car camping and hillbilly harrasment

In an effort to escape the bustle of city life, a couple friends and I decided to take a trip to Central Oregon for some camping fun. Bobby, on medical leave recovering from a tonsillectomy and eager to make the most of his time off, orchestrated the trip from his death bed while subsisting on jello and chicken broth. As his energy was sorely lacking, and medication-induced nausea restricting his activity, the planning involved was minimal. The plan was simple, though: drive to the middle of Oregon and find a secluded lake somewhere. Easy enough.

Bobby, Nate and I set off for the high desert mountains of Central Oregon on a Sunday. After picking up camping essentials (beef jerky, beer, and a hatchet) at Fred Meyer, we headed east. After four hours of driving, we discovered the plan wasn't as easy as imagined. While driving an unpaved forest service road in an attempt to find a spot off the beaten path, we found that access to our desired body of water was restricted (posted signs stated that there was no camping allowed near the river). D'oh! Oh well, we decided to pick another road to go down and another blue spot on the map. While driving on the new road, we came upon some locals (yokels) who had just flipped their pickup while enjoying some self-described "Friday night fun" (for those not paying attention, it was Sunday when this happened). When we stopped to help, asking what happened, the driver of the vehicle stated that it was just a "typical Friday night thing." Uh, okay...whatever that means. So, we helped them push the pickup back on its tires and carried along on our merry way (hearing banjo music as we drove away).

After driving through some crowded recreation areas, including "America's finest family campground," we finally found a lake worthy of camping at. The campground wasn't ideal, as it was a typical family style campground with tents all clustered around a port-a-potty, but it allowed us to cool off in the lake while also taking a break from the driving. We decided to camp there for the night and find a better spot the next day. After taking a dip in the lake, we went to work on a campfire. While Bobby and I gathered twigs and fallen tree branches, Nate broke out his new hatchet and went to town on some logs. Within a minute, he developed a blister that fooled us all into thinking he had stigmata. Lucky for Nate, Bobby was able to stuff an entire ER into a first aid bag. Bobby quickly patched him up and we returned to the fire making. After drinking some beers around the fire and cooking some hot dogs, we called it a night.

The next day brought us a couple hours west, out of the high desert and back into the forested Cascades. This time, instead of staying at a campground, we decided to pull off of a forest service road and find a clearing where we could set up some tents. Bobby found a spot nestled in the trees, sitting right next to a creek. It was a perfect spot. However, after setting up our tents and scouring the area for fire wood, we realized that other people had been frequenting the site. The evidence was pretty clear, as the place was littered with bullet shells, a makeshift table built to a tree (clearly used by hillbillies to place their guns on and skin their kill), and carved lodge poles (presumably part of a yet to built booby trap). I'll admit that I have an irrational fear of hillbilly rednecks, so my mind may have been wandering a bit. Despite the fact, I couldn't help but to think how many city folk had previously "disappeared" just after stumbling upon this encampment. Being the manly man that I am, though, I didn't voice my concern to Bobby or Nate. Instead, we followed the same routine of the previous night, building a fire and drinking beer. There was one twist, though. While getting in touch with his inner mountain man, and desiring a side dish for our hot dogs, Nate decided to go spear fishing. With a sharply whittled tree branch, Nate took to the creek and went hunting for some fresh trout. While nothing was caught, it was testament to the fact that when taken from the civilized world, humans can indeed get by with sheer will and a bit of ingenuity. Plus it was comical to watch.

As the night wound down, and the fire waned, we decided to call it a night. While laying in my tent, trying to identify all the noises in the woods, I was startled by a huge thump on Bobby's tent behind me. After waiting quietly for some secondary noise (perhaps some reaction from Bobby or an animal rustling in the woods), I yelled to Bobby asking what that noise was. For fear of contemplating the real source of the loud thud, Bobby simply said he thought a pine cone fell on his tent. While outwardly agreeing with his reasoning, secretly inside I feared the worst: the hillbillies finally came to reclaim their hunting grounds. Shit! Yeah, maybe it was a pine cone, but surely it didn't fall from a tree...it had to have been thrown by crazed rednecks hiding in the forest. Or worse yet, the Blair witch was coming to take one of us back to her creepy mountain hideout. Luckily for me, thinking about all the possibilities was like counting sheep, and I quickly worried myself to sleep. I safely awoke in the morning with all my limbs intact.

Unfortunately, I also awoke to rain. We decided to break down camp and hit the road for some fresh morning coffee. Soon we were back in Portland. Tired, dirty, and eager to sit on a toilet (although I must admit the sense of liberation after squatting in the woods), we headed our separate ways.


Return to the City of Roses

Well, I made it back from the new country of Alaska (it recently seceded from the Canadian Empire) mostly intact but a little off my rocker...the constant sunlight (leading to sleep deprivation), lack of vegetables/fruit (leading to scurvy), and constant fear of bear/Eskimo attacks (leading to permanently soiled under-garments) took a toll on my mental soundness, which is why I've been back in town now for two weeks and haven't been able to muster up anything of worth to share with you all. Mostly I've been re-energizing my soul, soaking up the Portland Life.

A quick update of my recent activities:
-Within hours of arriving in the Stump, I set out for my favorite local cheapo movie theater, the Laurelhurst, where I proceeded to watch a ridiculous number of films to escape the heat, re-acclimate to city life, and catch up on my beer intake. If you like geeky Russian fantasy films with low-budget weapons like flash lights, chalk, and chocolate oranges tied to rubber bands, then I whole-heartedly recommend Daywatch. I'm a sucker for that shit. Paprika was a gorgeously animated, ummm, anime...featuring a typically baffling "plot" and disgustingly obnoxious characters...again, one of my favorite genres. The Namesake was a really enjoyable film featuring the under-rated Kal Penn...a solid bit of acting and a welcome relief from the "summer blockbuster." Speaking of Spider Man 3, it sucked.
-Kes and I have decided to move from our current apartment and upgrade a bit now that she's got a teaching position. Gooooodbye shag rug carpet, oh how I hate you enemy of mine!
-The Bonfire Lounge on SE Stark and 28th has the best burgers in town, a fitting end to my flirting with vegetarianism. For those curious in going meatless, the loss of bacon is a pain worse than death. Don't go there.
-Kes and I started a potted garden on our balcony, featuring oregano, basil, two types of chilies (including Hungarian paprika as an homage to my heritage), tomatoes, mint, cilantro, and garlic chives. Whenever Kes gets the kid bug, I divert the coming debate with things she can fulfill her nesting desires with...i.e. the plants and the cat. What a dick.
-Checked out the new Museum of Contemporary Craft, which was, as I'm sure you've already guessed, an absolute BLAST. Actually, it wasn't nearly as painful as I had thought it would be and I will be sure to take artsy-oriented relatives there in the future mainly because it's also free.
-Kes and I played migrant worker for a few hours picking berries at a local organic farm on Sauvie Island...dirt cheap and delicious, we nabbed damn near twenty pounds of marionberries, raspberries, and blackberries to store in our freezer for a year's worth of smoothies...and smooth morning bowel symphonies.
-Went to the annual PDX Pop Now! preview concert outside of City Hall to see Little Sue (we were late and missed these folks), The Watery Graves (I thought they were interesting and fun, Kes wanted to donkey-punch the front man and keyboardist), and Old Time Relijun (good ol' rock'n'roll, but the lead singer is fucking annoying and I don't give a shit if half the hipsters in Portland now want to cry all over me for that). I'll have a full post on the actual music festival after it occurs near the end of next week.
-We went fucking nuts at the Sullivan's Gulch neighborhood garage sale bonanza, biking back and forth between a score of separate sellers...picked up an old wooden TNT box, a popcorn maker/fire starter from the early 80's, and a gigantic wooden pirates booty chest that doubles as a coffee table and a rental unit for midgets (I'm only charging $80 bucks w/ free cable...pass the word 'round). I also picked up an ancient Smith Corona Silent Super typewriter, in the hopes that it'll re-ignite the desire to bang out poems and finally finish Kes and I's road trip journal from our travels in 2005. Kes thinks this new possession officially makes me a hipster. She just doesn't know.
-Today we had amazing pho and bahn mi at the Binh Minh restaurant (NE 68th and Broadway), right next door to the Pacific Market where we purchased a hundred bucks worth of crazy candy, anxiety-inducing salty soups, dried squidbits, "mock-beef jerky", and unknown gelatinous ooze nuggets...this is my new favorite place to stock up on kitchen essentials.
-We also recently threw a bit of a party/fish-fry with our freshly caught Alaskan halibut and taco fixings...We were eating the flanks of one of these fuckers my Pops and I are holding below (right after this picture was taken, the gaff hook slipped out and impaled my Dad's quadricep):

I'll have more Alaska photos to share in a future post.
-Breaking news: Being fat is contagious, so be careful who you shake hands with...peep the study here.


Mt. Tum Tum

A couple weeks ago, the town of Amboy, WA played host to the annual Mt. Tum Tum Encampment. While visiting my folks, I was able to visit the event, which gives local (and not so local) Native Americans an opportunity to gather for a weekend of sharing cultural traditions, music making, ceremonial dancing, catching up with old friends, and craft making.

The event was originally put together by the Blue Clan, a small group of Cherokee descendants who now make their home in the Pacific Northwest. The weekend-long encampment allows participants to promote and keep alive long standing Native traditions, such as dances, crafts, dress (regalia), and even food. While no schedule exists, the event centers around a group of drummers who create an outdoor venue for grass dancing, green corn dancing, snake dancing, and others. Many wear traditional regalia intact with various bird feathers, ribbon shirts, intricately designed shawls, and other animal themed dress.

Meanwhile, vendors set up along the perimeter of the grounds to sell Native jewelry, clothes (I bought a shirt with a picture of four chiefs with the caption, "Homeland Security: Defending Terrorism Since 1492), drums, masks, flutes, and incenses. The climax of the 3 day event is a ceremonial dance by a group of Aztecs who come from Southern California and Mexico. They perform their dance at midnight under a full moon, led by a man with a full eagle-headed head dress, capped with 2-foot long feathers. Part of their dance was to commemorate the passing of a local elder's (Geronimo) wife a year ago. Geronimo (left) has been an active participant at the encampment for over 10 years, once as a dancer and craft-seller, now more as a story teller and mingler.

Our friend, Blackhawk (part of the Blue Clan), had a booth at the encampment in which she sold handmade drums, masks, and books written by my step dad, Sleeping Crow (you can find his book online at http://sleepingcrow.wordpress.com/). Although only a yearly event, the Tum Tum Encampment plays a huge part in keeping Native traditions alive in the Northwest. It was a great experience to witness a way of life that has persevered for thousands of years.


Port Alexander Blues

I got word from a resident of Port Alexander, Alaska, today, saying that they received communication from Old and Kesia. They were instructed to contact me via Morse code, relaying the details of their adventures in the wild bush. Some of the story may be lost in translation, as their account was first transmitted through smoke signal, and fortunately noticed by an employee of the Laughing Raven Lodge who saw the puffs of smoke rising from a secluded inland valley. What was initially a call for help, Old's pyro-maniac tendencies, coupled with his wizardly knack for story telling, turned into a game of "how big can I make this fire while also telling nearby people that I'm lost." Naturally, Old and his gigantic fire went beyond a simple SOS, and on to a full story-telling tirade.

Here is what the Laughing Raven employee understood from the smoke signal:

Old and Kes were on a walk to a neighboring town to buy liquor, as Port Alexander does not allow alcohol to be sold within its town limits. As they walked the main road (a boardwalk...there are no cars on the island), hunting small rodents along the way, they accidentally took a wrong turn due to their inability to read the signs printed in some weird Russo-Canadian dialect. They ended up walking down the southern part of Baranof Island toward Ketchikan. While walking the boarded path, they approached the town of Kake, realizing they had walked in the wrong direction. Not to be discouraged, they found a liquor store and made their purchase. Old and Kes, being the savvy outdoors people they are, figured it would be easy enough to just retrace their steps back to Port Alexander.

As they made their way back through the woods, they snuck upon a Grizzly bear that was in the process of making a butt-plug for the approaching winter hibernation (it's Alaska, doesn't winter start early? And yes, bears need a plug to ensure they don't crap themselves while sleeping for months). Embarrassed by being caught in the butt-plug making act, the Grizzly stood on its back two legs and made threatening gestures at Old and Kes. Not willing to be eaten, chewed up, and used to clog the bear's anoos, Old and Kes ran for dear life. Unfortunately they had to leave the boardwalk and run through the trees and muskeg. This is where their trip went awry.

Lost deep in the Alaskan bush, the two were left with little idea of how to get back to the road, let alone Port Alexander. When they saw a peak in the distance, they thought it would be a good idea to walk in that direction. This would allow them to climb to a high vantage point and scout the terrain. However, when they got to the base of the peak, they noticed it was not suitable for climbing. This did not discourage them, though, because they discovered a snow-covered tunnel which, in true Mario Brothers fashion, they thought would warp them to the other side of the peak and closer to their destination (panic and dehydration do funny things to the mind). Unfortunately, the glacial warp hole at the base of the peak did not lead to Port Alexander. In fact it led to a desolate valley which left them to wonder if they'd ever survive.

Luckily, when on the other side of the peak, there was an abundance of dry wood and flammable brush. This quickly chippered Old's mood, as he soon had visions of wild flames and burning logs. Aside from being lost, the only thing that disappointed Old was that he didn't have his fireworks (a mainstay of his, especially in July). To make a long story short, Old quickly went to work, building a pyramid of wood shavings and dry brush at the bottom, with sticks of wood and small logs on top. He took out the 20 year old lighter that his dad (also a pyro) gave him a few years back, lit the kindling, and watched the fire develop into a full blown roar. In Old's excitement, he nearly forgot about the predicament he and Kes were in. Kesia wasted no time to remind him. She suggested he start making smoke signals to alert someone that they were lost. This is when the employee of Laughing Raven Lodge saw the smoke and told the local search and rescue team, David Wallen (Kesia's dad, mayor, local fix-it man, water district technician, and fish monger) and his friend Joe.

It did not take long for a helicopter to find and rescue Old and Kes, though it took a while to pry Old from his fire. As you can see from the picture on the left, they made themselves quite comfortable in the valley with their fire, bottle of liquor, and hunting rifle. When the two were back in Port Alexander, the townspeople who read the smoke signals were quick to ask about the butt plugs and warp holes. They were amazed at such a story, as I am myself. It was enough to make Old and Kes look forward to their return to civilization. In fact, they pushed their return date to Portland up by two weeks. They'll be back in the Stump July 12, so you can hear all about their adventures then.