September 27, 2011
I woke up at sunrise, checked all of the tires on the Syncro, made sure the racks were tight and said my good-byes. Heading east through the Columbia River Gorge, I pulled off I-84 in Hood River and followed signs towards Mt. Hood and central Oregon. After a brief stop to inspect the Palmer Glacier, I coasted down the eastern side of the Cascades into central Oregon.
Cross-referencing a moving dot on my Google maps with an out-of-date road atlas of the lower 48 given to me by mom the day I bought my Syncro, I took my time through Madras and Bend. Stopping for coffee, photos and gas I added two hours to a prescribed four-hour trip. Following directions texted to me the night before, I arrived at a gravel road with the national forest sign reading “Elk Lake Recreational Area.”
Accelerating to the top end of second, the Syncro vibrated down the washboarded road. Shifting to third, I reached the perfect speed and the rattling finally subsided as pines opened up to an alpine lake. I followed the lake’s east bank, dotted with the occasional sail boat and rustic cabin, eventually coming to a parking spot behind a clustering of familiar cars.
Inspired by the last remnants of summer, I pulled off my T-shirt, inspected the depth at the end of the dock, and back pedaled a dozen feet or so. Taking a deep breath, I sprinted towards the water and braced for the cold.
Adirondack chairs made green for Oregon.
Send me the dock.
My feet clapped against the surface as I landed with a less than ideal plunk. Compensating for my botched dive, I dolphin kicked until my lungs burned, then surfaced with a gasp. Making my way towards the nearby floating dock one side-stroke at a time, I heard the sound of two more dives and looked back to see Matt and Gordon following suit. As I scrambled up the side of the dock, the mid 70’s September air never felt so good.
For half an hour or so we sat chatting and periodically jumping back into the lake. Eventually, a storm marching up from the southeast caught our attention.
“We should head across the lake to get more water before that thunder storm gets here,” Gordon said removing his arm from his knees and pointing toward the dark gray blob.
“How long have you guy’s owned this place?” I asked pulling my T-shirt and fleece over my still wet head.
“Well we don’t technically own it. We have a hundred year lease.” Gordon replied, drying his hair with a towel.
“A hundred year lease? How does that work? What happens after a 100 years, do you just fork over the house?”
“It’s a saying more than an actual time period. Since the Forest Service owns the land, we lease it from them and built the house. In effect, its ours. It’s legal jargon,” Gordan said as he took a tug on the Mercury’s ripcord and squeezed the gas line. Taking another pull, the engine caught.
Pulling away from the dock, we headed towards the far side of the lake to fill up a few jugs with potable water from the alpine inlet. As the small 4-stroke buzzed I looked back at the distancing shoreline and the volcanic peak of Mt. Bachelor.
“One year or one hundred, I’d take it.”
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