Old School Summer

For eight dollars a night, don’t expect more than simple pleasures.

The kind of which are probably disappearing, as being too readily available to poor folk and people with kids and jobs, looking to cool off in the short heat wave we always have in July. No water, no flush toilets, no firewood, no noise, no camp host. Just dirt camps, a trail or two, and water clear as glass.

With so few distractions, I could only have a lovely big mug of coffee and look at the moss-draped woods, listen to the babbling creek and talk quietly to myself.

I find this a mystical atmosphere, in an old fir and hemlock forest with an understory of slim trees that make a horizontal sort of pattern with artful spaces that allow for the moss to drape down. Lacy red huckleberry, vine maple, wild filbert and western alder, and some tree I am not sure of that seems to thrive here, maybe cascara, or western dogwood? And right across my campsite from my chair is one stately wild rhododendron, up against the big, broad trunk of a tall Douglas fir.

Down at the creek, grasses droop in elegant clusters amongst the boulders, or stand in crevices in the living rock. Various ferns and tender plants bearing flowers and berries cover the forest floor. On a short walk yesterday I found a spring and some seeps in the high creek bank, and there were a couple of small skunk cabbage and a scattering of horsetail in the soggy ground. It was better than touring an English garden.


On the way here, Janet and I meandered up the Row River valley, all blue sky and bright sunshine. I thought here we are, this is summer, ice cold swimming hole summer. Along the roadsides there are thick stands of blue cornflowers against tall blonde grasses. I’ve always called them cornflowers, but just learned they are chicory, and though they may not be native to here, to me they still mean dry, golden, high summer in the valley. It is not yet time for the wheat harvest. It is past ripe strawberry time, and the first flush of sweet smelling roses. There are not yet skies full of smoke from the farmers burning their grass fields, or the arsonists burning our forests. The days are still long enough to feel special, and this week the temperatures are not hot, just good and warm. If I were to make an almanac for this place where I come from, I would name July the Cornflower Moon.

I’m at Cedar Creek campground, came in yesterday in the early afternoon, and am enjoying the low Cascade Mountains south of Cottage Grove. Perfect weather. Just cold enough last night to snuggle in my upper bed with the comforter. Will be hot enough today to take a dip in the creek after the hike I plan to take. I have books to read and people to love and miss, and no cell service–a fool’s paradise.

The Flower moves the Senses, and recreates the Spirits; so does Love move the Soul to Enjoyment. ~ Iconologia, by Caesar Ripa

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