Keep Wild Spaces Wild

Tonight I was packing my bag to go away for a few days with my family.  We are celebrating my birthday by doing two of my favorite things: traveling, and playing outside.  Since I turned 30 last year and was hugely pregnant, had a cold and gestational diabetes, (read: tofu pudding–no cake on bday), I decided to turn 30 again this year.  Funny how I get to make those kinds of rules 🙂

In a backpack I haven’t used in quite some time, I found a folded up piece of paper with an essay I wrote in the summer of 2011.  DH and I were on the best vacation of our lives; a pursuit of all things wild in eastern Oregon.  Ghost towns, wilderness, huckleberries, and teeny-tiny towns with handwritten newspapers; we found it all (and more) in eastern Oregon.



I wanted to share that writing with you all because in the middle of packing in a harried rush, I got lost in the lost essay and I felt like I had discovered buried treasure!  It brought me instantly back to that moment in the Forest Service tower, perched high atop a mountain in the Malheur National Forest.



I soak a paper towel in the cold water of our cooler and rub it across my face and neck as I sit looking south at the electrical storm headed right for us.  My husband begins to doze, probably due to this stifling heat in this seemingly air-tight relic of yesteryear.  A Forest Service lookout tower 6,000 feet up in the Malheur National Forest. 

FS tower

A lofty 14′ x 14′ cab perched atop 18′ poles with a 360 degree catwalk and storm shutters, that propped open, provide the necessary shade from the scorching summer sun. 

I sit on a wooden stool.  it’s feet capped with antique glass insulators used as a life-insurance policy for the watchman who places a telephone call or radios for help during an (electrical) emergency.

FS Tower lightening stools

Not necessary for me on this dark and hazy afternoon.  My only job being to relax and enjoy the “show.”   A tall order though as the foreboding clouds are thick and electric, grumbling toward us like an angry and hungry bear.  Lines of lightening delineate the sky and I am no good judge of their distance.  However far or near, they are powerful and as rogue as the wilderness we have pursued.


I pour myself a glass of red wine and look up in time to see a spire of lightening bearing down on a distant peak.  I think about the lightening rod on our rooftop that I noticed by happenstance this morning as we drove away from the tower.  Something was odd about the breeze and the clouds.


We tumbled down the mountain toward Canyon City and stopped wayside at a pioneer cemetery.  We had intent to kayak Lake Magone, an alpine lake near John Day; but scuttled to a halt at the first stop sign when we looked up and saw what was coming.  We made haste back to the tower, half-terrified that the storm would be upon us before we had a chance to climb the steps.

Full of precaution, but neither of us well-versed in the summer’s heat, we arrived with a moment to spare.  We washed the dishes in our buckets of water we had hauled days earlier from a mini-town called Ukiah.  We filled our buckets in a very well-appointed local park, which I was pleasantly surprised to find in a town of that size.  A couple pulled up beside us, where the man got out of his truck and said, “What’s new with you?  Anything?”

We told him we were continuing east and the south in our search of “wild” Oregon…

Now night has fallen and back in the cab, in an effort to remain safe, we open no windows and swelter upon the mountaintop.  I have a realization from atop that tower; staring through the single panes of glass and listening to the wind whistle through the now-apparent cracks of the 1933 structure.  The winds of the storm rush forth and do not soothe as other summer-night winds do.  My eyes are glued to the skyline, as I wondered how many others had stared off into the distance, eyes searing the forest for other things that are wild: like fire, and game, and man.

I came to realize that stormy summer night, that no matter how far you look, or how low or how high, you cannot search for “wild,” even in the wilderness; because when it’s good and ready–it will come for you.


 What wild spaces have you discovered lately?  Share them with us on my facebook page, or in the comments below.

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Shared With:  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wildcrafting Wednesday, LHITS DIY Linky



  1. Beautiful and important. Made me remember my lone rambling through the middle of Oregon. Thanku

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