finding peace in the desert

it was so hard to figure out where i wanted to go on my vacation. so many options. i wanted to see some people and also experience so many different wilderness spots that to fit as much in without feeling rushed or unable to be present with the people and places i would be able to see…well it was a tough decision.

luckily one of the people i was hoping to catch up with had limited availability before they left for their own amazing adventure, so a direction was chosen. i headed off to bend to meet them for some beers and dinner.

i should back up just a bit. because i work in customer service, i usually try to make my vacations after labor day. but some of the places i wanted to go are in the direct route of folks returning from burning man (many hot springs are often closed due to e-coli outbreaks after burners stop by on their way back from their weekend at burning man), i made some strategic moves and decided to go to some places that i was sure they would not hit (i also received wonderful advice from a friend who spends a great amount of time in the desert hot springs and i have enormous amounts of gratitude for their sharing of info). so i skipped summer lake, bagby, paulina, and cougar hot springs, and decided on a couple a little more remote…so worth it! not a single burner at any of the places i went once i got past bend.

the journey over mt. hood and into the desert was beautiful. the portland morning was cool and cloudy, so the blue skies and warm sun on the other side of the pass was a wonderful welcome. i pulled over at a little spot by the deschutes river before i entered bend. it was refreshing to splash in this beautiful river for a minute before going back into a city.

i arrived at our meeting place a little early and was able to have a moment to relax into being away from portland, work, and some other stressors. we had a nice visit, drove into sisters,  picked up some more conversation inspirational snacks and stayed up late talking.

the morning arrived and i headed out after a stop for an amazing brunch back in bend, grabbed some growlers of exceptional beers from boneyard brewery and headed off to heart mountain. the drive was very cathartic. i was able to listen to some of my favorite tunes and sing (loudly) along. yet, the closer i got to heart mountain and the deeper i got into the desert, the more the sunshine penetrated my being, the more i felt the quiet and the peacefulness come over me….i turned off the music and podcasts and embraced the silence, well i actually embraced the way the air moved through the open windows of the car.

i set up camp, poured a cold beer and went for a walk. there were a number of people at the camp grounds, but no one seemed to really be heading to the hot springs. i was a little confused. as the evening turned to dusk, i walked over to the main hot springs, spotting a few antelope watching me as they grazed, and found out what everyone else was doing there.

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i met a guy from australia who was riding his motorcycle from canada to l.a. he was camping down where more people were (i chose the loner site kind of up on a hill where i could see what was happening around me…alone). he said that they were mostly hunters and that antelope season was starting in a couple of days (the day i was scheduled to leave). i am still baffled that here, an antelope refuge, there would be hunting….to control the population. i’m sorry, but i don’t understand why an agency would protect some wildlife so that they could be killed. anyway, soon i was alone in the spring and enjoyed a wonderful soak.

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the next day i went and had another soak to warm up a bit. the night had gotten fairly cold, especially since i didn’t put the fly on my tent so that i could watch the moon pass and the stars twinkle – one of the many reasons i enjoy my times in deserts. it got cold enough that the water in my water bottle froze, but i slept great in my warm sleeping bag.

after a soak and some breakfast, i headed out for a hike. i decided to follow the path that leads to the camp sites over the bridge. lots of campers and r.vs. and lots of american flags….right i’m in central oregon! anyway, i had a peaceful walk up to the top of a ridgeline where i had an amazing view of the landscape and saw some wonderful wildlife.

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there were views that could just as easily have been in the flint hills of kansas and it got me to thinking about how lush that land in kansas can be and how it has become more and more arid, looking more like this desert and less like farmland or tall grass prairie.

i ran into some of the hunters while i was out here walking. i had forgotten that the t-shirt i was wearing was from food fight with a bunch of lab animals attacking a guy that looks a great deal like a hunter.ha!  these men couldn’t believe i was out walking let alone walking alone. most of them were on 4-wheelers scoping out places to hunt the next day. one guy said it was good to see someone walking “you don’t see that much any more”.  if he only knew my plan! when i stopped to have a snack, i watched some eagles soaring overhead, some deer came down to graze, and antelope roaming around. when i looked down, i spotted an eagle feather by my shoe. i just stared at it for the longest time, not sure what would happen if i touched such a sacred item. turns out, i won’t spontaneously implode, but it was a spectacular feeling as i held it for just a second before putting it back right where i found it.

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my days here went like this: soaking, eating, walking, soaking…. until i could finally feel the city fall away from me as the desert dust entered every pore on my body and the water filled my cells. when i was finally able to pull myself away to begin the next segment of my trip, i could feel the silence vibrate threw me and i began to feel at peace….maybe that is why i was moved to tears so much on my way to meet my friends in enterprise, and again through out our hike. i was at peace for the first time in a very long time. this is why i love it out “here”.

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