The Metolias.

Most times, I don’t plan where I’m going to go until the day or so before, doing a fairly quick search on my favorite site OutdoorProject.com or Hipcamp.com to see what sites are available in certain geographic areas where I am near. This week, my end goal was to end up in Sisters, OR, where I had a blind date with a pilot from my company who lived there, and then jump off 20 miles to Bend after. On the drive down from Portland, I encountered nothing but stormy skies, engulfing my path with a whiteout of clouds and rain. I had picked out a specific campground on the Metolias river, which I planned to spend one night, but I was getting nervous that the rain would deter my perfect riverside picnic. As luck would have it, ten miles out from the turnoff, the sky peeled open with clear blue skies. I followed the directions and drove to the very end of the long dirt road past several other campsite turnouts. I thought for sure that this site would be empty, as it seemed a hidden treasure being so far out. Lo and behold, every site was full—save one—but it was right on top of the neighbor site to the right. I did a loop to see if there was anything else, but there was nothing. I pulled in, got out of the car, and took a stretch and a breath while taking in the majestic flowing river which was roaring with gusto right before me. I noticed a man to my right casually fidgeting with his fishing pole, so I walked up to him and coyly apologized for encroaching on his space. He gave me a warm smile, brushed off the supposed invasion, and welcomed me with kind eyes. Moments later, he motioned to his trailer where a beautiful woman emerged, and introduced me to his wife Cathy. From that moment on, the three of us were kind of inseparable. Chris watched in fascination as I popped out my little red riding hood, and within minutes, I was cozily and discreetly perched aside them. A few hours later, Chris and Cathy commandeered a raging campfire and invited me to join them. We corked several bottles of red wine and shared dozens of stories of our collective wanderlust adventures. I learned they were rounding out a four month cross-Canada/America road trip, and that the very next day would be their 39th wedding anniversary.

I wanted to something special for these new friends of mine, so I searched my Mini for anything that could resemble a present or an artistic gesture for such an event. Luckily, I found a drawing pad and colored in a sketch of Venice, Italy which, to me, embodies romance and adventure—the epitome of these two kindred souls I had just met. I left it on their picnic bench first thing in the morning, had a coffee, and then wandered up the river’s edge on a 10 mile hike along the river which I soon learned would steal my heart. Cathy had described the color of the azure waters as they passed under the foot bride, but I had no idea how true her words would be. The colors of the foliage along the banks were breath taking, and the feeling of the water’s rush I could feel in my veins. About three miles in, I was rudely awakened from my splendor my a sharp burning pinch on my butt! At first, I thought I was bit by a poisonous spider, doomed to loose a cheek, but then saw the yellowjackets spiraling up from the ground and knew I had been a victim of their folly. For the next seven miles, I was grabbing my ass and rubbing it with furvor! As I returned to the campsite, I saw C&C gathering their fly fishing gear together, and they came up to me to give me a hug for the gift I left them. “Do you want to come learn how to fly fish today?” Chris asked. Wish giddy glee glee glee I beamed an astounding “YES!!!”—and thus commenced the first day of the rest of my life as a fly fisher… I. Was. Hooked.

My friends Chris and Cathy captured my first hours as a fly fisher :)

Life changer! Little Red Riding Hood

I don’t know what took me so long, but once I finally made the rash decision (after 10 months of research) to invest in my roof top tent, life- was- changed- forever! Best thing I ever did. My first overnight was at Frog Lake, in the Mt. Hood National Forest. I was thankful to have a privacy so that no one could see me struggle getting the tent down for the first time (later I would discover that the key was using the ladder as leverage.) I slept like a— well, not a baby, cuz I don’t sleep well lately, so hmmm…. I slept like a happy, comfy insomniac! It was heaven! I even did a down dog when I woke up in the morning, filled with giddy smiles as I felt the immense room around me and the padded floor (as opposed to the previous deflated air mattress that left indentations from my hip bones at 3 am.) Yes indeed, this was PURE luxury! (Stop laughing, Sprinter Van people, you elitist snobs!!! …just kidding, I love you) Anyways, day two I drove to Smith Rock State Park, which is one big mind blow surrounded by a river, and then ended up camping lakeside at a quaint little volcanic waterhole called East Lake. The following day, Paulina Peak beckoned me to climb her before heading off to the place I would discover would become my Paradise on Earth. (You’ll have to keep reading to see where that is!)

Little Red Riding Hood! Day one—Frog Lake, OR.

Little Red Riding Hood! Day one—Frog Lake, OR.

Smith Rock State Park, OR.

Smith Rock State Park, OR.

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Sunset at East Lake

Sunset at East Lake

Awesome camp neighbor, Sonny the dog.

Awesome camp neighbor, Sonny the dog.

Waking up in LRRH on the shore of East Lake.

Waking up in LRRH on the shore of East Lake.

Coffee in the sand, with my beer bar mug from a layover in WKW..

Coffee in the sand, with my beer bar mug from a layover in WKW..

Half way to Paulina Peak

Half way to Paulina Peak

Paulina Peak (East lake is on the right)!

Paulina Peak (East lake is on the right)!

Mt. Rose peak & Yosemite

After the High Sierra music festival, I drove through Tahoe and decided to visit Yosemite on my way back to the City. I had a recommendation to climb Mt. Rose, but didn’t expect to go all the way as it seemed crazy long and far. Ultimately, I took the wrong turn and ended up there anyway! But what a view! The last 1/4 mile was brutal, and I felt like I was on the final approach of Everest! (Ok, not really, but it was hard.) I was rewarded later that day with the perfect campsite just outside the park gates. I put my blanket down on the edge of the lake, made myself a G&T, fluttered my toes in the water, and read a book whilst soaking up the mountain sun. (My sunburn later reminded me that in my glee I should have been more prudent) The mozzies came out with fury at dusk, and I had no camp wood, so I climbed in the back of my MIni and watched the light fade away as I drifted off to sleep. At dawn, I was wide awake and jumped out of the car to capture the sun rise over the lake, eager to start my journey through one of my favorite National Parks on the planet. One that I had been absent from for too long.

The view from the peak of Mt. Rose with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

The view from the peak of Mt. Rose with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

My pristine view at Tuolumne Campground, just outside the gates of Yosemite.

My pristine view at Tuolumne Campground, just outside the gates of Yosemite.

Sunrise just before heading into Yosemite.

Sunrise just before heading into Yosemite.

Muir Lake. Yosemite.

Muir Lake. Yosemite.

Zion Ranch West, UT.

Two black birds approached as I stood there in awe of the wide open landscape I had just entered.  I heard them caw softly and covered the sun and squinted as they flew over Oso and me.  The panorama was so quiet, so still— they were a solitary duo in motion— and as they passed, the only thing aside from the silence was the sound of the air as it swooshed across their wings… whhh, whhh, whhh… they flapped across the blue sky and disappeared over the grassy ridge.  I stood in awe, in bliss.  A moo of a cow.  The buzz of a fly.  The hush of a plane overhead.  My kitchen sits now upon a rock cluster a few yards across from a patch of flowering weeds and strewn sticks.  My living room is a camp chair next to an Rtic cooler side table.  The Jambox plays softly with tunes of Latin jazz, African beats, and Brazilian samba.  As the night stretches across the plain, tiny orange firelights appear in the fields accompanied by murmurs of friends laughing.  This might be the most pristine, beautiful camp I’ve ever made my bed.  The crickets are starting to sing now, my own fire crackles, and the warm breeze touches my cheeks as I lift my wine to my lips and smile out at the nothingness that is filled with everything.  My citronella candle burns but does not keep all of the insects at bay.  It’s ok, I welcome it all tonight.  This is too magical not to share.  

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