Monday, September 10, 2007

Bend Vacation: Fire on the Mountain

When I asked my friend Laurie if she'd like to write about her upcoming family vacation to Bend, we had no idea she'd find herself in the middle of a major news story.

Each Labor Day, my family makes the trek from Los Angeles to Central Oregon for our annual vacation. We always stay at the House on Metolius, a small resort set on 200 acres of private land, a couple of miles from Camp Sherman. A river runs through it (the Metolius) and there are a handful of cabins ranging from Big N’ Fancy to Small N’ Modest. A quick stroll out the front door of the cabins leads to a gently sloping, grassy hillside that overlooks "the meadow."

For us, the meadow is the main draw, and what keeps us coming back every year. In years past, it’s where we idle away the hours reading, strolling and picnicking while soaking up the view of snow-capped Mt. Jefferson. This summer, however, the usually tranquil scene became a place to keep tabs on the "GW" forest fire raging near Black Butte – a mere 8 miles away. (Note the clouds of smoke behind the cabin.) Needless to say, this added an element of danger to the annual family vacation, an already combustible affair its own right.

Labor Day meadow "fire watch" activities kicked off of on Friday with some sort of water transportation effort taking place that involved a helicopter. It was cool to watch it swoop down, hover, then take off to fulfill its firefighting duties. Saturday afternoon we really started to experience the effects of the fire. Above the meadow, smoky skies swirled, creating an eerie, orangey light. The threat of evacuation loomed large. The people at Black Butte were officially "on alert," meaning, have your bags packed. Camp Sherman folks weren't officially on alert, but I sensed it probably wasn’t a good time to misplace the car keys.

So, instead of letting a little thing like a major wildfire cramp our style, my sister, brother-in-law and I embraced our unusual situation. This meant cracking open a bottle of sparkling Shiraz (to chill or not to chill, that is the question), scampering around the weirdly smoky meadow, and taking "art photos." Our vacation version of "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

As it turns out, we stayed through Sunday as originally planned. By Monday morning, Camp Sherman and its environs were pretty darn smoked-out, and we were glad to get going. And although our not-so-distant brush with fire had been a bit unsettling, I felt another disaster had been averted: cramming my parents, plus my sister and brother-in-law into my tiny Portland bungalow for two extra nights. Yikes!

Details: House on Metolius, Camp Sherman, OR. Phone 541-595-6620.


Loo said...

Yikes! We Santa Barbarians feel the pain of the smoke in your eyes! We are in the all-clear for now but are waiting on the Santa Ana winds to see what loads smoke and ash they will bring.

In the meantime I hear we are in for an El Nino winter. Lots of rain!

Kathleen Bauer said...

I can't imagine anything scarier, frankly. You can see the danger coming closer and closer and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it. It's the ultimate horror film, only it's real!

As for the weather, I'm inclined to believe Anthony's bees.

Anonymous said...

I was just in Bend for 3 days for depositions! Funny (but not very fun). Stayed at St. Francis School. Cool place.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'd really like to get over there soon!