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.

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The sun setting as we got closer to WIlliams, Oregon


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Take me with you.

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2 thoughts on “Day One: Portland to Williams, Oregon

  1. I would just like to say that a can of soup (or better, spaghettios!!) is my ideal camping food, no joke. Going camping this weekend & I’m so over the whole food prep, buy ice, pack-things-so-they-don’t-drown-in-melting-ice nonsense. And I love to cook, but I just can’t be bothered. A camping stove has helped…but really it makes soup even more tempting! So easy and cheap.

    Liked by 1 person

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