Did you see the signs?

Did you see the signs?

Throw Back Story – circa 2015

Before we got our van we traveled to Oregon in Hollis’ car, a Honda FIT. A small gas-friendly car that was fun to drive in the mountains, especially as roads wind around in the Rocky Mountains and then the Cascades in Oregon. Even in the desert the car offered great views and excellent gas mileage although its ability to hold the both of us was often best done by applying the lessons of puzzles like Tetris. We worked hard in our travels and we love to reward ourselves with fun things to do in nature, especially Hot Springs. We noticed a sign about a Hot Springs, although at 65mph it’s hard to read the whole thing. We decided to check out the dirt road indicating the way to the hot springs, noticing it was also part of the National Forest. Hollis was learning about camping for free in the National Forest. Public lands, ‘our lands’- supposably as American citizens we have the right to be on these lands, although that freedom is certainly subjective. 

We proceed down a well-traveled dirt road, going slow in our Honda FIT. Boon-dockers begin to appear on our right, placed out in the meadows with no one else around. About a half a mile apart we pass one, two, three and even FIVE campers pulled back into these beautiful spots well enough away from the road to not be bothered by our dust. With a cliff to our left, we forge forward with envy in our hearts to have a home on wheels. We notice something standing in the roadway ahead, where the flat land of the valley begins to fold into the pine forest ahead. Both of us look at each other with wonderment, anxiety, and curiosity as to what huge animal we are approaching ahead. We had just seen bison in the National Park, right up next to our vehicle and wondered if that’s what we see. We slow down a little, lean forward, squinting further down the road. Wow, they look as big as the car itself, maybe bigger. We slow down a bit more and we realize we are approaching a herd of cattle in the road ahead. As we draw closer we see that it could be hard to continue past these guys with the forest to the right and a steep uphill forest to the left. These cows were taking up the entire two-lane dirt road and moving very slowly. We are grateful they were moving slowly, some of them where bigger than the car! As we slow down we suddenly realize that we are all about the same size and we think we have been mistaken as one of them. A weird version of them, but one of them. Maybe it was Bright Hawk vocalizing towards the bovine, in their own language, that we come in peace and just want to move through. Assuring them that we are vegetarians! Slowly they part as if we are Mother Cow moving our way through the herd. As we slowly move through the herd in our car Bright Hawk begins taking pictures and we notice the BULL! Hollis is nervous as they know that bulls will sometimes decide to stampede all sorts of things. After a moment of moving past them, Hollis says, “Thank goodness this little car isn’t red!” 

We continue on down the road looking for a campsite, maybe like the ones we had seen before. We notice a pay campsite tucked into the forest and it is completely full. The sun is setting and we need a place to sleep for the night, we need to set up camp, cook and eat our food and get tucked into a cozy bed for the night. We both knew that delaying this process often kept us up into the darkness cooking and setting up camp, which is not desirable. When you’re having to set up a tent and bed, set up a kitchen, cook, eat, clean up, pack up for bear aware and sleep – we just know it takes a while. We continue past the campsite, crossing our fingers and hoping to find something ahead. 

We come around the bend and suddenly the forest opens back up to a wide open meadow. The meadow was gently littered with tall tall pine trees scattered around. At any moment you could imagine David Attenboro’s voice narrating the horizon and a huge grizzly bear emerging while the cameraman zoomed in. There where mountain peaks in the distance that reminded us of our visit to Grand Teton National Park earlier that day. Tucked back away from the road, opposite the meadow, is a huge waterfall! In all its beauty the water is flowing and as we roll down our window we can hear the water rumbling. The flow of the waterfall is unmistakable! Hollis’ absolute favorite is a waterfall! 

The meadow is open and looks meant for us. We really need to set up camp and we have a nice pull in and spot to camp just close enough to the falls. With eagerness and intention, the two of us begin to set up camp, quickly as we are racing the sun. We can see and hear the waterfall from our spot and can almost feel the water droplets in the air. As we are setting up we notice that a truck parked at the circle on the edge of the waterfall has a beer on the bumper. It’s chilly outside and we wonder what could locals be doing down at a waterfall, with the chill in the air? Hot springs of course! We could hear occasional laughter coming from below and occasionally a truck would pass us from further on down the road. We decided that staying here seemed to be the best idea. As we enjoyed our camp dinner and could smell the minerals in the air, we where continuously validated that a Hot Springs was nearby. As we settled for the evening we knew it was just a matter of time till we could have the entire thing all to ourselves. 

Bright Hawk knew that Hollis would pop up with the sun, so it was easy to settle into our beds as the stars popped out of the darkness. We could look up through the top of the tent at the stars twinkling in the sky as we fell asleep in our cozy bed. As the sun peaked over the horizon Hollis was reliably out of bed, Bright Hawk rolled over and decided she would meet Hollis later. Hollis walks down to the waterfall to explore and look for the hot springs. A large deer with a full rack on his head stood at the edge of the river, on the other side, taking a break from his morning drink looks Hollis eye to eye. We stare at each other as if to say, “I see you, you see me. We can live peacefully beside each other.” Hollis projects to the deer “No problem my friend, this is your home, I come in peace and mean you no harm.” The deer returns to his morning drink and Hollis walks up the mountain a bit to the top of the waterfall. Hollis looks around from the climb upwards and sees no one, just our little yellow dome tent, and the car and Bright Hawk climbing out of the tent. 

Heading back towards the tent Hollis can hear Bright Hawk call. She had seen the deer in his morning drink and now was heading down towards the water. Hollis caught up and Bright Hawk explained “Look, see the steam coming up, smell the rotten eggs? That’s a hot spring, and we are getting closer.” Since Hollis had never done anything like this before they followed along, it was now time to follow Bright Hawk. We took turns leading because we knew we both had strengths and as a cooperative team, we are better together. Hollis began to follow Bright Hawk down to the river and we stood directly across the river from the steam billowing upwards.

We watched the deer decide that WE could now have the river and beach to ourselves. He took off up the hill on the other side. Bright Hawk pointed across the flowing river and spoke loudly to get over the roar of the waterfall. “Right there beside the waterfall, see it? Steam!?” Hollis sees the steam and then realizes that now Bright Hawk had taken off her shoes and began to step into the river, with ice cold water flowing quickly in front of her from the waterfall. Hollis watches as Bright Hawk moves across the river with intense focus and Hollis begins to pray. “Bright Hawk will make it across the river I know, in a good way!”

Hollis staying focused on Bright Hawk landing across the river in the hot springs having traversed this flow in a good way. Holding her phone and shoes above her head she only stumbles once. She makes it, with a sigh of relief and accomplishment Bright Hawk yells “I made it!”

Hollis realizes it’s their turn and is willing to explore other options. Hollis can follow with a deep heart but Hollis knows what is good for them. Hollis takes off their boots and listens to their inner voices, ancestors, and trees inviting Hollis further downriver, just about 500ft. Hollis walks gently on the earth with bare feet and traverses the river at the sandbar where it has slowed down and is only about shin deep. Hollis smiles as they reach the other side and walk along the beach where the deer was towards the hot spring. Bright Hawk hugs Hollis as they reunite on the other side. As they both sigh in relief at their early morning adventure–a sunrise soak before they embark on their driving journey of the day.


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