Thursday, August 16, 2007


I made it home. Everything is green, hot and muggy, as I arrived just in advance of tropical storm Erin's landfall.

Check back; after I unpack I may just think of something to write about.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Miles to go....

I traveled a long way today. I could express it in miles (575) or I could just tell you that I started the day walking Large Dog at Brigham Young City Park and ended it walking him on the lawn at the Byron White United States Courthouse.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Dark and silent, late last night, I think I might have heard the highway calling, geese in flight..."

In Oregon’s Rogue Valley, the first sign of fall is golden light. One night, as you sit on your porch, the light is bright, yellow, summery on the crisp, dry hills. The next, it’s liquid gold, honey poured on the slopes that now seem to glow from within. This has nothing to do with temperature or the date on man’s calendar. It’s nature whispering, “Get ready. It’s almost time to harvest then rest.”

I’ve always wondered what tells animals to migrate, makes them look at each other one day and say, “Let’s go.” Maybe one of you can tell me, but my best guess right now is the light.

The golden light came early this year, in the first week of August. I’d been noticing the Canada geese, more than the usual resident flocks, for about a week. And it was the signal for me, too, to pack up and head home.

As I drove on the first afternoon and evening, every time I passed standing water or green fields, there they were - the geese. We parted ways when I hit the interstate, but I wish you happy journey, traveling companions.

I can’t possibly do justice to the beauty of the Oregon and Nevada high desert as I drove east and south into the night. From just past Lakeview to Denio I saw just five other cars, none of them in my lane. I lost light after Denio; normally that wouldn’t faze me but the road passed through open range and prime elk habitat. I was hesitant to proceed at my usual driving speed because I prefer to see the giant hairy beasts ahead of time. As it was, during one twenty-mile stretch I felt like I was in the old video game “Frogger” as numerous jackrabbits (I stopped counting at 15) shot across the two lanes.

So I’m just going to write a few impressions.

  • No matter how hot it is, you need to let the air in or you’ll miss the smells. The air was heavy with silvery sage, which mingled with the bunch of fresh lavender I cut right before I left the house. Then, as I rounded one corner, I was hit with the sweetest aroma of fresh-cut green hay.

  • When I drove through in June, the land still had a blush of green. Now that blush has aged to silver. I never knew that drought had different colors in different biomes.

  • You might forget that the mountain beauty we enjoy is the result of powerful natural forces, but you’ll remember when you round a corner in the green forest and see a big swath of black volcanic tumble from the land’s formation.

  • Even when there is no hope of rain, the mountains always draw clouds at sunset. Sometimes rain falls in wispy curtains at the higher elevations, never reaching the ground. I saw a small, steel gray cloud formation, but the setting sun painted the curtain rain a vivid pink. Stunning.

  • The drive westward down Doherty Rim is beautiful and might frighten some. The drive eastward and up, when you are on the outside and there are no guard rails whatsoever, is just terrifying. Period. That’s a shame. I so wanted to take my eyes off the road but if I had I would not be writing this tonight. Scariest two miles in America, I think.

  • Wild burros do not hesitate to graze right up to the edge of the road. A ripe burro corpse is not pretty.

  • The streams that were giddy in early June, tumbling the snow melt down the mountains, are now summer slow and languid and low. Giant boulders, invisible in spring, sit exposed and warm in the sun.

  • I will be forever grateful for the experience of driving through a canyon with the sun directly behind me, shining my way through, lighting the stream a brilliant blue in the foreground and torching the aspens bright green as I passed.

  • And, finally, if you find yourself alone in the high desert on a clear mountain night, no one near, no lights anywhere, no sounds to be heard, promise me you’ll pull over and stop your car. Turn off the lights. Get out. Lie back on the warm hood and stare up at stars. You’ll never use the word “awesome” lightly again.

The lyrics in the title are, of course, by James Taylor. The photo is by me, taken from the top of Doherty Rim just after I'd driven up the Death Cliff.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Life is Not a Box of Tampons

An Aggie (those of you not from Texas may insert an individual from any group you care to disparage in this spot) was home for spring break and went out with a bunch of his friends who attended other colleges. Only the Aggie was of age, so the gang sent him into a convenience store to buy beer. A few minutes later, he came out with a brown paper bag and tossed it into the back seat. One the boys, from a school with a far better reputation, scoffed, "What the Fuck! These are tampons! Why the hell did you buy these? You're such a douche bag."

The Aggie replied, "Dude, read the box! Who needs beer? With these you can hike, bike, swim, ski, dance, even go on a date with complete confidence! We're going to have the best night ever!"

As I was trying to find sleep a couple of nights ago, wondering where the summer had gone, cursing the fact that I hadn't done a fraction of the hiking, biking, swimming and such I'd planned to do during my months in Oregon, I was forced to face cruel reality.

More often than not, life out here is like life back there, but with better scenery.

Expectations are dangerous things, I remind myself for the bazillionth time. Best to handle them rarely, and then with care.

I hit the road tomorrow for The Great Trek East. I'm letting go of my itinerary after the first day, and I'm going to let my body and my mood set my pace.

Those of you who know me, stop laughing right now. I will relinquish control. I will. Right after another stay at the Hotel Monaco! If I were to spontaneously arrive there and find it full...shudder. I might end up at Little America or something.

Next stop, the high desert.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Two Quick Things

1. Does anyone know a good way to get the skunk smell off my dog?

2. For some reason, I found the following news item from my public radio station hilarious.

JPR Interrupted by Bear in Siskiyou and Shasta Counties

JPR’s Classics & News and Rhythm & News Service in Shasta County and much of Siskiyou County was interrupted Monday, July 23rd, with a power outage at our transmitter site on Mt. BradleyDunsmuir). (near

We suspected the power line was accidentally severed by a logging operation. Our engineers tracked down the break and it turns out to have been a bear that managed to break the power line. Our engineers are repairing the line at this moment (3pm, Tuesday). We should have the power and radio signal restored by the end of the day.

Thanks for your patience.

Partly Cloudy

Over the last few weeks, several of my friends have written of illnesses or deaths in their families. I received word just this week of a friend's unexpected death. His name was Jim Knowlton. Friends and colleagues put together a wonderful tribute book. If you knew Jim, do take a look; it will replace your sadness with a poignant joy.