Return to North to Alaska
Farewell Bend State Park
I've been piling on the miles. I feel like I've got to, if I want to do more than just get to Alaska, turn around, and come back. I'll return to Washington, but I don't know if I'll ever go back to Alaska. Still and all, I can't avoid the suspicion that I'm skipping over country every bit as good or better than I'll find at the end of the road. The Bear Lake area in southeastern Idaho, for instance. I could have spent a month around there, and another before that along the Green River, and the Flaming Gorge.
But instead I fled up Interstate 84 to Oregon.
I came in towards evening to Farewell Bend State Park, on the Snake River. I often pick a park by it's name, and almost as often I am disappointed. But seldom in Oregon. Their system of state parks is a constant pleasure.
Farewell is a well-tended oasis of broad trees and shaded lawn. It's a stark contrast to the high desert of bare hills around it. I spent a peaceful evening watching the ground squirrels fuss, then kiss and make up. Brewer's blackbirds picked through the grass for seed corn someone had thrown out. These little birds, about the size of a Robin, are velvety sleek and coal black, with yellow eyes. Very distinctive, afraid of nothing. I watched two of them run off a gull 5 times their size.
I camped down by the river in a relatively new area, out from under the more massive shade. Too many people up there. I was afraid it was going to be hot, but I should have known from the way the young trees bent toward the river that an evening breeze could be expected.
I don't know if the name had anything to do with it, but it was at Farewell that I first began to absolutely relax into this trip. Just came to a dead stop, sat back with a beer, and enjoyed being there. Periodically, mile-long trains would pass by on the opposite shore. My neighbor was out of Portland, a refugee from United Airlines. He was cleaning up his boat. Quite a ritual. He had an interesting T shirt, emblazoned with this warning: "I'm Retired... but I've Gone Back to Work as a Part-time Pain in the Ass."
That sounds like a lot to get on the front of a T shirt. Fear not. There was ample room.
Everything along the road is green. Sunshine now, but plenty of evidence of lots and lots of rain and snow last winter, from New Mexico on up. Rivers full, reservoirs drawn down in expectation of flood, horses and cattle ambling fat in the lush fields.
I've gotten to be something of a horse watcher. In the mountains, many of them are scruffy, still half shaggy from the winter. Mares have dropped foals, and these little guys are hopping around stiff-legged, happy to be here.
It was particularly fine to watch a young'un apparently being taught to trot by his mom. They pranced up and down a fenceline, perfectly parallel to each other. His step spritely, his gaze straight ahead, his head held high, you could tell the youngster was proud of himself. Mom kept pace with him, and every now and then would lean her head over and nose his neck briefly. I don't know if that was an attaboy or a correction.
After they reached the corner, they'd rest a bit, to nuzzle and talk it over. Then back they'd come. Gotta get this right, you see. Next week we begin on the gallop.
Horses have a mysterious body language that I can sense, sort of, but not quite understand. And by the way, it doesn't seem to be bad manners to talk and eat at the same time. Or anything else at the same time. Snort and a shiver at the shoulder. A little dance with the front feet only. Looking at each other, then away, then back, followed by a shake of the head. Sudden erect stillness, with flared nostrils.
Well, I guess that last was directed at me. But what's up with all that other stuff?
I guess if they wanted me to know they would tell me. Even at my age, there are lots of things that are still none of my business.
I've been carrying firewood since Creede, where I stopped at a small sawmill and picked up a pickup load for $4. A moment in memory of Silas Marner, please. The only problem with sawmill wood is that it's flat on at least one side, and tends to catch the wind. Couple of times, in the rearview, I caught sight of floaters beginning to take flight back there, and had to stop and rearrange things. The upside of these boards is that they burn well, and (I speak here from recent unfortunate experience) they make a nice platform for the jack when you have to change tires in the mud.
I built a bowed-over fire just now. That's what happens when the breeze is so stiff that instead of going up, the flames form a broad blowtorch parallel to the ground. Sparks a-flying. Fortunately there was plenty of room to sit on the upwind side. I wondered why the grass was scorched that way.
No problem keeping cool tonight. Might need to grab the covers.
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