A Few Days Away from Nursery Work and the Garden: Camping with Dad in Eastern Oregon


Last week I was away with Dad in Eastern Oregon. Most of our days were spent alone in a rustic campground along the South Fork of the John Day River. It’s been years since I’d done this and it was a much needed break.

Dad and I going out into the middle of nowhere together is kind of hilarious. Neither of us is very healthy, and yet combined, we did great. Day after day we had a few laughs about the whole thing. At any minute he could have a fatal heart issue, and me, well, my swelling can become so severe my throat could close. And yet, neither of us was anxious about these things at all since we’d both planned so well. Besides, going out there always reminds us of our pioneer roots.

We didn’t do much during that whole week. Dad has a routine so we stuck to that as much as we could. We sort of tried to fly fish, but Dad is much weaker now after an infection he had after a stay in the hospital a few years ago. This meant that we mostly just ate, read, drove around, walked a bit, talked and slept.

With my current state of exhaustion I was pretty focussed on rest and figuring out how to manage my upcoming work and personal goals. I spent a lot of time just meditating on things. I rested on a cot and dozed off daily. I watched the clouds. I closed my eyes to listen to the wind, and I wandered all over looking at plants to get the blood and brain flowing again.

We really had no plans before we left other than to get me over to the Cedar Grove Botanical Area in the Malheur National Forest. It’s a unique grove of Alaskan yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis formerly Cupressus nootkatensis) that really shouldn’t be there. It’s a unique island of trees left over from a period long ago. While I am just briefly describing it, I hope to return to see it again with friends. Then I can write more about it. (Defiantly go though if you’re curious! It’s worth the adventure!)

On the way back up to the car I found this Cypripedium montanum. It’s been a summer of native orchids I guess since we saw so many of them a few weeks ago on Mt Hood too. This was a pleasure to find as I climbed back up to the car from the grove down below.

The hike was not exactly easy for me. I left Dad in the car and was worried about him so I rushed. When I returned, panting, of course he was happily resting watching a field of butterflies.

Back at the campground we both agreed over and over that we’d not seen a stream so untouched by pollution and people in a long time. The plants at the edges were diverse. It was a bit like an ideal stream from long ago.

The area where we were is named after a man who was once Director of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. When Dad was young, he knew the name from published fish reports, and later, as a young business man, he got to know him better. One of the many stories from Dad’s life that I’d never heard anything about until then. Did I mention Dad talked a lot? Lol. It was wonderful to learn so much more about a man I already feel so close to.

It was touching to both of us to know we were staying in a location named after someone he’d admired. The area is part of a statewide program of conservation. This cheered Dad up a bit. To see our fisheries being cared for so far away from the more densely populated parts of the state gave us both some hope. I do love Oregon.

Yes, I was happy there. I was happy not having a shower. I was happy writing. It was nice to read. Better yet, I loved to have some time with Dad to discuss our lives and how we feel about where we are in life.

Both of us have had our struggles. It means a lot to me to have him in my life, and I’m grateful for the friendship we’ve had since I was little.

Wish I’d brought some ID’ing books with me, but nah. I could do this in the heat all day. (It was very hot during our days there.) It was nice to be unplugged.

I had the tent, and Dad had the lovely nice mattress in the Jeep, but the open sky, we shared.

As someone who hasn’t camped in many years, waking up at 3am to the moonrise each night made me happy. There is something very romantic about the night sky and I’d forgotten this and just how much it means to me to see the sky and to fall asleep wishing upon shooting stars.