Mile 2640. Pete drops me off back at the fifth wheel where we started, with plenty of time left for him to join Jess in Denver for a family dinner. For me the physical travel is done. Pete will get on a plane tomorrow and fly back to Chicago. It seems like we have covered many miles on the planet, but many more in our minds, which are still traveling. The results of these travels, and the ultimate meaning of our Pacific Crest Trail pacts, remains to be seen. Much more will be revealed when Pete finishes the book he’s creating for his MFA…
Sun, 12 Nov 2006
Mile 2518. Back on I-80 in Wyoming, Pete tells me about the Snow-Chi-Minh trail. The story is that the Elk Mountain section of I-80 is so bad in the snow that a detour up to Rock River and back south to Laramie is often a better alternative. We laugh as though this is a ridiculous idea. Near Elk Mountain Storm #5 hits us. There are jackknifed trucks and cars piling up in the divider ditch. Rescue vehicles plow through the snow with sirens screaming. The Snow-Chi-Minh trail would probably have served us well.
Mile 2199. Our momentum carries us past Twin Falls, where Pete has friends willing to put us up for the night. He tells them we’re merely following Bergman driving rules, “…when you’ve hit your groove, for God’s sake don’t stop…”. In Ogden another blizzard hits, reducing visibility to near zero. We pull off, thinking we might be done for the night, but the downfall lightens up and we make it to a real rest stop for a final sleep in the Malibu.
Sat, 11 Nov 2006
Mile 1865. On twenty minutes’ notice Ann’s parents, Bob & Carol Fish, welcome us into their home in Nampa, Idaho for dinner. Bob is in the middle of painting the kitchen, which he continues as the rest of us enjoy stir-fried veggies, African bean soup, and rice. We pass along hugs from Ann, talk a bit about our trip so far, and hit the road again feeling refreshed.
Mile 1636. We’re impressed with size and variety of the landscapes of central Oregon. Volcanic features are definitely the main theme, but forests and pastures also abound. There are several passes to surmount, one of which features a SNOW ZONE sign that, true to its word, marks the boundary of a blizzard. There are many features on the far side named after John Day, a name I’ve never heard, including these fossil beds and a small town. Temperatures remain cold, and it’s often windy.
Mile 1523. Both the road and the sky have cleared by the time we reach Bend, raising our hopes. In Redmond we stop at a grocery store for bagels, cream cheese, chips, and salsa. Munching on these we get on the road to Madras. Topping the final hill we see one kind of dark cloud over the valley on the other side. As we reach the Madras airport, a light rain starts falling. Word at the skydiving outfit is that no pilots will be flying today. We hang around taking pictures and digesting the news, hoping for some kind of alternative, but there is none but the open road.
After a cold night, dawn finds us encased in ice. Thankfully the Malibu came with a scraper. The sky looks like it could clear up, but we don’t know if that will be enough to get us into the air later. We get underway, and haven’t gone 2 miles before a stranded motorist flags us down. Having run out of gas, he spent the night in a T-shirt and unlined leather jacket. We take him back to the junction where he waits in the cafe for the gas station to open. There are a lot of cars in the ditch this morning, and the going is slow as we make our way north.
Fri, 10 Nov 2006
Mile 1403. We find a couple of trucks to lead the way, and proceed around Crater Lake and over the crest at a snail’s pace as the snow piles up. Just when fatigue is demanding we stop, the snowpack lightens and signs for highway 97 appear. At the first side road I pull off and we climb into the sleeping bags, wondering what the morning holds in store for us. Is skydiving in Madras a possibility after this kind of weather at Crater Lake?
Mile 1362. We cook our dinner on the patio of a gracious bakery and cafe in Medford. We’ve found that “welcome” and “information” centers in this part of Oregon don’t supply picnic tables. Heading out of Medford it starts to rain. As we ascend the Rogue River toward Crater Lake, the rain turns to snow. We turn off to spend the night at Crater Lake, but the snow begins to stick, right where the SNOW ZONE sign says it will. We double back, determined to make it over the Cascades before they’re completely snowbound.
Mile 1281. We race through the high forests of southern Oregon to reach our destination with enough light left for some pictures. The orange and yellow live oaks in the Siskiyou valley are stunning, but we don’t stop for photos this time. At the Mount Ashland ski area reality hits us: the forest road that leads to the terminus of our 1996 hike is not open in the winter. We check that the gate is locked, just to be sure. Pete dons the extremely groovy suit he bought for the trip anyway, and we get what pictures we can in fading light and freezing temperatures, all under the distant gaze of Mount Shasta. It would have dark by the time we made it to our destination even if the road were open.