Monday, May 25, 2009

Boy Adventures

Note: This post is by E Ben, in case that wasn't immediately obvious...

The spring rains have passed, and the summer sun dawns brighter every morning. My new career as father and mentor and fellow adventurer is pushing me in new directions. Jude is 9 months old, and that is a number I can hardly get my head around. He grows up bigger and stronger and more curious every day. How long will I be able to keep up with him?

My experience of fatherhood is blooming with the warmer weather. I have begun to look at the summer as a series of adventures, coming trips, and new challenges. As with any career, it is important to take measured risks to reap big rewards. The planning and scheming has led me to venture further afield, to make some steps toward independence, and to broaden my boy's horizons.

This month we bought a family tent (see above photo) and set it up in the yard at Salmon Creek. In my opinion, this is the grand-daddy of all family tents: able to survive a three day storm, but big enough to fit two parents, gear, and the crib. This is a nod to my childhood memories of camping trips in an old White Stag tent. (Portlanders, think of the Made in Oregon Rudolph Sign on the building in Old Town.) We beat the living crap out of that tent for my entire childhood, and then my dad and I left it in a thrift store in Homer, Alaska when I was 26 years old. So it was with a mix of nostalgia and hope that I bought the Base Camp 6 from REI. I think this might be the guy equivalent of a nesting instinct.

With this frame of mind, I boldly set forth to plan adventures to carry us through the months of Jude's first summer. Casting about for some direction, my close friend Gregor expressed a desire to see some of the sights of Southeastern Oregon. Jude and I conferred, and decided a 4-night tour of the Beaver State was still inside the confines of sanity.

We travelled south and east last week to visit Harney County, a little known corner of the state known best for cattle ranches and Steens Mountain. Our destination was the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, where we stayed for 3 nights in a beat up 50's era trailer and played at amateur birdwatching. Jude wasn't much for the birds, but he enjoyed the hiking and general scenery. We made plenty of stops to explore the grass and sagebrush and (his new favorite) rocks.

We visited a historic site that Jude has always wanted to see - the Pete French Round Barn. It was designed in the last century to exercise horses in the harsh winters. In the dry shrub-steppe of SE Oregon, the juniper posts have held up remarkably well.  
On our way through Central Oregon, we stopped to visit the history museum in Prineville. This is a significant stop for Jude, who is of course the great-great-grandson of John W. Cornett and his uncle "Mac" Cornett, early settlers. The Cornetts ran the stagecoach lines throughout the central part of the state, and also ran a local general mercantile. 
As it turns out, my friend Gregor's family also settled part of the area. John Faulkner was postmaster in the town of Paulina, where Mac Cornett owned some property. Our forebears were definitely acquainted, probably friends, and possibly even drinking buddies. We drove out the Crooked River Valley to see what was left of Paulina and our progenitors.   
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