Days 5-6: Bend and Smith Rock State Park

http://bengarland.com/2014/08/days-5-6-bend-smith-rock-state-park/

http://bengarland.com/?p=848

August 8-9, 2014

Although I’ve been a bit frustrated at times by not knowing where I’m going to sleep some nights — full campgrounds, no replies from couchsurfing hosts — it’s worked out for the best.

I finally broke down on Friday night and looked on AirBNB and found a really interesting guy named Kevin who had a space, but the price was $56 which is over my budget. So I emailed him privately and we settled on $40 cash. Then he ended up feeding me beer, dinner, and breakfast and was just an all around great person (he’s a raft guide on the rivers in central Oregon).

Earlier in the day, I got some super tasty fish tacos at Parrilla Grill and asked the girl in line in front of me what I should do while I’m in Bend. She recommended camping and kayaking at Sparks Lake. But when I met Kevin, he suggested going to Smith Rock instead since it was more on my route to Portland. I arrived shortly after lunch time on Saturday I found $5 dispersed camping (which means no goddamn RVs) and free showers. Score.

I spent 7 hours hiking around Smith Rock… I think I did almost every trail there. It was incredible. Here’s the proof — in chronological order. I’ll save Sparks Lake for next time.

View from campground
[photo] View from a few feet away from my tent

 

Selfie from up the trail
[photo] Halfway up (selfie)

 

View from summit
[photo] At the summit

 

Selfie at sunset
[photo] Happy at sunset

 

Sunset across the valley
[photo] The sun sets across the valley

 

Silhouette rocks
[photo] Cliff silhouette

Day 3: The Prius and The Pope

http://bengarland.com/2014/08/day-3-the-prius-and-the-pope/

http://bengarland.com/?p=835

There aren’t very many Bens in my life.

Right now, there’s only one. I met him in early 2011 shortly after I moved to Sonoma County. At the time I was looking for a new living situation and stumbled across a Craigslist ad for an open room in a 5-bedroom house in Rohnert Park. They had been looking for someone for a month and after coming over for a beer, I moved in. My room was right next to Ben’s.

Ben and I didn’t see each other much. He was in school at the time and also works as an EMT and firefighter. But he struck me as a dependable, honest guy, who was always up for an adventure. One day in late 2011, he showed me video of a trip he did on the Yuba river. It looked incredible. I said “Man, Ben. We have to do that together one day.”

A couple months ago as I was planning my last remaining weeks in California, I sent Ben an email and asked him for more details about where he went on the Yuba river 3 years ago. He replied right away and we made a plan. The river trip with Ben would be the last thing I would do before I left California.

Unfortunately, a week ago he was called away for a job emergency at the last minute. Said he had to go north and didn’t know when he’d return. That’s how I ended up at Lassen National Park instead of the Yuba River.

—–

August 6, 2014

The first thing I heard was the sound of a really loud airplane flying overhead. Not a jet but rather the kind of prop plane that you see landing on lakes in the movies. For a moment I seriously thought that someone was landing a few feet away from my tent until it started to fade away in the distance. It was already 7am. I packed up quickly and headed down the mountain, stopping at Sulphur Works on the way back to my car. I had to get moving if I was going to reach Crater Lake by mid afternoon.

I stopped at the Lassen visitor center to check out and ran into Walt again. We chatted about my night at Ridge Lakes and I told him I was going to Crater Lake next. He showed me a map and told me that the most direct route was closed due to fire. I’d have to go to I-5 at Red Bluff, follow it north to Weed, and take Hwy 97 from there. It’d take an extra hour or so. No big deal.

The Prius was close to running out of gas when I got to the Interstate, so I stopped for a fill up. When I turned it back on, a huge red exclamation point lit up on the dash and the car started beeping at me. I googled the problem and found out it had a Hybrid System Failure. Shit. I turned it off and on 4 times to clear the error code and it seemed okay, but I needed to take it to the Toyota dealership 30 miles north to get it checked out, otherwise I risked getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Thankfully, Toyota was able to squeeze me in. Unfortunately, it still took over 2 hours to get an answer which was “There was apparently a problem with the Main Relay, but the technician who diagnosed it already left so we can’t give you any more details”. That’ll be $130, please. It also meant that it was too late in the day to make it to Crater Lake. I tried to find someone on Couchsurfing to host me at the last minute in Klamath Falls (close to Crater Lake), but nobody had replied by the time I left the dealership. What the hell, I’ll find a spot to camp on the side of the road somewhere between here and there.

Around 6:30pm I took the exit for Weed to get on Highway 97 to Oregon. I got stuck at a really long red light in town and noticed several firetrucks parked on the side of the road. One of them said “Rancho Adobe” on the door. My immediate thought was “Huh, that’s weird that the fire department up here has the same name as the one in Penngrove”. Then I looked at the next one and it said Santa Rosa. Another one said Windsor. All towns in Sonoma County.

I pulled over and sent a text to my friend Pope and asked him what was going on. He said he was down the road eating dinner. It was getting late so we made plans to meet up for coffee at 5:00 in the morning. I drove outside of town and found a public recreation area next to Lake Shastina, thinking I could find a spot to stealth camp. Fortunately I found a real — and free — campground.

It was still dark outside when I got up, broke down camp, and drove back to Weed. Pope told me to find the “coffee hut” next to the Quality Inn. He’d meet me there to say hello before he went to work fighting the fires.

And that’s how I ended up with this photo of me and Pope. Ben Pope.

Strange but true = story of my life.


Me and Ben Pope at the Coffee Hut
Me and Ben Pope at the Coffee Hut

Day 2: Another One Bites The Dust

http://bengarland.com/2014/08/day-2-another-one-bites-the-dust/

http://bengarland.com/?p=807

August 5, 2014

On the way from Wilton to Lassen, I noticed that my route would take me through Oroville. My friend Phuong works at the local NRCS office there. I first heard about her when I was in Stockton. An engineer told me that she was the latest victim of the Petaluma office (there are many of us now). It was kind of a bad running joke. By the time I transferred there 6 months later, she was already gone, but we eventually met at some job trainings.

I sent her a text and she replied that we should go to lunch.

The office was located on a lonely stretch of road in the middle of nowhere next to an Airport Business Park and had a faded USDA government sign out front. I walked in the front door, found Phuong, and said hello to Rachel who I also know. Before the three of us could get out the door for lunch, Phuong told me that she also is quitting NRCS! I can only hope this is a trend. I wonder who’s next?

Me and Phuong outside NRCS Oroville office
Me and Phuong outside NRCS Oroville office

—–

Driving into Lassen was so scenic. Perfect tall conifers dotted the landscape. A huge stone entrance welcomed me to the park. At the visitor center I inquired about camping and an older guy named Walt assumed that I meant backcountry camping. I must really look like I don’t like camping next to RVs and families (it’s true). He hooked me up with a free permit and showed me a map, suggesting different sites to go to. I chose Ridge Lakes.

The trailhead to Ridge Lakes was at Sulphur Works, one of the places in Lassen where you can see boiling mud. At the time I was too preoccupied to go look at bubbles — I had to figure out how I was going to haul my gear up the mountain to the lake. I didn’t bring a hiking backpack with me, nor any lightweight tent or sleeping gear. Everything I had was huge: a 2-person tent, a full size air mattress (with pump), a large sleeping bag, and regular pillows. I basically thought that all of my camping would be near my car, not 1 mile away up 300+ feet of elevation.

So hmm. Stuff the air mattress and an MRE in the backpack. Strap the tent precariously to the bottom. Clip the pump to the side. Carry my sleeping bag in my left hand, hiking pole in my right. And remember 30 minutes later that I totally forgot my pillow. This was going to be an interesting hike.

The trail was beautiful though. Deer and chipmunks looked at me curiously but didn’t run away. I passed two hikers on their way down. And at the top I saw that I had the entire place to myself. I set the tent up and made dinner — as much as you can make “Roast Beef Stew” with an MRE. About an hour later, just as the sun was setting, it started to rain fairly hard. I had set the tent up under a small grove of trees, but decided that I should throw the rain fly on just in case.

I spent the next couple hours writing in my journal and listening to two episodes of the Radiolab podcast [Galapagos and 9-Volt Nirvana]. As I pulled out my sleeping bag I realized that my other much smaller sleeping bag was inside it (who knows why), so now I had a pillow! It wasn’t the most comfortable night’s sleep, but it was peaceful.

Day 1: Saying Goodbye To Say Hello Again

http://bengarland.com/2014/08/day-1-saying-goodbye-to-say-hello-again/

http://bengarland.com/?p=805

In early 2010, I had just finished grad school, broke up with a girl I’d been dating for 3 years, and moved to Stockton, CA to start a job with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Everyone at my future job told me that I should not move to Stockton and instead move to Lodi — two years prior, Fortune magazine had rated Stockton America’s Most Miserable City and it was known for high crime and gang activity. I was undeterred.

One potential snag was that I didn’t know anyone there. So I did what any nerd would do and I got on the OK Cupid dating website, found someone with a high match score, sent them a message, and made my first and only friend in Stockton. The job eventually transferred to Petaluma where I made many more friends and put down roots. I thought I’d be there for a long, long time. Four and a half years later, I quit that job, said goodbye to all those friends, and started this trip across the U.S. and Canada.

I’m not sure what happens next, but this is where the story starts.

—–

August 4th, 2014.

The alarm was set for 6am but I woke up 15 minutes earlier. Karen was snoring. I carefully slinked out of bed, closed the bathroom door, and turned the shower on. 90 minutes later, I had packed my car, fixed a couple things around the house, and gave Karen a big hug goodbye. It was all so bittersweet in a way that I find difficult to put into words. I’m going to miss the comfort and dependability that she brings to my life.

There were a few incidental things to take care of before I left Sonoma County. A yellow fever and meningitis vaccine in Sonoma (the town), which took way longer than it should have, and breakfast at the Sunflower Caffe on the square (highly recommended — go eat in their back garden). But finally, around 10am, I got in my Prius, and glanced in the rearview mirror. Everything I’d need for the next 3 months was crammed behind me with just enough headroom to see out the back window. I reached over to the cup holder, picked up my iPhone, and dialed in my internet radio. It came alive with Soul Killing by the Ting Tings. Perfect.

Full tank of gas. Radar detector on. Deep breath.

First destination? Wilton, CA.

—–

Traffic on Interstate 80 East wasn’t too bad considering it was Monday morning. I picked up my iPhone and dictated “Text Jesslynn. Tried to call. I’ll be there around 12 or 12:15 :)” We hadn’t seen one another in almost 3 years and had a lot of catching up to do. The radar detector was silent so I pushed it up to 80.

At noon, I pulled up to a huge horse ranch and parked at the end of a long driveway. I found Jesslynn by the stables, standing next to two horses, her back to me, with long reddish brown hair flowing down past her shoulders. I walked up and said “Wow, those sure are pretty horses”. She turned around, gave me a hug, handed me a rope, and said “Take this, and help me lead these horses to the pastures”. Her little black-and-white pomeranian Piranha was there too, yapping at the horses, and running circles around everything.

Wilton is a small town but there’s at least one good bar. We had a beer there and decided to drive to Sacramento for more. The afternoon passed us by quickly: lunch at Plum Cafe, beer and insane duck fat spicy cheesy fries at Lowbrau, and a stop at the feed store on the way back. Jesslynn needed to clean out the horse stalls before the sun went down, so I offered to help but I had no clue what to do. “Well, the wet spots are pee. You scoop all those dark shavings out. The other stuff is poop, which you rake up. It all goes in the cart.” she said somewhat sarcastically. I always did like that about her.

Just before sunset we drove to the local ball field to meet up with her boyfriend Scott. We decided on tacos for dinner, then realized the taqueria closed in 5 minutes. After mulling over other options we went inside anyway and asked if we could order something. The woman yelled to the kitchen “Qué tenemos para los tacos?” Our only choice was carnitas or carne asada. No problema.

Scott handed me a Coors light and we took our tacos out on the deck at Jesslynn’s house. The first thought that went through my head was “This is the second Coors light I’ve had today. Is it the second one I’ve ever had? Hmm.” followed shortly by “My dad used to drink this when I was a kid. Eww?”. The three of us chatted while stuffing our faces, I accidentally dropped a couple of pieces for Piranha, and then I crashed on the couch. It was a long day.



Me and Jesslyn at her local bar

—–

As I drifted off to sleep I reflected on things Jesslynn and I had talked about during the day. How she made so many sacrifices to start her equestrian business and she’s now doing what she loves. I’m proud of her for following her dreams. I wondered why we had gone so long without seeing one another when we were only 2 hours apart. I felt a little bit like a bad friend considering all that she had done for me when we first met.

I remember that day clearly. It’s hard to forget.

She had sent me some photos via email, helping me find a new place to live when I was too busy to do so myself. A couple weeks later, I parked my car in front of her dad’s house and took her out to dinner. A friend invited her to a house party. We thought it’d be fun to stop by for a bit but we ended up there all night and crashed on the couch.

Around 6am her dad calls.

“Does your friend have a red Prius with Georgia plates on it?”

Jesslynn grabs my arm.

“Yeah I think so.”

“The window was broken and it looks like some things were stolen.”

Fuck. Welcome to Stockton.

Test Post

http://bengarland.com/2014/07/test-post-2/

http://bengarland.com/?p=797

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Test Post

http://bengarland.com/2014/07/test-post/

http://bengarland.com/?p=791

This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test.

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Email Test

http://bengarland.com/2014/07/email-test/

http://bengarland.com/?p=787

This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test. This is just a test.