Go West

December 27, 2011.

Deschutes National Forest > Glass Buttes > Horse Ridge Natural Area > Portland

* Click the map above to zoom in *

A couple more checkmarks

The snow never came down during the night, so I didn’t need to make a dramatic escape. I rose just after the sun did, planning to backtrack 50 miles before heading home for good. One of my goals of the trip was to tick off several “Unique Natural Features” listed in the Oregon Gazetteer that I had not yet visited. Glass Buttes was listed as a site rich with obsidian; this was the traditional obsidian warehouse for American Indians. They collected the precious rock to make arrowheads. I was excited to visit this place, since I was actually this close. I’d never had any reason to travel this stretch of road before.

I followed my scrawled directions to Glass Buttes and was greeted by a barbed-wire fence with an equally uninviting gate. I got out of the car and looked for an alternate entry point, but nothing was obvious. I was rather disappointed in all the extra driving to get here, but I didn’t want to be accosted by some angry landholder accusing me of inappropriately accessing private land. The wind was blowing, hard, and the cold morning air was being driven right through me. Hungry, I busted out my camp stove and whipped up a steaming batch of oatmeal. In the comfort of my car I polished off my warm breakfast while squinting through the sunlight at the beautiful butte rising up from the flat desert.

Defeated, and with many miles left to travel before reaching Portland, I turned and left. Nothing stood between myself and home, 200 and something miles away. Or, so I thought.

Horse Ridge Natural Area was my last shot at hitting a “Unique Natural Feature.” Located not far out of Bend on highway 20, I would be driving right past it in an hour. The familiar brown sign greeted me as expected, letting me know I had a patch of public land to investigate. At the Horse Ridge Trailhead, there was a map of the roads and hiking paths leading to, but not inside, the Horse Ridge Natural Area. That was good enough for me. I packed a very light bag and set off at a good clip up the trail. I walked for about 30 minutes before swinging around 360 degrees to take in the views and then returned the way I came. It was a pretty area, but I was set on getting back to town at a reasonable hour, and before the working crowd was heading home.

I was surprised to see, as soon as I hit the road again, there was a pointer for Oregon Badlands Wilderness. What! I had no idea this place existed! As my car careened into the lot, I poked my head out the window to read the trail signage. Damn. There were many miles of hiking paths there. Had I known, I definitely would have spent a day slogging around these trails. Luckily, the Badlands aren’t too far from Bend, making it not so hard to get back here. Endless adventures await me…

Reflecting upon this trip, I have made a few observations.

1. Traveling alone gives me precious detox time, where I can free my mind from work responsibilities and life’s other obligations. It provides an opportunity to reconnect with what’s important, and lets my mind filter out thoughts that do not serve me. As “dangerous” as some people think it is to camp and travel alone, I find this time critical for my own happiness and well-being.

2. Leaving some space for flexibility in a travel schedule affords time to take advantage of opportunities that come up. Scheduling every last detail hampers curiosity.

3. Adapting to the hand dealt by nature is a great way to utilize and develop problem-solving skills. I was not expecting the temperatures to drop as low as they did on this trip, so I had to pull many of my old winter camping trips out of the bag, and I discovered a few new ones. Being confronted with challenges is an enjoyable way to forge new connections in the brain and keep the mind sharp.

4. Most importantly, I absolutely love everything about these trips: experiencing solitude, feeling connected with nature, practicing survival skills, learning new things, and seeing new places. I am distressed that most people don’t understand why I need to get out there, and I am sad that many folks will not have these experiences out of fear. I hope that by telling my stories, I will inspire someone to try something new, and push him or herself just out of the warm, cozy comfort zone for the sake of personal growth and learning.

Read previous entries…
Dec 22: Small Town Oregon
Dec 23: Chasing Ghost Towns
Dec 24: Breathtaking Desert Hikes
Dec 25: Lava Landscape
Dec 26: A Hodgepodge of Delights
Dec 27: Go West

See the entire photo set on Picasa.

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