Once a week, many folks meet at the Deschutes Amphitheatre to embark on a journey.
What would normally be a regular ole’ early bird hike up the Tam-a-lau trail has been transformed this August, in light of our homesteading history month. You see, the folks that are brave enough to show up at 7:30 am know that they aren’t just going on a hike, but experiencing what it was like to try and survive living in the high desert a homesteader in the late 1800’s. They are fully aware and ready to experience what it was like to carry water many miles over hot, exposed, and steep terrain. With a pioneer or two as their guide (our own Interpretive ranger and hosts in living history mode!) they are guided to the top of the platau, making their way to their hypothetical homestead while working together to carry a bucket of water.
Before we begin our hike, we decided we would always offer the idea of carrying the bucket, just in case the idea of carrying one put any hiker in a serious disposition. I mean, all these visitors are on vacation, right?! Amazingly, every group has responded keenly to the idea of carrying the water, to get a true perspective as to what it was like to haul water up one of the Cove’s many “water trails”, which are trails carved in the cliffs and steep terrain so that early settlers had slightly easier access to and from the river. Visitors appreciate the perspective of knowing the challenge of carrying an extra load, up a steep trail, and keeping water in the bucket from escaping. To imagine that when you wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, you couldn’t just walk your bare feet over to the faucet, but instead, had to walk nearly 2 miles down to the river. And, not to mention the concern of water quality, we’re guessing that they weren’t exactly able to sip on their camelpack on the way up!
This week’s group, working as a team and trading off, managed to carry the bucket all the way to the top of the trail without spilling a drop. After taking a short break, we went on to search for on trail evidence of previous dwellers of the area, and came across huge piles of rocks and twists of old barbwire.
We were also entertained by a group of very active turkey vultures flying up, down, and around the high palisades. They had attracted dozens of little birds who wanted to join the ride. Our favorite quote of the trip? A young lady, out of quick defense, flapped her arms towards the sky and yelled, “I’m not dead!!!” to a Turkey Vulture who looked to be deceivingly heading her direction, but flew right over her head instead. Lots of laughs:)
All in all, to get an experiential perspective on how it was to survive the high desert for those who weren’t so lucky to settle on the banks of the river has been a good one. Next year, perhaps we will add an element of finding food and building shelter as well (also not an easy task!) We are inspired by our interested and enthusiastic Hardship Hike participants!