Crossroad of the Eclipse

Following an amazing experience exploring Oregon with my teenage son, Cole, I found myself at a crossroad. It was time to explore my options and make a decision.

I had been living in my Jeep and traveling across the country for five whole months. Back in Pennsylvania, I had an apartment, fully furnished and unoccupied, which I had been continuously paying rent for. I was currently in Sherwood, Oregon, close to Portland, roughly 2,800 miles from home, and my financial situation was dire.

The way I saw it, I had two options:

The first option was to embark on a straight-line sprint across the country, all the way back to Pennsylvania, utilizing the remaining balance on my credit card to cover gas.

The second option was to find work in the Portland area to replenish my financial resources, regardless of how long this might take, and then resume traveling.

 

Considering Sherwood

Sherwood, Oregon, is home to the northwestern office of Ursa Minor Vehicles, the company that manufactures the J30 camper top for my Jeep, which had provided me with warmth and shelter for the better part of the year.

I had been talking to John Gish, the owner of Ursa Minor, about the possibility of coming on board and helping him install and deliver campers; for both the E-Camper for the Honda Element, and the J30 for the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. At this point, my experience with his product was intimate, so I would be well-suited for the work.

I spent the week getting to know Sherwood; the library, Symposium Coffee, and a charming nano-brewery called Two Kilts. John spent some time showing me the ropes, as I closely watched him install an E-Camper.

It was an interesting prospect, and I learned a lot about the work and the passion that goes into Ursa Minor’s products. On top of that, I grew fond of Sherwood… but the jury was still out.

 

Paddling the Tualatin River

Nothing clears your head and gives you time to think much like a relaxing float in the kayak.

To the east of Sherwood is the town of Tualatin, through which the Tualatin River passes. The river is slow moving and reasonably flat where it passes Cook Park [link_06], a popular recreation area. It was there that I put in and paddled westward toward the route 99 overpass.

On the peacefully calm water, I reflected on my dilemma while enjoying the rural Oregon scenery and abundant wildlife!

 

Adventure to Abiqua Falls

One last day-trip was in order before I would decide on a course of action.

I closely scanned the maps for wilderness attractions not too far from Sherwood, my current base of operations, and targeted Abiqua Falls, located near Santiam State Forest. According to my map, the area consisted of a network of forest roads, and the waterfall seemed to be a popular attraction.

The road into the Abiqua Falls Trailhead was gravel at first, but then it degraded to a narrow two-track. Four-wheel drive wasn’t necessary, but I engaged low-range anyway to maintain a low speed with better throttle control. A bit sooner than I expected, the road was blocked by a gate where several other cars were parked; presumably owned by hikers visiting the falls.

I followed suit, parked the Jeep, prepared my daypack, and set off on foot down a hiking trail to Abiqua Creek. Upon reaching the creek after a harrowing, rope-assisted descent, it was unclear which way to go to get to the falls.

Do I go upstream or downstream?

Yet another decision to make backed by insufficient research!

For two miles, I sloshed my way downstream, expecting to reach a magnificent waterfall that never seemed to materialize. While the creek was winding and beautiful, it was clear a long time ago that I had gone the wrong way. Eventually, I came to a forest road that crossed the water, which I was able to follow back to the Jeep to start all over again.

After a short rest, I set off once again, this time heading upstream and found the stunning waterfall, complete with a large splash pool and columnar basalt formations, only a short hike away down a well-traveled path.

Sometimes, you have to go in the wrong direction to find the right direction.

 

The Turning Point

The solar eclipse of 2017 was upon us, and by sheer coincidence, I was positioned to experience the celestial event in near totality. It’s funny how this cosmic event pinpoints a major turning point in my life.

I observed it at 10:00 AM, on August 21st, 2017, from the parking lot of Ursa Minor Vehicles.

As the moon passed in front of the sun, I knew what I had to do…

While I had not satisfied my wanderlust, and was eager to continue seeing new places and collecting experiences, my heart hurt because I missed my son Cole back in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, it did not make sense to keep an unoccupied, completely furnished apartment on one side of the country while trying to make a living on the other.

I had to return to Pennsylvania.