When the Smoke Clears

A hiking trail leads through trees toward a far-off mountain

Unable to take another day at the desk, I say to hell with it, throw my pack in the car, and hit the road.

I have a trail in mind, and I don’t care that online reviews say the road is a bitch, or that the smoke is still hanging thick in the valleys, or that it’s supposed to be close to 90, or that some reviewers said “bugs,” or that I’m out of shape, or this or that or anything else. I’m going hiking.

The road starts out nice, gets a little rough, and then brings my Kia Soul to a complete stop. Not where I was hoping to start, and the hike just got a little longer, a little tougher, but it’s not like I’m going back. And it’s too late to go somewhere else. Besides, this was the plan. I didn’t sign up for a perfect day in the mountains, even if that’s what I was hoping for. I signed up for a day in the mountains. Because I couldn’t take another day out of them.

I start walking.

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Up Eagle Creek

I was three miles up from the road, sitting at the edge of a forest, looking over a grassy, flower-dotted meadow and up a forested creek valley. There was a big grey mountain up there, half shrouded in clouds, with a few big patches of snow. The map said it was still a 12-mile hike to the base of it, but it looked like it was just right around the next bend in the creek.

It might as well have been 100 miles away, though, because I was not going to make it up there. At least not on this trip. That mountain, and all else that is up there, will have to wait til next year.

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Roadtrip: The Litte Moments

 

The sign on a barely paved road, leading into the sagebrush nothingness, with the name of a town and “12 miles.”

The glimpse of a snowy mountain range just over the bare local horizon.

Walking into a cafe and everybody in the place stopping to look at you juuuussst long enough to realize they don’t know you and they don’t care, then resuming their chatter.

A rest area with a horse, not pet, exercise area.

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On the Road Again, Choosing My Myths

There was a moment on the road today which I have chosen to mythologize.

Normally, I’m not a Big Moment guy. For example, as I left my hometown of 24 years, literally as I got in the car to drive off, there was a small dash of “Oh my gosh, this is happening,” but a lot more of “I need to let my friend in Bend know when I’m getting there for coffee.” Never mind the year of international travel I aspire to after that, or the two decades of life I was pulling away from.

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Leaving Portland: Last Go-Rounds

There’s been a lot of “lasts” lately. The last time seeing this friend and that. Last cooked meal in this kitchen. Last hike from my home in Portland.

They aren’t real lasts, of course. I’ll be back this summer, after all, just not as a resident, and not for terribly long. But knowing that it’s the last time you’ll do something brings a certain awareness and appreciation to it. You know how you look back at things, people and experiences in your life after they’re gone and wish you could relive them one more time? What if, the last time you did something, you knew it was the last time?

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Leaving Portland: Applying the Test

In the 24 years I’ve lived in Portland, I have had 12 different addresses. So I know well the application of The Test. And as I prepare to leave for good (ish), I’m about to start applying it in a very real way.

I don’t mean a test of character, or planning, or searching for a place, or any mental acumen. I mean the test that determines whether I keep a thing or not.

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I Love Rick Steves

Rick Steves

There are very few people who always make me happy. Rick Steves is absolutely one of them. He’s also something a guru to me.

There’s just something impossibly endearing about a guy who is an absolute goofball and makes no attempt to either hide it or change. “In my early days of touring,” he has said, “I used to worry about being a cultural bumpkin — but now I embrace it. After all, I travel to learn.”

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Leaving Portland: Am I Excited?

Today I flipped the calendar to May – quite literally a normal event, except that for me, May 2021 will be the last month I live in Portland, Oregon.

It will also be the last month I technically live anywhere. The last month, at least for a year, that I will spend in my home, surrounded by my stuff, hanging out with my friends, going to see my team play, hiking trails that I know, and basically knowing what each day is going to bring.

30 days. Then I’m gone.

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