Saturday, June 25, 2016

Good Intentions, But Not Paved

The wild rhododendrons are blooming now. I thought it would be cool to find a good rhody hike. "There used to be tons of them at Plaza Lake," Dave said.

Plaza Lake. Oh hell yeah. Let's do this thing.

I've been hearing about Plaza Lake and Abbott Road for forty years. They figure in a number of Dave's disaster stories B. M. (Before Murr). Or possibly it was just one story so traumatic his memory split it into more manageable chunks. He and his buddy tried to turn the pickup truck around on Abbott Road and got the back end hanging off the cliff and they slithered delicately out of the cab and roped it up to a tree and set out walking in their shorts and T-shirts until it got dark and cold and they had to try to sleep in the woods in a more intimate position than either of them would have preferred. And walked for twenty miles without meeting a soul before realizing they'd gone the wrong way.

There might have been wolverines.

"Let's go to Plaza Lake," I said.

I'd looked it up. It was only a 2.4 mile hike round trip but a very long drive, some of it on a bumpy road. We prefer hiking to driving but we were in it for the rhododendrons.

The directions suggested it was a 100-minute drive from Portland, and that was true, if by "Portland" you mean some place nowhere near Portland, and by "100 minutes" you mean three and a half hours. And it was a "bumpy road" if what you mean by bumpy is "could be charitably described as lunar."

Once we left the pavement we still had about 17 miles to go. I drove my little red car. It's adorable. It has a clearance about the same as my vertical leap, or three inches. The potholes were cavernous. The ruts could have been navigated by a gondola. Driving my little red car on this road was like sending a dung beetle across a waffle.

Our sense of adventure kicked in. Who cares how long it takes? We wormed our way up Abbott Road like a hopped-up slime mold. The miles trudged by as if borne on glaciers. Shadows lengthened. We didn't see a single person. It began to occur to us that if we did get stuck, we would have no recourse but to bail out and walk for twenty miles in the waning sunlight. We decided to try something we'd never done before: we chose discretion over valor. Two short miles from our goal, we turned around. It was just a wide enough spot that we might be seen from the air if we spelled out HELP in pieces of axles.

Usually when we take a road like that, Dave's driving our thirty-year-old four-wheel-drive pickup. I hate it. I ride in the passenger seat weeping quietly and trying not to throw up. This time, with me driving, Dave was a model of serenity. When we turned around he got out and promptly took a dump in the woods. People cope in different ways.

Seven hours after we left, we were right back home again. We could have driven to California.

32 comments:

  1. You turned back with only two miles to go?
    Well, I guess you can see the rhododendrons via google.

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    1. I know. I'm ashamed. And a little bit proud.

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  2. Good plan sice it was a bit isolated. Go to a botanical garden for a safer viewing?

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    1. I know, but how old ARE we now? Are we done yet?

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  3. Replies
    1. By which you mean, you're not quite right.

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  4. Google rhododendrons, look at the pretty pictures on your computer, and have a couple beers. No bumpy, isolated road. And there's beer!

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    1. Really, no matter where we go, there's beer.

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  5. Choosing discretion over valor ... aww, Murr (&Dave), you're all grown up and stuff! It was still fun, right? It's about the journey, right?

    Next time, don't be such lazy schlubs, dang it - hike your way in. The whole way in.

    Said the person who hikes nowhere.

    Glad you got back safe and sound.

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    1. We stopped at that two-mile-away thing in order to hike all the way in, but then Dave had to take a dump, and that was taking some time, and I got nervous about the waning of the day.

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  6. Someone else who battle tears and nausea from the passenger seat? I thought I was shamefully alone.

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    1. I'm not the best passenger, I must say.

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    2. I once had one of the most interesting adventures of my life involving azaleas, the southern version of rhododendrons. I was heading to east Texas to camp out with a friend from Louisiana. I knew he could not get to the camp site until midnight, so I decided to take a drive on the Wild Azalea Trail. Unfortunately, it had recently rained and the road was red clay, so I eventually slid into a ditch. I walked out until a guy picked me up, then delivered me to another guy who could pull me out. The second guy pulled me out and then invited me to his house where we had a lovely visit, before I continued on my way. Sometimes the journey is the best part.

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    3. Sometimes it's the best part, and other times it's the part that is really funny afterwards.

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  7. What happened to Dave's original pick-up? Did they go back in for it? How? Did you see it on this trip? People need to know these things!

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    1. It was Fred's. Let me check. Dave?

      Dave says they eventually got back to civilization and had a sleep and then got back to Govt. Camp and got a tow truck and somehow (I guess it was grisly) they got it yanked up and off the mountain.

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  8. Sounds like a route for mountain bikes.
    Or birds. 😊

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    1. They're deliberately making some trails more inaccessible by allowing the roads to go back to Nature. I approve of this, generally.

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  9. I spent the night once in the middle of a mountain road in Arizona. I had run into slush and it was steep and AAA was out of cell phone range. In the morning the narrow, cliff-hanging road was frozen and by making about 27 three-point turns I was able to get my mini-van (or was it my full size van, I can't remember) back down. Last year in California I managed to back down another such road a quarter mile. Took about a half hour I think. I'm all for staying alive. Good move, Murr.

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    1. One of my deepest fears is traveling on an awful rutted road with a severe drop-off on one side and no room to pass, and meeting someone coming the other way and having to back up. I do believe this is something I have actually done, and blacked out on.

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    2. That is my fear too... I do not do well in reverse... we took a short trip to follow the road to Ada just south of Florence. It ended up in a horribly narrow road with hairpin turns and I swear it was a gravel one lane road. It was a pretty neat little fishing place though...

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    3. Horrible. Once my sister took me on one of those cliff-hanging gravel roads and the only way I could survive was to remind myself that she wasn't scared and nobody ever really falls off the cliff. Then I made the mistake of looking down over the cliff.

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  10. "they had to try to sleep in the woods in a more intimate position than either of them would have preferred."

    Snort worthy indeed.

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  11. Next time, just come to California!

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    1. I was just there last October, and it was lovely, but you've got that whole state-on-fire thing going on...

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  12. Oh boy... the places we've gone and survived! If you ever want to confront your phobia face on, I'm your gal.

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    1. You might be my gal, but NO, I never want to confront my phobias face on.

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  13. I drove that 'road' many times in the early '70's in my Land Cruiser. At one point I thought the USFS was going to close it to motorized travel.

    Apparently my mother and her family dug rhodys for sale to nursery and homeowners during the depression, dug from national forest land somewhere on Hood.

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    1. I don't think any maintenance has been done to that road since you got your cooties all over it.

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