Mack supervising as RK fishes on the Deschutes River

I never really wanted to live in Utah. For at least 6 years I claimed to be on the “one year plan.” My problem was with Utah’s urban areas, but the surrounding landscapes turned out to be a huge exploration opportunity. We made a loose household rule to not spend more than 2 weekends in a row in SLC. This was one of the smarter things we have ever done.

Salt Lake City is an excellent pivot point for the desert, the mountains, the great basin… and so many valleys, plateaus, mesas, rivers, creeks, and trails. We went all over Utah, to Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado. It shaped our style of adventure. Life was always better when we spent a night outside, saw the stars, hunkered in a pile of down, had coffee in the tent, even if it meant driving 4 hours each way. Always better.

Now that we are in Oregon, our range of exploration includes Canada, the ocean, and a whole heaping pile of places for us to discover.

You cannot re-create a life, each location requires it’s own accommodation, and I believe that what one brings to a town/state/region best remain fluid until it settles and defines its own new shape. It is an opportunity to understand the nature of a place, through your own style. I want to be like a tree that has fallen into a river, affecting slightly the inevitable flow, diverting some water from the center to the bank, reaching a new patch of grass, creating a new curve, as the water finds its way forward.

Without the atlas (RK, who is packing up in Utah, has it!), I tiptoed into adventure last weekend by visiting Smith Rock State Park. I ran/hiked the summit loop, perhaps the only way to escape the crowds. There were switchbacks and views and birds (so many yellow birds around here!). A distant snowy volcano was framed perfectly between the walls of Smith Rock. I saw a Great Blue Heron, and an injured deer limping across the Crooked River. I ran through clouds of gnats and crowds of climbers and hikers. It’s a beautiful place, and very popular.

There is a canyon sided with blocky basalt walls near my house. At 6 AM it is filled with bunnies, marmots, birds, and a few people out walking. I am already familiar with the tread pattern of the runner’s shoes who is there earlier than I am and the paw prints of their dog. In 3 runs I feel I know the canyon well… can point out the skunk den, the dead-end trails. I was led to believe the canyon was 8 miles long, but it is three blocks away so I can’t feel too disappointed. And this morning I saw a group of young bucks with stubby fuzzy antlers!

It is time to consult the maps and go farther. Time to begin my mental mapping of this new topography, the forests, the regulations, the animals, the smells… all of the pieces that come together to make our new home. And from there we will pivot farther yet, to discover what else there is to see.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA