Saturday, May 26, 2012

Far From the Madding Crowd

I think I've used that title before, but it's apt for where we went today. We (finally) took our annual hike on the Crooked River Grassland.

Goddy and I usually do this in February or March, but time slipped by us this year. I did go up there with my dear friend Becky then, so it was a bonus for me to have two meanders in a still-fairly-wild place. Well, calling it wild might be a bit of a stretch. How about relatively undisturbed by crowds of people?

We've never seen more than one or two others out there and there's so much space its easy to lose sight of them pretty quickly. Not that we're anti-social...

...but the flowers are so much prettier surrounded by nothing but space

We parked the truck in a hunters camp, just off the main road that goes across the area. Then we set out in the general direction of Wychus Creek. I wanted to get to where we could see the creek. If you don't have some sort of a goal in mind when heading out, you just wander around. Which is good on some days, don't get me wrong. A mindful wander can be very invigorating.

As long as you can see a mountain you won't get lost.

It rained this week, so there were some bonus tiny tarns for the dogs to quench their thirst. They lapped up the opportunity like seasoned pioneer dogs (which they aren't but you wouldn't have known that today.)

We got to where we could hear the creek and see across the canyon but weren't too keen to navigate down to the water. This time of year, when Goddy is shearing most days, his legs protest at going down steep canyons and since we want to keep those pins happy we stayed up top.

As we wandered back toward the truck we both were thinking about why this grassland exerts such a pull on us. There are many more beautiful places to hike in and certainly less rocks to clamber over. But this was our space as we learned how to be Americans again.

When we worked at Long Hollow Ranch, which has the permits for the grazing allotments on the grassland, the cattle summered on the expanse. We rode around the perimeters of the pastures, checking fences and getting familiar with the lay of the land. We hauled water up to the cattle every day, and organized the drives to move them through the pastures and bring them back to the ranch at the end of the permitted time. Although our time at the ranch was short, the hours spent on the grassland helped us understand this western way of life we would be part of. We marveled at how different it was from the mild green hills we'd farmed in New Zealand.

Our first thoughts, when we realized we were going to live in central Oregon, were that we'd be among those tall ponderosa pines, like they have up in Camp Sherman. When we pulled into Long Hollow and saw the rocks and juniper there were a few moments of surprise at the starkness of the landscape. But getting familiar with it from the backs of our faithful dude string horses, and because of the cattle, brought about a change of heart that still sits deep within. There is a stillness out there, punctuated by the trill of a meadowlark and the ceaseless flow of the creek. Yes, the rocks are a drag, but how much more we appreciate the oases of sand that appear every now and again. It's not very green but there is beauty in brown and tan. There are remnants of stone walls built by pioneers made of much sterner stuff than we will ever be. Those walls are reminders that others too  started new lives with the grassland as a classroom.

The landscape out there is a reminder that soft and mild, while soothing, are not necessary for life to persist. Plus, all those rocks and the possibility of snakes keep the crowds away, which is really why we go there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

They say its (whatever "it" is) a matter of perspective. Some argue that that's relegating things to relativity, blah, blah. Life is black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. In constant turmoil.

On some levels this is very true. Lines are drawn in the universe that God has said, "Don't cross." I get that. And I'm pretty good at staying on my side.

On other levels, it is ALL about perspective. On a day like this, it doesn't matter if I'm looking at a cow

or a mountain,

it just looks better between the ears of my horse.

It's a matter of perspective.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Good Therapy

I went on a therapy hike today. Therapy because I'm feeling the loss of Ben. No, he didn't die but he isn't part of our family any more.

 We (I) made the difficult choice to send him back to his previous owners in order for Max to stay with us. You know, when it comes down to it, family really does trump all other things. Max belonged to our son and his sweet family, and they relocated to Virginia. So Max is now a ranch dog. A job he does very well.
Rin-Tin Max

But, as a confirmed animal lover and one who bonds strongly with my animals, it was not an easy choice. I keep seeing Ben's intense amber eyes, focused on me as if they could see right into my heart. It was a sight that kept me in tears most of yesterday.

So today my dear friend Becky and I took our dogs, Sadie and Max, and my mom's poodle, Henry,
on a hike to Alder Springs.

Henry, ready for adventure. If only he knew what was in store for the day.

Becky and Sadie, true adventurers

It's way to heck and gone on the Crooked River National Grassland, along a bumpy road. So when we got to the trailhead and it said the springs were only a mile hike I was a bit disappointed. Seemed like we should get more bang for our buck for bouncing along that road.

Well, we did. We did a wee detour to the 'Old Bridge Site' and since I knew the area from a while ago, we went down to Wychus Creek to explore along it for a while.

"Let your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love." We can learn from this tree - there was no soil in sight but still it grows.

Alder Springs at last!

Nearly two miles later, after scrambling around large outcroppings, through brush and an area that got burned in a forest fire last fall, we arrived at Alder Springs. I can't say we took the scenic route, because there's nothing scenic about an area that's slowly regenerating from a hot fire, but we sure  filled the day with adventure.

 We got to the point where we weren't going to turn back because we knew the springs were 'just around the next bend.' We said that many times before we arrived at our destination.

There's a lot to be said for not taking the easy way, especially when you have a good friend and good dogs for company. It helps that you'll know when you've arrived.

And seeing the bluebird of happiness is validation for the journey.