Summer has arrived in Central Oregon. The last couple of days have been in the 80s, and it has been the perfect time to get out of the house and see what the area has to offer. There are many places to choose from, and one that is frequented by many people who come this is way is Camp Sherman. It is a campground located on the Metolius River that offers tent sites, RV locations, and the option of renting a cabin for the ones who are not as adventurous.
During the summer months, the campgrounds, and cabins are usually packed with visitors because of the various activities that this part of Oregon has to offer. There are some recreation centers, but from what I am told, they do not get as much use as the river itself. It is here where you can find fly fishing, hiking, either along the river or up the nearby Black Butte, and just general fun from camping. The tall trees and cool water running down the river keeps the place relatively cool even on the hottest of summer days which makes it the perfect mountain destination.
For those of you who like to dip into civilization a little bit, there are a couple of places along the river that you can visit. There is the general store where you can pick up your basic supplies, and if you are hungry, they do have a counter where you can pick up a really good sandwich or burger with a lot of vegetarian options available. If you want more of the sit down restaurant experience, there is Hola, a Mexican restaurant that will serve you some spicy delights as well as margaritas. I have never been to this one, but it is the same Hola restaurant that can be found in nearby Bend, and if the food is the same, it is worth the visit.
If you don’t mind driving, you are only a twenty minute drive to Sisters, a charming town that will make you feel like you have gone back to the old west. It offers more restaurants and shops to browse through. But if you are looking for something a little more educational, there is the fish hatchery as well. You can see where many of the lakes and rivers of Central Oregon get its fish.
But the greatest attraction out here is the head waters of the Metolius River. This river is unique to Central Oregon because its main source of water does not come from snow melt from the surrounding peaks. The river instead spring out of the ground further upstream and you can go up there to wander around a series of paths to see how this imposing force of nature is formed.
Camp Sherman is a great place to stay at if you are looking for a camping spot in Central Oregon, but it also offers a great day retreat as well, the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll along the Metolius River to see some beautiful sights.
Tucked up in the mountains of Central Oregon, you will be able to find all kinds of lakes. Most of them have some sort of camping around them and a lodge where you might be able to get a couple of quick supplies or a bite to eat, and usually rent some equipment to take out on the lake. The lakes are used for different reason, so when you look at which one you would like to spend a day at, look to see what activities they allow at the lake, so you are not disappointed when you get there.
One of my favorites is Clear Lake. It is about six miles down Highway 126, off of Highway 20, just a little east of the Santiam Junction. It will get some crowds during the weekends, but nothing so extensive that you will want to avoid it altogether, and if you can make it during one of the weekdays, you can find your own little corner of the lake, even during the hotter summer months. The lake lives up to its name because the lake’s water is clear. Most of this is due to two things, the winter run off always filtering into the lake from cavern water from the surrounding mountains, and the restriction of any motor vehicles allowed on the lake.
Because of this, you are left with beautiful clear water that in most of the places allows you to look all the way down to the bottom of the lake. It gets a little deep in the middle of the lake, making it impossible, but for most of the lake, it is fun to see the life down there, and the many trees that the lake has gobbled up over the years. Because of the clear water, some scuba divers come out to explore the lake, and it threw me a little bit when I was paddling by and saw the bubbling coming up a diver from below me. There are a fair amount of fisherman also on the lake, usually paddling by in rowboats that are available at the lake’s lodge. Most people bring their own kayaks, or paddle boards to enjoy on the lake and there are various places to put them in the water with the parking lot on the western side offering the best spot.
Besides all of the fish, there are a lot of opportunities to see wildlife out there. I have been told that on any given day, you can see bald eagles or osprey, and it is along the path where many herds of deer travel throughout the year. Just because the opportunity exists does not mean that you will always see the more exciting wildlife. I was only able to see fish jumping out of the water, and a family of ducks, but it is always fun to keep my eyes open to see if I will spot something else.
There are many other lakes to explore in Central Oregon, but for the time being, Clear Lake could easily rank highest among the ones I have been to, and it might be hard to find one that can beat what this one has to offer.
Summer has been hiding behind the clouds ready to pop out. It isn’t quite the weather for shorts and swimming pools yet in Central Oregon, but it will come soon. That does not mean that I need to hide in my house and wait for it to come. I could still get out there and enjoy the view of Black Butte Ranch. I just need to plan a little better and make sure I am wearing pants and warmer clothes.
Black Butte Ranch boasts some dramatic views no matter what the weather is. It might even be better during those cool, cloudy days because it add something more to look at in the sky than just a warming blue. It is also early enough in the season that the people have not flooded into the resort yet and taken over the paths. The cool weather reinvigorated me, making the length of this walk tick away with each happy step I took.
It felt as if the empty roads were built for me alone, and each bend gave me another view of the spectacle that is the natural landscape of Central Oregon. I am happy to be out of the towns and cities right now, and am able enjoy these quiet streets. It would be a different scene in Bend, or Redmond, or even Sisters as they get their businesses and restaurants ready for the summer rush that will happen as soon as the nod from the Governor comes, telling them that can ramp things up again.
It will nice to get back to that normal way of life, and hints of it keep peeking out from my periphery. But until then, I will enjoy the lack of crowds and having the feel that the ranch is mine alone.
It happened last night during dinner. I was finishing up a wonderful meal of curry, when I looked out the back window, and there was a herd of elk grazing in the forest that is essentially the backyard of the place I am staying. It wasn’t the first time that I saw them that day. They were always at the edge of the forest just beyond where a camera could capture an image of them that was worth seeing. But here they were just begging to have their photo taken.
Seeing wildlife in Central Oregon is not a new thing, especially if you are staying at Black Butte Ranch, one of the quieter communities out here, nestled in the forest close to the Cascade Mountain Range. Going a day without seeing a squirrel or a variety of birds in unusual, and there are many days I have run into deer while I am out for a walk, or sometimes just hanging out in the front yard waiting to scamper off when somebody opens the front door. On a hot day, they like to seek shelter under the deck attached to the house, and will dash out if anybody decides to come out on the deck. It is not unusual to see these wildlife sightings, but elk seems to be a new phenomenon out here.
That is not to say that elk have not been grazing in the mountains of Central Oregon before, but to see them wandering through the yards of Black Butte Ranch in new. Elk are amazingly smart creatures. I have come across the herds in Colorado before. They amaze me how they always seem to know when elk hunting season starts as they move down to Estes Park to find safety there during this time, or how a creature this big can disappear in an aspen grove without a trace. It makes me wonder if they have finally found the safety that is Black Butte Ranch and decided to hang out there now. Or is this a ripple that has been caused by the recent pandemic? Did last year, when people were stuck in their houses, give them the freedom to wander around in places where humans used to inhabit, and now they have the courage to reclaim that space? Whatever the reason, it was nice to witness them casually grazing in the backyard while eating dinner. It was a nice feeling, knowing that we could live together in this space and enjoy all that it has to offer.
As a side note, I know that there are a few people reading this that are not impressed with elk wandering through a forest. It is something that they come across at least a few times a year. And there are places where deer is a common occurrence, so they are wondering why I dedicated a whole post to this phenomenon. I get it, but I have not been in the United States for a couple of years, and this is something that I do not get to witness very often. I also have other people who read this post who have never seen an elk or even a deer before, and to think about this happening in someone’s backyard in something that they could never imagine. To those people, I would say that this would be very similar to going to a beach town or the hills outside of Bangkok, and running into all of the monkeys you would find out there. Every place in the world has its wildlife that you run into. It is just sometimes it is such a common thing that you shrug it off as, “Oh, there is another elk, or deer, or monkey!” But when you think about it from the perspective of a person who does not get this opportunity very often, it is something to get excited about. And when it is something you have not seen for awhile, it becomes a new experience again. Maybe, we shouldn’t take for granted these small occurrences, and enjoy them every time we come across them, whether it is a part of our daily routine, or something we can only experience every other year. The point being, enjoy those moments when they come because you do not know when they will happen again.
I can already hear people screaming just from the title of this post. Yes, I know that the pandemic situation is getting better with each person that has been vaccinated. Yes, I have gotten the shot myself and I am over the two week period after the first dose, so I should be at little risk for getting this deadly disease. Then why am I still quarantining?
Well, I still can carry the disease and give it to somebody else. I did just get off a long 26 hour flight less than ten days ago from the other side of the globe where the inflection rate was on a steep incline instead of a decline like in the United States. Yes, I did have to prove that I was Covid free before I got on that flight, but I did travel through some extremely busy airports, and just because I got one negative test, it does not mean that I would a day or two later. This also includes all of those people that I came into contact with. The bottom line is if I want to do the responsible thing, I should avoid contact with people.
This brings me to the location where I am spending those two weeks. I do believe that this is important, especially for the sanity of an individual. Being stuck in a small hotel room with another person, no matter how much you love them, would drive anybody crazy, and would push any relationship to its limits. Spending it alone in a room might even be worse, and one of the loneliest experiences that a person would have to go through. Now, I do have a lot of friends that live in various places around the world, and they are not given the option of where to stay for their quarantine. The friends I have in Vietnam probably have it the worst right now. Quarantine there is a three week affair in a government sponsored hotel, followed by a two week stint in your own place where you are closely monitored. Whereas, in the United States, it is a suggestion that I am pretty sure most people getting off a plane from another country just ignore. Now, I can’t be sure, but the numbers that the United States has gone through indicate a more relaxed policy to this global problem.
But if you are flying into the United States from a foreign country this summer, and would like to do the responsible thing, I would like to make a couple of suggestions to insure that you are not spreading this disease further while making this time as comfortable as possible.
First, try to find a place in a more rural setting. The United States is known for its wide open space, especially the further west you go. This will mean less population of people, and less contact with crowds. Granted, you should spend most of your time in the place you have chosen to quarantine in, but if you are in this rural place, you can go out for walks every once in awhile and enjoy a little time away from that place. If you pick a place with a lovely setting, it will make those walks even more pleasant, and you won’t go crazy watching the same scene play out through your window.
Second, try to stay with a pet of some kind. I would suggest a dog, but I know that there are enough cat people out there, and if that is what you prefer, go for it. I know that this is not always a possibility, but the world changes when you have this added roommate. Dogs and cats are both a wealth of entertainment when you spend some time with them. They always want to spend time with you, and will show how much they want to by doing some of the silliest and more memorable things. If you don’t believe me, go to YouTube and watch the cat and dog videos you will find there, and it will be hours of entertainment. But there is something better than YouTube or television, and that is having this source of entertainment in your own home.
Third, and this one is a must, stock your place with healthy food and snacks. I know I have been guilty of this during quarantine, but I always want to stuff my face with a snack. It seems like this is way to make the time go by quickly, but all it does is waste time eating stuff that makes you feel wiped out and tired. If you do not have all of this junk food around, you will not eat it, and you will look for a healthier alternative. You will feel better if you eat healthier, and you won’t come out of quarantine five pounds heavier.
Four, get some exercise. This goes hand in hand with the previous one. A body in motion wants to stay in motion; whereas, one slouched down on a couch with nothing more than an iPad to stare at all day will try to find something else on that iPad to swipe through. I know that some quarantines do not allow for you to get out of the house and exercise because you find yourself in a place with a greater population, but that does not mean that you can’t find a way to make it work inside. I had a friend in Korea that did two mile hikes by circling around their little apartment. It allowed them the time away from their devices and they felt better at the end of the experience. If you are in that rural area, those walks or runs will become the most exciting part of the day, and will give you something to look forward to.
Five, put the electronic devices down for a good portion of the day. I know that this is hard to do in modern times. Those electronic devices hold an endless chest of entertainment, but there are numerous studies that show that looking at a screen that long during the day is not good for you, or your sleep patterns. Find something that allows you to turn it off and be more interactive with those that you are stuck in quarantine with. Play a card game or if available, a board game. Have a conversation. Open up a book and read it. Just make sure you stay away from that device for some time every day.
For the most part, nobody wants to stay in quarantine, and I know that the United States does not require it if you are flying in from a foreign country. But it is the right thing to do, and can be a mild inconvenience if you plan for it and work through it with a positive attitude. It is only two weeks of your life, and it allows the rest of the country function at normal without having to worry about having a lockdown for everybody. The most important thing to do though is get vaccinated. It is the one thing that will allow us to put all of this insanity behind us and go back to living a normal life. The most important rule to live by is do what is right, and together we will get all of this behind us.
Thailand is hot. I think that this fact is not contested very often, but what people don’t seem to understand is that Thailand is hot. I mean always. Yes, there is a little bit of a reprieve in the dry months around December and January, but it is still hot. 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels pretty cool when you have been suffering through the 90s, but that is just a relative figure. There are many place around the world who have suffered through an extremely cold winter around that same time and would beg to experience an 80 degree day.
But before we left, the heat became oppressive. It wasn’t measured in actual heat, but instead was measured in real feel. I would get up at the same time as the roosters in the morning to go out on my daily run before it got too hot out there. I would check my weather app on my iPad I left to see how hot it was out there. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do because it drained my energy as soon as saw how hot it actually was out there. Though the real temperature would dip down to 80 degrees at this time in the morning, the real feel would never get below 90 degrees. And this was constant for a couple of months. We never got to experience temperatures below 90 degrees, and it made for a lot of indoor living. The only time that it got bearable outside was when the sun went down.
The strange thing was that the heat was one of the main factors we considered when planning our vacations, especially our longer summer excursions. Because we were working on the other side of the world from our families, we knew that we needed to spend time with them over the summer, and the fact that they lived in two different parts of the United States meant that we had to split our time between two locations, Colorado and Oregon. They are both amazing places during the summer with plenty of outdoor activities offered, but Colorado gets warmer in June where Oregon is trapped in a drizzly cool warmup still. For this reason, we elected to go to Oregon first this time around. The cool weather would be a welcoming change from the heat we were experiencing in Bangkok.
And let me tell you that it has been heavenly. I know that many Oregonians are waiting for this cool weather to break so they can enjoy the warmth of summer, but having a change of season if only for a couple of weeks has been exactly what we have been looking for. Our trip to Central Oregon had the temperatures drop even more. We arrived at my wife’s parent’s house in Black Butte Ranch and it was really cold outside. Once again, we had to scurry inside to feel comfortable, just like in Bangkok. We huddle next to the fireplace and turned the heat up in order to get warm again. But it is a different kind of feeling escaping the cold as opposed to running away from the heat, and I miss that feeling. When I got inside in Bangkok after being in the heat, I would strip off my shirt stand, grab a glass of cold water, and slump in a chair hoping to get cool off, and sometimes achieving that goal. Whereas, coming in from the cold, meant stomping our feet, building a fire, and huddling next to it with a mug of hot coffee as it warmed our hands. It required more activity to get warm and there was a camaraderie that went with it. I know that after awhile it gets old, and I will want warmer weather, but for the time being, it is a welcoming change.
I have looked at the weather for the next couple of days in the place I am at, and it will warm up again, but it won’t be as hot as Bangkok. It means that walks, kayaking and bike rides will be in order. I look forward to getting out there in the fresh air, and enjoy what Central Oregon has to offer. It is the perfect weather to enjoy summer, and I look forward to bringing that experience to you as well. Thanks for joining me, but I am going to go back to that fire to warm up a little more before the sun can do it for me. Until next time.
I don’t think that anybody is going to disagree with me when I say that the last couple of years have been strange ones. A lot of people had to reimagine what their lives were, and many routines that we lived by had to be thrown away as we tried to figure out a new way to make it work. Teaching was probably one of the biggest fields that really had to rethink the way it did things, and it wasn’t always easy. It definitely tainted the way that people in this career viewed their profession. It was hard to recognize how effective they were being.
Elementary school teachers told tales of students easily distracted and who were more interested in showing off their pets to the rest of class than engaging in the lesson. Middle school teachers also struggled delivering concepts that were verging on being a little more abstract and students being able to follow simple instructions. My experience as a high school teacher showed me a new perspective. I can tell you what the foreheads of all of my students look like, but beyond that I haven’t a clue. I was amazed at the amount of students that could not figure out how to tilt the cameras on their computers so I could see their whole face. Of course, this was a great way to hide what they were really doing, texting their friends, or playing video games. I completely understand why they loved this style of learning because it meant that they didn’t have to do much and then later pretend that the stress of being online all of the time was the reason for their low production.
Of course, I was not much better. There would be many times that I would stare out my window wondering what the outside world had to offer when I should have been doing some work instead. It was really hard to stay motivated in the place I had reserved for relaxation. The lines between work and home blurred, and I am still struggling to separate the two even though last night was my last night of the school year and the last time I would work at this school. I still woke up this morning thinking that I needed to check my email, grade some papers and prepare some lessons, but this was not the case. It will take a few days before I will be able to shed this feeling and see life in a different light.
I did say my final farewell to the school last night after watching the awards ceremony for the high school. It was a little bit of relief, but I will not be able to celebrate until tonight. Because I was working in Oregon at the time, 14 hours ahead of the time of the school in Thailand, it was really late at night and I just wanted to get to bed instead of unwind from the school year. Blowing off a little steam will help me make this adjustment as I say goodbye to the school.
It is something that I have wished to do for about a year now, and my negative attitude towards the school is not necessarily fair. Yes, the school has some problems that will take an uncomfortable couple of years to overcome, and I do not necessarily agree with a lot of its philosophies, I have dumped an undue amount of negativity at the school. Most of this is because I have associated the school with the problems of Covid and teaching online. I don’t think I could be at any school and spend time teaching online and look at the school favorably. It is not an easy thing to do, and I am happy that it is all over. I hope that I will never have to spend time teaching online again.
On the other hand, I do not think I can look past the pain of online teaching when I look at the school. It will always be looked at through that lens. Even during the times I got to spend teaching my students face to face, it was stressful. It gets really tiring to tell students to put on their masks correctly to stop the spread of this deadly disease while other teachers on campus make comments about how the disease is a hoax and masks are useless. It is a noble fight against a losing cause.
Overall, it is a chapter in the book that is my life. I could close that chapter and hope to never revisit again, or I could look at the pain and frustration from this time in my life and learn from the experience. It will always be what it was, but I may look back at my time with this school in Thailand with some fondness. There were always the students, some of my all time favorites in my long career, who worked hard and were so eager to learn. It was the best English department I ever worked for. And most of the time that I lived out there, I did not have to worry about this world wide pandemic in the same way that many other people elsewhere had to. I just need to close that chapter for right now, and prepare for the next one coming up at the end of the summer. It may be an opportunity to put this Covid kind of lifestyle behind us, and look to a future that resembles that happy life we all once lived.
I know that I have been talking more about my career as a teacher lately, but that is because I am finishing up my school year in a remote location. It is not the typical way that I have done it in the past, and with all of the ways we all have done things differently over the last two years, I thought it would be interesting to document my feelings along the way.
I am getting to that point of the school year where things are wrapping up and I am starting to work on thinking about what I will be doing next year. This time of the year is always busy and very stressful, and Covid has not made it easier. Tracking down students to get them to turn in missing assignments and finish up the school year is made more difficult by the fact that I am hoping that they will eventually check their email to see the urgent message I have sent them. I get that the latest video game is more exciting than an email from an English teacher, but I wish they would prioritize enough to make sure they finish the school year before they start playing their game. But I can’t blame them because I would be in the same spot if I was them.
Despite this, I have gotten to the point of where I have checked all of my boxes and completed most of my duties. There are a couple of other responsibilities I need to take care of before I go, but they are minor and don’t add to the level of stress I am starting to shed. Really, all I am doing is waiting around for that final metaphorical bell to ring so I can log out of email account one last time, and get to enjoying the summer. It is a lot of sitting around which has made me feel bored and busy at the same time, but I will take this feeling over the stacks of papers I had to work through a couple of weeks ago. It is nice to know that it is finally coming to an end, and I am looking forward to next step in my career as I switch schools and countries next year. It is the spark I need right now, but I am just not there yet.
It is that finish line that is always the hardest to cross. All of my years of running has taught me this. It is the time of the race where you are spent. You lungs are burning, and your muscles are wishing to seize up, but in order for the pain to stop, you have to keep plugging away at it. The location of the finish line never changes, just your relation to it. I can see that finish line right now, and I know what it feels like when you finally cross it. All of the tension and pushing you have done during that long race is finally released as you can now take life at stroll and collect your breath. Their is always a refreshing drink waiting for you at the end, and the rest of the day can be spent the way you want to. But looking back at the path you came from, you can give yourself the satisfaction that you just finished that race, and accomplished something many people are afraid to. It is a simple feeling, but it is one of the best feelings in the world, and I am looking forward to it.
There are only a couple of days left until I get to cross that finish line, and I will keep slowly plugging away at it until I reach it. And once I cross it, I can go back to the usual posts that having nothing to do with work, and have more to do with taking the world in I get to visit. I hope to see you there.
I have enjoyed being back in the cool air of the Pacific Northwest again. It is refreshing after the heat wave that I was experiencing in Thailand. I am in that position of making sure to keep my contact with other people to be minimal, so I have, for the most part, stayed inside. But I have taken a moment every day to get out and walk around. It is nice to walk on these streets free from the crowds, and enjoy the weather.
Every where I look, I see those little pieces of Americana that I have missed during the last couple of years. There are the tree houses and graduation celebration signs in people’s front yards. There is the sound of lawn mowers trimming the yards, and there are people out walking their dogs. I do have to remember to keep to the sidewalks. After two years of sticking to the edge of the roads and paying attention to the sounds of oncoming cars and motorcycles, I forgot that there are places where you are supposed to stay off the road, and stick to the safety from the sidewalk.
It is a different view from the sidewalk. There is always so much to see from there. People like to put a little bit of themselves in their yards, and it is fun to see their personalities. Sometimes the yards are well manicured and sometimes they are a little more sporadic. Every once in a while, there is a little joke that offers up a little laugh. It makes these walks more enjoyable to take.
My favorites are the free libraries that can be found all over the Pacific Northwest neighborhoods. On our little one mile walk, we came across three of these book deposits. People in the neighborhood can take a book or drop one off, and each little library offers a different collection of books to browse from. There are ones that cater to a younger audience, and some enjoy the thrillers that can be found all over the place, while others have a more literary selection.
It was nice to get out to enjoy this activity again, and make it home without being a hot, sweaty mess. I am looking forward to the day when I get back to the more populated parts of town, and enjoy this cool weather even more. But I still have a few more days of quarantine to go through as well as another vaccination shot. It is still nice to know that it is getting closer to enjoying a more normal life, and to be back in America to enjoy it.
It was about a month ago when my school in Bangkok made the call to remain on-line for the rest of the year. They debated whether this was what they were going to do or not for a long time even though most of us already knew that this was going to happen. The number of cases in the country were on the rise, and things were slowly closing up. We could not understand why the government would close up all of these businesses but then turn around and demand that the school open up again. Even if they did open up again it would only be for the last week, and what would we be able to accomplish during that last week of school. It was pretty obvious that staying on-line for the rest of the year was inevitable.
But looking at it from the school’s perspective, I can see why they held on so long to not telling anybody that this was going to happen. As soon as they made the announcement, teachers in all three levels changed their flights to earlier, and every weekend, there was another batch of friends we were saying goodbye to as they made their way back to America. We even pushed up our return date up by eleven days. We would have made it earlier, but there was still a lot of little things we needed to take care of before we could leave, and it caused us to stick around longer than usual. The school was going to have a hard time making sure that everybody did the work that they needed to do when they now worked in various nooks and crannies all over the planet. And there was the added disadvantage of some teachers missing a day or two from school as they made their long commute back to their home countries.
Despite these concerns, I think, from my perspective, there was a minimal impact to the everyday business of the school as the teacher slowly filtered out of the country. All of this was because of Zoom. Classes could still take place the way they normally had for the last couple of months because teachers could log on from anywhere in the world and teach from there. It allowed for these people to get to places where they have not been for a couple of years and see loved ones again while still doing their work.
I am glad for it. My departure from Bangkok was welcomed and I have loved being back in the United States. Not only have I gotten vaccinated, but I have been able to reconnect with loved ones. I am also lucky to have landed on the west coast so the time difference is not ridiculous and it is helping me get over jet lag. Tonight will be the first night of teaching online, and it is really more about finishing up the school year rather than teaching. Thank you Zoom for making this opportunity possible. Not that I think teaching on-line is a good thing, but it is the best option for the way the world is right now. I will take it, and the extra time I have in America this summer. Every moment back with here is precious, and I now realize how much I missed it now that I am back.
Now all I have to do is just one more week of work and then I can really unwind for a well deserved break. For all of those teachers who had to teach their lessons over Zoom this year, I hope you enjoy your break, and next year, you can return to the better way of teaching. I know it might have pushed your sanity a little bit, but at least because of Zoom, life has been able to go on, and we should be thankful for that small benefit.