Return to Central Oregon
The drive from Portland takes you through old growth trees, serene creeks and free grazing cattle. On the descent from Mt Hood, the pine trees turn very suddenly to juniper trees, welcoming you to a whole new area – one of dry, hot summers, bitterly cold winters and strikingly different attitudes about life and leisure. Not only are the Cascade Mountains a division of climate and elevation, but they also divide Oregonâ€™s people in many ways.
I think an underlying feeling of the three years we spent in the area is the amount of freedom we felt. Not only free in the sense of wideopen views and huge spaces of unpopulated areas, but also free in the spiritual sense. Things that spring to mind are peeing anywhere and anytime outside (non-manmade structures only) – no threat of being seen, face to the sky, no need to aim, just letting loose. This is a huge freedom for men, one that has no constraints of aiming at a bowl or needing to flush. Living in an area that is nearly free of police is also, in some sense, a great relief. We werenâ€™t stealing livestock or thieving from Wal-Mart, but to know that authority was usually not around when we were hopping â€œNo Trespassingâ€ fences to get up Barnes Butte, or walking across a neighborâ€™s field to get a closer shot (the photo kind, of course) of that deer was stressless.
One amazing experience we had was when a friend invited us out for a barbecue in Ashwood, Oregon. Ashwood is a former mining town that is now inhabited by about 20 people. The entire school was at the party (all ten kids). One road leads to the town and the nearest police are 50 miles west. A barbecue in Ashwood is unique. In the course of the evening, a cannon shot a four-inch diameter cylinder through a truck. A bonfire fueled by hundreds of pallets and gallons of gasoline was lit. Kids ran wild, go karts were ridden, copious amounts of Black Butte Porter were consumed, dogs had attacked each other, and many loud, obnoxious rednecks mixed with innocent city boys gave the scene a surreal feel. Putting differences between country and city aside, the Ashwood barbecue is an event that would not happen in any town that had a population over 20 without an authoritive figure in residence. It was great! I felt I could do what I wanted – be loud, drink a lot or not, and be with many people and myself.
Before moving to the country we heard about the strong feeling of community in small towns. Itâ€™s true. We werenâ€™t part of any club or organization, but by the time we left, weâ€™d usually run into somebody at the yoghurt and milk section of Fred Meyer’s. Itâ€™s comforting to know that the local crazy guy isnâ€™t really that crazy, or that the bag guy at Sentryâ€™s will bust out a rhyme every time you see him because heâ€™s always there. People are genuinely friendly because if they aren’t, you will go to that other feed store down the road to buy your duck pellets. We say hi to strangers and give the forefinger to passing drivers out of habit. We look people in the eye and say hello as we open the door for them. I still do these things in the city but people do not seem as receptive
Being outdoors is important for us. Even though Portland is a metropolitan city, there are plenty of green spaces and parks around. Walking is very enjoyable. The climate difference that the Cascades makes on Central Oregon is huge. A normal wet day in Portland, in Bend; youâ€™ll have clear skies and sunshine. This makes outdoor opportunities plentiful and we rarely had to think about the weather when planning the next days hikeâ€”it was hardly disagreeable, except in those extreme months of January and Augustâ€”too cold and way too hot.
It was great having the outdoors so accessible too, and I find that sad when thinking of our move away. It doesnâ€™t take much to leave people in a place like Terrebonne, where we lived for two years. There is nothing like a quiet, meandering walk past deer, horses, flocks of flying geese, cattle and crazy barking dogs – surrounded by mountains, sagebrush and juniper. The smells and the feel of a spring day at Smith Rocks are indescribable. Oh and the stars! Those clear days bring a diamond-filled sky that never fails to make you feel insignificant.
Our time in Central Oregon was valuable. It helped us focus on the most important things in our lives – treat everyone with respect, be free, live simply and have fun.