I recently performed in Oregon, and I have to say–what an incredible experience! If you’ve never been, you must go. Just keep in mind that most of the state is “away from the city”. That’s the politically correct term for “middle of nowhere”. If you say “middle of nowhere” in Oregon more than once, they exile you to the actual middle of nowhere, which I believe is Iowa.
I was in Oregon as part of the Timberline Lodge Comedy Weekend. Please note that what I’m about to tell you comes from the perspective of a person who never makes it to an environment such as this. It was incredibly creepy at first but I found peace with it. Like Uber if it had fir trees.
It started with the drive from Portland. I couldn’t help but think that I was about to perform in the only comedy festival in the country secretly booked by Stephen King. A long, winding road lined with dark forests lead to an old, rustic inn at the foot of a mountain. Upon entering, I expected a butler to present an envelope with a list of rules for the real-life murder mystery I was now a part of. He may have been there, but I was too busy bent over with an asthma attack to notice. You see, Timberline Lodge is at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Asthma drugs are so valuable they probably have a hardcore dealer. Some guy with a trunk full of inhalers and blue meth. After catching my breath, I dropped my bag and looked around.
The Lodge is truly amazing. It looks exactly what you think a rustic Northwest ski lodge would look like. Dark, stone fireplaces. Wood bannisters hand-carved into various animal shapes. An immense St. Bernard lying behind the front desk–ya know, in case you need to be rescued by a dog rather than the trendier other way around. Then it hit me–I was possibly in The Shining and Cujo in the same eerie weekend. I was sure that at any second, a girl named Carrie donning a prom dress would appear to give me my room key.
I tease out of admiration, honestly. It’s an unbelievable getaway. What I like most about the Lodge is that it’s so old, there’s no sound proofing. That may sound unappealing, but it also means each guest has to sign a pledge promising to be quiet between 10 pm and 9 am. When you get older you appreciate stuff like that. I plan on asking every hotel from now on when their quiet time is, or what I call “Old Man Happy Hour”.
I chuckled out of glee upon signing the QT pledge, almost wishing it were 10 o’clock already. The girl, thankfully wearing a very non-promlike flannel shirt and no tiara, gave me my key (an actual key!!) and asked if I needed anything else. Seeing that I was on the second floor, I politely asked for a Nepalese sherpa and the number for Walter White. Upon hearing the name, the St. Bernard looked up. Weird. What’s in that neck barrel, Heisenberg? And can I have a puff?
The thing about asthma at that elevation is that everyone has the same advice. “Drink lots of water. It will help you breathe better.” Well, thank you. But I’m not Aquaman.
Water for asthma? I’m not sure they’re familiar with how biology works. I saw a lady by the fireplace eating a tofu veggie wrap. I was tempted to ask if it was the Oregon cure for something. Did she have athlete’s foot? Scoliosis? Or was she simply being punished for slamming a door at midnight in direct violation of the pledge she signed?
Once I got my lungs under control, I thoroughly enjoyed the lodge. Furthermore, the comedy show was a lot of fun. But the most memorable part of the weekend for me was hiking the next day. Hiking in Oregon is like singing karaoke in Nashville. Tourists can’t wait to do it and locals take it waaaaay too seriously. I asked a guy at the equipment desk for insight into the area trails, and he just scoffed at me for wearing “improper attire”. Okay, look. I’m from Tennessee. I have a whole closet full of improper attire. I know what improper attire is, and this wasn’t it. I was wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Not exactly Bermuda shorts and flip flops, Sir Edmund Hillary.
Two chafed legs and one sprained ankle later, I was halfway to my destination of the Zig Zag Canyon Overlook, which as the name implies, overlooks the canyon that houses the famous Zig Zag River. To even attempt to describe the scenery on this trail would be futile. Even photos don’t do it justice. And the tranquility…wow! The only sounds I heard were the breeze and another tourist hiker swooshing along in corduroys. We exchanged looks of empathetic solidarity and hobbled our separate ways.
About a mile or approximately 15 inhaler puffs later, I stood at the Zig Zag Canyon Overlook, only I wasn’t sure. That’s right. I wasn’t sure that the big canyon I was in fact overlooking was the canyon overlook I was searching for. My thinking was–since there was more than one mountain and more than one valley around, then maybe there was more than one “overlook”. The thought of hiking all this way and not seeing the end goal didn’t sit well. So I kept hiking.
Another mile later I was obviously deep in Hansel and Gretel country. Nothing but trees surrounding me, judging me. When a couple approached I politely asked if the canyon overlook was much further. They eyed me with bewilderment and explained that I had passed it. Of course I did. I’m the tourist on the Pacific Crest Trail in Levis and Converse. Why wouldn’t I see something that obvious and have nothing but doubt in my mind?
I was exhausted. I was embarrassed. But I couldn’t help but laugh, which sounds hilarious when it’s half wheeze. I only stopped when an old man with a bag over his shoulder approached, asking which direction it was to the “Pet Semetary”.