Our original plan for the winter was to head to the coast of Oregon, but somewhere along the way, we had decided to go south to a spot near, sort of, Kingman, AZ. It is cheap to stay there. That was our main reason for choosing it. We also thought we’d be less distracted and more able to focus on some projects we were each wanting to do because, while the desert areas of New Mexico and Utah are magical places full of distractions for a hiker and with feasts for the eyes of a daydreamer, the deserts around the SW region of Arizona were not as much to the tastes of either one of us. Sure there would be some beautiful places nearby. We had read about them. But not near enough to make it easy to get to on a daily basis. But, shortly after we arrived in Zion, Gail had been looking at a map. On that map, the close(ish) proximity of the Oregon border became apparent. That started some musings in our minds, and some calculations as to the amount of time it would take to get to the coast of Oregon. Research on potential places to stay. Discussions of pros and cons of desert versus coastal Oregon in the winter. And a relatively quick conclusion that we were ready for a change of scenery and the coast of Oregon was back on the table for our winter sojourn. A phone call confirmed we would have a beautiful, non-parking lot, place to stay in Gold Beach, which then sealed the deal. We were going to Gold Beach, on the southern coast, west of the Coastal Range, north of the Redwoods, and central to sea stacks and the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.
But first, we were making our way to Vegas to see my brother and sister-in-law. I had been hoping to see them, hoping that the timing would work out that we could intersect. Shay and Heather live in Champaign. They were coming to Vegas to celebrate Heather’s grandmother’s birthday. We wouldn’t have much time with them, but that didn’t matter. If we could coordinate it, it would be worth it. We also had to pass through Vegas on our way to Oregon, as that was the best route to go. Our first stop south from Zion was Valley of Fire State Park. Oh. My. No reservations for the campground there. They don’t take them. And again we got lucky. We arrived in time to get the very last RV spot, with water and electric. It was also, in my estimation, the best spot in the entire campground. Snuggled up kind of close to a stack of fire red rocks that screamed for clambering, overlooking a wide, scrubby plane that led to desert mountains in the distance, and a large spot with neighbors not too close. It was perfect. The only challenge in this park is absolutely no connectivity. Which is only a challenge if you need it. Otherwise, it’s great to get away from the need to connect, even when you don’t needto connect. I made the most of my time there, relaxing a lot and even spent an entire day reading. With the scenery right out our door, there was no need to rush around trying to see things. It was good to unwind from the daily on-the-go time at Zion. I did some scrambling up those rocks beside our site. Explored the backside of the outcropping, saw the Beehives, and meditated on a flat piece of rock overlooking the campground. Gail and I hiked the biggies in the park, with our favorite by far being the Fire Wave. We managed to hike this early in the morning, which meant we shared the spot with only one lone woman, and gave it over to a group of four just as we were leaving to make our way back to the car. The Fire Wave felt like a nice substitute to hiking the well-known Wave in Coyote Butte in northern AZ. While that would be a dream hike, getting a permit is a matter of extremely good timing and a whole lotta luck. All year long. There is no off-season for that hike. And you need a 4WD vehicle to access the trail head. That would not be in the cards for us this year.
After spending the Veterans Day weekend in Valley of Fire, we headed down to Vegas, where we stayed for three nights in a parking lot under the flight path of military planes coming out of Nellis AFB heading out to and returning from Area 51 and surrounding military test areas. It was loud. And close. But we had great connectivity and were able to get some much-needed shopping done to prepare for the trip to Oregon. And then we got to spend time with Shay and Heather. It’s always a bit of a surreal feeling to meet up with familiar people in unfamiliar (or at least unfamiliar in terms of your relationship to those people) places. We haven’t been on the road long, but in seeing my brother and sister-in-law for the first time after saying good-bye in Champaign four months ago, it felt like ages. We had a great, if too short, time catching up over a delicious meal and even better margaritas. Those two were troopers, given that they had been up since the wee morning hours in order to catch their flight to Vegas. I’m not sure how they were standing, or sitting, still by the time we met up, but I’m so glad they were able manage it. Once we were finished with our shopping and our visit, we were more than ready to head out. So were the cats. Not the most comfortable place, nor the most scenic, for the fur family!
We made a push for Medford. Normally, we stay two nights in any given place so that the cats and I have time to recover before riding and driving in the rig again. We were too much in a hurry to do that this time and made the trip from Vegas to Medford in three driving days. Fortunately, the roads were (mostly) good. We stayed two nights outside of Medford so that we could hit the Co-op there and Trader Joe’s to get prepped for Thanksgiving in our new temporary home. On our way there, we had largely avoided the smoke pollution from the fires raging in California, but that changed once we hit Medford. It wasn’t terrible, but the stagnant air alert was a reminder that the fires were close by. It was great to be in Oregon, even if we were not yet at our first landing spot. It felt close. Medford is a nice little town, but it was hard to settle into the idea of being there because Gold Beach was in our sights, and I was anxious to get there and get settled in for a bit.
The drive to Gold Beach was beautiful. When you could see it. The first portion followed the Rogue River, and then veered from there to head south into Cali and then to the coast. Once we hit Grants Pass, visibility was limited. The fire danger there was low, but it looked like the fire was upon us with all the smoke in the air. It was dense. It was creepy. And it was a reminder of what the folks living through the nightmare must feel like as the fires consume sage brush, trees, homes, and life. It was a sobering drive, even while the beauty that was revealing itself between the whispers and blankets of smoke made me also a bit giddy. It’s hard to describe what was like to simultaneously hold the conflicting feelings of sadness and eagerness, but as I broke free from the smoke and into the Redwoods and then turned north onto the 101, excitement rose to the surface, edged with a background of sadness for what is happening in California. The result was that I was even more grateful for the fortune I have in being here, of living this life I live right now. Our home for the next month or two. Rain, rainforests, wild rivers, wilder winds, rugged sea shores, sea stacks, and tenacious foliage speak to me, whisper to my heart that this is where I should be right now. And Oregon’s state motto?
“She flies with her own wings.”