Saturday, April 26, 2014

Currently: April

Current mood: surprisingly content, with all that is going on
Currently thankful for: Snail Mail Netflix DVD mail service, since we can no longer stream video!

Currently worried about: Hmmm, where to start? My Nana is still not healed from a fall she took in December and even though she is back back home, we've all realized she will never be the same. My mom is driving 4 hours roundtrip about 3 times a week to help care for my Nana and I don't care that she has a million guardian angels looking out for her on the road and she doesn't complain, I know this is wearing her down. My dad took a quick overnighter to the hospital this week. Oh, and we have to hire a chef for RR before we open in 1 month. That's right, the chef for RR is no longer with us!! This is now the 2nd chef they hired that didn't work out for just 2 different reasons unrelated to us (we hadn't even met the first one). Anyone want to quit their job and come cook for RR? Cami? 

Currently excited about: building tipis next week! And, seeing 2 friends from NH next weekend who are "in the area" visiting family.

Currently regretting: not bringing my pizza stones from storage to Oregon. We will be making pizzas every Sunday for guests (our contribution to the cooking part of RR) and I know I will miss my stones. 

Currently not excited about: the fact that it snowed/hailed on and off here all week. It even thunder snowed. The owners of RR gave us fair warning that this part of Oregon has a glum spring, but boy this 70s-themed-colored environment of brown, green and yellow is getting old. 

Currently proud of: My freelance writing career … I've juggled a lot of different projects since we finished our AT thru hike in 2011. As a freelancer, you just never want to say no and these past few years, I committed to as many projects as was humanly possible even when working alongside J at BD, BP and now RR. I finally let one of the bigger projects go (reluctantly) to stop spreading myself so thin. I know I will always be a freelance writer on the side of whatever J & I are doing together, but I also know if I am giving attention to one thing, it means I am neglecting another.  Plus, I no longer have to support J's concert-going habits since there isn't a single concert in a 180-mile radius!!!!!!

Currently reading: Nicholas Sparks' "The Wedding" … I know it's cheesy, but I needed a light book after reading the dark and disturbing "Dead Mountain" book about 9 missing hikers in the 1950s. Also, I borrowed this romance novel from a friend a year ago and I am determined to read and return it. 

Current guilty pleasure: Easter candy & Girl Scout cookies that my mom mailed us! 

Currently watching on Netflix: Whatever shows up in our mailbox!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Backpacking Oregon: Warm Springs Trail

J & I went down into Joseph Canyon this past weekend and this time, we turned it into an overnighter. The last time we hiked down, we left right from RR, crossed private property and dropped 2,000 feet over 5 miles. We are scouting out other trails that do not illegally cross private property and the Warm Springs Trail was one of them. The trailhead is just a short drive from RR. HOWEVER, as we found out, it drops 2,000 feet over 2.6 miles. Meaning it is quad-burning steep going down 2.6 miles and calf-burning steep going back up 2.6 miles. 
sign at bottom of the canyon
The marked trail is on Nez Perce non-reservation land. The Nez Perce native tribe is a vital part of this area's history, in that they used to be routed among the canyonlands and used the canyon bottomlands as their winter camp before they were forced to flee in 1877 because of Western settlement by immigrants. In 1996, the tribe purchased thousands and thousands of acres in the Joseph Canyon area, but opened it up for public use and open range for livestock. 
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
The Nez Perce were not only nice enough to let us use their land for hiking, but they event cleared a trail down to the bottom. However, they apparently don't know what switchbacks are and should meet Bob Peoples (AT reference). The lack of switchbacks meant a 15% grade straight down. Did I already mention it was steep? Indeed, very, very steep. I swear sometimes we were going at a 45 degree angle. With sections of skree rock, this made for great fun (not). Here's an example of how steep it was. We saw a cow running at full speed down into the valley. Cows are not fast runners, but this one could have won the Boston Marathon. I am going to guess he couldn't stop himself. On a side note, we both agreed we never want to return in a second life as a cow. Does not seem like a fun life at all. 
cows, cows and more cows

Anyway, the trail was very well marked by signs and cow poop until the last .6 miles. These miles were the steepest, least marked miles and had a not-so-friendly rattlesnake guarding them (no picture, for the sake of not getting bit). 

pointing to our camp, .6 miles away
Once down at the bottom, we found a hot spring, but not the bathing type, unless you wanted to also smother your body with cow poop. Beyond the hot spring is the Holy Grail, Joseph Creek, which is where we camped for the night. 

Part of Joseph Creek is designated as a "wild and scenic river" that eventually meets up with the infamous Snake River, but its rapid flow only has a short, 3-week window happening now. We saw two kayakers taking advantage of it, which is very, very difficult. There is little road access along the 48-mile creek and more private land than public. Plus, a ton of portages, but the brave souls can do it as a multi-day trip. I'm going to venture to say we will not be kayaking the Joseph anytime soon. 
But, I am so glad we got down into the canyon again. We kept our rainfly off our tent to do some stargazing. Of course it started to rain at about 1:30am, so we had to scramble to put it on, but this is the chance we are willing to take. I think there may be 1 more public trail into the canyon to track down. There is so much more of this area to explore, I can hardly wait for our next outing. 
Bonus points for whoever can help me identify this flower (Misti!)? J votes Golden Ragwort and I vote Jerusalem Artichoke. 
Spring exists deep in the canyon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"You can't get anywhere from here."

"You can't get anywhere from here," J and I lamented the other day.

By here, I mean RR and this northeast corner of Oregon.

For years, J & I have talked about living off the grid. When we lived in Penacook, NH, and Bluemont, VA, we were 8 miles from the closest grocery store and that raised some eyebrows. We were conscious of all the errands we had to do on our "big trips to town." But, we dreamed of being more isolated, further from civilization.

Be careful what you wish for. 

We are 35 miles from the closest town. I reiterate, there are only ghost towns near us. Within 3-6 miles. We found another one: Paradise, OR. 

J likes to think we are still not remote enough. He remembers the time he lived in a canvas tent in the backcountry of Denali National Park, where you could really only fly in and out. The closest "town" was 90 miles and that wasn't even a town. 

But, I am voting that this is remote enough. We recently tried to book flights to a friend's wedding. Oh my ever-loving God. The closest airport is 3.5 hours. THREE AND A HALF HOURS. And, it's a small airport, so the flight we need leaves ONE TIME A DAY. We opted for the bigger airport that is 5 hours away because it had a whopping 2 flight time options. 

On the other hand, I cannot complain. We have every bit of wilderness I ever dreamed of. Every night, we look up and see an abundance of speckled sliver pain on a pitch black canvas. Our coppery red lunar eclipse was spectacular. And we wake up to an abundance of views every morning. 

So, even though you can't get anywhere from here, I'll take it. I just won't go anywhere. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Living on the Edge

J & I high-fived last Sunday as we entered Oregon, marking it as our 11th state we've lived in (collectively). Living in the Pacific Northwest as I always wanted, a big plus. Learning a new address and telephone number, a big minus. 

So what is our role at RimRock (RR)? Well, it is both lodging and restaurant. Lodging includes 1 suite and 1 apartment (which we are living in right now and it is pretty dope).Then we have 3 tipis (but maybe 4 this season), tent spots and RV spots. The "restaurant" part is because RR is a bed and breakfast, but we also serve dinner by reservation for guests and outside public (if we can accommodate). I say "restaurant," but it is not what you are thinking. We have a prix fixe menu and it is the same every week. Plus, we have an onsite chef and we are just assistants in the kitchen (phew, right?). The place is run by the 3 of us and we each have our signature roles, but will do a little bit of everything. Last year was RR's first year in business and the owners are very hands off, so the business is still very new.

We don't open for guests until Memorial Day weekend (there is little sign of spring here yet and snow has fallen at least 4 days since we arrived!). For now and the next few weeks, we are getting the building put back together (it was shut down all winter and has lots of maintenance issues), learning the business and just getting acquainted with the area. 

A main priority was hiking (for the benefit of telling future guests where to go of course)! We did a 10-mile roundtrip hike to check out Joseph River at the bottom of the canyon. Simply can't believe this is in our backyard. There are MANY more trails to explore, so I expect there will be MANY more pictures! 

We also took a trip to the local brewery (complete with stray cats) to sample the beer and watch the UConn game (mind you we had to drive 45 minutes to get there … but tempted to do it to watch them win again tonight!)

The pictures simply can't do the area justice. The vistas are surreal. The lodge and its grounds are on the edge of a 2000-foot basalt (volcanic rock) canyon. Seriously, walk out our door 75 yards and the canyon goes straight down. The snow-capped Eagle Cap Wilderness is visible on a clear day. We are east-facing, so the sunrises almost make even us want to get out of bed early (hasn't happened just yet).

There is also a scarcity of human life here, but an abundance of wildlife. We saw tracks and scat for deer, elk, bobcat, cattle and bear on our hike. 
No cell phone service, no TV, limited Internet, closest gas station, grocery or anything is 35 miles away separated by Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and roaming buffalo. There is a town about 5 miles away, but it is a tried and true ghost town. Washington and Idaho are a hop, skip and a jump away, but still no town there. Let me put it to you this way. If there is a zombie apocalypse, I'm pretty sure we'll be the last to know. 
 there are only ghosts in this "town"
 Here at the beginning of our brand-new adventure, my initial reactions vacillate somewhere between feeling like I am having a bit of anxiety to knowing it will all work out. I guess we just can't resist the unknown and this is it. I mean, who jumps into a restaurant business with no restaurant experience?! It will definitely take some time for us to find our "routine," but I keep telling myself it feels good to be lost in the right direction. I know this will be another unique adventure to add to our docket and, in life, you get just about as many chances as you are willing to take. I came across this quote recently and I think it resonates well with what's to come.

"In the adventure known as life, there are those who live it vicariously, and enjoy the ride from the safety of an armchair. There are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life-changing experiences, and although they don't repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives. And there are those for whom a fast is never enough. For whom the lust of adventure is insatiable. And if you add to that the overwhelming desire to create and to share, then you get where I reside. Where the end of one adventure, only signifies the beginning of another." 
- Les Stroud, survival expert/TV personality (not that I ever watched his show Survivorman)

We're ready for the ride. Are you?