Turning off the Backcountry Discovery Trail, we found one of the most idyllic and pristine
Mile 1537, N43"15'00, Wagontire, Oregon: People of central Oregon are akin to those of the Midwest-as friendly and down-home as they could be. Bob and Cheryl James set up shop-the Wagontire Café/General Store/Fuel Depot/RV Park & Car Wash-in downtown Wagontire a few years ago. With a grand population of two, they stay busy. After we rinsed two weeks' worth of mud and silt off the JK, filled the tanks, and munched on a few cheeseburgers, Cheryl slipped us a handwritten receipt on a yellow Post-It. Now that's laid-back living. Good burgers, too!
The skies had cleared by mid-day and we were heading for the Ochoco National Forest and the Backcountry Discovery Trail. We'd gone from arid desert to dense forest, to waterlogged plateaus, and were now in the heart of Oregon's timber reserves. Logging roads abound, carving tangled webs of Ys, forks, dead ends, and places to get lost. But as I like to say, "We're never lost-just exploring a bit." Though the maps proved a good general reference, they really need to be paired with a DeLorme atlas and a GPS. Some of the waypoints were off, and the clarity of the maps' details could use some help. However, we were still able to follow the general route, utilizing suggested fuel and sundries depots.
As you pass through the sleepy burg of Seneca, situated in one of Central Oregon's tranquil and verdant valleys, you'd think you'd been awakened from a whimsical dream. Pines and firs carpet the adjoining foothills, dogs lay in semi-catatonic states on farmhouse porches, and the occasional cow or bobcat stroll across the street. Bobcat? While topping off the tanks at the general store, a bobcat leaped out of a tree a few yards away, and into what appeared to be a restored logging bunkhouse. Hmm, interesting? Then a 60-ish looking character with a salt-n-pepper goatee wandered over wearing a KTM shirt and said, "Howdy."
Another feline poked its head out from a chain-link enclosure near the building. The bobcats' names were Big and Bob, and the man standing in front of me was J.W. Everitt. Ring a bell? Probably not if your name is Sunshine, Flower, or your senior prom featured Pink. J.W., an avid dual-sport motorcycle rider and Baja aficionado, is one of the most interesting and eccentric guys I've met. A gifted musician who penned dozens of songs and recorded numerous albums (yes, we use to have these round flat disks of vinyl we called records), also played with Crosby, Stills & Nash in the '60s and Jackson Browne in the '70s. We struck up a conversation, toured the bunkhouse (now a first-rate lodge appropriately named The Bear Cat), and he invited us to stay for dinner, libations, and the night.
One of the most rewarding things about overland travel-and more specifically, overland travel without a hard agenda-is meeting people like J.W. His dream for the lodge was to create a haven for dual-sport riders, overland travelers, and more importantly, cool people. There are no posted tariffs for rooms or food. "Cool" is the criterion, and for payment, there's a fishbowl sitting on a hand-carved nightstand in the room-leave what you can afford. Loaded with dough or on a shoestring, cool people are invited back. J.W. played a few tunes from a stage in the main lodge and then one in his private recording studio. We dropped what we could afford in the bowl the next morning. Hope we get invited back.
A shower and a good night's sleep were welcome reprieves from our roof-mounted home. The trip meter read 1,665, our Garmin GPS: N44"08'08. To the north lay five more degrees of latitude to the Canadian border. The state of Washington was a B2B page waiting to be written. We hadn't done any route planning, set an itinerary, or even purchased a map. Hopefully, we'd find one in the next town. With our fully kitted Overland JK, replete with a winch, recovery gear, extra fuel, sundries and dog food, water, tools, and Optima battery, we were exemplary disciples of the Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared," with the exception of two things: an agenda and a map.
Gear That Works
We've used gas Coleman lanterns for decades. But when we picked up one of ARB's new 12-volt LED camp lights, we were sold. It's compact, lightweight, has a 16-foot cord, and puts out a ton of light. And with low-draw LED illumination (ARB claims it only draws one amp), you can run it all night with no worries-and you won't burn a hole in your tent (Info: www.arbusa.com).
The SPOT personal messenger is without question a must-have item for anyone doing solo backcountry travel. SPOT has three modes: (1) All is okay, (2) We have a problem but it is not an emergency, and (3) Send the helicopter. If combined with the Adventure Trac system, a transponder ping every ten minutes lets your mates at home (or your spouse) follow your progress (Info: www.findmespot.com, www.adventuretrak.com).
Now this was an amazing concept: dredging. Since the creek near Sumpter didn't have enough
Before the days of plastic, steel and clay pipe culverts, irrigation water was channeled t
J.W. Everitt, who once played with Crosby, Stills & Nash, now has bobcats for pets and ope