I left off at a Howard Johnson’s Hotel east of Portland.
I studied the map, and realized I was in Oregon Trail territory. I posted a question on my OCTA list (Oregon-California Trail Association) asking if there was anything neat to see in the area.
Stafford Hazelett responded with very good directions to a pioneer woman’s grave. It only a half mile detour, so I planned for that.
In the same parking lot with the hotel was a restaurant called Elmer’s. I walked over and had very good French Toast and some coffee, before packing my bike back up.
I checked out and climbed on Trigger. The area was still suburban for a while, but as I got further out, it became forest again. Highway 26 curved under Mt. Hood. I could see glimpses of it here and there, its snowy peak rising above the trees.
Soon I came to the exit for the pioneer grave. I followed the signs, and Stafford’s directions, and pulled the bike off the roadway to park. I removed my helmet and walked back to read the plaques and signs posted. It told a sad story of a woman who died there; her grieving husband buried her in a wagon box. No one knows her name, it’s a “tomb of the unknown pioneer”. Stafford had told me how to find a trail there in the woods. He said, “Once you cross over the fork of the river,…” ..I saw a sign for the river, but no water, so I wasn’t exactly sure where to look. I could see some clearings in the forest, but I needed to get moving, so I hopped back on the bike and rode east.
I had called a campground outside of Burns, Oregon, to inquire about prices and tent camping. They had room, and it was $20 a night. Burns was pretty far, nearly 300 miles from the hotel I’d stayed at, so I needed to not linger.
When I arrived in Burns, I bought a Subway sandwich and a couple Cokes and a cookie, and went outside to my bike, thinking… “where the hell are you going to PUT this?” I managed to bungee the sandwich and drinks down on the big bag.
The camp was not on the main highway. I had to ride 25 miles down the 78 to get to it. When I arrived I saw a few tents sitting in the grass, no campsites, just a tenting area. That would have been fine, if there had been trees.
I knew my back couldn’t take another night on the ground. I walked in and asked if there was a place to hang a hammock…. there wasn’t. So, since I had a sandwich getting cold, it was getting late and I was tired, I asked what other accommodations they had. I ended up in a small cabin sitting right along the pond. Several motorcycles were parked outside the other cabins. The bikers walked over and greeted me, aghast that I just rode across the country on that little 400.
The pond was hot spring fed, and open all night for the campers. Day use people had to leave by nine.
I checked into my cabin and ate, talked to Mike on the phone, and, since I ended up paying more than twice what I had intended to pay, I was going to take advantage of what it had to offer.
I unzipped my pack and pulled out the ten gallon Ziplock bag full of clothes, and pulled my swimsuit out. I walked out to the pond, draped my towel over some round metal pipe, kicked my moccasins off, and gingerly walked to the edge. I didn’t see a particular place for entering, so I just walked in.
The water was pleasantly warm. I carefully walked on the stone-covered bottom, towards the pump house, where the hottest water was coming out of pipes. Aaaah, a hot tub. I floated on my back and watched the stars overhead. A shooting star, which looked just like it started from the bottom left star of the Big Dipper, streaked across the black sky. Nice. I was the only person in the pond. I floated around, but mainly stayed where the hottest water was. I thought, “This would be a good place for stargazing and setting up a telescope, if they’d just shut those two light off… and if that town out there wasn’t so bright.
After a few minutes, I realized that it wasn’t a town making the glow beyond the hills, it was the moon. Just the top edge of it showed, and I paddled out to watch it rise.
Slowly the golden moon rose, bathing the ground in copper light. Higher, and now I could see it all. It wasn’t full, but it was more than half. It reflected onto the dark pond as golden ripples and shimmers. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful to watch and experience. Such a lovely evening.
As I floated, I thought of how wonderful my life turned out. Just a few years ago I was practically suicidal, and was seeing a therapist three times a week for bad depression. I was drinking too much, I was lost.
And then I took the walk, and it changed me. I became very happy, but the unfinished trek was eating away at me.
Finally, now, I was done. I had completed my coast to coast journey, I had met up with friends I’d made on that journey, I’d walked in the waters of Ocean City, Washington, at long last.
And here I was, content and happy and in love and fulfilled and at peace, drifting about in a mineral pool, watching the stars twinkle and the moon glow. Life doesn’t get better.
After a bit, a young couple walked into the pond. I moved and sat along the edge, still watching the moon. From hearing the moans and groans, I’m pretty sure they had sex out there, standing in the pond, under the golden moonlight.
Even that was beautiful. I wrapped my towel around me and walked back to my cabin. I gave them the solitude they wanted, I’m sure, out there under the stars.