Just a Number
When I first conceived Project 50 (see “Forty-Nine,” August 2012), my zest to reach the finish line occasionally superseded my desire to see the beauty associated with each number. So was the case with Oregon. I knew I did not have enough time to explore thoroughly the middle state on the Pacific shore, so I planned instead for a short jaunt into the northeast corner, just a swift drive from Washington State to add to my final tally. And according to my beloved atlas, Flora, Oregon lay just across the state line and it would give me a quick terminus at which I would turn around, retrace my tread, and continue on my way through the Bitterroot Mountains before sunset.
Pulling into Flora could be equated to pulling into a driveway. Only a handful of structures, mostly agricultural, made up the tiny community. Quite possibly, two families may have resided in the town, to use the term liberally, but such a guess would have been only a hypothesis. Nothing outwardly confirmed any residents at all, nor did the rural village reflect any apparent dilapidation. No postcards would be obtained, no credit card purchases, no validation that I had even visited the state besides the simple sign upon leaving Washington not as a welcome to but to distinguish where each state’s work crews ought to end their respective basic services. So I pulled into a dirt path, put the rental car in reverse and looked in my rear view mirror before proceeding, and framed in the reflective glass I saw the first glimpse of snow-capped mountains on this voyage, beckoning me to keep moving southward. And so I detoured from my planned course, just barely a dozen hours into my current expedition. “The mountains are calling and I must go.”
Pulling Me Inward, Onward, Upward
A scenic landscape sucks me in like nature’s vacuum (see “From A Distance,” February 2013) and the peaks ahead of me set my spirit on autopilot and I irresistibly press onward. At each new vista, around each new bend in the road, at the base of every meadow, the mountains frame themselves and I keep pressing onward. I justify the delay without realizing that this additional mileage should be added on an equal par with the planned routes and destinations. Adding a new location more than fills a box on a list, it ought to leave its mark on me. Yet I thoughtlessly commit fully to the lofty vision that guides me deeper into the Beaver State. I finally stop in Enterprise to pause and regroup. This drive pays off in spades, all for the good fortune of looking in my rear-view mirror.
I regret neglecting Oregon. I knew it would be beautiful. Of course it would be beautiful. A century and a half ago tens of thousands of people journeyed across the rugged mountain to its east for the sole purpose of reaching the coast. A trail named for this end of a spectacular journey pulled these early settlers westward, and now it pulls me into the state’s beauty, even with just the smallest glimpse. I owe Oregon another visit. I owe this scenery a moment all its own. I should return and crisscross its width and breadth and value it for the spectacular morning it offers me. And just two years later, I would return to see even more of the sights that blew me away the first time. It’s just a shame that my second visit happened to be on a whim, a lark, and spontaneous impulse. Really, Oregon, I will do it right. I will. I promise. You are too damn tempting to resist.