We spend a lot of time exploring Oregon’s many state parks. A LOT. So we were beyond thrilled to finally make our way to experience Cottonwood Canyon, Oregon’s newest state park, and check it out for ourselves. Opened in 2014, Cottonwood is a mere 30minute drive off of the mighty Columbia Gorge Highway, sitting scenically next to the John Day river.
We have, quite simply, been really busy lately. Busy at work, busy at the house, busy with friends. Simply busy. While this keeps us, somewhat, out of trouble, it also means we have been able to indulge less often than we prefer in our favorite activity ~ camping and convening with nature.
The waves sloshed onto the shore, as the sun warmed us. Having walked a couple of miles from camp down the beach, we stopped for a rest on a downed log, luxuriating in the absolute solitude. Not another soul disturbed our peace, other than a few pesky sea gulls, but even they seemed more subdued than normal. Aspen took a break from exploring to come in for pets, as Porter leaned back against me, raising his head to the sun, eyes mere slits, the picture of complete contentment. On this uncharacteristically warm, non-windy day, at the Oregon coast in FEBRUARY, life was good.
“Oh crap, she did it again!” Jim hastily rolled down the windows for a refreshing breath of fresh air, intent on dissipating the overwhelming scent of Aspens seemingly never ending gaseous emissions from the back seat. Our little family was heading to the beach for a fantastic three night getaway, taking advantage of a long Thanksgiving weekend. We’d started the day by enjoying a festive family dinner, leaving Aspen and Porter at his parents during dinner. We returned for them only to discover several pieces of drooled upon bits of something. Opps.
The drive west on Highway 26 appears paved in gold. Lined with thousands of trees displaying a dozen shades of red and gold, the wet road reflects the multi-hued colors, creating the appearance of a golden pathway leading to weekend bliss. The sun was setting as we pulled into camp, turning the calm bay as golden as the road ahead of us.
Darkness had fallen by the time we pulled into camp. Immediately greeted by Ron and Dario, talking over eachother, regarding the “situation”. While still at the office I had received the text from Dario advising us that they had taken over our campsite, swapping out with theirs, just next door, but we had no idea of the drama that would ensue.
The silence was deafening. And exactly what we were looking for. Day to day life had, in recent weeks, become exhausting. Yes, a certain amount of angst is simply due to restlessness in our quest to return to the road. But busy days at work, many chores at home, and spending most weekends away from home, the last admittedly self induced, had created an intense need to not just go away…but to get away.
Away from cell service, away from people, away from the cares of the world.
The old guys across the way looked on in awe, somewhat startled to see us donning fake mustaches and posing for pictures with martini’s in hand. Next up, several rounds of ladderball, still with cocktails in hand. Yes, it’s right, we have taken camping to a whole different level!
We recently camped at East Lake, in Central Oregon, for the first time and what a joy! Sitting at 6500ft elevation, in the Newberry Crater, it is absolutely a summer outing, but the gorgeous lake, high desert landscape, and endless night skies, more than make up for the chill in the air.
I tried to slip deeper into the corner as the six or seven men crowding the room chopped and stirred with deliberate haste. The youngest of them crouched on their haunches, low to the floor, in that way some cultures seem born to do and I have yet to master. Chopping boards rested directly on the not so clean floor as they chopped and sliced fragrant garlic, onions and tomatoes. Upon seeing the amount of chilies being added to the mix, I knew we were ensured a fiery curry tonight! Two men worked feverishly over large, dented metal pots, cooking down the mutton and vegetables, as the fragrant smell of spices circled above them. In spite of the cool desert air, perspiration glazed their skin.
I stood in awe, incredibly honored to have been asked to watch the dinner preparation, for in India, women did NOT cook outside the home. Intimidated by being jammed into a 10X10 room with these hardworking cooks, I reflected on the miracles of time and place that had brought me here.
Three knives, two cutting boards, and a two-burner hot plate. That was all required to serve up a fantastic dinner that fed the entire camp of over twenty. It forever changed my view of the “necessary”.