We stealth camped last night and unfortunately we got snagged.
Our map showed camping at Madame Dorian Memorial Park in Washington near the border with Oregon. Unfortunately, this Army Corps of Engineers campground has long been closed. The pit toilet was still there but the campground and roads were overgrown with weeds.
It was dusk and mosquitos, my favorite insect, were out in ravenous swarms. While putting up the tent, I noticed the tires covered with nutlets.
Our least favorite weed, tribulus terrestris, was back. We thought we had seen the last of it in the southern states. It is known by various names depending on the region of the country we are in: bullhead, goathead or puncturevine. This plant produces a particularly vicious hard seed, or nutlet, with two or three thick, sharp spines.
When you look at the nutlet in a certain orientation it looks like a bull or goat head with horns. If you are unfortunate enough to step on or kick this nutlet, you will get pricked.
Congratulations Rodney K! Due to a nutlet, you are the most recent winner of the Flat Fund. WanderWheels will send something out to you shortly.
We were up early to avoid the heat and the worst of the winds. I recalled, from several years ago that riding along the Columbia River Gorge towards the Pacific Coast was almost a Sisyphean task due to the constant headwinds. In fact, the winds are so steady and forceful that the Columbia River Gorge is one of, if not the premier, windsurfing locations in the world.
The traffic was light but truck shipments of corn and Walla Walla sweet onions (similar to a Georgia sweet onion grown originally near Vidalia) passed us frequently. We were able to find several unblemished onions that had fallen out of the trucks. We tucked them in our bags for dinner.
We made it to Hermiston, Oregon where Mark (a warmshowers.org host) took us in. Mark’s family has been in the area for generations and still have a small ranch. We were talking about the effects of weather and people on the land. He noted that his family’s land used to have surface water flowing across it but now it is mostly dry. Additionally, he noted that the area was extensively used for sheep grazing in the early 1900’s which decimated the grasslands.
While talking, Mark pulled out a bag and emptied out a small cache of obsidian knives, scrapers, spear heads and arrow heads. One of Mark’s hobbies is knapping, or shaping stone into tools. He is the first person I’ve ever met to have this hobby. We learned about different types of flint, chert, and obsidian and the regions they come from as well as their role in Native American trade, hunting and work.
As conversations go, the topics meandered and we got on to the subject of Alaska. He pulled out a book on Richard Proenneke which we had coincidently watched an amazing video on the same person called “Alone in the Wilderness” while staying with Jenny & Don in Missoula.
Richard was a friend of the family and Mark had actually stayed with Richard in Alaska (although not in the cabin which is part of the subject of the documentary video). In one picture from inside the cabin, Mark pointed out one of his mother’s letters hanging on wall. Hearing Mark tell stories about Richard brought out a whole other dimension to the person we saw in the video while in Missoula.
Thanks again Mark for having us! You are another person that we’ve met along the way that has enriched our lives.