Oregon Pilgrimage


We like to get to Oregon every year. Last year we couldn't make it due to financial constraints. This year we just "made it happen". I grew up in Ashland, Oregon; elementary, middle, and high school as well as getting a bachelor's degree in Spanish from Southern Oregon University. My wife and I lived for our first two magical years as a young married couple up on Holly Street, in the hills above the public library.

Ashland was a logging town when I was growing up. My parents managed the Marc Antony hotel (a famous landmark). We lived on the fourth floor. My mom caught me once spooning oatmeal out the window trying to hit passers by.

As a 40th birthday present I got the use of an RV for a week. So, we packed up and headed out. The first night was a misery, navigating the treacherous pass into the valley in this giant boat, snow flurries swirling round in the darkness. We tried to stay at an RV park, a depressing place, uninhabited like the opening scene of a horror movie, with shapes and scrawny animals moving like ghosts on the edge of vision. I couldn't get to sleep so we were just there for a few hours before I just bit the bullet and hit the road. I got 30 minutes of sleep.

Awaiting us was a house all to ourselves. About a year back Tamie's grandmother passed away and Tamie's mother now maintains her house (built just about two years back) as a guest home. So, we had full reign of the place, clean and new, but populated with beloved memorabilia of Gramma Ernie. It was a perfect base of operations.

We spent two full days just camped out in the RV in Ashland's Lithia Park. The park is actually more like a wildlife preserve, about two miles into a small mountain-shrouded valley. Hot buttermilk pancakes and a cool spring morning, gently tapping away on my computer with the RV door open to the stream. In the early dawn hours there are just hikers and bikers going to and fro.

I went out to eat with various relatives, including a family dinner at my (last remaining) grandparent's house. Gramma's place still has those curving yellow vinyl chairs I grew up with and smells of California beach: sand and eucalyptus and pets.

Notably, my aunt Paula is living in the valley again. She's sixteen years my senior and was always a beloved figure; quick with a smile and a kind word.

I could have spent a whole week in Ashland, exploring the nooks and crannies of it again. I spent a half day just going and shooting footage of nostalgic locations. But now that chapter is closed. Yes, I know I said that last time. But really this time. I realized that my current life is much more exciting. I've lived a good life. Very full.

We also spent a day in Brookings on the Oregon coast. Upon arriving at the beach, my youngest son (now four) dropped his pail and bucket and ran out across the black-grey sand to one of the numerous rock outcroppings and began to climb. He didn't look down. Griffin is like a pygmy frat boy, living life to the hilt without looking back, heedless of danger or consequences. I got up to him and helped him to a safer place. I don't like to overly inhibit his explorative nature. It was a magical moment to play in the scattering surf, and explore streams and piles of mammoth driftwood with the kids.

Best part of that trip was picking up a mountain of fresh seafood at a local food shack; cod, shrimp, salmon, clam chowder you name it. Steaming mounds of it.

The journey back was at night, and treacherous. We will plan that timing out better next time.

Other than the actual driving, the pilgrimage was a great success. Good times were had by all. And for those that might care, here are a few snippets.
Ashland's public library. My parents took me here every week. Even at a young age I was a voracious reader.

Grandma Gately's old house, a historic pioneer home, now renovated and owned by someone else. I have this repressed fantasy that I'll be able to buy it back someday. There's a giant tree out front that used to have a massive bee hive.

Sunset on the way back.
Deer in Lithia Park.
Spring is my new favorite season (used to be Autumn).
My daughter suspended in time. In Lithia Park there are steps leading up into the forested hillside to the foundation of an old house. Local folklore says that it was a witch's home that burned to the ground in some dark ceremony. Surely a bunch of rubbish, but there you have it. My girlfriend and I (when I was a junior in high school) used to go there and hang out.
Lithia Creek. I have waded, jumped, and hiked it.
When my wife and I were first married, there was a huge flood which changed the topography of the stream and park, wiping out childhood haunts forever. Most notably two wading pools, and three waterfalls.

There is a mineral spring here. The water is carbonated and full of odd elements. Supposedly good for you.
One of the numerous churches I attended around age fourteen. I got a sudden urge...
The LDS "institute of religion" across from the high school. This is a beloved place for me, a refuge in the storm during difficult years. I graduated from Seminary here.
A two bedroom house my father and his friend built when I was twelve. It was heated by a pot-belly stove, and in the summer cooled by mountain breezes coming through all the open windows. There were three cherry trees in the back yard, each a different species. At this age I started playing D&D. We lived here nearly until graduation of high school.
A Black Walnut tree, a wizened old protector from the days of the Old Forest. I resorted here on many summer days to read and watch passers by.
Interior of the LDS institute.
Blossoms in front of the public library.

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