Travel

Highlights Nature Retreat Highlights.

Nature Retreat for ALL Writers & Artists 2018

This summer, I applied for and was granted a full scholarship to the Highlights Foundation’s first ever Nature Retreat. It was magical.

To try to write about the entire experience would be to fill volumes. I decided to focus on ten highlights instead.

 

1. Jo, travel arranger extrordinaire, sent me my welcome e-mail with this little note at the end:

“I see you live on the West coast, and I recommend flying into Newark perhaps—we provide complimentary shuttle service…and if you need to arrive a day early, we can make that work.”

I responded:

“Could you let me know what coming in a day ahead of time would cost? Thank you!”

Her response:

“Chris,

No charge this time for coming a day early…know you have long travel time.”

The very first communication I had with this wonderful organization made me cry.

 

2. Linda, of the complimentary shuttle service, picked me up at the airport.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“Oregon.” I answered.

“Wow! I lived in Oregon in the early 80’s.”

“Small world! Which part?”

“Salem.”

I break out in goosebumps. “No way! That’s the biggest town close to where I live.”

“So, where exactly do you live?” Sharon asked.

“Between Salem and Silverton, little community called Pratum,” I answered.

“Hmmm. That sounds familiar. You know, there was this Mennonite farmer who had a basketball court in the top of his barn. My husband and I would go out there and play, sometimes.”

By now, I’m one big goosebump and I’m racking my brain, trying to figure out if there could possibly be two basketball barns near Pratum.

“Linda, that’s the farm I grew up on.”

“NO!”

“YES!”

We fist bump like kids, grinning from ear to ear.

 

3.   Sue Heavenrich, there with her critique partners doing an unworkshop, after I tell her I saw a millipede, immediately says:

“Don’t eat it!”

You know, I’ve never in my life looked at a bug and wondered if it was safe to eat. 

I do now. 

 

4. In each cabin is a notebook full of notes from previous occupants. I’m flipping through, reading their testimonials, and come to this page.20180805_163333

Ingrid Sundberg, you will never know how much this means to me. How, all my life, I’ve struggled with feeling like I was enough. How I’ve gotten so much better at feeling like I’m actually plenty, but lately have been questioning if I am enough as a writer, and how this trip is partly to help me figure this out.

And here is my answer, in writing no less.

I am enough.

 

5. If you ever are so lucky as to get the chance to meet Kate Garchinsky, ask her what the owl says. Because this lady speaks their language. And she showed us how it’s done on a walk straight out of a fairy tale. A forest concert with katydids on percussion, fireflies in charge of the light show, and Kate and the owls in a full on call and response song that filled the air.

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Now, when I walk in the woods and darkness is falling, I listen for owls. Better yet, I’m learning to talk back.

 

6. Chip took us out for a walk around the grounds and talked about taking pictures. It was a lesson in slowing down, paying attention, and being persistent. 

 

 

7. Mike and I have often bemoaned the fact there is no barn on our farm. We drive the countryside, looking at barns and saying, “That one! That one would look great up on the hill!” But none of them have ever compared to this one.

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8. Dairy farms have cows, and cows only give milk if they’ve given birth. So, dairy farms also have calves. Do you know how much fun I had introducing my city friends to the slippery, slimy joy of a calf nursing on your fingers? Sometimes I forget that I’m living a pretty amazing life on my little farm. After all, it’s a lot of work and that part sometimes overwhelms me. But this was a good reminder.

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9. I’m not a water person. (Well, except for showers. I can stay in the shower until the hot water runs out.) But deep water, flowing water, water that is WAAAAY bigger than me? Nope. I’ll stay on dry land, thank you.

However, one of my stories is about fear, and how it can both stop you from doing things, and drive you forward into doing things. So, in the name of research, I went kayaking on the Delaware while it was the color of coffee and just below flood stage. I saw eagles, dodged a rock, managed to let go of my paddle long enough to dip my fingers in the water, and, most importantly, I didn’t drown. Am I a kayaking convert?

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No. The fear runs too deep. That’s me in the background, death grip on my paddle, so focused on going in a straight line I forgot to kick back and have fun.

Smile!

But I did it. And the next time I am faced with doing something I fear, I’ll remember kayaking. And how I lived to talk about it. And hopefully it will make moving forward into that fear a little easier.

 

10. My fellow Nature Retreaters. There are not enough words to describe our short time together, but I’ve tried to capture just a few that, for me, describe the gift each of you gave me while eating and playing and laughing in a magical place in the Poconos. 

Carol: Maybe being a farmer and a writer isn’t so weird after all. Here’s proof!

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Deborah: Find a way.

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Chuck: Do what you love. (Like going fishing instead of visiting a flower farm.)

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Nicole: See the world and all its wonders.

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Sharon: Live out loud, laugh out loud, and sing with your whole body. (How I wish this photo was of you singing about a moose drinking juice.)

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Myrna: Speak out.

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Kate: Ask. The answer might be yes.

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Kim: Yes. It is real.

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Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

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Peace and Love,

Chris

 

Snow Peak Rescue

We’ve had a lot of snow this year. More than normal, and it has stayed on the ground longer than normal. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to go play in more snow. Since we were kids, Mike and I have been going to Snow Peak. We have a lifetime of good memories associated with this place.

We drove up, thinking we would stop when the snow got too deep. There is a logging road that takes you to a short trail that climbs up to an abandoned fire lookout. You can see the whole world from up there, it seems like. That was our goal.

So we set off on a bright, sunny day. And we almost made it. But this year the snow was deep. So deep, we got stuck for the first time ever. And had to call for help.

We did manage to get some hiking in. We walked back down the road to meet our rescuer. Adam, you are my hero.

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Making the best of it.

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Tiny little mouse butt prints!

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We dug and spun for about an hour. Adam pulled us out in a few minutes.

Next time, we’ll wait for a warmer winter.

Peace,

Chris

Pacific City Writing Retreat

I gave myself a treat last month and went to the coast all by myself with the goal of writing until I felt like stopping, instead of stopping when I got interrupted. It was glorious. I took a walk down the beach first thing.

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I wonder how many haystack rocks there are in the world?

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And then I got down to writing.

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The view was inspirational.

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And this got me off the couch and out onto my balcony.

The next day I climbed the dune. I wasn’t at all sure I could make it to the top. It’s been awhile since I tried. However, I discovered there are many, many different angles to take photos from. I took advantage of all of them. Long advantages. With lots of deep breathing. And luckily no puking.

And, one step at a time,20170125_10321420170125_10333720170125_10354020170125_104112 I made it to the top.

Instead of the traditional giant leaping run back down the same side, I took a slower, gentler route down the backside and around.

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The sand reminded me of wood grain.

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And the combination of textures was lovely.

Back to writing. All day.

I’m working on a novel about loss and darkness, rediscovery and light. It’s not easy to write and my hope was that by getting away from home and all its distractions and interruptions I would be able to focus and get some words on the page. It worked. I did. Seven new chapters.

I ended my mini retreat by treating myself to a salmon dinner at the Pelican Pub.

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I think I might have to make a habit of this.

Peace,

Chris

Ghost Towns for Halloween

Mike and I decided to take a trip last fall and since it was the end of October, what better place to go than a few ghost towns? This trip kept popping up on my Facebook feed so I plugged the coordinates into my phone, and we took off.

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This was Cola’s first road trip and I wasn’t sure how she would do with all the driving time. I shouldn’t have worried.

We left home and drove up past Mt. Hood before dipping down around the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to  Trout Creek Campground. We didn’t do any rock climbing, but Cola swam in the Deschuttes River while Mike and I walked along the abandoned rail line that follows the river. 20161028_161400

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The skies were amazing the entire trip.

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Setting up camp.

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This is the abandoned rail line. Makes for a lovely, level walking trail.

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Mike was pretty sure he could see someone climbing high on the right.

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Happy campers.

In the morning we took off for our first ghost town, Shaniko. Like I said, Cola was a good traveler.

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From Shaniko we drove to Condon, which just seemed like a small, run down town. Mike and I were struck by how many people still actually live in all the towns we visited. I finally looked up the definition of “ghost town.”

“a town for which the reason for being no longer exists”

It seems many of these towns have found a new reason for being: Tourism. But, even though the towns themselves were a bit of a disappointment, the roads we travelled between them were amazing. And, we would have never taken those roads if we weren’t heading to the next town on the list.

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Wild turkeys.

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Alice sent Grandpa on this trip with candy to keep him going.

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The roads were truly stunning.

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Cola was very patient whenever we needed to shop for supplies/treats.

The next town we visited was Lone Rock. Wonder where they came up with the name.

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From Lone Rock to Hardman was the most scenic drive of the whole trip. Also the slowest. We were on a one lane gravel road. I think we averaged about 20 mph. But that speed gave us time to see everything, which was a very, very good thing.

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Hula girl got a good workout.

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At one point we came around a corner and drove through someone’s farm. We didn’t see any power poles along the road. Pretty sure this farm runs off the grid. However, they are definitely using their resources wisely.

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The rock wall ran along one side of the road. A small creek ran along the other side. When we looked closely at the rock, this is what we saw.

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I’d love to see this wall when the babies have just hatched.

Once we came up out of the canyon, the whole world spread out around us.

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We found a campground just outside of Hardman. It was too dark to see anything, but we were pretty sure there was a body of water somewhere out there in the darkness and fog. Sure enough. In the morning we woke up to this view.

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After breakfast here: 20161030_101442

We continued on. Mike and I made the decision to stay on paved roads from that point on. Cola made the decision to try sleeping on the floor for awhile.20161030_132029

We skipped a few towns, but did drive through Granite,

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enjoyed the road to Sumpter,

and got out and got more supplies/treats in Sumpter.

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Cola guarded the bank vault while we did our shopping.

We ended up driving through Halfway and camping at Copperfield Campground, right on the Snake River/Oregon/Idaho border.

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Cola took advantage of the time to get some swimming done. She went after the sticks we threw without ever seeming to realize the bubbles popping around her were fish. Lots and lots of fish!

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The campground was really nice.

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The last ghost town on our list was Cornucopia. It looks like there is a big push to make it a resort/hunting destination. Cola tried a new nap position.

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We found a few more old looking houses.

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And then we headed home through John Day and the painted hills.

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Cola and I obeyed the signs.

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Although I’ve got to admit, I thought this one could be interpreted several different ways, one of which would mean we needed to learn to fly.

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The patterns and colors always remind me of Indian blankets. Probably where they got their inspiration.

It felt fitting to finish the trip heading into the sunset.