“Here’s to it, and here’s from it, and here’s to it again! If you ever get to it, and don’t do it, you may never get to do it again!” – Joe Cotter
I heard this one time and it touched me somewhere that if it was 10 years earlier that spot would not have even existed. At that time I was working in the music business and working my way up and thinking this is how it happens, but here it is a Friday night and I have a tent set up in a dirt patch in the middle of 13 trees towering over me like nervous new parents with a baby fresh from the hospital. I say that to say this: Don’t let any given moment define who you are. The ups and the downs. Whether you do amazing or do nothing. There is always time to change, but it doesn’t happen by chance. You have to manifest it.
I’m sitting on the bench at Cougar Crossing Campground up by the Cougar Hot Springs in Rainbow, Oregon and it’s chilly as the sun has gone down only leaving just a glimpse of blues and reds, the air is crisp with a slight breeze, you can hear the river as it sounds like a standing ovation in a theater. I have neighbors and it’s a family of 6. They’re doing a short get away from Salem as they just bought an RV and are testing it out. I’m jealous, both in the fact it’s freezing outside and I want an RV. Maybe if I knock on their door they will invite me in for pictionary and Goldfish.
I finally get to sleep around midnight after a few rounds with my dog because he seems to not understand how tents work and that you can still hear noises and also not be able to see. That sounds terrifying when you say it out loud. Before going to bed I tried to do some night time photography but I forgot my tripod and none of my other pictures worked out. I now realize I’m not well versed in night time photography. On my way back to campsite a truck is going passed me but since we’re on a mountain in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness the truck is going slower than normal but due to circumstances I think nothing of it. It finally comes to a slow halt and someone asks me where the neighboring campsite was and I explained where it was. A few minutes of small talk later me and my dog end up in the back of their truck going to their campsite to have a couple of drinks and make new friends.
There’s roughly 6 of them plus us 2 and so when we get there we grab a picnic table and move it closer to another one so there’s enough room for everyone. I end up leaving about an hour into it but I learned that at least one of them works on a current NBC tv show that just got picked up for a second season and another one is a sports agent. A few other people have passed by us but nobody else has stuck around so far. I was even unsure if I would make it as once I got here I realized I didn’t have any tent poles. They went missing. I was just at Wal-Mart buying more stakes before coming here and I didn’t even think I was missing my poles! So I had 2 options: 1. Drive 2+ hours back home and call it defeat. Or 2. I could drive to Springfield and buy some new poles or tent. What would you do? Well, you already know what I did; I’m here! I’m glad I stayed as meeting these people has definitely lifted my spirits and put me in a better frame of mind. I was stressing and upset because of the extra hassle of having to drive back and forth as it’s not a short commute and time wasn’t really on my side. At some point I call it a night and we walk back to camp.
It’s 6am and my phone is going off in my ear from an alarm I forgot I had set, so I abruptly wake up but then I’m immediately calmed down because it’s amazing how the forest comes alive that early as the daylight spreads and the symphony of birds picks up louder and louder in tempo. I unzip the tent and step outside to grab some coffee from the car and to stretch my legs. The dog takes off down by the river to take care of business and to get some fresh water. My neighbors are still asleep and it appears another car has shown up at some point during the night. After taking everything down and loading it all into my car I hit the road and head east along Highway 126 and making several stops for photo opportunities and to just genuinely see what’s up this way since I have never been.
Before 730am I am already on the path to the Blue Pool and by 9 I’ve only seen 3 other people including a guy running the trail in clothes entirely too cold for this location and time, and a couple with their dog and camera in tow. I catch up to them at the end and find out the guy is a chef. I missed the opportunity to network with him as I blanked out and didn’t think about it. He was shooting with a Nikon camera so I had nothing to say to him. (I’m joking Nikon fans, I’m joking!) From my vantage point I’m not able to get a good picture of the Blue Pool and the raging falls that apparently don’t happen very often, as the sun is directly behind it and doesn’t allow for proper long exposures unless you have the right filters which I do not. I ask the couple if they know if it’s possible to get across the river and they explain how to if I’m even able to, so I go to check. It was once a beautiful waterfall, but the McKenzie River changed course at some point and went underground a few miles upstream. The river only flows over the falls a few times a year when while the rest of the time the water emerges from the rocks under the water in the basin of the waterfall pool. I am fortunate to be here on my first trip while it’s raging!
I get to the top of the waterfall and it’s just a short 10 feet across and the deepest part might be knee deep which is fine for me but we’re positioned at the tip of the fall and if we slip then we’re going right over. I’m not so much concerned for myself, I’m concerned for my dog. He can’t swim as I have tested that a few times, he’s awkwardly shaped as he’s a mixed breed of dog and his body structure doesn’t offer him much flexibility for swimming. We were in Cherokee, North Carolina a few years ago and he was in the river and the current took him and he didn’t even try to swim. Well, he tried to do something but it wasn’t swimming. Luckily I was able to grab his collar before it took him too far, even though this was a very family friendly river in the middle of town so it gets shallow a few feet down and he could just stand and walk,if not sooner than that. So we make it across this body of water, up the lava rock, back down the lava rock, and down the steep path of more lava rock to get to the bottom of the falls in order to get a perspective of the blue pool and the waterfall itself.
On the way back up we decide to go further up the river to find a more shallow area to cross not so close to the falls out of fear of him losing his balance, and we find what looks like a shallow yet slightly wider area of the river to cross. I stumble a few times but we survive. As I was walking back I turned a corner and suddenly had a surreal image of an old Native American standing in what I would consider traditional garb, long black hair pulled back, reddish brown or spotted poncho, waving his arm except all this happened in half a second and the only motion was the appearance and disappearance of said visual. I’ve never had that happen before and I wasn’t even thinking about the land in that way. I know this area is technically called Tamolitch, and I tried to find some history on the name and to try to get some information on my possible visual, but nothing comes up online. If anyone out there might be able to help me out with this it will be greatly appreciated. Or maybe it was just a glitch in the matrix.
The rest of the hike was fine and uneventful, although I did pass a lot more people on the way out than on the way in. The parking lot was completely void of anyone when I arrived at 730 am on a Saturday, but as I was leaving at 1130 am the parking lot was completely full and there were so many people and families out and about. As someone who doesn’t like many people in the way while hiking, I recommend going anywhere early or during the week if possible. On my drive back I stop at one of the only gas stations on that section of road, Everyone’s Market, to get gas so I can make the 2+ hour drive back home without any other stops because I am completely tired by now.
I pull in and the guy walks up and asks how much, and just as I am about to talk to the attendant I notice there is the truck from the campsite that I hung out with the last night. One of them is walking back from the store and recognizes me and yells that he’s going to cover my gas. I’m shocked, why would he do this? He tells me he wanted to thank me for being so welcoming as they’re not from here and said I helped open them up to the experience. I am grateful, grabbed a hug from the guy, we all part ways and I head back on my way home.
10 years ago none of this would have happened. I wouldn’t have come hiking, I wouldn’t have spoken to a truck full of strangers, I definitely wouldn’t have joined them for drinks in the middle of nowhere, and I wouldn’t have hiked and saw all the beauty that I witnessed. I wouldn’t have gotten my gas tank filled by a stranger I happened to have just met the night before, I wouldn’t have taken any of these pictures, and I wouldn’t be connecting with you in this article. You’re not the same person you were 10 years ago, you’re not going to be the same person 10 years from now. So many things will happen, you’ll meet people that will change your life, you’ll be presented with new possibilities and I advocate that you open yourself up to the changes and allow life to unravel for what it is. Life is beautiful. Go find your adventure.