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Saturday, February 21, 2015

West Coast States are Big.

It used to be that seven hours got us from Brooklyn all the way down to the outer banks in North Carolina. That's New York, New Jersey (almost into Pennsylvania), Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Six states! Now, seven hours gets us from southern Washington to northern-central Oregon. I don't understand how it's possible, but then again maps have always eluded me. "Cartographer" was my least favorite profession back in third grade, up there with "Hairdresser." Twenty years later and I'm still lost and my hair is still a mess.

Regardless of how long it took, I consider myself to be pretty blessed to have the opportunity to drive down to Camp Sherman for a long President's Day weekend. This is exactly the sort of thing that we would never fly across the country for, so why not pack up the car and experience it all now, while we can?

After a 5-hour drive to Portland last Friday night, which would have been pretty boring had we not debated about the destructive powers of the DSM and Fifty Shades of Gray, we stopped at Ecliptic Brewery to taste test a few brews and have dinner at the bar. This is exactly the sort of place that gives me hope that life exists after Brooklyn. North Portland is sort of like East Williamsburg before all those little fancy bars opened up and people started coming from Manhattan and ruining the gritty little part of Brooklyn that used to feel like a refuge. 

There were some interesting brews, but the best was definitely the Orbiter IPA, which "unites a constellation of "C" hops (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus)". Those C hops create a crafty beer that is citrusy, clear and crisp (See what I did there?).

The next morning we were had fantastic breakfast sandwiches from Random Order and hit the road toward Sisters. And I have to say that the Heartthrob sandwich, with herbed cream cheese and sundried tomatoes, definitely made my ticker skip a happy beat. 

What a gorgeous drive from Portland to Camp Sherman. After the first hour or so of highway driving, you seem to descend into a dense forest, alongside a rippling blue creek. Slowly you to ascend again, scaling the sides of giant hills as snow-capped mountains loom in the background. A few acres are totally destroyed from forest fires or volcanoes, their stumpy and charred tree remains stretched out like sunbathers on a beach. Then back into the canopy of trees until you reach your destination: a cozy cottage in the woods.

Our cottage was cozy and woodsy, a fabulous weekend retreat. A two mile riverside hike from the REAL family cottage: a blacksmith-detailed, antler-hanging DREAM of a getaway. I walked in and seriously just about hit the floor. 

But soon I got comfortable and had no trouble relaxing into the coziest moment of my life: fireplace, golden retriever, newspaper. 

Sunday we hiked Black Butte, a challenging two-mile hoof from the parking space about 3/4 of the way up the hill just outside Sisters, OR. The view from the top was rewarding, enough to offset the two days of leg pain that followed. It also bought me two days of dog exhaustion that almost had me worried but mostly had me feeling satisfied that I had never before challenged the pup this much. It was also validating to those spaghetti legs of mine.

Driving home and feeling rejuvenated on Monday, we cut across the northeast part of Oregon towards I-84 instead of stopping through Portland again. With snowy Mount Hood looming in the background and miles and miles of red-dusted, cattle-grazing land, I felt like we were in a cigarette ad. 

It's a freeing feeling, though. Back home everyone is shoved into the subway and shuffling across the street with hoardes of people. And here we are, driving 70 on an empty road with good tunes on the stereo and nothing in our way. The homesickness has whittled itself down to a sliver and in it's place, I feel free.