If time spent outdoors does nothing else, it promotes flexibility in our approach to life.
I’ve often wondered if Mother Nature isn’t sitting somewhere in her rocking chair, laughing and dreaming up new ways to rip our chains off.
“Oh yeah?” I can hear him chuckle. “You handled that standing wave pretty well, but let’s see how you do with that whirlwind!”
She started shooting at the start of our recent family outing. We were on our way to a campsite near Billy Chinook Lake when the sky clouded over with smoke.
We weren’t surprised to encounter a roadblock where we learned that our camping area had been evacuated. We needed flexibility and a new plan.
The bad news was that we had to find something pretty quickly and let our two kids know where to meet. The good news is that we were intercepted before setting up camp. My heart goes out to the people who had to break camp at any time.
We considered the Ochoco Mountains, but there was at least one big fire burning there as well, so we did what any flexible, flexible outdoor couple in Oregon would do – we headed for the south and popped up on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.
With dozens of lakes and almost as many campgrounds spread along its length, the road offered our best chance of finding a place to accommodate all three families.
We were lucky; we ended up with sites adjacent to Cultus Lake Campground, a beautiful and popular site, with an emphasis on popular.
I’ve lived in towns with fewer people than those camping at Cultus Lake. And they brought with them all the gear that sent me into the backcountry 30 years ago – motorboats, generators, yapping dogs and my favorite, achingly loud music.
But with a little help from my wife — “Stop gritting your teeth!” “Stop puffing your nostrils! “Be flexible!” … I accepted my situation and prepared to enjoy the experience of state camping.
To be honest, it’s hard to complain about the running water and nice toilets. We had warm, bright days and cool nights. In fact, it couldn’t have been better – until our last night when the clouds started to build up.
I was trying out a new Dutch oven recipe, uh, creation: sautéed onion and garlic, five chicken breasts, a can of enchilada sauce, a can of salsa and a whole bunch of mixed Bisquicks. Eat your heart out, Jan Roberts-Dominguez.
The concoction had been cooking for half an hour when the deluge hit, leaving our top layer of charcoal briquettes soaked in half an inch of accumulated water.
Within minutes, the only fire left in our hearth was contained in those lucky embers sitting under the stove. I was resigned to finishing the chicken on our two-burner stove when the rain stopped.
We quickly built a new campfire above the dutch oven and watched it burn for a while. After a careful evaluation of the remaining cooking time; “I have no idea – your guess is as good as mine,” we opened the lid.
Imagine our happy surprise to discover a golden layer of Bisquick covering perfectly cooked chicken breasts. We all clapped and I could feel Mother Nature smiling.
And then – “It’s a little spicy!” My wife has what could be described as a tender palate. It could be described in other ways as well, but we’ll stick to “bid” for now.
There was only one thing to say, but I was nice.
“Stop curling your lips!” I said. “Be flexible!”
Pat Wray writes about the outdoors for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at patwraycomcast.net