Deschutes National Forest
Off Highway 58
I returned to Oregon to run a trail race near Crater Lake, and this time flew into Euguene instead of Portland to save myself a few hours of driving in the middle of the night. I hadn’t anticipated I’d still had almost 3 hours from the airport, but off I went. I had neglected to take a bio-break before I left the airport at about midnight, so sometime around 2 in the morning I find myself on Highway 58 headed to the race start at Lemolo Lake in desperate need of said bio-break. I pull off the deserted divided highway at a spot intended for people to chain-up their tires for traction in winter and look up and see the most spectacular clear night sky, unpolluted by light from neighboring towns. I am 70 mountainous miles from the nearest city, nestled deep in timber country feeling utterly alone and small. I am literally staring into space.
My initial inclination at a moment like this is to try to capture a photo to remember, but of course low light, shaky hands, light sources several trillion miles away I realize I’m going to have to rely on my faulty memory. I stare up for several minutes futilely trying to lock it in. I realize how silly it is. It’s not as if I could capture a river in bucketfuls, or a mountain in wheelbarrow fulls. Instead I should just let it wash over me.
I do some quick math and realize I have 3 hours to kill before I have to be at the shuttle bus pickup. I don’t have a tent or sleeping bag, but I do have a car with a sunroof. This is going to be like Paris Hilton’s idea of “roughing it”. Anyway I go back to the car, set the alarm, open the sun roof, and put on some piano music, lie back and stare through the hole in my absurdly modern “tent” until I fall asleep to a Levi Kreiss version of the Stephen Schwartz song “Lost in the Wilderness” from the musical “Children of Eden.”
The musical is a creative retelling of the stories of Genesis. This song specifically is Cain’s lament to Abel that their parents (Adam and Eve) were expelled from the Garden of Eden, that god does not care about them, and how he chafes to explore the world a just and loving god has condemned him to death in (sorry, I might have colored that with a bit of my own religious opinions.) Anyway, some of the lyrics:
Now we’re lost in the wilderness
Lost, crying in the wilderness
If anyone’s watching it seems they couldn’t care less
We’re lost in the wilderness
Off we go without a warning
Running as we hit the ground
Where our future lies a-borning
Where our hearts are outward bound
Till one bright and distant morning
We may stop and look around
And there in the wilderness
We’ll finally be found
I think most people go too far either way with nature. Either they are perfectly happy to not spend a moment out of their climate controlled made for humans shelters, or they romanticize nature as this perfect space that we should never have left. As usual, the truth lies somewhere between. The scale of nature is such that we aren’t so much as a rounding error. It is indifferent to your joy or anguish, life or death, but even knowing this I find I am like Cain in the song. I can’t help but feel compelled into this wilderness thinking I will find out more about myself while I chase this beautiful and cruel coquette.