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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Idealizing Rural Life in Southern Oregon

I have lived in rural South America and rural southern North America for a total of 2.5 years. Therefore, my idealization has an actual foundation. This is different than my idealization of spending a week in an opium den in Morocco which is grounded in fantasy from watching Naked Lunch.

I can't exactly put my finger on why I idealize rural living. I've spent some time in fields doing subsistence farming, know that night time entertainment options are drinking around a smoky charcoal pit, and trudged down muddy roads to get supplies so I know the less glamorous sides of it. I realize that I obviously like solitude, don't mind seeing the same people all the time, like that you can talk to strangers without creating suspicion, and probably really like the big open sky, towering forests, and foothills. The rural country store that includes a seating area, random religious-based gifts or folding knives and lighters that are decorated with screaming eagles also appeal to me. They're vaguely reassuring like the consistency that one finds in a Starbucks.

There were the feelings that I had in my rural Southern Oregon road trip this week. Despite bad weather conditions and snow levels up to 5000 feet, I drove out to Klamath Falls for some hiking and climbing. K Falls, its nickname that is too good not to overuse, looked beautiful as I approached the town. On the upper Klamath Lake, with Mt Shasta and McLoughlin in the background it changed my spirits. Kind of like approaching Philadelphia with the view of the Sunnoco refinery also changed my spirits but in the opposite direction.

Due to the conditions, I only attempted to scramble up Union Peak off route 62 near Crater Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was well marked so the fact that it was covered with snow wasn't a problem. At the right elevation, I picked a compass path off into the snow to find Union Peak. As I write this, I'm trying not to sound like I'm high fiving myself for my mad navigation skills.

Union Peak was steep and snow covered as I had expected. I kicked some footholds and punched hand holds halfway up the peak before snow conditions got worse and I descended. The picture on the left is Union Peak and the picture on the right is the view of Mt McLoughlin on this overcast day.

Given the weather, my next stop was the North Umpqua Hot Springs for a soak. The fact that someone built a shelter and carved this hot springs out of the stone is another reason I idealize rural life. Low population density and lack of foot traffic give incentive to build free public facilities like hot springs overlooking a river.

The hot springs is not clearly marked from the gravel road. It's 2 miles from the fork of route 34 and I noticed it because of another car parked on the road. There were a few people camping around there so look for signs of life or partying. After parking, cross a log bridge with no hand rails, head right and go up the hill that do have hand rails.

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