Getting out of the smoke, into the rain

We woke to another sunny morning, but with the air quality index above 150 and heading upwards. So rather than going to the High Plains Desert Museum, it was an easy decision to pack the car up and head north instead.

Our next campsite was about seventy miles away, and so we stopped half way there in Madras, a little town with the highway going through it, where we could charge the car and get something to eat. I had a lamentable "Italian" grilled cheese that seemed to combine the worst of American and Italian cuisine, and a not-hot-enough coffee, and was expecting the day to be a write off.

But, as my wife took the wheel and we headed onwards, and I read more of Going Solo to the rapt attention of my daughters, the world changed. We went from a dusty plain, with nothing but scrubland for miles, into a curving descent into a gorge, and then on the other side to enormous skies and green fields, as w trundled further north.

The road climbed up again in the mountains around Mount Hood, and we were surrounded by walls of pine forest. Driving through steep, sinuous mountain roads we didn’t want to take undue risks so we stuck to the speed limit, which meant we had various impatient people in enormous trucks tailgating us through the mountains, including one loon who ended up passing us on the right, and then being stuck behind a long queue of other cars anyway. So that was … fun.

But this got us to Zigzag Mountain Farm, a collection of tents, yurts and a few clapped out old buses, hidden away down a dirt road away from everything. We have a lovely place to pitch our tent, far from the madding crowd, with clean air around us, … and lots of mountain weather, which is to say it’s raining like mad at the moment and promises to be like that until 4 tomorrow morning.

On the plus side, we got the tent up before it got dark, while it was still dry. On the downside, my wife went out to read a book before the rain started, and neglected a raincoat, so I expect she’ll be sodden on return.

The hosts at the campsite have an enormous black cat called Eleven, which has the heaviest tread of any cat I’ve ever met, like it was a rambunctious dog and not a feline at all. It followed us while we were getting a tour of the campsite, and it was the least shy, friendliest animal I’ve met except for my children this year. Maybe it will lend my wife an umbrella so she can get back to the tent, while the rain grows ever more intense…

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