hike some of the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge for the first time since the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
The trail reopened around December 31, 2020, and the highway exit on the following day. All of that can change any time, because especially after the fire, landslides will be more common in the area. That’s why the exit was closed, and Eagle Creek Canyon will be even more prone to slides than usual for quite a while.
One fun aspect of going back through my old Memphis Flyer travel columns has been re-living my first experiences with the state of Oregon.
Places which I have now been to several times, places which I am already in the process of missing as I make plans to move on from Oregon, were once places that revealed themselves to me on magical, epic journeys into a new land.
One such place is Linton Meadows, which I referred to in this Flyer article from April 8, 1999 as my own personal Shangri-La. I had been there for the first time in the summer of 1998.
In the middle of a crazy travel time, in a land very foreign to my own, I found the Christmas spirit in a remarkable box from home.
Funny how life seems to go in little circles. For example, lately I’ve been combing through the 250 or so travel stories I wrote for the Memphis Flyer before 2012. Why? First to preserve them, but also to share them, since in everything I have ever done, I imagined I would one day tell the story to an audience, even an imagined one. To me, it’s all interesting.
I never did know what the actual audience in the Flyer was. I know that the audience for these posts now is incredibly small; only a dozen or so people ever click on any one of them. So I’ve considered cutting off the project, because what’s the point? I do want to save all the pieces, and I might as well share the “good” ones, but why? Hell, why save them at all?
It’s funny to come across an old memory and recognize it as some kind of foreshadowing.
In 1991, I went to a football game at the University of Tennessee. The night before, in my hostel, I met an English fellow. I invited him to the game, then served as his Southern Culture Host for the day. The result, below, is one of my favorite of 250-something travel stories I wrote for the Memphis Flyer between 1996 and 2012.
The original plan was Ramona Falls. This time of year, that can be a challenge, with snow on the road, the trail, and an already tricky river crossing on logs. So I would need an early start, some luck, and perhaps a little bravery. I set the intention the night before, and since nobody else was going, it was all on me.
I woke up to wind thumping the windows and tossing the wind chimes. And coffee. And emails. And since I wasn’t meeting anybody or on any schedule, I decided to chill a while. I could leave by, oh, let’s say 9.
And somewhere in there I noticed a pattern of thought developing: that if I started too late and didn’t make it all the way to Ramona Falls, I will have failed.
Here is a memory which is also a flash-forward. In April 1998 I visited Glacier National Park and went on a hike. That summer I wrote this travel article about it for the Memphis Flyer. And next summer I plan to be up there again, living in Montana.
So let’s go back in time for a taste of my hiking future.