As I mentioned yesterday, I traveled to Southern Oregon to see Shakespeare in Ashland, but also to visit blogger Curtis Mekemson and his wife Peggy. Curtis writes a fabulous blog (and he’s a book author, too!) at Wandering Through Time and Place, and in the past years, Peggy has been a contributor. They’re clearly a team and we get to read all about their adventures in life on the blog.
Have you ever listened to someone complain about how people are all on their computers these days and losing touch with other human beings? And then did you compare it to your own experience of blogging and feel sorry for the complaining person because they haven’t met so many friendly, supportive, interesting, honest people that you have, ever since you started blogging? Well, that has been my experience.
The Mekemsons graciously welcomed me to their beautiful home in a beautiful part of the country. The moment Peggy spotted me she came over with arms open wide for a hug. I am touched and honored by their hospitality and friendship. Then I got to know them a little better and found out they are really cool people!! They have a thousand great stories to tell about their past lives and their great kids and grandkids, and what they’re involved in locally, and planned future blog posts, and planned future adventures. I can’t tell you how much fun I had.
After meeting in Medford for breakfast the first day, Curt joined me in the Jeep (Peggy had to run an errand in the Big City) and showed me how to get to their place. We got distracted by a covered bridge.
Curt explained that the McKee Bridge was recently restored and is a landmark regarded with some pride in the community. We parked and walked through it. The bridge no longer covers an active road, and is only open for foot traffic. Built in 1917 (as you may have guessed) this bridge was closed in 1956 to vehicle traffic. It is one of the approximately 50 covered bridges remaining in the state of Oregon from a peak of about 450 bridges. The McKee Bridge is currently the 4th oldest in Oregon and the highest, at 45 feet above the water.
They showed me where to put my things and I was happy to see that I got to share the room with my old friend Bone, who has been a world-traveler and companion to Curt for many years. Bone and I got to spend some time together a couple years ago, and he spent a week in Cherokee country with me, seeing the traditional sights, joining me to meet the Cherokee Chief, and then meeting Miss Cherokee and Miss Cherokee Junior. It was good to see him again.
After a somewhat quick tour of their home, which is filled with art they have collected from all over the world (it’s SO beautiful), I had to go right back to the city to catch my first play. Ashland is south of Medford on I-5, and about an hour away from the Mekemson’s place. On the way I got distracted again and had to pull over to take photos.
On the way in, Curt had explained to me how the hemp farms were booming. Hemp is a different plant than marijuana, but over the years, growers had failed to get permission to grow hemp as much as they had failed to legalize marijuana. Finally, with the legalization of marijuana, the hemp growers succeeded as well! There is so much anticipation that this is going to be a crop to make farmers wealthy, they are planting it everywhere. Curt said some growers ripped out their marijuana and planted hemp instead. In this section of the road, the scent of the plants rose up around me on all sides. I saw a guy digging a ditch and asked if I could take photographs. He said “Sure!” and told me that people stop at this farm all the time for photos.
The next morning was luxurious because our play wouldn’t start till the afternoon. We had a lazy morning filled with conversation and coffee and scones. I got a serious tour of their place, and I got to hear their concerns about the loss of many trees on their property. Years of drought has weakened the trees in the forest around them, so when the pine beetles come in and feed on them, the trees have a difficult time recovering. Some have died, and Curt and Peggy hired a crew to come in and remove the dead trees. It is sad to lose the trees, particularly the one up close to the deck that Peggy looked at all the time. Each time I arrived in their driveway, I had to move carefully to avoid the massive piles of brush and the growing stack of logs waiting to be hauled out on a log truck. Curt talks about it in detail in his blog.
Bloggers do what we do, and before long Curt and I were out in the living room, computers on our laps, preparing the next posts. He was working on a post about the remarkable Mono Lake, and I was working on a post about visiting Tara in Bend.
The next day began much the same, with luxurious relaxation and conversation. The logging and clearing continued on the property, and we could hear the chainsaws. Peggy contemplated the new view with a missing tree up by the deck. I got to meet some of their deer neighbors.
With no plays to see on my last day, we had a chance for a different kind of play. We decided to go for a hike to see a Bigfoot Trap! I had never heard of such a thing, and that’s because this is the only known Bigfoot trap in the world. Bigfoot is the common name for the Sasquatch, a tall, hairy, man-like beast that lives in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It’s closest cousin is the Yeti. While we hiked, I told them my best Bigfoot story about when I was a kid and playing in the woods with the neighbor kids. Trying to show off and get attention like I always did, I lied and told them I saw a big hairy hand around a tree trunk. They believed me and marched us all directly back to their house and reported it to their parents, whom I did not know were avid Bigfoot enthusiasts. Parents got excited, grabbed their gear and insisted that I take them back to the precise spot and tell them exactly what I saw. Rather than confess, I continued the charade, feeling more embarrassed and miserable the whole time, building a deeper web of lies to cover my tracks. They didn’t find evidence of Bigfoot in the forest that day, and let us go back to playing. I never talked about Bigfoot again to those kids!
A group called North American Wildlife Research built the trap in 1974 as part of their goal of proving that Bigfoot exists. It was actively operated for six years, but sadly, they never caught Bigfoot. The trap was built strong and is still intact, though it has been repaired. Today is it not operational, and the moving gate is fixed in place to protect the many humans who come here to see it.
We got back to the truck and decided to keep exploring the area around Applegate Lake. This country is breathtakingly beautiful and I was in no doubt about why, when this couple had explored the world, this was the place they chose to put down roots. For fun they took me to the California border. Out in the country, border crossings are a bit less formal than on the highways. The dirt and gravel road on the other side of Applegate Lake crosses the California border three times in a mile! There are campsites and swimming holes and no one pays attention to which state they’re in. Except maybe at the first crossing, where a little college rivalry showed up:
At this point we were famished and headed back home for a real meal. I was eager to make my yummy baking powder biscuits and we started planning our meal as we returned home. There were fresh tomatoes from the garden, eggs, some honey from my bees that I brought them. This was going to be good. First we stood back while delivery men showed up to install their new dishwasher.
Before I left my friends, we took photos together. I posed with Curt in front of a gift of fabric given to him by another blogger. He was pleased to blend his online blogger community in the real life. Then he asked Peggy and me to pose together and I leaned my forehead against hers in affection at the same time that she reached for my hand. I felt loved.