Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Festival Phase Closes on a High Note

The Northwest String Summit, this past weekend, wrapped up the music festival portion of the "Free Wheelin Tour".  What a perfect ending to three fun-packed, uber-stimulating weekends.  I get a chance to reflect as we take a day to drive from Portland to (hopefully) Missoula.  Although not too far (500 some miles), it is pushing it for us in Mama.  Leaving  Portland, this morning, we were treated to stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge for the first few hours.  Beautiful cliffs, sparkling water and thousands of wind surfers was a nice complement with the morning coffee.  Now in eastern Washington, the views aren’t as scenic, but not ugly either.  A little warm for my taste. 

As anticipated in the last post, after leaving Eugene, we did meet up with friend of Kali’s living in Corvallis.  We spent a nice evening visiting with her and then were led on a nice trail run through the McDonald Forest, just outside of town, the next morning.  We then headed to a town just south of Portland to spend the evening with another friend and to position ourselves in close proximity to the Portland Airport, to pick up my brother, Dan, who would be joining us for the week.  When we arrived at our friend’s (a mutual friend we had worked with at Stanford Camp in the spring) we were surprised to find he lived in a VFW hall and worked as a caretaker and bartender.  So, we spent the night drinking with some vets before retiring to the van in parking lot.

Shortly after slipping into half-drunk sleep someone pounded on the van.  It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening.  When I shouted out asking what they wanted a police officer identified himself and asked us to get out of the vehicle.  In dramatic fashion I got out van making it very clear he had just woke me up.  I mention this whole scene because I find it very entertaining.  This has happened to us a few times.  First time on this tour, but it usually goes down the same way.  Although in the past the authorities showed up in the morning.  When I emerge from the van the tone of everything changes very quickly.  One second they are banging on the car like a hard-ass, then they see me and become very apologetic, even when we are clearly in the wrong.  Same scenario this time.  I don’t know what he was expecting to be inside, but when he saw two girls, he started to joke around and quickly went through the routine things (i.e. checking our identification and asking if we have weapons in the car).  After he established we weren’t wanted fugitives and that we had permission to be in parking lot, he was gone and we were quickly back to sleep.

The next morning we retrieved Dan from the airport and headed into Portland for his and my first visit to the highly-regarded big city.  We drove around for quite a while getting our bearings and trying to find our staple stores to load up for the festival.  After a nice lunch and shopping we drove in circles for a while before finding our direction and heading west out of the city to the town of North Plains,  home to Horning’s Hideout.

I have been hearing about Horning’s Hideout for quite a few years.  It is a private camping/fishing/disc golf spot.  It is awesome.  Lush, green rainforesty terrain.  Creeks and a lake.  Open grass fields.  Views into the adjacent valley.  A natural amphitheatre, shaded by huge old-growth trees with a beautiful stage built in the bowl.  It is the perfect place for a festival. 

 One of many peacocks that live at Horning's Hideout

The Northwest String Summit is a festival I’ve wanted to attend since I started listening to Yonder Mountain String Band six or seven years ago. They play a show each of the three nights and other bands play throughout the day.  It is very chill compared to the action-packed, multiple-stage events of the last two weeks.  Although there was plenty of music all day long I didn’t get the feeling I was missing something every time I sat down to chill at the campsite. 

We had our campsite dialed in for the third festival in three weeks.

This is my favorite festival I have been to…yet.  It was so perfect.  Three nights of my favorite band, pretty chill atmosphere (less costumes and sideshow freaks than the last two), and a beautiful setting for it all.  Luckily it was still crazy enough for Dan to get the full festival experience…dancing weirdoes, ripping music, and an all-night every night disco party next to our campsite. 

I can’t wait to attend any event or even just go to play disc golf at Horning’s Hideout again.  Definitely a special place.

Dan had one more day with us before heading home, so we headed out to the coast about 60 miles from the festival.  We enjoyed a lovely drive through the lush Coast Mountains and then camped at the beach for evening.  Although we weren't even there for a whole day, it was nice to get to see the rocky coast of northern Oregon.  We then returned to Portland to send Dan off.  It was so great he got to hang for a week.  So much laughing.  

 Dan and I on the beach.

Now what?  The festival madness is over for now, but the summer is just beginning.  We are enroute to Montana, where hopefully the snow has left the high country for its short window.  Aside from a wedding and some friends to visit, I don’t have any concrete plans in Montana.  I hope to get in as much trail running as possible.  I figure it is the best place with the super-long days.  I have no idea how long I will be here for.  I haven’t even been gone a year, but I am very excited to get back and am confident I will find adventure and some kind of crazy along the way.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's Not a A Sprint...

This three week-long festival run cannot be called a marathon.  It is so much more than that.  The closing of the Oregon Country Fair yesterday marks the end of the second of three festivals Kali and I have tickets for.  Three festivals in three consecutive weekends.  

The High Sierra Music Festival is my Graceland, or Disneyland or Superbowl or church or whatever one gets super pumped to be apart of.  The festival takes place in the Plumas County Fairgrounds in Quincy, California.  Four days of outrageous amounts of music, partying and people watching.  It is completely over the top.  Non-stop, around the clock fun.  Many people find no reason to sleep during this four day festival. I used to be one of these people until I got over my FOMO (fear of missing out) disorder.  After my first outing to High Sierra it took me about three weeks to get back on a normal sleep schedule.  But this time around, High Sierra is only the first stop on the tour.  We need to pace ourselves.  And luckily we did.  Plus, there is no reason not to.  Although the late-night shows are always my favorite, there is endless options of things to do all day long.  Usually there was more than one band I wanted to see playing at the same time, yoga, hula-hooping, dancing, etc. workshops, wine and beer tasting, good food and the thousands of freaky people to stare at.  Over stimulation to the max.

Being my third trip to to High Sierra, I had a camping spot in mind prior to arriving.  Luckily, no one had taken my little perch:  a small, flat spot on a steep hill, in the shade, as far away as you could be from the madness in the super-jammed fairgrounds.  Although just a few steep yards from everything, the hill provided a nice barrier for much needed rest from all the excitement.  This time I even brought in some gardening gloves to level off the perch to add some space for cooking and sitting.  Its a pretty awesome spot and I would consider bringing in a small rake and shovel in the future to expand the flatness and make it really comfortable.

It is hard to describe the experience of High Sierra.  It is beyond words.  It is the land of make-believe.  Where reality is blurred and it is easy to loose grip on individuality. Where do I end and it begins?  The music permeates everything.  Unless you are standing directly in front of a stage when someone is performing you can usually hear multiple different shows going on and whatever sideshows have magically sprung up next to wherever you are hanging out  Everyone is dancing everywhere whether they are in front of a stage or waiting in line for the bathroom or moving from one show to the next.

Then there are the outfits.  Also beyond words.  There really is no theme or rhyme or reason for the outfits.  People just wear the weirdest things they can find.  We were noticing a few trends this year, however.  Sun umbrellas are big.  Is Oprah into those now?  Tons of umbrellas.  Also, tails.  ???   Lots of tails.  Circus attire and gypsy get-ups are popular.  Paint instead of clothes.  No clothes.  Anything goes.

All fun.  All day everyday.  We watched 3-7 shows a day.  Danced for four days straight.  By the end I could barely stand.  On Sunday hardly anyone can even clap and woo at the end of a song.  It is pretty hardcore.
We got worked, but not as bad as most.  We didn't make it to any of the 6:00AM kickball games, although we could hear them loud and clear each morning.  We slept reasonable hours each night and continued to eat good meals throughout the long weekend.  This was all necessary not only for making it through the three festivals, but also for the activities we have planned in between.

After four days of what I estimate to be equivalent to at least a marathon a day of dancing and prancing at High Sierra we decided that we needed a nice long run to stretch out our legs and get everything flowing again.  We very efficiently got all of our errands done in Quincy Monday morning and was on the road by early afternoon, Oregon bound.

We planned to stay up high in the mountains, but due to snow through Lassen National Park, had to drop down into the Sacremento Valley,  It felt like we had entered the gates of hell.  Luckily it was only for a few hours and we were cooled by the time were passing mystical Mt. Shasta.  We got to our destination, Ashland, Oregon early in the evening, got some food together and went to bed early.

The next day we started what we hope will an on-going event, known as marathon Tuesdays.  We ran/walked a marathon in the hills surrounding Ashland.  It was a loop on closed fire-roads starting and ending in town.  It is called the Lithia Loop, popular among mountain bikers, and home to a trail running race held in November. We had a great day.  It took us six hours.  The first six miles are up hill.  Followed by 13 flatish miles.  And ends with seven steep downhill miles.  A perfect course, if you ask me.  The final seven were so fun.  So fast.  I hope to do the race in November.

A break to filter water along the Lithia Loop

Post-run we cooled off in a creek.  It was a terribly hot day, but the trail was mostly shaded.  We then, somehow in our altered-state, managed to drive to Williams, Oregon about an hour away.  We both spent last fall in Williams and Kali spent time there this spring.  Friends there have a spectacular, off-the-grid spot, that I was ecstatic to get back to.  Awesome people and a beautiful spot.  The perfect place to recover from our marathon Tuesday.  We spent the night visiting with them and the next day relaxing and walking around their property.

We had planned on getting to Eugene early on Thurday, but couldn't resist an offer to float on the Rogue River for the day.  So, we did just that.  We joined a small group from Williams on one and two-person inflatable rafts for a nice relaxing float.  And beautiful.  The river cut through rock and wound through thick forest.   A great way to spend a hot day.

After getting off the river, it was onward to number two of three of the festivals.  Next stop:  The Oregon Country Fair.  I had first heard of this a few years ago, when I first came out this way to go to High Sierra.  People could never really describe it, but told me I would like it and that it was something everyone needed to check out at last once.

The Fair takes place in a rural town 15 miles outside of Eugene.  It is three days long.  You can go for a day or camp on private property turned campground just for the event.  We stayed at a campground just a short walk from the entrance to the Fair.

Enjoying the sunset from the front porch.

This too is hard to describe.  The Fair is kind of like a Renaissance Fair meets the circus meets Oregon.  The whole thing is in paths in a heavily wooded area.  There are merchants and food vendors interlaced with stages and open-performing areas.  Every sort of freak show imaginable can probably be found in the Fair.  Acrobats, jugglers, music, dancing, performance art is just the beginning.  I didn't even know what I was looking at some times.  Stuff going on everywhere.

Once again, costumes are huge.  And here, equally as huge is the lack of costumes.  Nakedness is popular.  But all the same kind of crazy as High Sierra.  Gypsies and circus freaks.

The Fair is more family friendly though.  There is no alcohol inside the event.  Which makes it much chiller.  The campgrounds were relativly chill as well.  We could have our car in the campground, so we have the luxury of living in our home, even at the fair.  Very chill, although very hot outside.  We invested in a shade tent, which saved us this weekend.  We even managed to get out for a run one morning and a bike ride the next morning before heading into the Fair.

We woke up this morning (Monday) pretty worked.  After breaking down camp we headed into Eugene and struggled to get our errands done.  So, we got a room at a hostel and decided to hang out and get stuff done tomorrow before heading to Corvallis to meet up with a friend of Kali's and possibly go for a ride or run on Wednesday.

Thursday we start it all over again.  The last leg of our mega-marathon festival tour.  Hopefully we'll still be standing by this time next week.