Santiam Pass – Around the World Day 43

Yesterday was the last voyage west before the last big one back home to complete the whole circle around the world. It was a short voyage this time that did not involve a plane or a train. Instead I took a drive over the Santiam Pass from Central Oregon to make it over to the Portland area of Oregon. This drive is a beautiful drive most of the way, but there are a couple of places where you can see the skeleton of what was once a great forest but due to recent fires, it is now just a bunch of burned out trees. There are times where this look a little depressing, as if we have lost something great by having the forest fire. It is a little depressing at first but when I found out more about forest fires, they are not always the terrible thing that we think about them.

Forest fires, if they happen naturally, are an important part of the revitalization process. Pine cones need the heat of a fire in order to open in order to plant its seed and create a new tree. The old burned down trees add the much needed nutrients to the soil to let those trees grow. So even though it may look like a devastated landscape right after a fire, if you keep coming back to visit the same places where the fire took place, you will see that they are slowly starting to come back and turn into the amazing forest that you once remembered them as. There are a few places along the Santiam Pass that you can see this progress. There have been many times that I have gone over the pass and I can now start to see a significant change in what left behind. It makes me feel good that something can come out of so much destruction.

But in order for these fires to work this way, we need to let the forests alone and let them go through the process naturally. This means that we should not be cleaning up the ground cover and letting it alone so so can let this rejuvenation process happen. But this can be very dangerous for communities that are near big forests that could go up at any time with one ill placed lightning strike. It leaves an interesting debate. How far should we go to keep people safe, and what does that mean for the forests that we love so much that we moved near them in the first place? This is the debate that is going on in-between the fire fighters whose job it is to protect those homes, and the environmental programs whose major concern it is to protect the forests for future generations. There should be some middle ground that can be reached that would satisfy both parties, because they are both important for future generations. It is interesting to think about, and know that during this crazy time of year where you turn on the news and see another forest fire destroying another community, that people are working hard to come up with a reasonable solution to both problems. But it is up to us to make sure that these fires are not started by us. We need to think about what we are doing while we are out in the wilderness, so we do not leave any destruction behind. That is the important thing that we can do for the future of the beauty of the outdoors.

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Back to Bend – Around the World Day 42

My last post on Bend, Oregon might have been a little narrow-minded in the way the people who have lived there for a long time thought about how their town has exploded over the last couple of decades, so I went back to Bend yesterday evening to see old friends and enjoy the downtown area. I would like to give my opinion of that area of the town that does not involve the jaded view that comes from people when their town get crowded. Instead, I would like to look at from the point of view from the business owners who look forward to the busy tourist seasons that bring people to their stores, and how the downtown area caters to those people.

I visited two great locations while there, one to get a drink at, and the other to have dinner at. The first one was a Mexican restaurant called Hola!, and even though the food there looked good, I was really only there to get a margarita. It is almost impossible to find a good margarita in South Korea, so when I have the opportunity to have good one while I am in the United States, I do not turn it down. Hola does a great job with their margaritas, and it even comes in pitcher form. That can be dangerous, but when you share it with three different people, it is fine. We went for the blood red margarita which did not come with the usual off yellow color, but was still delicious. Also, being a Mexican restaurant, they served us chips and two different kinds of salsas. The strange thing about this side though was they used home made potato chips instead of corn chips. They were good potato chips, and it was good salsa, but the combination of the two didn’t really work for me, but I was able to forgive that fact considering the further north I get from Mexico, the weirder the Mexican food gets.

For dinner, I wanted a good hamburger because I have not had one yet all during this trip, and once again, it is an item that is not easily come by in South Korea, even though they are easier to find than a good margarita. I, of course, instantly thought of the many brew pubs that are found the downtown area of Bend. I first went to the Deschuttes Brewery because it was right down the street from where I was, and I remember them having really good food there. But I showed up to one of the major tourist destinations of downtown Bend at 6:30 on a Friday night during the height of the tourist season. I would have starved to death before I ever got a table in the place, so I went down to the other brewery that I knew had great food and was a little more off the beaten path, the Bend Brewing Company, and let me tell you it made all of the difference.

I found a place at the bar, and order an Exploregon, which they market as a hoppy lager. I usually enjoy the hoppier beers, such as IPAs, but the heat that Central Oregon is experiencing lately, made me want to have something a little lighter. This was the perfect choice because it still has a little bit of a bite like an IPA, but gave me that refreshing feeling that I was looking for in a beer. The food there was really good too. I was able to find that hamburger that I was looking for. But the nice part of the evening was that our beers were comped for us because the friend that Christine and I were meeting down there was also in town, but used to live in Bend for over ten years. She was really good friends with the bartender, and he was happy to see one of his old regulars back in town. It was nice to see that some things remained even through all of the growing pains that the town had been through over the years. This bartender was also really excited that things had picked up over the summer. He talked about how it was his favorite time of the year because it got easier and easier for him every year as business continued to grow.

The Bend Brewing Company has gone through a lot of change too since I first walked through their doors. There used to be two large buildings crowding it on either side. They were bought and torn down by another company who wished to create some housing, but the last recession put an end to that idea, and the lots remained empty while Bend Brewing Company continued to do great business. Apparently business had been really good lately because those two lots have now been added to the bar’s grounds. They now have a parking lot, and nice patio that looks out over the river behind its building. It is nice to see that the growth has helped companies that treat their employees well, and create a great product.

After dinner, we wandered down the river and were able to catch a live band that was set up for the entertainment of anybody who decided to come down to the area for the evening. There was an added bonus of them being a Grateful Dead cover band, and we caught two songs of their set, which means we watched about a half an hour of it. They were pretty good, and the lead singer sounded exactly like Bob Weir, so much so that I had to look twice to make sure that it wasn’t him. They had set up a booth where you get one of the many craft beers that Bend has to offer, and another booth that boasted Oregon’s newest industry, marijuana. It created the perfect atmosphere for the perfect evening. So even though there are many people who are angry about the growing pains that the town is going through, there is still a corner of Bend, the downtown area, that has been able to hold on to that small town atmosphere and create a beautiful place to hang out, and meet friends both old and new. It will be hard to keep people away when the town has a place like this to boast about, and maybe it is the duty of the ones who do not like it to try to figure out how to live with it and grow along with it. The fact is that it isn’t going to change. Too much has been set in motion that it would be impossible to go back to the way it once was. I know change might be a scary thing, but it could also be the answer you are looking for. Embrace it and maybe the change that is made is one you are more comfortable with.

There is a Place – Around the World Day 40

I have been spending the last few days in Central Oregon, and like always, I have loved the time I have gotten to spend out here. Most of the time when people think of Central Oregon, they think of three different towns, Sister, Redmond, and Bend, but my home base is not any of these three places. Instead, I have been able to stay under the shadow of one of the smaller mountains in the area, but still one of the more prominent ones. It is a quiet collection of houses, a twenty minute drive from Sisters named Black Butte Ranch, and it happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

This is the place I go to recharge my batteries. After a long, hard school year, I need the time to collect myself and feel like a human being again. It has also been the perfect place to have a vacation from my vacation. I know it sounds kind of snobbish, but all of that running around I did earlier in the summer wore me out, and if I did not take a little time to relax and slow down, then I would not have been ready for the next school year. That is why this place is so important to me.

Black Butte Ranch is located in the middle of national forest, and its borders are limited, so it will never experience any growth, and the people who own places here like it just that way. It does have three different restaurants that a person can enjoy, each having a different level of service associated with it. It also has two world class golf courses that you can play with some of the best views I have ever seen on a golf course. If this is not your cup of tea, there are a bunch of tennis courts, and they have been adding a few pickle ball courts for people who do not like to run as much. There are four different pools, each having a different level of activity involved with them, so you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing lounge next to a pool at one of them, or get crazy with the kids running around and screaming at another one. There are also a great amount of bike paths that will take you to many beautiful spots around the the place, and also make it easier to travel around the ranch on rather than driving a car all of the time. And there is also a small pond in the front where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes, or join the other people that go out there with their fishing gear to practice catching a fish or two.

Even though it has all of this to offer, it is not the thing that I enjoy the most about being able to stay here every year. It is the fact that the people who run Black Butte Ranch have made a conscious choice to keep all of the commercial endeavors from the place. There are a couple of shops that will sell some select items, and there is a small convenience store that you can get some basic necessities at, but if you want to do some serious shopping, you need to go off to one of the other towns around the area. It is an opportunity to get back to the simple things in life, and put those other concerns away. Every time I do this, I am happy that I get to slow down for a bit because that is what Black Butte Ranch forces you to do. And even though I do take advantage of the facilities of this place, it is more about getting back to nature, and enjoying what that has to offer. I am glad that I have been able to stop here on relax on my trip around the world. It had helped me get back to where I need to be in order to be effective during the rest of the year.

 

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

It has been about fifteen years since I first drove through the town of Bend, Oregon. Back then it was a small town at the base of the Cascade Mountains and thriving in its high desert environment. Not a lot of people had ever heard of this town set in the heart of Oregon, and the people of Bend never thought anybody ever would. They had a couple of breweries that sold their beers to the locals, and you could find a taste from one of them as far away as Portland. But during that fifteen years, something happened and the landscape of Bend has forever ben changed, but within that change is the people who always lived there while they watched their city change from a mountain community into the budding city that it is turning into today.

When I first rode through the streets of this town there were only 50,000 people living there, but according to recent reports there is over 90,000 people living there today. It has nearly doubled in size from those earlier days. What had brought so many people to this place? It can’t be the college there because the branch of OSU didn’t take its first freshman until the year 2015, and nobody moves to a town because of a community college, no matter how good it could be. It can’t be because some company decided to locate there and started to bring in people from out of town in order to run it because the number one industry in Bend, Oregon is still tourism. It can’t be the low cost of housing and cost of living because with the sudden influx of people, housing has risen to ridiculous heights which has caused the costs of food and basic needs to rise as well. There is not much in the way of living that would bring a person to change their lifestyles to come to this place to live.

It has to be the fact that this is just a beautiful spot in the United States. There are mountains all around for people to stare at. It has a great downtown area that has been around since the 1920s and has a feel of a European market. The Deschutes River lazily rolls through the center of town, giving people a place where they can swim or take an inner tube out on to so they can slowly travel the expanse of the city. If the numerous breweries bore you with their outstanding beer, then there is still wine that is brought in from right over the hill from Willamette Valley. The city attracts some great chefs that have opened great restaurants all over the place. There are a variety of outdoor activities from skiing and snowboarding at Mount Bachelor in the winter months to riding bikes, fishing and camping during the summer months. For many people, it is the perfect place to open up shop and settle down.

But that is not what I am here to tell you about. I am here to tell you what I saw on a bumper sticker while I visited this town the other day, that “Bend Suck, Don’t Move Here.” This bumper sticker was obviously from one of the people who had lived through the growth and could remember the quaint town that they once belonged to. They could remember a time when they were able to make a living in the town and did not have to worry about a bunch of people coming in from all the different places in the world and transforming their town into the image of what they thought it should look like. For these people, Bend is going through some growing pains. It is like many places in America where the people who lived there sucked out all of the energy and worth of the place before tossing it away like a used banana peel to go off to find another place to suck out the worth there. They do not care about the community that much and look at it as a place where they can make some monetary gain even if that means the destruction of the people who have grown up there and find identity within its boundaries.

Now, I do not claim to be a resident from Bend. I only get to visit it from time to time, and it is one of my favorite small cities in the United States. I would love it if I got the opportunity to live there someday, but would be just as happy to see it a day or two every year. I do understand the pain they feel as they watch their town transform right before their eyes. I got to see the boom that happened to Denver, Colorado in the early 90s when it seemed as if the city could not build fast enough to accommodate the people who were moving there. I have watched the attitude of the place change from one that was laid back to one where a fight between the east coast and the west coast ravaged to see who could gain control of the city. I watched as the same people claimed that they loved the mountains just outside of the city and then not treat them with the respect that they deserved. I went from a place where I could stretch out to a place where I felt confined by the limited space I had. It disturbed me even more this last summer during my visit as I watched the boom start all over again. The city I grew up in does not even look the same anymore as changes are constantly happening. I see the same thing happening with Bend, and I understand the people’s pain because when the bust comes and the people are forced to find another town that they can exploit, then they are going to be left with the mess they left behind.

The best way I can explain the way they feel comes from a time a few years ago while they were still early into their expansion. I was sitting in a bar in downtown Bend with a couple of friends who lived there. An obvious tourist came into the place and asked the crowd for directions to some other bar. Someone from the back of the bar looked over at him and said, “Yeah, what you want to do is go south from here and keep on going until you reach California.”

I guess the lesson to learn from this is to love these places for what they are, but do not try to grab on to the magic that they create because you can’t if you are an outsider. They know what it is that makes their place great even though they might not be able to explain it to you. What your vision is to make it great is not what is meant to be there. Let the city live, and breathe, and grow at its own rate, and do not change it into something that it is not.

Another Kind of Beach – Around the World Day 38

When I say the word beach to people, most of them with think of a long sandy shore where the waves of the ocean splash up on the shore, and when they look out to the horizon, they see nothing but the great expanse of water. But these would be most of the people that grew up along of the shores of one of these mighty beasts. If you grew up where I grew up, you might have a different vision of a beach.

The beaches that I looked for usually could be found between the tall pine trees in the mountains. The shores might have some sand on it, but it was mostly covered in rocks, and the water only created waves if a breeze blew down from the hill. I could usually see the other side of the water and it was covered with the same kinds of trees that I had to walk through in order to get there in the first place. The water wasn’t warm and inviting, but instead was cold and chilly because it was collected from the melting snow pack due to the hot summer sun. People didn’t go out there to cake themselves in suntan lotion and lounge around; instead, they were many other activities where fun could be found at one of these other kinds of beaches.

Luckily, Oregon boasts both kinds of beaches within its borders, and yesterday I went to the one I was more familiar with in the mountains of central Oregon, Three Creeks Lake. It is a small mountain lake with a nice sandy beach to relax on. It is only about a half an hour drive west of the idyllic mountain town of Sisters, Oregon if you can find Elm Street and follow it until it runs out of road. It was the perfect day to head up into the hills too because the sun was starting to gain in potency and by heading up in elevation we were able to avoid one of the hottest days I would have experienced this summer.

We didn’t have to share the beach with many people, and the odd thing was that the water was perfect. Usually it is very cold, but it was late enough in the summer that it had warmed up enough to be enjoyable. If we had made it to the coast, the water out along the coast of Oregon would have still been too cool to enjoy, so we had made the right choice.

We spent the afternoon paddle boarding out on the lake, but there are many other forms of entertainment out there. There are a few campsites that people park campers at or set up their tents. Many of them bring kayaks with them to use on the lake and it is only a short walk away from the campsites to the beach. If you really like to hike, there are many trails around the lake. You can walk around the lake if you like, or you can take the more difficult trail up the hill into the forest until you reach a smaller lake a little further up or all the way to the ridge that gives you some amazing views of the valley down below. The biggest attraction to the lake is the fishing. Even though there were not many fishermen out there yesterday, there are usually a bunch of them either on small pontoon boats, or getting in their waders and fitting themselves in an inner tube to make it out to the middle of the lake. It is a great place to fish and I saw them jumping out of the water often as I rowed around the lake. The only drawback is the amount of bugs I found in the area, but that was nothing that a little bit of bug spray couldn’t take care of, and yesterday they were not so bad as they were on other days.

It is another of Oregon’s great lakes. The laws make sure that no motors are able to be used on the lake, keeping the water clean and clear, and keeping the noise down to just the small amount of children laughing and having a good time. It was another great place that central Oregon has as it is the playground of the Pacific Northwest and this little gem is one of my favorite ones to visit.

The Pool Life – Around the World Day 37

Sometime during the day, take a step outside of your house and listen really carefully. You can tell what time of the year it is by what you hear. If it is winter a muffled hush will try to make itself heard over the fallen snow. Autumn will have the sounds of cars rushing by as people return to their busy lives that they had left behind during the previous months. But if you hear the sound of splashing water and kids screaming in the distance, you know that it is summertime. It does not matter where I have settled down in the United States, this sound was always someplace in the background during the summer months. It is either the sound of summer for the United States, or I have always lived within earshot of a pool.

It is the same for the quiet community I have found myself in during the last part of my trip around the world, Black Butte Ranch. This place is a paradise in central Oregon. It is full of houses that people either own or rent for a week, and they use it to get away from the bustle that their real lives force them to live. One of the features of this place is the four pools that they have in various parts of the grounds. During the summer months, these are the places that are packed with vacationers trying to unwind a bit and escape the heat. They allow families the opportunity to spend some time together and have fun. It is also the place where kids can play games that have nothing to do with their electronic devices. It might be the last bastion where you can hear the shouts of joy from children left in the United States because it is the one place where Apple, Android and Microsoft can’t invade.

Where I grew up, there was a pool a fifteen minute walk away from my house, and the call of it always sounded in my ears during the summer months as this joy of my friends having fun floated over the roofs of the houses and made it to my front yard. I spent my summers at the pool helping to create that lure. It was my escape. I would spend forty-five minutes of every hour playing some kind of game in the pool, whether it was Marco Polo or some kind of elaborate team game of keep away involving a beach ball. If we ever tired of those games, we would go over to the deep end and show our skills on the diving board for a while. During adult swim, we would find a warm piece of concrete that we could lay down on to quickly dry off before we ran to the snack shack to fill up on candy so we would have energy to run wild in the water after the fifteen minutes was over. If I think back on the summer months of my youth, I automatically go to these.

Going to the pool does not hold the same magic. My wife does not want to walk around the pool with her eyes closed yelling Marco while I swim just out of her reach responding with Polo. It is still a great place for us to hang out during the hot summer months. We just find a comfortable recliner around the pool and bathe in the rays of the sun while losing ourselves in the story of some novel. The children screaming and having fun might reach our ears, but it turns into background noise that reminds us what time of the year it is. We will still grab a treat from the snack shack but it will be a cool drink or some ice cream to cool off a bit. Every once in a while we will dip into the water to cool off a little further, but we do not play games. Instead we wade around the water, occasionally going completely underwater, and talk about what the future holds for us or what the past has taught us. It may not hold the same appeal that I found when I was a kid, but it does not mean that I do not enjoy them any less. It is still the one thing that pulls me to it every summer.

I have not spent a lot of time around a pool this summer because I have been busy doing a lot of other things, but as the sun started to beat down a little more than usual, I was glad that I was able to find some time at one this summer. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, it is the sounds of pool life that makes me know that it is summer.

 

On the Banks of a Clear Lake – Around the World Day 35

I have taken my last jump west before taking the final leap back to Seoul to complete my trip around the world, and I have found myself in central Oregon. This state used to be one of the ones that many people did not know much about. They thought it was nothing more than a place where people carried an axe to cut down a tree in order to make a log cabin they could live in while they took care of their ranch. And even though there are a few ranches in this state, this is not always the case. That’s when people thought they knew the other half of Oregon where young kids go on crazy treasure hunts in order to collect enough money so they can save their homes from greedy land developers. And this is not the case either. But people think these things because they are never been to Oregon and they base what they know about the state from the pictures they have seen for it or the movies that have been filmed there. There is so much more to Oregon than that, and more and more people are finding that out as they make their way to this part of the United States.

First of all, Oregon supports one of the most diverse landscapes of any of the states. There is the coast with it huge rock formations that hand in the water just beyond the sandy beaches. It has a big city that still holds on to that small town feel while supporting a creative group of people who make the concrete jungle winding it way around the Columbia River one of the more unique cities I have ever visited. It has long plains filled with the grain and wine that makes the rest of the United States happy. And it has my favorite place in the state, a place on the other side of the Cascade mountains, central Oregon. This is where you will find the state’s mighty forests and is the playground for the people who live here. There are many paths that can take you deep into the wilderness, and also support perfect places to rock climbing or camping. It has mountains that in the winter turn into some of the best ski resorts in the nation. Cars always have mountain bikes, or kayak mounted on the back as they go to that perfect spots that they know about.

One of these spots is where I found myself yesterday, Clear Lake. It is this calm lake nestled in the Cascades. The water is a clear blue, and it will always remain that way because nobody is allowed to bring motor boats onto the lake and ruin the purity of its water. The water is fed into this little valley by underground streams, so it always remains a little cool even during the heat of summer, so you will never find anybody swimming in this lake. But it is the perfect place to take a kayak to, or rent one of the row boats that you can find at the docks at the place. It is easily the perfect place to learn how to paddle board. You cannot rent them here so you would have to bring one to the location, but the calm water is ideal to allow a person to wobble on the board without having to worry about the wake of a passing boat to knock them off. There are no real beaches to hang out at but you can find some nice little coves among the tree that allow you to sit back while people take turns with the paddle board. It turns into a nice place to spend the afternoon on a hot Oregon afternoon.

So even though I still expect to see the random log cabin on my voyage through Oregon, I know this state has a lot more to offer than the stereotype that a lot of people think about when they are presented with the name of this place. I am glad that I have ventured to this place in the world as my last destination as I circumvent the globe. It is the perfect last stoop and I am sure will be filled with many adventures to wrap up this crazy excursion.