That Nomad Life; the First 100 Days (Part 2): Days 43-68

Day 43 – Friday, August 24, 2018
Well the day has come; I was up early, low of 48 degrees and a stiff breeze blowing… I made coffee and had my devotionals in the tent. It was obvious that the wind wasn’t going to die down soon, so I got busy taking down my camp. It’s quite the chore by yourself…  I got  everything out of the trailer and tent, then pulled down said tent and the canopy.

A couple of hunters rode up on a 4-wheeler and we talked for a good half hour about elk and wolves when they learned I was once a biologist here on the Forest… “Where’s all the elk?” “Brother, I’ve been gone from here for fifteen years…”  I was still packing the truck and trailer at 1 pm…

Hooking up the trailer was a trick; backing up without a spotter is never easy. The new straight hitch was an inch too high to slide under the trailer tongue… I couldn’t budge the trailer, so I tried to move the tongue onto the larger ball sticking out to the right of the hitch. I hoped to move the trailer back a few feet so the tongue would sit higher… When I heard the hitch hit the tongue, I was amazed to find that the correct ball had somehow slid underneath the tongue into perfect position! “You did that Lord!” I almost shouted…

I finished hooking up and pulled the trailer 20 yards down the hill. I walked around the empty camp, looking for any bits of trash. It looked strange and felt stranger to be leaving… I’ve never done anything quite like this; it has been a singular experience. I wouldn’t say it has been life changing; just unique, and a true blessing…

Headed downhill…

I drove into Enterprise and got a room at the Ponderosa Inn; I checked in and lugged some gear to the room. As I lay down on the bed, I realized how strange it felt to not be on a cot for the first time in more than 40 days…

Later in the evening I met up with some of my old colleagues from the Forest Service and Wallowa Resources. We had a great evening together; some folks were very interested in what I’ve been up to, up on the forest the last month and a half. I tried to explain it the best I could; I guess I wasn’t ready yet to go into a lot of detail.

I told them to be watching for the launch of my new blog in the coming weeks; hopefully it would speak for itself… It had been a long day, so I told folks I would see them tomorrow night at the big Barn Dance and took my leave.

Day 44 – Saturday, August 25, 2018
Wallowa Resources (WR) is a nationally acclaimed, non-profit organization, dedicated to the collaborative stewardship of the natural resources in the county. That is very important in a county where more than 70% of the land-base is managed by the federal government! Each year, they have a big fund-raising event out at the “Big Blue Barn” in the middle of the valley. Though this was the 10th year for the event, it would be my first opportunity to go.

I decided to start getting ready for the dance early, and then drive up to Joseph to see if I could find a bolo tie. I showered, shaved, dressed out in my best cowboy outfit, and headed for Joseph…  I found a decent tie, a silver feather with a small turquoise button on it; not exactly what I was looking for, but I got lots of compliments on it later in the evening…

I drove the north road out of Joseph, passing Providence Ranch as I went. For two years, I had worked towards starting a summer camp and perhaps an outdoor school with the ranch’s owner, but plans fell through earlier this spring. I was truly grieved that it didn’t work out, but it’s possible that I would have never gotten back to my writing if it had… God has opened and shut many doors in my life…

I arrived at the “Big Blue Barn” precisely at 5 pm; there were already quite a few folks there. I sauntered into the barn and had a look around; it was a real barn, though it didn’t smell like one… There were some milk goats in stalls at the far end; but they spent most of their time outside in a fenced pasture. The large hay loft upstairs had been converted into quite the gathering place; well outfitted with tables and chairs, and a place for the band.  Back outside, a huge smoker was putting off some incredible smells; one of the cooks gave me a sample of the beef brisket he was cooking, it was delicious!

Dinner started a bit after 6pm; smoked chicken and beef brisket, roasted potatoes, a great vegie salad, and bread. It was the best meal I had eaten in nearly two months! I was able to sit with an old friend, the first executive director for WR; it was good to catch up…

After dinner there was an auction. Among the items auctioned were various guided back-country trips and big-game hunts; bidding was brisk and way out of my league. I’m guessing they raised at least $30K dollars that night… I tried to bid on a 2-week supply of Mountain House freeze dried meals and a one-hour airplane tour over the Wallowa Mountains; each valued around $300, but I couldn’t even keep up with that; they both went for nearly $500! But it was good to see so many folks in the area dedicated to a worthy cause…

After the auction, the tables and chairs were quickly cleared away and a local cowboy band  struck up the tune, playing a collection of rockabilly songs spanning four decades. The dance floor quickly filled up and I quickly felt like I was that kid up against the wall in 1976 at the Junior High dance. I didn’t stay long after that…

I was glad to have went; it was a great event, well done… My friend Nils Christofferson, has guided Wallowa Resources to becoming a premiere model of collaborative stewardship, widely known for their work in rural communities and natural resource management. I’m glad to have been part of it back in the early days…

Day 46-52; August 26 – September 4, 2018:
I spent the following week with dear friends over in the Grande Ronde Valley. Besides catching up with old friends, I got a lot accomplished in preparation for the next leg of the journey. I had electric brakes put on my little cargo trailer, the Apocalypod, and put some gear into storage that I decided I wouldn’t need until I decided to “put down roots” again. I believe I lightened the load in my trailer by several hundred pounds.

I visited my old churches in La Grande and Summerville and had the opportunity to share what God has been doing in my heart during my time “up in the woods.” I spent quite a bit of time online watching instructional videos from Blogging Your Passion University (BYPU), which have been a tremendous help in putting together a professional looking blog page. I hope I can get it launched soon…

Before I realized it, a whole week had passed, and it was time to say my good-byes and hit the road for the Oregon coast. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen the west coast, and I’m really looking forward to driving down Highway 101 to Brookings, where I first began my career with the Forest Service on the Siskiyou National Forest, clear back in 1989.

I’ve decided I want to visit all four corners of the state before it turns cold; and that won’t be long here in Oregon. My last day in the Grande Ronde was spent doing laundry, buying supplies, and balancing the load in my rig between the back of the truck and the trailer. It was time to head west…

Day 53 – Monday, September 3, 2018
I was up early, eager to get on the road. Par for the course, I didn’t get out of town as quick as I wanted. It’s a seven to eight-hour drive to the coast from northeast Oregon at regular highway speeds, and I knew pulling the trailer over the passes, I probably wouldn’t make it in less than ten.

It was the last day of the Labor Day weekend, so I knew there would be a lot of folks on the road… But my hope was they would leave a few empty spots in the campgrounds along the coast. The rig drove well over Cabbage Hill and Deadman Pass in the Blue Mountains, and soon I was out on the long flat stretch of I-84, headed west to Portland. I had hoped to stop for lunch at Multnomah Falls, but the parking lot was actually closed due to the number of folks who had the same intention as I.

Mt. Hood from I-84 Westbound

So I stopped at McMenamin’s Edgefield Inn in Troutdale and had one of their excellent burgers at the Powerhouse Pub. The Edgefield is a historic structure, built in 1911 as the county poor farm. Later it was run as an “old folks home” for many years, and sat derelict for many more before being rescued by the McMenamin brothers, known for converting many such structures into brew pubs and bed and breakfast inns.

McMenamin’s Edgefield Inn; Troutdale, OR

By the time I reached the far side of Portland and began the last leg of my journey to the coast, I knew I would be getting there rather late to set up camp. I consulted my road atlas and noticed a state campground 30-45 minutes this side of the coast. I have heard of the Saddle Mountain Natural Area, but I couldn’t remember much else about it.

Saddle Mountain State Natural Area

The drive off the highway up to the campground was extremely slow, rough, and surprisingly busy. Seems there were a lot of folks leaving the area that afternoon… When I finally reached the top, I was disappointed to discover the day use parking lot and the campground parking were one in the same!  The campsites were small, uneven, and barely 10-20 yards from the parking lot. You had to pack your gear to the site. “This isn’t going to work,” I said to myself, and started back down the winding road, now having wasted a full hour on that side trip…

McMenamin’s Gearhart Inn by the Sea

I reached the junction between Gearhart and Seaside late in the afternoon. I considered driving up to Astoria where there is a KOA campground when I saw a sign for another one of McMenamin’s Inns, the Seaside Inn in Gearhart. I knew it would be a long shot to find a vacancy there, but thought I would try. McMenamin’s is known for having a few small, inexpensive rooms at many of their establishments, and that was exactly what was available, a room with bunkbeds! I told them that would be just fine; the bottom bunk was still bigger than my cot!

I had just time enough to drop my trailer, check into my room, and then drive out on the beach to catch an awesome sunset. The Oregon coast is like nothing on the east coast. Huge sea stack rocks and cliffs with sea carved arches separate small coves and beaches. One of the longest stretches of continuous beach is found right here; I was able to drive north up the beach for over 10 miles, almost to Astoria.

The Grey Goose on an Oregon beach for the first time in over a decade…

I had a late dinner at one of the pubs, and then turned in absolutely exhausted, but ecstatic to be back on the Oregon coast. I fell asleep with my room window open, listening to the waves crash on the beach just over the dunes aways. It was a good day.

Day 54 – Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018
After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, I hooked up the trailer and made my way south down the coast. I stopped at Cannon Beach to eat a snack and stretch my legs, as one simply does not drive down the Oregon coast and not stop to take pictures at Hay Stack Rock on Cannon Beach…

One of the larger sea-stacks on the coast, Hay Stack Rock is more photographed than its larger sister to the south because of its proximity to the beach. During low tide you can walk right up to it, but climbing is not allowed because all of the large offshore rocks are part of the Oregon Coast Marine Reserve, managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
One close look with binoculars reveals the reason… Each of these large offshore rocks are covered with colonies of seabirds; murres, guillemots, gulls, cormorants, and tufted puffins, nest on most of them. I took some pics, munching on an apple and trail mix as I walked the half mile north from the parking lot. I hit it just right with the tide fully out, revealing tide pools, and rocks head high covered with barnacles and blue mussels.

Tidepools near Haystack Rock; Cannon Beach, Oregon

I continued my drive south, stopping at the Hebo Ranger Station on the Siuslaw National Forest. I spoke to the folks at the info desk for some time, exploring options for dispersed camping in the coastal rainforest. When the ladies working the desk learned I was former Forest Service, they were extremely helpful in directing me to a likely spot. On the large wall map they showed me a dispersed campground on the backside of Mt. Hebo, about an hour from town; it looked promising…

However, it was again getting rather late to drive up there and get camp set up before dark. Further inquiries pointed me to the small hamlet of Pacific City, another 10 miles south. I drove into town and found my choices for a motel rather limited… I decided on the Pacific City Inn and pulled in to check on vacancies and their rates. You could tell this was a Mom and Pop operation, which are often the best places to stay. I was able to get a very nice room for just over a $100 a night; a good price on the coast.

I inquired about eating establishments (the Bistro was currently closed) and was directed to the Pelican Brewing Co, right on the water. I stashed my gear, dropped the trailer, and made my way there. Just offshore from the restaurant is another sea-stack, also called Hay Stack Rock, which is easily three times larger than its more famous sister to the north.

Pelican Brewing Company; Pacific City, OR

After an excellent dinner of fish and chips (made with locally caught Ling Cod!), I decided to hike down the beach and climb some of the rocks at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. These aren’t “off-shore rocks,” so it’s legal to explore… Once on top however, I found a rope barrier with signs warning of “dangerous cliffs” ahead. I stepped over the rope and continued picking my way through the coastal scrub forest on top. I soon found myself climbing hand over fist out on a fairly steep cliff facing the huge sea stack rock. There were a few other hardy souls already there waiting to watch the sunset.

Sunset at Cape Kiwanda

It is so rare to be able to see the sun actually touch the water off the Oregon coast. Fog or distant clouds usually obscure the sun before it touches the horizon, but tonight was a rare night indeed…

Right before I got ready to shoot a video of the sunset, someone yells out, “Whales!” Sure enough, not 300 yards off the cliff face, the spouting of several whales could be seen. Grey whales migrate down the west coast from Alaska to Baja every Fall, but it seemed a bit early to see them. But there they were, and it became obvious they were doing more than just passing through. Several times I saw whales “sound,” where they go vertical for a dive, showing their tail flukes as they go down.  They were feeding, right there off the rocks!  It was awesome, and I was able to get it on video as well. As soon as the sun set, we had to scoot back to the beach, these were not rocks you wanted to negotiate in the dark…

https://www.facebook.com/whit.weatherford/videos/10217055470729655/

Day 56 – Thursday, Sept 6, 2018
I was up and out of the motel fairly early this morning. The owner of this establishment is a delightful older Englishman; he, his son, and several other family members run the place together. The Englishman offered me fresh muffins (also English!) with some locally made preserves and coffee. I turned in my keys and we made small talk while I finished my coffee. He told me I should stop at the local bakery and pick up some of their scones to take with me up in the mountains. I thanked him and drove down the street to the “Grateful Bread” bakery. The place had that “Oregon Granola” vibe, but I’ve learned, those of the Granola persuasion make the best breadstuffs in Oregon.

As I approached the counter, I noticed they had bumper stickers for sale that read, “Grateful Bread Bakery; Everybody Must Get Sconed…” “That’s hilarious,” I told the lady in the tie-dye T-shirt behind the counter. I’ll take one, and a half dozen assortment of your best scones, which included Marionberry, ham and cheese, and chocolate chip hazelnut…

I drove out of Pacific City and made my way back towards the Ranger Station. Right before the office was the turn off to Mt. Hebo. From there, it was a constant uphill climb in the neighborhood of 10% for the next 10 miles. But the Grey Goose took it in stride and before long I could see the top of Mt. Hebo, covered in various aerial antennae towers.

View from Mt. Hebo

I pulled over to read an interp. sign which explained the site had been an Air Force radar installation during WWII and the Cold War which followed. Most of the aerials are cell towers today, but the foundations for the old radar installations were still present. I noticed on the map that the campground I was headed for was in direct line of sight of the mountain top; I wondered what kind of cell reception I might have as a result…

https://www.facebook.com/whit.weatherford/videos/10217068422973453/

The drive down the back side of Mt. Hebo was steep and narrow, with more blind curves than I cared for. The road had turned to gravel, and I wondered what it would be like coming out of there if the roads were wet. I found South Lake with a little difficulty; it is not well marked. The campground was all but empty, so I chose a decent site near the front of the loop and set up camp. Nice little campground, however, “South Lake” is not much more than a large pond. But, better than expected, I had full cell service because of proximity to the top of Mt. Hebo, and all those cell towers!

Day 58 – Saturday, Sept 8, 2018
Woke chilly and quite damp; rain fell slowly all night off and on… The tent took it in stride, everything inside is dry this morning. 48 degrees was the overnight low, and complete overcast this morning; should make for a very typical Coast Range kind of day!

I got up and made coffee, retrieved my bag of scones from the trailer, and retreated back to the tent. Had my breakfast while reading the Word (Jeremiah 17!) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The answer is only the Lord… Jeremiah continues, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”

So much Truth in that little passage of Scripture… Lord, look on my heart, and see, there is something there besides wickedness… There is something there that you made Lord, the new birth, the new man… Lord, see that, and develop that in me I pray…

It’s archery season for deer and elk here in the Coast Range as well as back east in the Blue Mountains.  There has been a surprising amount of traffic on this road, and most of the campers in and out of here have been hunters. Some of them have been real A-holes. One bunch rode out of camp before daylight yesterday, blowing their elk bugles at my tent as they passed. I would have liked to blown my S&W Governor loaded with #4 bird shot back at them, but that would hardly be Christian, right??

Day 61 – Tuesday, Sept 11, 2018

Today is 9/11… I remember that day so well, now 17 years ago.  Barely 10 days prior to those events, I had returned to the States from my first real Missions Trip; spending 3 weeks in Poland and Belarus. God had done some amazing work in my heart while I was there. I was actively praying about the possibility of resigning from the Forest Service and going into some kind of mission work.

But on that fateful day, I was attending yet another government sponsored training session; one designed to improve the working relationship between various members of Forest Service Interdisciplinary Teams. These “teams” are often made up of Folks representing very different ideas of what natural resource management should look like on the ground.  Working together for the what is best for both Man and the Ecosystem is always a challenge…

It was the second day of the workshop when I came downstairs and found folks gathered around the big screen TV in the motel lobby. The second plane had just flown into the second tower, and soon after we began hearing the first reports about the Pentagon.

As the first tower was falling, the workshop instructors came down to the lobby and told us we needed to get started for the day.  “Are you kidding?” someone nearly shouted; “Our country is under attack; we don’t know what’s going to happen next!”  “Yes, I understand,” the Instructor replied, “But this event seems to be limited to the East, and there is nothing we can do for those people.”  “We could pray;” someone else offered…  The Instructor actually scoffed out loud.  It was that very moment that I knew that my days working for the federal government were numbered…

Today is another cold, foggy day in the Coast Range.  I haven’t been able to run the solar panels for days now; I had to charge my laptop in the truck, hooking the inverter into the auxiliary plug.  Spent most of the day in the tent with the heater running.  But I did get my first blog post written; praise God!  It’s an attempt to explain what the Biblical Metanarrative is and why a proper understanding of it is so crucial…  I hope I can get the page itself up and running soon!

Day 64 – Friday, Sept 14, 2018
The local Barred Owl woke me up about 4am. I hooted him in to right over my tent; he was intent on finding the trespasser.  He stayed right there, not ten yards from the tent, calling for more than a half hour. I didn’t answer him again, but a loud cough betrayed my true identity and he finally fell silent…

I slept well, even with the early owl alarm; I got up about 6:30 and had a very good time with the Lord… Read the first chapter of John, then chapters 13-17… So powerful, so wonderful, so convicting… God has done all God can do to provide the only solution possible for Man’s grievous situation.  If there had been a better way, God would surely have done that instead… God, you truly are marvelous in your mercy and grace and love to Man, to Me… Thank you…

The sun finally came out today; I was able to charge two jump-boxes and get a shower!  Felt like a new man after 5 days without one… Did a little bit of writing and editing in the morning; but I felt so “elated” after my shower, I decided to actually cook a little… I made a nice lunch with rice and beans with canned chicken; I put in some spices and a little salsa, it turned out pretty good. I put my “TexMex” playlist on the Bluetooth; it was a great afternoon.  It’s amazing how the sun shining can alter your mood, especially after so many dreary days!

Day 68 – Tuesday, Sept 18, 2018
It’s my intention that this will be my last full day in this camp. It’s been a good little spot, but I hope my next site has a lot less traffic… I was up at 7am; dry and cold; 39 degrees… I had breakfast and my devotions… Cried out to God for forgiveness, peace of mind and heart, and direction and success in my meager efforts to glorify Him…. And for a little encouragement from someone, somewhere. I’ve never felt so alone in all my life… I feel utterly alone out here; and only one mishap from failure…

I really should have gotten all this Blog stuff set up before I left Jacksonville; I was just so overwhelmed with getting ready to leave… I know God is able, and I know the only way this thing will ever be anything for His Kingdom, is if He wills it so… All I can do is keep moving forward. I really hope and pray I can get this thing fully launched in the four days I’ll be “motel-ing it” in McMinnville.

Today will be spent getting stuff ready to pack up and leave. I do want to get a shower today, put on some clean clothes, and start packing up my belongings in the tent at least…

 

 

 

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