I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a hell of a year. Looking back on the last 12 months, I feel like it’s all a fog – a blurry merge of months, virtual meetings and happy hours, walks past the same houses, and long, lonely days spent indoors. And unfortunately, the hope that all the struggles of COVID-19 will miraculously disappear as the clock strikes midnight, I feel is a little naive. I’m leaving the glass slippers at home.
We still have a long road ahead of us in 2021, filled with new and unpredictable challenges. But like every winter, the sun will start to rise a little earlier every day. We will continue to adapt and shift, find joy in unexpected ways, and hopefully learn something from all of this.
While I know many of us would like to forget this year, reflection can be powerful. It’s easy to think “nothing good has happened this year,” but in reality, life still went on. I know many of my plans were ruined by COVID-19 (trekking to Machu Picchu for example), but I also had the chance to work in the yard, spend more time during the day with by pup and husband, sew baby quilts for a bunch of my friends, and explore some lesser known spots around the Pacific Northwest.
Below are a few of my favorite socially-distanced adventures from 2020:
15-Mile/8-Mile Scenic Loop Drive/Bike
In May, in the midst of the first lockdown in Oregon, my husband and I just needed out, plain and simple. We ventured out on the farm roads just east of our home, in the Dalles, following the scenic guide descriptions in our Curious Gorge book. Passing former barns, grain mills, and school houses, it was a blast from the past – and it helped to scratch that itch. Later in the summer, we returned to this area with our road bikes and completed a portion of the loop again on two wheels.
Steens Mountains & Alvord Desert
My husband and I took the long drive out to south-central Oregon for the Fourth of July holiday to this remote destination. Dirt roads, quiet trails, and few-and-far between towns made for an easy pandemic-safe trip. We dispersed camped high-up on the fault-block mountain one night, meandered along the Steens Scenic Mountain Drive, and hiked to Wildhorse Lake. Then looped down to the Alvord Desert for a mad-max moment on the cracked, former lake bed.
Russell Lake in the Jefferson Wilderness
A huge part of this year was spent training for my first ultra-marathon, so nearly every weekend, I had to incorporate in a long-run. While camping near Detroit Lake, with what felt like everyone else in the state, I ran a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail deep into the Jefferson Wilderness. I’ve lived in Oregon now for nearly 14 years, and this expanse of wilderness was truly awe-inspiring. (Unfortunately, this area along with Detroit Lake was tragically impacted by the Lionshead Fire and Beachie Creek Fire this fall).
John Day Fossil Beds – Clarno Unit
With a couple of hours of sunlight remaining, we took a random side-trip out to this stunning natural land formation on our way back from camping elsewhere. Following a curving road from Antelope toward Fossil, OR and the John Day River, the sun was setting on a warm fall day and the aspens had just started to golden. After a summer, where most outdoors areas of Oregon were swarmed with people, my husband and I were the only two at the John Day Fossil Beds – Clarno Unit that evening. Hiking the desert trails around the prominent Palisades, formed 54-40 million years ago by volcanic lahars, we enjoyed quietly searching for fossilized plants and imaging what this area was once like.
Ike Kinswa State Park & Cinnedar Creek
Paddle-boarding was one of my go-tos this summer – and this trip was by far my favorite. While camping near Mossyrock, Washington, we put in our boards at Ike Kinswa State Park and instead of heading out into the deep water of Mayfield Lake, we paddle upstream along the clear waters of the feeder. Weaving through dense deciduous trees, the water was deep and cool and glistened as it narrowed. Finally becoming too shallow, we sunbathed along a sandbar with a beer before returning with the current. For a few brief moments, it almost felt like just a regular summer. Bonus: we got to see the Comet NEOWISE!
As the year comes to a close, I’m heading out for one last, socially distanced adventure for 2020 – a yurt at Wallowa Lake State Park. Normally this night would be filled with drinks, friends, maybe a party to watch the ball drop, but this year is… well this year.
We will celebrate just the two of us with a bottle of prosecco or maybe some spiked hot-chocolate, watch the snow fall slowly, dial into a Zoom wedding, and… see if we make it to midnight. I guess some things, even during a pandemic, will never change.