September 30, 2010
Ever make a promise to yourself that you can’t let go of, despite common sense and every possible reason to excuse yourself?
I was committed to taking a solitary hike, a lovely time somewhere in the back of beyond, an opportunity to contemplate the universe.
And here was my window of opportunity: short on time and long on rain.
Determined to make something happen, I threw a rain slicker in my car and laced up my tall hiking boots, the ones I rarely wear since moving to the dry side of the Cascades.
I headed west from Redmond, bearing a hard right at the Cline Falls exit. My meandering route north, I knew, would take me past some large ranches hugging the Deschutes River and, in a few short miles, lead me to one of the oldest homesteads in area: Tetherow.
The tiny bridge I cross, I knew from my history studies, is the modern equivalent to the ferry crossing operated by Andrew Jackson Tetherow, the early pioneer who built a home next to the river in 1878 – a house that still stands, albeit altered over the years and now shuttered.
I park next to the house; the homestead site and riverfront land is owned by Redmond Park and Recreation District and open to the public.
I contemplate the steady drizzle and sigh; this short hike will be better than nothing.
In actuality, it is a lot better than nothing. The day is warm and the rain tolerable. While I’m hardly deep into the wild – palatial houses line the rimrock above the river – the trail is deserted and I am free with my thoughts.
I realize then that it’s been a while since I’ve hike by myself and I’m reminded how much I enjoy it. I find myself observing minute things I might have missed had I been trudging along with a companion, happily chatting.
The trail, which leads upriver from the farm house, is obviously heavily used during better weather. I find evidence of humans in unlikely places: a single child’s shoe next to the trail and, later, a man’s glove. There’s an abandoned camp chair and jury-rigged fencing long abandoned.
Despite the obvious presence of people along this trail on this day I find plenty of wildlife, or at least evidence of it: a deer slips through the brush ahead of me, a mallard bobs in the rain-swollen river and signs of busy beaver are rampant among the trees.
As I walk it seems hard to believe the river needed a ford here, it is so narrow. But farther up I come upon patches of smooth rock right near the trail and pockets of water-loving plants: cattail, wild iris, buttercups. The river, it is plain, often stretches its edges beyond what I see today and in Tetherow’s day, before we began tapping the Deschutes, it was likely that wide more often than not.
From previous hikes along this stretch of the river I recall that I’ll eventually bump up against private land and must turn back; I keep an eye out for fencing or signs but see neither.
After a mile or two (forgot my pedometer at home in my pique over the weather) the trail seems to dissolve into rocks, trees and undergrowth. There’s no sign warning off trespassers but I turn around anyway, taking the lack of easy trail as a sign.
It’s about time anyway. My boots are caked in mud, my jeans are wet to my thighs and while not soaked to the skin as I might have been after a hike west of the Cascades, I’m thoroughly damp, like a well-squeezed sponge.
On the walk back I pause at the brook that crosses the trail, watching it race down the hill on its way to the Deschutes. I’m startled to see that the shrubbery around the creek is wild blackberries, a sight I seldom see on this dry side of the state.
I pick a few berries and pop them in my mouth as I head for the car and for a moment I’m transported to past hikes in the foothills of Mt. Hood or the lush coastal rainforests in northwest Oregon.
This high desert hike has been full of surprises.