Day Two: Williams and Wolf Creek

We wake up in the surprise king-size bed. It’s already 9am. Definitely, not farm life time. Erin has probably been up for more than three hours. I’m well-rested, my back only hurts a little from the unfamiliar bed, but I would’ve been far less comfortable had I been sleeping on my sleeping pad in my current physical state. Honestly, I was nervous about that. Should I thank the Universe for giving me a bed? Maybe, but I really really really love camping. I put my camping dress on, make us coffee in the surprise full kitchen and then Brie and I head out to find Erin.

 

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Real damn bed in a real damn house.
The sun does crazy things here in this valley. The surrounding mountains, their silhouettes appearing blue and green to my far away eyes. Their outlines dazzling. I don’t know how else to describe it. Gold and silver. Blue and green. We’re high up, the sky feels close. The clouds are big and move fast, dramatically changing the light moment to moment. The farm is epically in view for the first time. Two horses and a donkey are grazing about two hundred yards away and the chickens are everywhere. There must be at least a hundred just in this one area and I know there are more. The barn is huge and looks to be mostly unused, but we’ll snoop around later. We head down the golden hill to the sheep where Erin is fighting with some temporary fence. It kind of looks like she’s losing, but I’m still impressed. She’s never done anything like this and doesn’t even know the person running the farm! She heard from a friend of a friend that a farm in Southern Oregon needed someone to run it for ten days. I admire Erin’s spirit, I always have. I think I would probably assume it would be the hardest thing ever and intensely romanticize it, but otherwise pass.

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Look at this shit! I’m not just beating you over the head with flowery words, it actually looks like this!
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The sheep are CUTE. There are a few goats, too, but I’m most excited about the dogs, especially the puppy(!!!), who live full-time with the sheep and goats. They’re super sweet and goofy and smart. Just being around them gives me a feeling of being filled back up. I knew the loss of my beloved cats would be an epic hole in my day-to-day life. No surprises there, but I depended on their love and comfort more than I could ever know while they were alive. They were old, and between the two, had every problem. I always had this fear they would die close in time together. It happened five weeks apart. I told myself I’d try to go the summer without animal babies and “enjoy” the freedom of being able to leave whenever I want for however long. I’m learning quickly this is not what I want at all and am constantly having fantasies of rescuing a stray dog, clearly uncared for and in need of a loving home, or finding kittens in a box. It’s pathetic and cliche and I don’t care.

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Lugo, Brie and Erin. My babes.
We’re all talking and laughing at the animals, but in the back of my mind, I know I have e-mail waiting for me about Important Things. I’ve blissfully had no reception since we arrived, but I know Erin must have been using the internet to text me in the days leading up. Still, I decide to wait to ask for the access info and try to be in the moment a bit longer.

I head back up to the guest house to make breakfast burritos, Brie stays to help Erin with the fence. I eat and write a little. Brie comes in for breakfast and then we head to the little ramshackle house in the barn. Erin has more coffee for us. We sit and talk and I get the nerve to finally ask her for internet access. A part of me seriously wishes there was no chance for me to go online, I love to epically unplug, but things are different now. Something important is always happening. It’s this weird, amazing, stressful reality right now. I’m getting a lot of great opportunities. Opportunities that will soon pay me and it’s all because I’m an unlikely outdoorsperson and I’ve put out all of this energy about why it’s important and by the grace of whatever, people agree that it is actually important. It all feels alternately unreal and realer-than-real. I haven’t quite caught up with the hype.

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I excuse myself and sit in the rain with one of the dogs, Delilah, and check my phone. I get a text from Vanessa, who is staying about forty-five minutes down the road, and make plans to go see her in just a bit. A cloak of nervousness that can be confused for dread envelopes me as I finally check my e-mail. What the actual fuck?! So, a couple of days ago, I did an interview for a well known local magazine and not only is there a confirmation for the accompanying photo shoot, but there are also e-mails about a modeling job for Columbia Sportswear (what?!?!?!) AND the fucking contract for [I’ll-Tell-You-Later] is FINALLY HERE. Honestly, I did not think it was coming. I have waited two months for this. The first month, I thought it was coming any minute, so I obsessively checked my e-mail and sent a conservative three e-mails checking in about it. All of which were responded to very kindly and affirmatively. Still, it didn’t come. I waited another month and basically decided it was very likely not happening and tried to make peace with it. I was in the same place as I was when the job was offered to me and it’s an okay place to be. But here it is.

All twenty-four pages of it.

Holy shit. Twenty-four pages. And at first glance, twenty-four pages in full-on legalese. Fuck. I don’t have the time, head space or strong enough internet connection to read this entire thing and I am scared. Thrilled, but scared. Shaking, even. How do I do this? I write a little blog hardly anyone reads. I run an Instagram account. I’m not a business! I send back quick e-mails to set dates and say I received things, etc. There is nothing I can do about the contract until I get back to Portland and I invoke as much resolve as I possibly can so that I can attempt to enjoy the rest of this trip.

Brie heads out of the little house and I quietly tell her about the contract and the other weird-amazing-stressful emails. I also tell her I don’t want to talk about any of it. She barely lets me get away with it, but fortunately, we’re going to go visit Vanessa and Alley in Wolf Creek, so onto the next. The ride to Wolf Creek highlights more of the beauty of the Applegate Valley and just before we reach The Land, we’re quite suddenly in a full-on forest. Oregon! It’s landscapes, like my emotions, change so fast!

Vanessa and Alley come out of this adorable, perfectly country, bright red house to greet us as we pull up. It’s so good to see them!!! Especially, Vanessa who is freshly home from an epic journey. The land is gorgeous. Well-landscaped and wild at the same time. We go into the little red house and talk and catch up. Vanessa then says, “do you want to see the land?” I thought we were seeing it…? Turns out we are just in the office and communal kitchen space. What lay outside of the “office” is unlike anything I have ever seen. I am blown away by how people are living and working like this. I’d love to detail the rest, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to. It’s a cop out, but all I can say is I am ready to pack my bags and move to Southern Oregon right now.

Our visit is short and sweet. I’m so proud of Vanessa and the things she’s done. I can’t even imagine. I’m grateful to have been able to bear witness to this intense process.

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Me -> Vanessa -> Alley on lesbian land in Wolf Creek. Photo by, Brie.
Brie and I get back to the farm and really snoop around now. We pet the horses and donkey. Why are donkeys always so sad looking? I find out that chickens are kind of terrifying. Ducks are really cute, but absolutely hate humans. We then go and attempt to help Erin get the two lambs, who’ve been rejected by their moms, up to the barn to be bottle-fed and chaos ensues. They may be adorable, but they are wild and run all over the place the second the milk is not in their face and we cannot catch them. It’s mildly traumatic, mostly hilarious. For the rest of the night, they walk around confused and screaming and run inside the houses the second a door is opened.

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When it was still cute. Also, that’s my camping dress. Photo by, Brie.

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It always sort of felt like they were Coming For Us.
We think we’re going to take off tomorrow. We want to get at least one real night of camping in before we head back to Portland. Maybe somewhere near Diamond Lake after going to Crater Lake. The weather looks terrible, but it’s impossible to not be stoked. We didn’t do much today, but I’m exhausted and head to bed. The full moon shines like a spotlight through the bedroom window. I don’t even remember falling asleep.

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Day One: Portland to Williams, Oregon

My alarm goes off at 7:50, but like most days lately, no matter what time it’s set for, it takes me about thirty minutes to get up. I lay in bed and check email as Brie continues to sleep undisturbed. I have a pingback awaiting approval from a website I’m not familiar with. Pingbacks are these notifications on WordPress, my webhost, telling you when someone has linked a page from your website to theirs. I check what’s been linked and a random woman has written an entire article grossly misinterpreting a piece I wrote, Fat Woman Falling. It’s fake sympathetic, off-the-mark about everything I actually wrote, focusing on what she perceives as my body shame and it accompanies no less than a dozen truly awkward photos of her thin, socially-acceptably attractive self working out. Whatever horror I was feeling evaporates as I look at a couple more things on her website: more of the same weird articles about what she incorrectly deems “body-positivity” and weird selfies accompanied by fat-positive hashtags. No comments or likes on any it. I can’t really get it up to give a shit, which is refreshing because lately I care too much about everything.

I get out of bed, finally waking Brie, and put on my beloved camping dress. Yes, I have a camping dress. It’s nothing special, just a black, stretch cotton, two-strap, mid-thigh length dress with an empire waist. It’s super comfortable, passes for cute and I’ve worn it on pretty much every camping trip for the last three or four years. We have a goal to be out the door by nine AM, which is lofty for us and our night job lifestyle, but we actually do it. I mean, we still have to go grocery shopping for the weekend, which almost always sends me into an anxious, agoraphobia spiral, but as I carry all of the stuff down the four flights of stairs to my car, I notice that my normally pain-bogged body feels kind of… not terrible. Grocery shopping is quick and easy, Brie and I are on the same page despite our still uncaffeinated, early morning selves. Our camping trip bodes well!

Advice: it’s always a really good idea to leave everything to the very last minute. It’s not at all stressful. Give it a shot! Maybe you’ll even find $500 in one of your sleeping bags!
I take the first leg of driving and feel distinctly at ease. My emotions affect my body pain so much, no mystery to me, but it’s endlessly frustrating. To say I haven’t been happy for awhile is laughable, but I don’t know how else to say it in a way that isn’t on par with my teenage journal entries and I’m not subjecting anyone to that shit. I have happy moments. A lot of them and they keep the lights from going completely out, but generally, I’m not doing so hot. There are so many things bothering me and the ways I protect and care for myself are about used up. I feel triggered all of the time, seconds away from screaming at any man that so much as looks at me funny and the chronic body pain I had for most of my life that I thought I’d healed a few years ago is not just back, but full throttle. The hostility of the political and social climates continue to rise, particularly in Portland where white supremacists are openly rallying in the streets, stabbing people on subways and being protected by cops. Everyone drives like they’re about to have a nervous breakdown. Both of my cats have died. My mind grows darker, my body more painful. At this point, it feels like the accident I had in December is merely a footnote (wait for the pun…), but it’s not. The subsequent pain from my whole body compensating for my injured knee has given me another tremendous gift: plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis should really be classified as a mental health condition, because it has Fucked Me Right Up. I have no money to get body work, I have no money for anything because of medical bills and other surprise expenses I had no room for. Health insurance and the cost of living continue to rise while my income does not. My rent check bounced two months ago, I’ve got unpaid bills and a maxed out credit card. Quicksand. It feels like I’m in quicksand.

So, yeah, I’m relieved to get the fuck out of town and away from the grind of daily life.

Our official destinations for the day are Salt Creek Falls, Toketee Falls, which I’ve wanted to see for a long time, and camping for a few nights in Williams, Oregon. Williams is super Southern Oregon, nearly California. My sweet friend Erin is currently taking care of a farm there. As for the weekend, we’re letting the wind take us where it wants to, hopefully including a visit with Vanessa at her home away from home on lesbian land in Wolf Creek and a trip to Crater Lake with one last night of camping somewhere out there before heading home.

As we’re driving out on Oregon 58, just east of Eugene, we enter the immediately beautiful Willamette National Forest. Green on green on green and the massive Willamette River, which runs all the way up through Portland, is so stunningly different here. Probably due to the lack of industry and I’m grateful for this new association with it as we drive alongside for some time. The Salt Creek Falls trailhead comes up faster than expected, the miles already ticking away. I love that feeling. We added this stop to our itinerary last night after a coworker told Brie about it. It’s apparently the second tallest waterfall in Oregon, after Multnomah Falls. Hard to imagine in waterfall-rich Oregon. As we get out of the car, we hear the loud pounding water immediately despite not being able to see it, but it’s a short walk to the overlook.

Salt Creek Falls
Grand is an understatement. The wide cascade plunges, wind-lacey, into a huuuuge basalt gorge covered in electric moss. Pink rhododendrons adorn the view. I wind around the viewpoint and am once again completely thrown by green. What even is green? Walking any trail in the Pacific Northwest in deep spring there are a thousand different greens. It becomes a feeling more than a thing you can point to and call a color. Green is fucking and birth and life. Green is a deep breath into anxiety-shriveled lungs. My mind is going full slot-machine and I’m nearly crying because being able to access my feelings in a real way is such a relief. Brie and I are smiling huge Black Hole Sun smiles and taking pictures of each other and scream-laughing with joy into the noisy, wild air. Nothing is wrong. Nothing.

We get back into the car, cross into the Deschutes National Forest and shortly jump on familiar 97-S, though it’s a section we’ve never been on. We stop for lunch on a random forest road and make turkey, cheese, lettuce wraps. I’m so hungry and I can’t believe how delicious it is. Brie says, “It’s no can of soup in a sock-as-potholder.” RUDE! Did you know that I am the most boring camper? I like to bring as little as possible, especially when it comes to clothes and food. Everyone I know loves cooking while camping and I absolutely hate it. I hate buying too much stuff, packing it in and out and I hate having to clean after every single meal. So, generally, I’m eating anything that doesn’t need to be chilled, can be wrapped in a tortilla or lettuce leaf (which is a lot of things!) and canned soup or chili warmed in the actual can, even though you’re not supposed to do that, and I use a thick sock as a potholder. I feel great about it, but I think it depresses whoever I’m with.

All day the sky pours and then bursts into heartbreak blue and sunshine and back to low-visibility rain and so on. We’re a little worried about camping in this shit. Real talk, last summer, Brie and I only had one camping trip of many where it didn’t rain and we’re a little scarred. Camping in the rain once a season can make you feel like a badass, but when it’s all rain all the time it’s just fucking depressing.

Diamond Lake
We’re only on 97 for a bit until we get on 138-W. Um, how come nobody told me about Oregon 138? Diamond Lake! A zillion views and waterfalls! We only planned to next stop at Toketee Falls, but on the way there are many other falls you can drive right up to. We stop at Clearwater Falls, Walton Falls, Whitehorse Falls and finally Toketee Falls. I don’t even care that in Portland I live next to some of the most beautiful waterfalls anywhere. I make time for waterfalls. We decide to skip a few more attractions on 138 because the daylight is moving faster than we are, but we fully plan to go explore the area more. We also skip Umpqua Hot Springs. Probably a poor decision, but what I don’t know won’t hurt me? Toketee Falls is beyond spectacular. Silty green-blue water rushing white, columnar basalt so perfectly etched with time and the magic power of water. Water is whole damn everything.

Clearwater Falls
According to Instagram, I’m supposed to make a joke about chasing waterfalls now. I will not.
Watson Falls. Prettiest 0.8-mile loop to this beauty.
Whitehorse Falls
Toketee Falls exploding my reality. Just a 0.8-mile round trip trek to this drama queen babe.
The drive through Southern Oregon to Williams gives me that lovely, comforting feeling of something clicking into place. The dry grassy gold valleys, silhouetted mountains in every direction, farmlands. I have that swelling feeling of knowing. I have much to discover in this place. The sun begins to set in a now mostly clear sky. Clouds turn pinky orange, tomorrow’s full moon blindingly glows perfectly framed by blue mountains. It’s almost dark as we reach the farm. Erin comes out of the house to flag us down. It’s so great to see her. She tells us we can stay in the guesthouse if we don’t want to set up our tent in the dark and it’s hard to resist so we do. Much to our surprise, it’s a full on house. Real bathroom, huge king-size bed, full kitchen, etc. Definitely doesn’t feel like camping and there’s a sliver of disappointment, but the convenience is too much to pass up. It’s too dark to really see the actual farm, we’ll explore tomorrow. We talk in the kitchen of a little house built inside the barn where Erin is staying until eleven-ish, until deciding we’re too tired and head for bed. I’m so grateful to be AWAY and I’m looking forward to being disconnected from phone service, but knowing I have some important emails coming any minute nags at me a little as I pass out in Brie’s arms in this surprise king-size bed.

[[ If you care about Unlikely Hikers, if you use or enjoy the content on this website, please consider making a donation so I can keep doing this! It will also help me make more frequent updates. Thank you for the consideration! ]]

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The sun setting as we got closer to WIlliams, Oregon
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Take me with you.

A post shared by Jenny Bruso (@unlikelyhikers) (@jennybruso) on

 

Day Trip: Rattlesnake Falls

  • Location: Husum, Washington
  • Google map: don’t bother. From the Hood River Bridge, head west for 1.5 miles then make a right on SR 141. After 6 miles, just past Wet Planet, turn right onto Oak Ridge Rd. for 0.8-mile. Turn Right on Rattlesnake Rd and set your odometer. At the nine mile mark (most of this is unpaved, but fine for 2-wheel drive in drier weather), stay right and soon you’ll see the R1800 junction just after a tree with a “6” on it. Ignore any other trees with “6” on them, just pay attention to the mileage (I saw at least one other “6” tree).  Turn right for another 0.8 until it dead ends.
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h45m
  • Permit: n/a
  • Intensity: Easy (Beginner Level: Doable, but there is a creek crossing). 0.5 mile, little to no elevation gain
  • Open: mid April through July? Depends on the rain, I imagine it completely dries up in hotter months.
  • Pair with: Coyote Wall, Panther Creek Falls, a visit to White Salmon or Hood River

Continue reading “Day Trip: Rattlesnake Falls”

“Unlikely Hikers: An Invitation to the Outdoors”

Tagg Magazine is a magazine for “everything lesbian, queer and under the rainbow,” and they graciously interviewed me for a piece about @UnlikelyHikers. This came out weeks ago, but my head has been too up my butt to share it. I was in a deep grief brain fog when they interviewed me, but they skillfully made me sound good. Thanks, Tagg Magazine!

https://taggmagazine.com/unlikely-hikers-portland/

(Also, a correction, I started Unlikely Hikers in 2016. A year ago this month!)

Queer Adventure Storytelling – June 14!

Our first Queer Adventure Storytelling was a HUGE success and we’re doing it again June 14!

Queer Adventure Storytelling is a new event featuring stories of the outdoors, traveling, and beyond by queer, trans and gender non-conforming speakers. We hope to build community, share knowledge, elevate lesser-heard voices and inspire each other’s next adventures! Join us for presentations and workshops that lie outside of the common narrative found in outdoor media and gear shops. There will be a Q&A after the speakers and time to meet new adventure buddies.

This event happens every second Wednesday of the month at the Lucky Labrador on N Killingsworth. 7pm. Free! RSVP on facebook or don’t, just come!
Continue reading “Queer Adventure Storytelling – June 14!”

Dalles Mountain Ranch

  • Level: Easy (Beginner level: challenging)
  • Length: ~5.5 miles
  • Elevation: >1,000 ft. gain
  • Type: loop
  • Open: all year, peak wildflower time is mid-April to mid-May
  • Permit: Discover Pass or $5
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h30m
  • Google map: “crawford oaks trailhead”
  • Features: Eastern Gorge, spring wildflowers, waterfall

Every day that has passed in the week-and-a-half since I did this trail, I’ve felt like I was hoarding it. It was so unbelievably beautiful. You must go before the flowers go to seed and it gets too damn hot. There’s very little shade and it’s been so gross in Portland that I wasn’t even thinking about sunscreen yet and got pretty badly burnt. WEAR SUNSCREEN. Continue reading “Dalles Mountain Ranch”

Unlikely Hikers nice & slow group hike!

This is a SPECIAL EDITION group hike specifically for people who NEED a slower pace on a flatter, shorter trail. I want to create a safer space for people to be able to be in their bodies in nature with others who understand needing extra or specific care. This is for the chronic pain cuties, fat babes who want/need a safer setting like this, etc. I don’t want to overly define this, so if you see yourself in it, welcome! If you are NOT SOMEONE WHO NEEDS THIS, the next group hike will be posted Monday, 5/15.

I’m keeping the invite private/invite only, so please send me an e-mail address via comment here or e-mail me at thejennybruso@gmail.com.