Day 12 – Learning

Having stayed at least 15 hours in the rest area, I had no troubles despite a police officer rolling up and talking to me the night before. I enjoyed my first round of cereal, definitely much easier than dicking around with the camp stove (I’ll be happy once my kitchen is installed). On the road, I headed south on the 25 through Glifford Pinchot National Forest. It was pretty driving through the moss-covered trees and getting glimpses of Mt. St. Helens and following that, Mt. Hood. Oregon is definitely full of volcanoes. Having never really seen volcanoes before, I was impressed at how they just towered over the flat lands around them. A lot of the rivers were very wide with loose, dark black rock with only a narrow band of water winding through them. It was an interesting landscape

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As I drove south I got a few glimpses of Mount Rainier. It must look very impressive up close because far away it looks imposing. There were still a lot of clouds about today so the view was limited. The drive to Columbia River, which separates Washington from Oregon, was a long one. Once I hit the water I stopped for morning tea and a bit of catching up since I’d been out of service for a while. There were a few enquiries about Alex’s car and I also had to call my car insurance company to clarify where the vehicle would be “based”. I didn’t mention that it wouldn’t really be based anywhere.

Crossing the border into Oregon at Hood River I paid a whopping $1 toll to cross the bridge (you wonder why they even bother). After driving an hour or so, I left the forests behind and entered more desert and rocky outcrop country. I caught glimpses of canyons and rock formations in the distance, but mostly it was just desert with towns popping up every now and then on the highway. All this time in the car was getting me a little down. To be expected I guess since I’d gone from hanging out with very cool people to being isolated again. To distract myself, I listened to the first series of the “Serial” podcast, a story about a murder committed in 1999 that was reopened for investigation. I had started a few days ago and was hooked. It was a “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” type story where a reporter was reigned in to help solve an old mystery. I was hooked, looking forward to the outcome. I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s interested in listening to it, but I got to the end and it didn’t help my mood.

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I stopped for lunch at a boat launch in Warm Springs I tried to enjoy lunch in a very windy spot by a river. The rocky outcrops were interesting, the landscape had sort of changed without warning and I couldn’t believe how suddenly. It was very dry all of a sudden, another thing that makes me sad to see.

I stopped for petrol around Madras then kept on south. I’d looked up a possible free camp near the mountain bike trails at Bend so was aiming for that. At the town of Terrebonne, I saw a sign for Smith Rock. I have friends who’ve been here and know that it’s a climbing mecca. I had looked for it in my atlas but didn’t have any luck finding it. I did a u-turn to go check it out. It was around 4pm by this stage so I didn’t really have much time to explore. There were a few hikes around and on top of the rock formations, but honestly it was too windy, I didn’t want to pay the $5 day fee and I would rather be climbing than hiking. I settled for a few photos to remind me to return here one day.

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I kept on driving through Bend, a bit annoyed that I hadn’t made it in time to go to a visitor’s center. The only thing I know about Bend is that I should ride here, according to friends’ recommendations, it would have been nice to get a local’s perspective and find out the hot spots. Outside of the town of Bend, I was back into forest, which I drove through to find a camp. After trying a picnic area that was in sight of houses and marked day use only, I stopped early of my free camp at an information pull out. No signs here so I would be happy enough. The sky was cloudy and threatening rain, so it was already feeling like it would be a cold night. First things first, I wanted a shower. Considering the weather all day, I hadn’t been able to heat up the water in my shower bag that I’d partially filled at the servo, so it was going to be a cold one. I walked into the bush for a while and after a struggle, hung the bag in a tree and had a very quick wash. As cold as it was, it was worth it. That sorted, I rugged up and walked to the end of a short trail to watch the sunset while I listened to some post-series episodes of “Serial” which were equally as frustrating as the end of the series. Unfortunately the clouds were too thick for any colour to shine through, but I watched a train go by in the distance, in the middle of the thick pine forest.

I had leftovers for dinner with some toast, then a reasonably early night.

Today was really my first day of doubt. Was this travelling the right decision? I feel like maybe I didn’t think it through all that much, whether I would enjoy it, the consequences of this lifestyle. Will I be happy doing this for the foreseeable months? I get tired of making decisions of what to do, what I have time for, what I feel like. It’s a constant battle between the me that wants to get out and do everything, the me that’s on a time limit to get back to SF and the me that just wants to have a chill day. It’s hard especially to be in a climbing area and to be alone. I get serious FOMO to look at climbers (who always travel in at least pairs) walking along the road snacking, heads down, too tired to talk after a solid day’s climb. This is not the style of travel I want to do, nor is it what I will do once I don’t have a timeline. After Lizzy’s visit and my Austin trip, my only commitment will be to get to Denver on December 10th. I hope in future I can spend more time in one place, lapping it up completely, instead of just getting out of the car and taking a few photos. That’s not experiencing a place and it’s experience that I’m seeking. It is all learning. I just need to figure out what makes me happy day-to-day and what makes me happy upon reflection at the end of this journey.

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