Mitchell, OR to Klamath Falls, OR
July 7 to July 21
Greetings from Klamath Falls, Oregon!! What an incredible journey through the mountains of central Oregon. Absolutely beautiful scenery, lots of forest camping and I got to meet up with lots of old friends.
Let’s start with my walk out of Mitchell. I was told to prepare for a hell of a hill and that was no lie!! My walk that day was only planned at 18 miles which, normally, is no biggie, right? The first 10 miles were a long, slow, mellow descent about 500 feet. Over that long of a distance, that much descent is gentle and easy to manage. I know a lot of people would assume that downhill is good, uphill is bad. In some ways that is true but steep downhill is just as bad as steep uphill. This 10 miles was nice and easy. And then…the Ochoco Pass appeared directly in front of me and it looked like a brick wall. The first 10 miles took me less than 3 hours to cover. The next 8, which was an ascent of 2,388 feet, took me 7 hours to climb. It was BRUTAL!!! Not only was there NEVER a flat relief at any point on the climb, it was pretty damned curvey, too. I met some cyclists early in the day, back on the descent out of Mitchell, heading the same direction and asked them when the climb was supposed to start. They said, “What climb? We didn’t hear about a climb.” Well, I told them what I had heard and what I was anticipating and, when I got to the start of the pass, I thought of those two guys and wondered how surprised they were when they got there, too.
Up at the top was Ochoco Divide Campground. Nothing fancy just an open tent pad site with a dump toilet. There was no water or showers or anything like that but the park attendant gave me some firewood and water bottles. I sat and enjoyed the eve under the stars with a fire blazing beside me. After stomping it down I hit my tent and crashed pretty early. But solid sleep was not in my future. Back when I was in Texas I sent home my heavy cold gear not anticipating coming up here to the Pacific Northwest. Well, it got real cold that night and, so far, every night since. Mid 30s by 2 am and my ass was COLD!! On all of my tent nights since I’ve been bundled in every layer of clothing I have inside my bag. I’m like the Michelin Man laying in a tent. I’m told this cold spell is supposed to break this week so fingers crossed.
The next day, after a very restless night, I somehow had the energy to go 30 miles to Prineville but it was a broken up day. From Ochoco Divide the entire walk to Prineville was downhill and fairly easy. There were some steep grades but enough gravel to my left to help slow down Alexa. About 18 miles into the walk my front wheel started seizing up on me. Every 10 feet or so it would just freeze. I stopped and removed my wheel and determined that the bearings were caked with dirt and debris. I hailed down a truck who threw my stuff in the back and brought me into town. It only took a little bit to find a bike shop, take apart the wheel and clean out the bearings. Then I got a really cool guy to take me back up to my stopping point to finish the day. The stop in plans that day actually helped quite a bit. I got a good bite to eat, rested for an hour or so and got back to work walking. That night I got a motel and I think I fell asleep no later than 8 and didn’t wake up till 7 or so the next day.
I was really excited to get going because I was meeting up with my old buddy Leigh Meyer who lives in Bend. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get all the way to his house so we arranged for him to pick me up a few miles out of town. I met Leigh back in 1988 at Orange Coast College. I was taking a music as a business class with my friend Judy Baumgartner and we met Leigh in that class. We quickly became friends and I introduced him to the guys in our band and he ended up joining us for a few shows on rhythm guitar. Leigh is a great guy.
I decided to take a few days off in Bend to hang with Leigh, his girlfriend Errin, and their two sons (I only met one and only for a few minutes). Leigh and Errin took me out to dinner to a cool brewery and, needless to say, the next few days had a lot of eating and drinking mixed in. I crashed at Leigh’s house that night. The next day I had plans to meet up with a friend of a friend. Her name is Erika and she lives in a teepee on a hemp farm near the Deschutes River. Leigh dropped me off at her house she owns in town (but rents out since she sleeps in her teepee). When we arrived at her house she was standing in the front yard wearing what appeared to be a white HASMAT suit. I got out of the truck and she said, “Hey, I gotta jump in a beehive, meet me on the porch.”. I looked at Leigh, he looked at me and said, “Have fun man”. So, I waited on the porch.
Erika came from around her house, minus the suit, and told me all about her beehives in the backyard. She’s knows in town as Queen Bee because that’s her honey company name. We got into her car and drove out to a very small town 10 miles from Bend called Tumalo. There’s a super cool little outdoor bar surrounded by a large lawn/dirt/rock formation patio which is surrounded by food trucks. We enjoyed a few beers and chatted with one of her girlfriends about some weird but cool therapy she performs on people called Kambo. Back up – I had seen, on Erika’s forearm, a series of small dots that looked like tiny cigarette burns that were healing. There were about 7 of them and they were perfectly spaced apart. I wasn’t sure what it was and I didn’t ask. When her friend arrived and sat down I noticed she had them as well but A LOT more. Her forearms and her leg had these perfectly spaced circles. Some of them were white scars and some were scabbed. So, I had to ask. OK – back to Kambo. She explained to me about a frog from the Amazon that secretes something from it’s skin that the indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been using for hundreds of years for both physical and spiritual healing. In the US there are practitioners, and she was one of them, who perform this practice. It involves her taking a small stick that is burned on the end and, when it’s still very hot, she makes a small, superficial burn on the skin. Then, with her fingernail, she scrapes it to open it up and then smears some of this secretion into the burn. Depending on your history with Kambo, your mental state, etc. she determines how many little burns to do. For a first timer she only does about 4-5. Needless to say I wanted to do this!! Right there and then! But, because I had alcohol in me she wouldn’t do it. Not because I was inebriated but because you have to drink a few liters of water prior to doing it and you shouldn’t have alcohol in your bloodstream. Dang it!!! This is exactly the kind of stuff I want to experience on this journey!! Oh well, maybe next time.
After hanging out at the little cool bar, Erika drove me out to the river to see her teepee and hemp farm. Now, I have to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t think I was quite expecting a legit, 18’ teepee by a river. Maybe I was thinking she had some wanna-be teepee but nope. She had a real friggin teepee! It was huge! You could easily put a few beds in there. It was probably about 12-14’ in diameter. She didn’t have furniture, though. She had rugs on the ground and slept on a pretty thick pad and had a fuel lantern. That’s it. Totally off the grid and super wild. I wished I had my gear with me because I would have loved to have slept in that teepee but it was just a visit. We went down the river and hung out there a bit and then Leigh drove out to pick me up. All in all I had an awesome day with Erika. I love meeting new people and learning new things and she definitely provided new things to talk about!
The next day my buddy Noah drove down from Washington in his Sprinter Van. You’ve definitely seen pics of me, pretty much all of them, wearing a black baseball cap that has a round logo that says Sylvan. Well, that is Noah’s company and he converts Sprinter Vans into living arrangements and he does an awesome job! If you’re thinking of getting into the van life, Noah is your guy. He was coming down to give me car support for 3 nights and I was super stoked. While I walked the next 4 days, Noah went fishing, biking, climbing and got camp ready each night. He let me sleep in the bed in the van and he crashed on a pad on the floor. He made dinners and every morning made awesome breakfast and French press coffee. This was legit car support!
While I was walking my 2nd day I picked up a cool little piece of wood and decided I was going to carve out a knife kinda thing. It was very satisfying picking away at that thing until it finally materialized into something I really liked! Then I looked up on YouTube how to wrap the handle with paracord, which I happened to have in my cart for emergencies, and finished it up. I’m pretty damned proud of it! It’s pine wood and I’m going to look for a piece of manzanilla in California. I hope to find some on ground somewhere and make another one.
After 3 long walking days I decided to have a little fun on day 4 with him. I put in 10 miles and called it quits. We threw Alexa in the van and drove out to a lake he had researched where we rented a flat bottom row boat and took all his fishing gear out. Turns out that the fish loved him but hated me. He pulled in 4 rainbow trout and all I got was a mild sunburn on the top of my feet because I was a dumbass and didn’t spray them before getting on the boat. But we had a good time. We drank Coors Light and talked shit – all the things guys are supposed to do when fishing, right? That night Noah made me s’mores in the van using purple Easter peeps. Pretty damned delish.
I do have to back up for just a second. Sorry. On the first night Noah arrived in Bend we went drinking (shocking) with Leigh and Errin. But before they showed up it was just the two of us at the bar. I asked Noah, who got engaged to Jill several months earlier, when they were getting married. He said, “Funny you should ask that. We were wondering if you would marry us?” No shit!! They wanted me to get ordained and then they were going to come down the following weekend, pick me up and I would officiate their ceremony. “Hell yeah!!!! I’ll do that!”
The process of getting ordained is free and you have to fill in 3 blanks on a webpage of the Universal Life Church. Those 3 difficult questions are 1. Name 2. Phone Number and 3. Email Address. PHEW!! I knew all those answers so, just like that, 8 seconds later, I was ordained. I am officially Reverend Thomas Curran and I am marrying Noah and Jill tomorrow morning, Saturday the 20th, up at Crater Lake and I am super excited. Oh, on the website they do offer packages to order, of course, and we did and in the package comes my official certificate, some bumper stickers, a mirror hangtag that says MINISTER, a hanging badge and a wallet ID card. Cannot wait to get those!
So I’ve been in Klamath Falls since yesterday. I did have another breakdown with Alexa – same problem – but this time, instead of cleaning the bearings, I just bought new ones and she’s running like new. I’ll be off today and tomorrow for the wedding then back on the road on Sunday, July 21. I will be crossing into California late Sunday afternoon!!!! I’m 80 miles from Mt. Shasta and should arrive there Wed or Thurs. I’ve been flirting with Lady Shasta since Wednesday when I first saw her peak through the trees. It’s amazing how huge that mountain is and it’s completely covered in snow. No, I am not going to the top. I have been asked that. It’s over 10,000 feet. I’m going around it to the west through Mt. Shasta city.
More to come soon. Love to all.