Wallowa County is one of Oregon’s most beautiful secrets, preserved by its remoteness in the NE corner of the state, hours from any decent-sized city. The wide-open valleys of wheat and working ranches are dotted by small towns - where the wild west is alive and well. The Wallowa Mountains serve as a magnificent backdrop, home of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and its glacial lakes, and Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge.
We packed up the car and drove out from Portland, my friend Andi and I.
She’s one of my closest girlfriends. Don’t put her in a box, she won’t fit. There’s a duality to her idiosyncrasies. She is floating in the cosmos, bursting with creative energy and also walking grounded on the Earth, her head solid on her shoulders. We like to cook dinner and chat about the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship. And how we wouldn’t have it any other way. Then we put on some kooky hammer pants and crop tops and find a good dance party: hip-hop, soul, disco, please.
With my outdoor friends, I feel like the city cat. But with Andi, I feel like a professional climber. She’d never been backpacking before and I wanted to share it with her. The unique way of moving through the natural world with everything you need on your back, self-subsistence nourishing a sense of freedom, strength and humility.
Mountain people are familiar with Type 2 Fun - the kind that’s miserable while it’s happening but fun in retrospect. Like an ultramarathon. Or spending all day skinning up a frozen mountain, the wind and snow stinging your sweet cheeks. Then there’s Type 1 Fun, which is enjoyable while it’s happening. Also known as, simply, fun. Flying disc in the park, campfires, laser tag.
And then there’s Type 0 Fun, which is rooted in not DOING much of anything. It’s about BEING and being content while doing it. Like sitting by a lake, daydreaming, watching the water catch light and let it go.
As a backpacker, I’m typically the one in the group encouraging the more *easy breezy* route - the one that’s short enough to hike in a bottle of Pinot Noir. While I’m endlessly grateful for the friends that embolden me to climb higher - body and spirit - it’s also nice to set a different intention in the outdoors. A slower pace and a softer journey. Andi is the queen of Type 0 Fun.
We walked slowly and held space for stillness. For listening and noticing.
We collected leaves in every hue of the fall foliage then water colored by the river, recreating the tones with paint and paper.
We snacked on pink ladies, delighted by their crisp.
We settled into camp at the edge of Hells Canyon and watched the sky shift from blue to orange to pink to purple.
We stared at the moon till it didn’t make any sense. This whole soaring-through-the-universe-on-a-hunk-of-rock, thing.
Then we went to sleep.