Friday, October 31, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Highway

Last week was absolutely gorgeous here in the Pacific Northwest. My parents and I decided to take advantage of the weather before the notorious rainy days would overtake us, so we set off on an overnight mini-vacation.

We left Thursday morning and headed south to the Eugene area before taking Highway 126 along the McKenzie River. Jack Frost had danced through the region, leaving wide swaths of his footprints behind. I imagine the colors weren't as intense as those on the East Coast this time of year, but they were more than enough for this Oregon girl! Our hearts kept praising God around each new turn in the road.

Back in the 1950s my grandparents had built their house, along with four cottages, at the river's edge. They called them Woodland Cottages and rented them out like motel rooms. We were able to find the obscure sign along the highway and turned in to look over the old homestead. Like many things, it has decayed over the past five decades, but we were able to meet the current owner and share some family stories with her.

We continued climbing higher, driving through the lava fields over McKenzie Pass. United States astronauts trained there in preparation for walking on the moon. There is a desolate beauty to the jagged rocks, punctuated by scattered juniper trees, and encompassed by some of the most beautiful snow-capped mountains in Oregon.

We spent the night smack-dab in the middle of Oregon in the town of Prineville, which is where I was born. The next morning we drove the seventy miles out to Rager Ranger Station, which I believe is the most remote Forest Service station in the US. There were only three families and some single men on the crew that lived there in the 1950s. That lonely outpost held many memories, as that's where my parents lived when they became Christians, where I lived for the first six years of my life, where my brother was born at home (in 1953) in the middle of a December blizzard with the help of my McKenzie River grandma, and where I accepted Christ when I was five. The trip from Prineville, which now takes a little over an hour, used to take two-and-a-half hours on a rutted, unpaved road. We had a great visit with several women foresters who work there, identified my bedroom window in the last house we lived in while there, and pumped water from from a pump at a nearby campground, where I remember my dad holding me up so I'd be tall enough to reach the handle.

I'm sure I'm not the only one with fond memories of a childhood locale. What's your favorite one?

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