Home Sweet Home

I have written about the idea of home before. It is an idea that is important to me, especially recently as I have started to build a new life in Oregon. It is hard to believe it was only two months ago when I was packing up to leave Dallas.

Earlier this year when I wrote about the meaning of home, I was at a point in my life when I had chosen to walk away from what had been and what I thought would be my home. I felt adrift in uncertainty. The thought of moving to Oregon had not even crossed my mind. Heck, the thought of visiting Oregon had not even crossed my mind. I had no idea where I would be living at the end of my fellowship. But I knew the things that were important to me.

Today, my life has a little more direction and much more happiness, and yet I continue to appreciate that I do not truly know what tomorrow will bring or what direction my life will take next. I love that this no longer drives me crazy. And that each day I get to wake up and make the choice to build a home in this new place through doing the important things.

It is with that attitude I have been exploring Oregon. And for the most part, I am really enjoying the possibilities and the anticipation of what my life could be. Not that moving and starting over has been all fun and games. I mean, moving to a place where I know no one kind of means that I have to meet a bunch of new people, which is pretty much my idea of the least fun thing ever. Thankfully, I have met some very nice people, some of whom even manage to at least seem as if they are not offended when I just do not feel like talking. Sure, I have hours or days when I really just want to sit on my couch, magically make my brothers or one of my best friends appear, and never talk to someone I’ve known for less than 5 years ever, ever again. But, those moments aside, I am trying to live with a sense of discovery and exploration.

So, today I thought I would share a bit about what I have discovered and explored.

More than anything, I have loved living in such a beautiful place, a place where I can go hiking and see the stars and not spend hours of my day sitting in traffic. It. is. amazing. In just the short time that I have been here, I have been hiking in several incredible places. However, hiking at Crater Lake has undoubtedly been my favorite. There are no words and pictures do not begin to do it justice. Suffice it to say that if you ever have a chance to go, just go and prepare to be amazed.

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Of course, there are other great options, such as the waterfalls I recently hiked to and the nearby North Umpqua Trail.

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I always want to remember to feel grateful for the opportunity to live in a place with such abundant beauty.

As if the trees and the waterfalls and the rivers were not enough, I have the privilege of living close to the ocean. Like I-randomly-feel-like-putting-my-feet-in-the-ocean-so-I-am close.

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Just as Crater Lake was on the top of my must-see list, it did not take long for me to make my first trip to the coast. The town of Bandon was a great choice for my first coastal venture – great seafood, an especially scenic coastline, and plenty of little shops to explore.

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Like with any change, there have been some adjustments. When I first moved into my house, I noticed that there was an interior bathroom perfect for sheltering during a tornado. And then I realized that, for the first time in my life, I probably did not need to worry about tornadoes. Wildfires, on the other hand, were discussed on the radio repeatedly through the end of the dry summer. And now it is fall. And most days are to some extent cloudy and rainy and will likely continue to be so through the winter. But at least it is not hot and humid!

I also love the easily accessible farmer’s markets. My sister-in-law lovingly calls me “sort of a hippy,” partly because she sees me as easy-going (hahaha) and partly because, well, I still do not fully know why. Of course, I’m fairly certain I only confirmed her belief when I got “Peace” tattooed on my body. And then every now and then I do things like post pictures of the farmer’s market produce that I am really excited about on Facebook, which she says are further evidence in support of her conceptualization.

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In addition to a weekly farmer’s market, the town I live in has a farmer’s co-op that is open daily, so I do not even have to get up early on a Saturday morning in order to buy locally sourced products.

Speaking of farmers(ish), another amazing thing is that I am entirely surrounded by vineyards.

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I really do live in an incredible place. It would be even more amazing if there were a Super Target and a Torchy’s Tacos. Seriously, I literally dreamed about Torchy’s queso last week – any of my Texas friends want to figure out how to ship me some? And while you’re at it, maybe some Desperado’s tacos? Or some Chuy’s salsa?? I’m sensing a theme… Like I said, there have been some adjustments.

These are just a few of the things that I have experienced since moving to Oregon. All of this and it is only the beginning. I have a lifetime to explore this new place I call home, to build new relationships, and to continue to create the life I want to live. I cannot wait to find out what is next!

Lions and Tigers and Bears

I realize I said I would write about how I managed to get Sydney from Texas to Oregon with her doggie mental health intact. But I just don’t feel like writing about that. Plus, I was not exactly successful – we’ve been in Oregon for 6 weeks and I still don’t think she’s fully recovered. And really, it is my blog, so if I don’t feel like writing about something, I kind of don’t have to. Maybe another time.

One of the things I have most loved about living in Oregon is the ready access I have to numerous hiking trails. Given that I intend to spend many of my weekends exploring Oregon, I recently decided that, in the interest of personal safety, I should perhaps develop a level of awareness about potential risks I could encounter while hiking.

Of course I decided to research this vitally important topic the night before I was planning to hike to four of the six waterfalls collectively known as the Little River Waterfalls. That is how I found myself searching at an increasingly frantic pace “things that can kill you while hiking in Oregon.” At midnight. There was both good news and bad news.

On the one hand, there was the surprisingly reassuring fact that the only venomous snake in Oregon is the rattlesnake. That is reassuring to someone who is accustomed to also considering the possibility of death by copperhead or water moccasin. First, because there is at least the possibility that a rattlesnake will give you a warning. Second, because, unlike water moccasins, who are obviously on earth only to viciously attack and kill all humans, rattlesnakes are not naturally aggressive. At least that is what I told myself.

Of course, on the other hand, there are bears and cougars. Oh, and as some websites felt the need to remind me, the possibility of “human predators.” I was briefly reassured that Oregon has only black bears and does not have grizzly bears – black bears are generally less aggressive. But I don’t think that would matter all that much if a black bear changed his mind when I happened to be in the vicinity.

Then I realized I had no more than a vague concept of what a cougar was (a large cat, obviously) and how it could kill you. I tried to be reassured by the statistics I found (because stats never lie…) that in Oregon the wild animal that was most likely to cause my death was a wild horse (yes, I actually read some type of official report documenting wild animal deaths in Oregon) and that there were no known human deaths by cougar and very few documented deaths by bear in Oregon. But then again, how many lone hikers like myself had been killed by one of these animals without anyone ever knowing? However, like a good psychologist, I allowed myself to be reassured that the statistics at least were on my side and that I was overwhelmingly likely to be just fine. At least that is what I told myself.

Armed with statistics, repetitious reassurances, and a laundry list of tips for preventing wild animal attacks, I set out for the first of the four waterfalls I planned to see that day. My first stop was Wolf Creek Falls. Incidentally, this was the only trail where I saw an actual human being. Thankfully, he was very friendly in a not-a-human-predator kind of way.

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My relaxed, smiling face belies the worry-filled and sleepless night I had just experienced.
My relaxed, smiling face belies the worry-filled and sleepless night I had just experienced.

As I walked along, I could not shake the feeling that something would inevitably go wrong. I repeatedly rehearsed the advice from the night before. “If I see a bear, I should not make eye contact, no I should make…no that’s if I see a cougar, okay, well either way I should definitely not run and I should do my best to look like I am not easy prey, which would probably be easier if I were taller than the average 6th grader, darn it, why can’t I be taller or at least have a more intimidating voice if I need to yell at something, maybe I should sing, well that would be silly, I will just walk loudly, I should have brought the hand sanitizer that does not smell like Japanese Cherry Blossom, I’m going to die” Basically, it was one run on sentence of worry. Thankfully, that did not stop me from being completely awed by the beauty around me.

The trails to the next two waterfalls – Hemlock and Yakso – were both located near the Lake in the Woods Campground. This was also a great spot for a picnic. The campground was empty, so I grabbed a lakeside picnic table at one of the campsites and enjoyed the view while I ate.

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Honestly, I felt somewhat reassured by the seemingly flimsy and so-not-bear-proof nature of this trash can. If such a trash can was appropriate, then certainly bears could not be a problem in this area. Right?
Honestly, I felt somewhat reassured by the seemingly flimsy and so-not-bear-proof nature of this trash can. If such a trash can was appropriate, then certainly bears could not be a problem in this area. Right?

Of course, there was the moment when I realized I was walking in the middle of a berry patch, which is of course something you should never do when you are avoiding bears, especially in the fall when their job is basically eating berries. I considered trying the berries once I verified that there was not a bear lurking nearby. They looked like wild blueberries, which are delicious. But then I realized that the one thing I forgot to search the night before was “poisonous berries in Oregon.” Why on earth had I not thought of that? I have since remedied the oversight.

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The final waterfall was the most out-of-the-way and wonderful of all. The trail to Grotto Falls is located off a gravel road that winds around several miles of mountain. Thankfully, my little car has had lots of practice driving on gravel roads, so that was no deterrent. It was worth the effort. Not that I am ever very good at picking a favorite of anything, but if I had to pick a favorite waterfall that day, it may have been this one. There were caves behind it, which would have been much more interesting if I were not imagining all of the things that could have been hiding in them. Regardless, it was incredible to walk behind and under the waterfall.

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I am still trying to fully grasp that I now live in such an amazing place – a place where I can wake up on a Saturday morning and hike to any number of scenic places. I’m pretty sure I will never get tired of hiking to waterfalls, even if I do have to face my fear of bears and cougars.

Oregon Moving Trail: Lessons Learned Part II

Picking up from where I left off last time, here are a few more of the lessons I learned in the process of moving to Oregon. I apologize in advance for the overwhelming amount of Grand Canyon pictures, but it was unavoidable.

  1. The Grand Canyon is beyond words amazing. I knew this intellectually. I knew this to the extent that I chose to stop for an extra night in Arizona for the sole purpose of seeing the Grand Canyon. I knew this enough that I could not even wait until the next day to see it and drove there almost as soon as I checked into my hotel. But nothing could have prepared me for that first breathtaking moment, standing on the edge of an incomprehensibly large canyon wholly in awe of the colors and the textures and the utter awesomeness of it. IMG_2340IMG_2379
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    Even Sydney was impressed

    And that was just the beginning. Before the end of the day, I had savored every moment of a spectacular sunset. IMG_2433 IMG_2528 IMG_2520 IMG_2450IMG_2537The next morning I woke up at 3 am to ensure I made it back to the Grand Canyon in time for the sunrise. Despite the early (oh, so early) hour, it was truly one of the most memorable and magnificent mornings of my life – each moment more exquisite than the one before, the skies an ever-changing arrangement of color as the stillness of darkness slowly intensified into the magical light of early morning. Although I had enjoyed the sunset of the previous day, the quiet, uncrowded early morning was by far my preference. IMG_2554 IMG_2586IMG_2601IMG_2609IMG_2632IMG_2651IMG_2657As if having a most extraordinary morning were not enough, I then experienced the canyon in a whole new way as I hiked a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. Even as I slowly made my way up the trail (as they say – hiking down is a choice, hiking up is not; and it is both hot and steep), I could not help but appreciate the enormous complexity of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes I would pause and just touch the surprisingly cool walls of the canyon, awed by the history written upon and in them. IMG_2825 IMG_2785 IMG_2780 IMG_2772 IMG_2746 IMG_2730 IMG_2720 IMG_2719 IMG_2715 IMG_2702This day was one of the great ones.

  2. Sydney is a man magnet. IMG_2303So, maybe I already kind of knew this, but I appreciated her cute guy attracting skills even more as I made my way across the country alone. Being rather introverted, it is sometimes difficult for me to meet new people or to feel confident talking to someone I do not know that well. Enter Sydney. Thanks to her, I had no difficulty having interesting conversations or finding someone to talk to other than a hotel front desk clerk or a waiter. As an added bonus, many of the above mentioned people whom I met happened to be good-looking and have accents. I knew I brought her along for a reason. Although, to be fair, she really is a people magnet more generally, but man magnet was more alliterative. Plus, cute guys with accents…
  3. I learned what a desert really is. And what it is is Nevada. Having never been to anywhere in the state other than Las Vegas, I never grasped how truly desolate much of the rest of Nevada is. It was almost a surreal experience driving through so much nothingness. Between Vegas and Reno, there was the occasional small town (and by small I mean maybe 100 people and a couple of donkeys).
    Really, there were donkeys. Walking down the road. In a town.
    Really, there were donkeys. Walking down the road. In a town.

    Each time I passed one, I would uneasily wonder what life would be like in such a place – isolated from most of the world and seemingly far from modern conveniences. And yet, such isolation made a place like Tonopah, Nevada possible. I had added this as a stop because it was a relatively convenient stopping point between the Grand Canyon and Oregon and because, as I researched my trip, I found that this old silver mining town (for that was the only reason the town ever existed) is considered one of the best places in the US to see the stars, largely due to its isolation from pretty much everything else. As soon as I verified that there was a pet friendly hotel other than the Clown Motel (which was somehow even more unimaginably creepy in person), I knew I had to stop there. IMG_2905 IMG_2913 IMG_2924I was still reeling a bit from my day at the Grand Canyon, so it would take a bit to impress me at this point. Regardless, I drove out into the desert, because a single woman driving out into the desert at night in one of the darkest places in the US is always a great idea. I am so glad I did. I sat on the front of my car in the cool desert air almost unable to believe my eyes. As my eyes adjusted to a whole new level of darkness, I could see literally thousands of stars. Thousands. And the Milky Way. The Milky freaking Way. I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time (seriously – are you picturing how completely ridiculous I must have looked at that moment?). The immensity was beautiful and humbling.

  4. I am capable of more than I ever thought possible. More than anything else, I think this was what I learned during the trip. I can move to Oregon, I can drive across the country, I can talk to people I have never met, I can deal with challenging and unexpected situations, I can finally be a psychologist. The list goes on and on and includes some things I never could have imagined myself doing a year ago, or even six months ago. But I have done them. Not because they were easy or unscary or because I thought myself capable of them, because most of these things were hard and terrifying and seemingly impossible. Instead of waiting to be sure of myself, I jumped in with both feet and no life raft and figured it out as I went along. I am still figuring it out. But I have learned that I do not have to have it all figured out in order to move forward. That is a lesson I always want to remember. IMG_2311