those moments that make you go…huh…

Receiving top ranking on our list of “you really need to go here” is Crater Lake.  Each time we’ve been there, we’ve seen something new, and who can tire of gazing at that not to be believed topaz color of the lake?  Our first trip there a few years back, we drove around the Rim, and its worth your time to do it that way. Our second time, which was this visit, we hiked the Garfield Peak trail that took us to the top of the Rim-a whole other perspective.  Along the way we met our new friend, Leana, a young woman from Croatia, who answered all my questions about “couchsurfing” (which will be yet another post!) And last week, we, along with our daughter Rachael-Grace and her husband Sean, hiked down to the bottom, along the only trail that leads right to the lake.  What a perfect day of weather, exercise, extravagant views, and a chance to watch Sean jump 18 ft from a rock to the lake below!  

I was quite a bit less adventurous, and settled for dipping my toes in-but that ranked as one of those “I never thought I’d do this” moments.  A good hike, some lunch, pleasingly tired, and a simple statement from Handsome Husband that he’d like to take a different route home.  A check of the map, and yes, the roads were there, but, well, they were small enough roads that they were nameless.  No worries, though!  I had confidence in Handsome Husband finding our way through the mountains-his nickname in the Air Force was, after all, “the Pathfinder”.  How could we go wrong?  And, really, we didn’t go wrong at all, other than a brief right when we needed to go left, and over that little bridge.  Which we corrected pretty quickly.  So what you need to know about these roads we were traveling upon is that they were logging roads, which means that they were unpaved (read: gravel), narrow (maybe, at the most, in some spots, 1 1/2 car widths), unmarked, unlit, and, as we found out, not busy.  As in, we didn’t see another car for 3 hours.  But that’s good, right?  No gaper delays, no traffic jams, no bad drivers…

On our map was marked a town called “Tiller”-it was the only town for some distance, and we agreed that we would stop there and get a bite to eat.  It was a good plan, though I guess we didn’t take into account that we were working with an East Coast state of mind, which means not taking time into account. (more on that later).  We drove, and we drove, and we drove…goodness, the scenery was breathtaking, as had been promised to us, and we duly admired it.  Tall Douglas firs-reaching to the skies, lots of thick undergrowth, and, hidden in there, this sign…
No big deal.  We were seeing a part of Oregon not previously seen, and isn’t that what “Happily Homeless” is all about? (yes).  It was getting late, though, and we were, to be honest, getting tired, and our butts were getting numb from sitting, but there wasn’t anywhere to stop-nothing but trees and narrow roads, no shoulders, no rest areas, needless to say!  But look!  There’s a sign for “Tiller”!  Almost somewhere, so that’s good.  We’ll get out and stretch, find some food-life is good!  In the distance, as we approached nearer to the town limits, we spied a man walking alongside the road; the first human we’d seen for some hours.  Civilization!  As we approached him in our dusty and dirt encrusted, car, daughter Rachael saw that this man rambling alongside the road was carrying something in his hand, and jokingly said “look, he’s carrying an axe!”  Which, given all the abounding trees, didn’t seem that odd.  Well, there is the fact that he was shirtless.  Not that strange-it was summer after all.  And we got closer, and there seemed to be something white over the lower half of his face.  He was friendly, giving a wave of his hand as as we passed by.  BUT, as we passed him by, we saw that the white covering on his face was kleenex stuck up his nose, which was seemingly to catch the dripping blood, because it was stained red-and the “axe” he was carrying wasn’t an axe at all, but a….yes, that’s a rifle, folks!  Is that a scope on the rifle?  Could someone please tell me exactly how far we are from town?  Because I’m suddenly not terribly comfortable out here, in the middle of goodgodforsaking nowhere, keeping company with a rifle toting, shirtless, bleeding from the nose, dude-sorry and all that and he might be the nicest person to ever be born, but I didn’t want to end up as a movie of the week!  Ahh, look!  There’s a turn-let’s take the right and go into town, maybe calm ourselves after that.  Which we did, for all of the (seriously) 2 minutes it took to drive into town, see the church, the cafe (closed, and, as SIL Sean said, well, it is after 7pm), a couple of ramshacklin’…shacks. Turn around, retrace our steps, and drive out of town.  Tiller may have been the nicest town we’d ever want to visit,  and maybe another day we’ll return and explore and find out who our highway friend was, but, folks, on this day, we were out of there!  Adding to the general sense of weirdness was this: as we winded our way towards home, I looked at my much loved husband and said “you know who that guy alongside the road reminded me of?” and, without hesitating, Handsome said “your ex.”  So it wasn’t just me imagining strange, strange, things!  That is exactly what I was going to tell him!  Not the gun part, but his build and his gait, maybe the bloody nose…None of it meant anything, I realize-but what an ending to a strange experience in the mountains of Oregon…

Long story short: we did indeed find our way back to civilization, found a lovely Mexican restaurant where, in the twilight, we dined while enjoying a river view and an uplifting breeze.  And I have no moral of this story for you-just a further understanding that, as we have discovered, the real adventures of the road, large and small, happen when we get off the beaten track.  In the midst of them, there maybe some unsettling moments, some downright “huh” moments such as this was, but its all part of the packaging…isn’t it?

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