Following an incredible first year on the job MAKING A TRAIL (still a dream job after a year!), I wrote this letter for some papers in the high desert. It’s no joke, the people I meet on the way are a huge reason why I hike. We may be a divided country on a lot of fronts, but it always seems like we have lots in common when you meet a stranger in the backcountry and start telling stories.
I’ve lived in Oregon for over 12 years, and have enjoyed spending time hiking, packrafting, and exploring the public lands of the high desert. This year I spent almost seven weeks walking across Eastern Oregon along the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail. In addition to the wildlife, wildflowers, and incredible desert skies, I encountered countless acts of generosity from the people I met along the way. From a handful of fresh cherries, to a ride back to my car, and ice cold water on a hot July day, these gifts from chance encounters are a big reason I love putting on a pack. I can’t think of a better way to learn about a place than to share a beer and a story or two with someone, and hear about some of their favorite places to explore.
Four other hikers completed the entire route this year in addition to countless others who spent a day or two hiking in the desert; they all had similar stories of generosity and chance encounters. All were safe and successful in navigating the route in what is a series of trails, old two-track roads, and cross country hiking. It’s a challenging route as there are no physical markers on the ground, but that didn’t deter those backcountry navigators from enjoying and exploring the high desert.
Thank you to all in Bend, Christmas Valley, Summer Lake, Paisley, Lakeview, Plush, Adel, Frenchglen, Fields, Denio, McDermitt, Rome and Adrian, and all those in between.
—Renee Patrick, Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator