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Wrong turns, doubts and carrying on . . .

I’ve discovered  “God’s Country”  and it is Eastern Oregon!

This next phase of my walkabout took me on one gigantic roller coaster ride through the very heart of Oregon – from its lower southwest corner to its upper northeast corner.  My world became one massive rolling golden mountain after another. Up each pass, around each bend and deep into each ravine I discovered new, larger than life, delights.

Until now I had favored the Oregon coast and its inland cities.

I had no idea that this “Other Oregon” even existed.

My destination was the Imnaha Writer’s Retreat situated along the graceful Imnaha River. Before setting out, I had a chance to talk to western writer, Rick Steber, who suggested the following route: Bend, Prineville, Mitchell, Spray, Monument, Long Creek, Ukiah, La Grande, Joseph, and finally Imnaha –promising names for towns no doubt rich in history.

For seven hours my trusty little Nissan Sentra and I chewed up the miles and for 90% of that time I was the only car on the road.

Near the end of my journey I was flying high. I imagined myself the supremely successful, super competent “Walkabout Woman.”

That was until I made a wrong turn.

I had done so well on this whole convoluted back road trip and I got cocky. I blithely sailed through the tiny town of Imnaha, 12 miles from my destination, and without a second thought, I turned down the wrong gravel road.

This wrong road had all the trappings of the right road at the beginning, but after about 4 miles into a rather bouncy steep climb, the road turned treacherously narrow, steep,rocky, and pitted. I was barely hugging the mountainside with a shear endlessly deep drop off to one side.  Ready to admit defeat and turn back I could only go  forward. Panic doesn’t come close to describing what I felt. Skidding or sliding off this road would mean sure and instant death.

I white knuckled it through for what seemed like forever before the road flattened and moved away from the cliff’s edge.  The only vehicle I had seen all day – a huge big-wheeled pickup truck full of hunters — stopped and told me that this was not the Imnaha River Road (duh!) I am sure they thought I was an idiot.

The good part of the wrong road!

I eventually found a place to turn around, put my car in low gear (for the first time ever) and crept back down to Imnaha, all the while trying to reframe the whole thing into something else:  An exciting adventure?  A fortuitous chance to take in the views?  A story for my blog?

If nothing else . . . another fucking opportunity for growth?

It didn’t work. This was a low point which shook my courage, changed everything and cut me down to size. I began to doubt my intuition powered walkabout and the wisdom of searching for something unknown that  may not have a happy ending.

I also came face to face with the potential consequences of human error when out of my element. Fatal errors of judgment and unplanned accidents are very un-pretty and un-inspiring. I felt old, tired and vulnerable. All my glorious walkabout plans aside, that day at least, I felt like I had pushed my edge too  far.

I was ready to throw in the towel and go home.

But then I remembered I didn’t have a home, so I did what human beings do – I carried on.

And fortunately the writers retreat turned out to be an oasis – a green moist piece of heaven with kind people.   My little room is on the second floor of the lodge. From this haven the gentle Imnaha River plays  its water music right outside my window. I have peace and quiet and can create uninterrupted for eight hours a day.

I’ve been told that the river I saw below me on my frightening adventure was actually the mighty Snake River and that I had been hanging over Hell’s Canyon. That fit – I had been to hell and back.

We can’t stop the trajectory of our path, but it is just another reminder that following your heart and living intuitively is no guarantee that all will be easy, safe and just.

My subconscious is taking me metaphorically up an unsafe road just like the one I came down.

The best I can say about my life at this point is that it is not boring.

Oh and another thing — my trusty Sentra is now an honorary Four Wheel Drive.


11 Comments Post a comment
  1. My friend Rick Steber has been on the Hells Canyon road you took and told me the day after you left Bend how incredibly steep and dangerous that road is. I told him that surely you didn’t need to take that scary sounding road to reach your destination but he kept asking me each day if you were ok and if I’d heard from you yet. And then tonight I opened your post to discover you HAD accidentally taken that road!
    I am so glad you were able to navigate and find your way! You have my respect!

    October 15, 2012
  2. christina knecht #

    Those of us who live in Eastern Oregon love that not many find their way here. We truly do feel like we live in paradise and enjoy the beauty and solitude it has to offer!

    October 11, 2012
  3. Betsy, you continue to awe and inspire me. I could SO relate to your post!! The AHA I had in reading it was that probably I will always have to tendency to get lost, panic, become disoriented. I see now that the point is to keep saying yes to new experiences, to treat myself compassionately when I get upset, and to keep on going.
    You’re a beacon.

    October 11, 2012
  4. alayasojourn #

    Another initiation……. one of many, at least in my experience.
    You can do it.

    October 10, 2012
  5. Alaya #

    Another initiation……….

    October 10, 2012
  6. This is a great tale. Terrible but true. At least it had a happy ending. Rest, regenerate, enjoy the peace in your new space. And I vote that as horrible as it was, it was a GOOD experience. It will make the next right road be really special…

    October 10, 2012
  7. Facing our fears is always part of the trail…as is carrying on. Looking back it will be a great adventure. Write more about what you felt, facing near death, feeling stupid, tired of it all. Write, woman, write!!!
    Wow, I rafted the Snake once…I might have to write a recall of that (thx).
    Prayers are always with you,
    Karen J

    October 9, 2012
  8. Vanessa Houk #

    Wow Betsy, just wow! You are brave and gutsy even when you aren’t feeling it! I always look forward to your blog posts and hope you are having a wonderfully creative time there!

    October 9, 2012
  9. ann #

    Wow Betsy, what a journey! sometimes the journey takes us…to….Hells canyon… what a metaphor! Though there is always a gem in hells canyon if we look hard enough, and you looked right down the dragons throat. It sounds like you’re ready to find the gem in the oasis of many hours of quiet writing!
    Thanks for your time…so valuable.


    October 9, 2012
  10. nancy bardos #

    way to go, betsy!

    October 9, 2012
  11. Rocky Schnaath #

    Glad you’re safe and sound and amazed at how philosophical your perspective is. What a roller coaster. Enjoy the retreat!

    October 9, 2012

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