I woke up Saturday morning with a day of rest, relaxation, and adventure on my mind. Over a year ago I had attended a charity auction where I waved my paddle for the first time. I scored a wine tasting for a group of friends and museum tickets (which I have already used) a night at a hotel (that didn't work out) and a night at a historic hotel in Dufur Oregon (which had expired).
About a month ago I called the Historic Balch Hotel in Dufur Oregon and asked if they would honor this overlooked expired certificate, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. Much to my surprise they cheerfully said they would accept it and looked forward to my arrival! I wanted outdoor activity, relaxation and a private bathroom so I opted for the $20 upgrade and booked a room.
I hadn't packed the night before. What could I need, I was only going to be gone for one night. The rain had moved in about a week ago and decided to stay for awhile. I had planned on cycling but decided with the weather this may interfere with the relaxation part of my trip. I loaded up a change of clothes, hike boots, reading materials, invitations that needed filled out, nail polish, iPOD, a couple of geocache locations and my GPS. By the time I was walking out the door I was all stressed out about forgetting things that would make this a relaxing weekend! I made a few stops, promised myself to not use any communication devices and hit the highway.
I recently discovered I can download books from the library onto my iPOD. Knowing I would have some windshield time I had loaded Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". I am usually one who pushes the speed limit only to jump out of my skin, hit the brakes and cuss when I see the troopers. This trip I inched up to the speed limit and kicked it into cruise. I actually thought the trooper that was backed into the weeds, just past Hood River, looked at me strangely. While I did jump when I saw him I didn't hit my brakes and I cruised by with a smile on my face. I imagined he thought I was a drug runner following the rules so precisely and I thought for a moment that he may just pull me over to see what my smug look was all about. After checking my rear view mirror a couple of times I realized my imagination was as big as the book I was listening to; except the book was actually true.
I pulled into town, it was a good thing I had slowed down or I may have missed it. I saw a grocery, a pub, a museum, and the only public office in sight was a post office. I pulled up to the hotel and parked right in front. I went to the desk which was fashioned in a historic manner. Since there wasn't anyone around I looked in the sitting room, the lobby, and the dinning room. If the upstairs were in the same decor and as clean I knew this was going to be a nice stay.
It wasn't long before the hustle of other guests began. There was a wedding party that had rented out a number of the other rooms with the bride & groom staying in the suite above me. This couple was getting married in the park just down the road later in the afternoon. While there were sprinkles I hadn't seen any real rain in some time but I had noticed the wind. I was gleefully greeted and escorted to my room. It proved to be as nice as the entry and very clean. I am always suspect of hotel entries. I have stayed many places that have wonderful entries and awful accommodations. With the hustle and bustle of the wedding party I knew I did the right thing by reserving the room with the private bath.
I laid out all of my items in a relaxing order. Magazines in one pile, book next to the bed, invitations, notebook and new pen in another pile. I was all set. I looked out the window over what looked to be where retired trucks, and equipment had been left and thought it looked, well, interesting. I realize now that that same piece of property may be viewed by some as an eyesore though that is not what I thought I really found it interesting. I took a deep breath and reflected on the drive and the book I had been listening to and decided it was time to switch gears and seek out some adventure.
I put my GPS up to the window and clumsily input the coordinates for the first geocache location. Less then 3 miles, this would indeed be a 'walker'. I deciphered the clue, something I always forget to do until I could have used it long before. I also remember that someone had noted there was no pen at the cache so I thought to bring the pen along. I headed out of the hotel and took a right. That was not the way the GPS told me to go but rather the working museum was that way and I hoped it would be open. I longed for the rich history that this town was trying to tell. The museum was not open but I walked around back and caught a glimpse of what is probably a pretty corny (but good) working museum. I turned back around and started towards the cache.
Shortly after leaving town which in itself did not take that long. I looked back and snapped a picture of Dufur Oregon. The sky was blue with white puffy clouds and winds that made me wish I had a hat to keep my hair out of my face. I followed the road that led back out to the hwy. There was no shoulder and every time a car or truck, mostly trucks, would pass I would just step to the side since there wasn't room for both of us. At first I wished I had brought my iPOD so I could listen to more of "In Cold Blood" then I cherished the quiet and clarity. Just as I was becoming euphoric a white pick up was turning around behind me. I thought "what the heck, why did he just pull over there?" This road either led you in or out of town and if you were leaving town there were not a whole lot of reasons to go back. I actually got anxious and blamed it on listening to the scary book on the way up. I then was glad I did not have my iPOD with me as it was apparent I had listened to enough of that book for one day.
The clue for the cache was 'broke down'. Looking ahead I thought this was going to be easy! I could see a spot where if you were broke down you would pull over. I headed in this direction and my GPS confirmed I was on the right track! I went behind a hill and found what may have been the skeletal remains of a dog, a fox, or maybe a wolf. I ventured further to a barb wired fence, walked along that fence where I found a man made opening. If I went through the fence I would end up under a bridge on some rocks that embanked a small stream. Rocks are a real common place to find a cache so I was sure I was close. I went through the fence and lost my GPS signal under the bridge. I was disappointed. I have previously cached with friends and I am seldom the one to actually find the goods. I didn't want to go home not finding the treasure. I was overwhelmed with which rock to start looking under when I spotted the carcass of a dead hawk, half skeleton and half feathered. A little freaked out I came out from under the bridge and checked my GPS. Though I am directionally and distance challenged I used the GPS and the sun and hoped that I was in the wrong place. I headed back up to the hwy and continued on.
Thank goodness I was in the wrong place. The more I walked the closer my GPS told me I was. I almost skipped when I saw something that could be 'broke down' and realized I had misinterpreted the clue. I hustled on to the location not making eye contact with any drivers on the hwy. I didn't want anyone to ask me if I needed help or a ride. I was on an adventure and didn't need anything except to find that cache.
I circled the large 'broke down' object and wondered how many places could an Altoids's can be hidden. Answer, at least a couple hundred! I looked in the openings that did not require me to touch this large piece of farm equipment, nothing. I lifted a rear panel and stuck my entire head in there, nothing. I hoped I was not going to have to climb onto it. I lifted a small side flap and instantly recognized that items were arranged to hide an item just the size of an Altoids's can! I had found it! I was so excited I thought about taking a picture and updating my facebook status except that I had sworn off all communication devices. I did take a picture of my find and realized that I couldn't sign the book cause I had forgotten my pen in the room.
Before going back to my room I considered stopping at the pub for dinner. Instead I went to the market, grabbed a nice bottle of wine, hummus, a red pepper, and some cheese. I opened the wine in the hotel kitchen and headed for my room. I read magazines, filled out graduation invitations, and after going down for some tea started my hand held book "The Liar's Club". I read until all the wedding guests stopped talking and settled down for the night. You would never want to tell any secrets or work out any personal issues in a hotel like this unless you were willing to share the details with anyone within earshot.
I slept a little restless but laid around until it was time to dress for the 9 am breakfast. I thought the strawberry rhubarb crisp was the breakfast so I finished the entire parfait cup. I found it strange that they served what I consider to be a desert for breakfast. Then I decided 'why not' we should have more desert for breakfast! The rhubarb had been freshly picked out back of the hotel. Not long after finishing my desert came apple/pear coffee cake and a sun dried tomato frittata that was so good I finished both. Stuffed, I went upstairs, packed my bags, input the coordinates for my next geocache and checked out. I could see myself staying here again.
I got directions from the locals before departing. I was looking for a graveyard where I would find my next clue. I found the graveyard but did not pull in. I left my car in the entrance where I was pretty certain it would not be in the way since I was the only one out there. This place was amazing! It was very small and limited to a few families. You could see where family plots were sectioned off. Not all the graves were formally marked but most of the departed did so in the late 1800's through the early 1900's. A lot of children died during that time. Children of all ages and Mother's. I was so engrossed by the history that went untold that I had forgotten what I had gone up there for. I even found a grave of a man that was born in Bosnia buried in 1899, he was 56 years old. What was his story? I did get my focus back and found the headstone that I was looking for. I did the math which gave me my next location. Back in the car with Truman Capote. I traveled on.
The next location told me to go through Friend. I thought the clue had a typo since he had talked about his friend. This entire geocache was based around the man's friend who's gravestone held the next clue and who had shown him the final site. I then approached a road called Friend Rd. which took me through Friend Oregon. Now you see why I am not the first one to find the treasures when we are out as a group. From pavement to gravel, turning around a few times, a close encounter with a wild turkey, I finally had come within feet of the final cache. I climbed up a steep hill where I spotted some animal tracks. I could hear strange noises down by the fast flowing creek. These were animals of the large type but they were on the other side of the road so I felt safe that they would avoid me and not cross the road to cause me any harm.
I scouted around awhile and had some trouble loosing my signal in the trees. I was elated when I spotted what looked to be a hiding place. It just looked a little out of place the way the branches and the rocks were twisted together. I had found it, the final cache! I had brought a pen which I didn't need and could not remember what the date was when I signed the log. I headed back to the car, I tried to figure out more about the the railroad trestle that was in the area while climbing down the steep hill I had headed up so eagerly. I gingerly descended and when reaching the bottom of the hill the noises on the other side of the road got much louder. Louder and friendlier, not the sounds of wild animals but the sounds of campers! What a cool place to pitch a tent.
I had achieved my goals, relaxed enough to not know what the date was, had no electronics on me to tell me what it was, and found both geocaches I had set out to find. Success had been achieved now it was time to go home.
On the way home I pulled off the road at The Dalles and stopped into the most amazing landmark, Old St. Peter's. The church was built in 1897 as the 4th Catholic church in The Dalles. This building was saved from demolition in 1971. Along with the rich history inside it's many stained glass windows, it has a 176 foot steeple with a weather vane on top. The entire building is made of red brick which is throughout the basement where the bathrooms were. I had also intended to grab a bite to eat at the Baldwin Saloon that was established in 1876 and used to have a brothel out back but it was closed.
I headed west grabbing a bite in Hood River which brought back memories from a Girls Weekend spent with some wonderful gals. Grabbed a latte to go and meandered with Truman Capote all the way back home. The sights and sounds are embedded in my memory. The story and the pictures have been shared with you.