seven link challenge

I love things that bring people – that bring communities together. It’s one of the main reasons I love sports.

There are few things in this world that can bring diverse or even divided communities together, but sports are one of those things. I saw it in high school when our championship basketball team united a fairly cliquish school. I saw it in grad school when our whole campus would converge on Autzen Stadium or Mac Court for game days. And I lived it in Boston when I saw a city whose divisions date back to the 18th century (British soldiers vs. Colonists, Brahmins vs. Irish Catholics, Southie vs. Roxbury) all still to listen and root for the same team when their beloved Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots are in the playoffs.

For a seemingly disparate group, the blogging community – a constellation of souls spread around the world – come together quite often (in a technological sense of course). It seems counterintuitive, but there’s an amazingly well connected online community that blogs “together” from time to time. I participated in sfgirlbybay’s blog it forward mash-up project last spring. And now Darren Rowse’s seven link challenge has caught my eye. He chose the categories and I’ve chosen the posts. As I come up on my 3rd year anniversary with this blog it was fun to read through past posts. Enjoy!

first post: the last days of disco

post I enjoyed writing the most: snowy memories

post which had a great discussion: inspiration knows best

post on someone else’s blog I wish I’d written: how to fall in love with you

most helpful post: be the change you want to see in the world

post with a title I’m proud of: two peas in a pod

post I wish more people had read: behind the curtain

dant: part three – the photographs

The old saying is indeed true. A picture is worth a thousand words. Enjoy the third and final part of my series on a very special place in Oregon.

dant: part two – the magic

There is no time here. Watches are removed and clocks cease to exist. The day’s rhythm is marked by the earth’s rotation and the natural rhythm of the sun as it rises and sets. Leisurely breakfasts of pancakes, bacon and strong coffee are followed by morning hikes up into the hills or along Eagle Creek.

Sumner staying cool in Eagle Creek during a morning hike/rescue of rainbow trout and steelhead minnows.

Henrik climbing the stile after a short hike up Eagle Creek.

Afternoons are spent reading on lounge chairs while moving in and out of the sun-dappled shade or dipping your toes (and your whole body if it’s hot enough) into the cool rushing waters of the Deschutes. Winters are centered around the fireplace or long hunts in the hills for chukkar. And the flyfishing is to die for.

All you need is a lounge chair, a good book, a close friend and the warm sun. I nearly finished a 400+ page book over the holiday weekend. Can’t remember the last time I got to do that.

My view while reading.

Mark and Eliot taking a swim in the river.

Dipping our toes into the Deschutes River after successfully transporting nearly 200 minnows from Eagle Creek.

A few of the rescued steelhead and rainbow trout.

Cocktail hour marks the beginning of the evening festivities, with yummy hors d’oeuvres followed by late evening meals dining al fresco under the increasingly starry night sky. In the winter Guido’s special garlic and olive infused martinis warm us all up. In the summer we drink cirtus and mint infused elixirs called Bootlegs, named after Minnesota’s signature country-club cocktail which originated at Woodhill in Wayzata. It tastes just as good along the banks of the Deschutes as it does near the lapping shores of Lake Minnetonka.

Cocktail hour begins after the sun dips behind the hills.

What makes this place special also contributes to its edge. With no radio, television, or cell reception of any kind you are both cut off from the news (ahhh relief) and emergency service (yikes). Dangers abound at Dant, but we are all aware of them and balance our curiousity with cautiousness. The nearest hospital is just under two hours away. With rattlesnakes and scorpions around (both of which were seen and/or caught during this last weekend trip) we all take a crash course in wildlife habitat so we can be wary of places where these creatures like to hole up. The trade-off is worth it. Being allowed (or forced as the case may be) to unplug is a precious gift these days and one that we soak up like it was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Sumner with what I think is a blue racer. (I just know how to identify the poisonous snakes from the harmless ones.)

I woke up on Sunday knowing that half way around the world Nadal was battling for his eighth grand slam title. Though I couldn’t watch it I wore my hat emblazoned with his Spanish bull symbol. I didn’t hear the results until later that afternoon when a friend arrived from town which is rare. Usually we have to wait until our drive home for news to reach our ears.

I thought long and hard before asking Mark to tell me who won. Part of me wanted to wait until I returned home to watch the match I’d taped, but in the end I couldn’t go one more second. Fortunately the news was good. Nadal had indeed won his second Wimbledon and eighth grand slam title (tying him with Agassi, Connors, and Lendl for fourth most grand slams won.) I screamed for joy and was secretly glad it was an easy victory. If it had been another momentous Wimbledon final such as had been seen the past few years I would have felt a tinge of regret… ah, but on second thought maybe not. Dant does that to you. It’s just that magical.

All eyes are glued on the spectacular fireworks that Mark treated us with.

dant: part one – the journey

There are few things that will take me away from watching a grand slam final… especially one that Rafael Nadal is competing in. In fact there are so few I can’t even imagine what else they might be. The only one I can think of is spending a long holiday weekend at Dant with my dear friend Lee, her husband Guido, their three boys, and countless old friends.

Guido, Jonathan and the boys saving rainbow trout and steelhead minnows from the soon to be dried pools of water remaining along Eagle Creek. They transport them to the Deschutes River in coolers where they can swim free.

Dant is a magical place. It started as an old mining town nestled along a crescent shaped bend of the Deschutes River under the watchful eye of wildlife laden basalt cliffs. A freight railroad curves around the edge and contributes to the feeling that this is a place where time stands still. No doubt bustling with activity during its active mining years it now serves as a weekend oasis for a very lucky few.

Looking south towards Dant from one of the surrounding hills.

Looking north towards Dant during a winter hike up Mt. Baldy.

The train regularly passes through both day and night gracing us with a whistle or two whenever we wave at the conductor.

Like most special places the journey to this place is challenging and therefore contributes to its charm. The three hour trip from Portland starts with a drive through the Columbia River Gorge or over the Cascade Mountains range – an auspicious beginning each and every time. After driving across a plateau where you’re surrounded by fruit orchards and wheat fields you begin to descend into the Deschutes River canyon.

The genius loci really comes alive during the last hour of the journey. After passing through Maupin you veer on to a gravel road that borders the river’s edge until you reach a locked gate. From here access is limited to those with keys and we pause to wait for all the members of our party before continuing down the road. Sometimes the wait is short and sometimes long. We’ve all lost cell reception by this point so all we can do is hope that everyone got out of town on time and didn’t encounter any emergencies on the way. There is no way to reach those waiting at the gate. (the award for the best wait at the locked gate ended one cold November evening when Cyd met us there with a tray full of sidecars to whet our whistle)

The Deschutes River canyon.

The last part of the journey is marked by crossing thresholds and near agonizing pauses when all you want is to be there already. The “are we there yet” refrain runs on a continuous loop in everyone’s thoughts.

Beginning at the locked gate the road is even bumpier and the anticipation palpable as we wind around corners following the river’s bends through the canyon. Steep basalt cliffs form a narrow passageway between the locked gate and the gatekeeper’s house where our caravan halts once again to sign in.

If you’ve been lucky enough to reach this point during daylight hours then you’ll often start seeing wildlife that call this place home – mule deer, rattlesnakes, ospreys and fence lizards just to name a few. The sun creeps up the face of the canyon’s hills and the shadows extend their presence. It’s the magic hour to be sure.

We stopped and paused to watch a rattlesnake cross the road and just as it slithered into the tall grass it shook its rattle at us.

Finally we reach the last threshold – turning off the road where we begin to unload gear and groceries near the dock. A driftboat attached to a pulley system spanning the river serves as our final mode of transport. We load up and pile on board for the short trip which always feels a bit tenuous. However in all the trips I’ve made (sometimes in the light and often in the dark, in both calm and stormy weather) we’ve never ended up in the river. Sometimes someone’s gear isn’t so lucky, but it’s always recovered and dried off.

At the dock looking across the river to Dant.

We unload the boat and pile our gear into carts for the walk to the house – a small two to three bedroom mining company-built cinder-block dwelling with strong nods to a mid-century modern ranch. The smell of sagebrush and juniper is intoxicating and we are all giddy as we walk along a pathway that stretches in front of the nine houses that parallel the river.

Even though the first night’s sleep is often short (after unloading and unpacking we often celebrate with a late night cocktail hour that lasts until the wee hours), it’s deep since this place makes you sleep more soundly than nearly any other place on the planet.

And tomorrow… part two – the magic