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Cougar Hot Springs Adventure

Posted by elenahuerta10 on May 27, 2017 at 9:50 PM

The past few days was absolutely surreal. We left Portland with a couple main goals in mind:

1. Camping, where was unknown:

2. Cougar Hot Springs - which turned out to be in Willamette Forest near Umpqua. (By the way the amount of greenery in the state of Oregon is just unreal. Check out a map!)

We arranged for me to leave my car in Albany as we headed down South, so Curtis could continue to California for his own adventure. When we reunited and loaded the truck we headed to Eugene and traveled along the McKenzie River to the little town of Blue River, stopping a few times of course to stare googly-eyed at the scenery along the way while looking at campsite options. Once we got there he asked the locals about the best camping, which turned out to be along the reservoir. The Campground, Mona, was pretty empty and we found a spot that was almost entirely forested with some distance from the road. We could take an easy few minute walk across the street to get to the water, which we did once we got settled in the site. Phoenix, of course, had a blast throwing rocks into the water and quickly became accustomed to climbing the bank!

Once we returned I set up Phoenix's tracks inside the tent. Last week he asked me for train tracks and I went on a virtual hunt (OfferUp) to find some that I could pick up in Portland before we left on the trip. I did, and we picked them up while Phoenix was with his Dad. Seeing him play with his first tracks was enough, seeing how adorable he was enjoying them in the tent was over the top amazing. We joked that we should have brought two tents so he could keep that one to play in!

I planned our meals and brought all the things to create them, which ensued. After we ate I got Phoenix to sleep and we laid out under the stars. The campground we chose had a sort of tree framework where in the middle, the sun could peek in during the day and at night the stars could be seen as though we were completely secluded in the midst of the forest. For the first part of the night, it was as though someone put the Big Dipper right in a picture frame! Curtis thanked me for going along with his plan of figuring out where to stay the night along the way. He said I didn't seem stressed about not knowing, and I wasn't! I didn't look at it as not knowing, I looked at it as though we were just figuring things out. It worked out beautifully because had we planned out every detail, we might not have found that perfect campsite that the locals had recommended to him.

The next day we made breakfast and took our time playing, deciding that soon we would head across the water to the day parking site where a beach is. From there we would head over to the Hot Springs while Phoenix napped in the car. It was a short little stop, or at least it seemed short, where I actually did go in the water for a couple minutes until Phoenix was worried I would drown. We ate lunch before we left to the next stop.

There were so many trees along the drive to Cougar Hot Springs, SO MANY! And since it was on the edge of Cougar Reservoir we had to stop and stare at the water on the way. When we got there Phoenix continued to sleep for another hour and half, which gave us time to look at the water within a short distance of the truck and rest in the truck bed to recoup energy stores for the springs. This also involved me making some of the iced coffee for us to enjoy together in the sun. Some clouds started to roll in, and we didn't think much of it. By the time Phoenix woke up the sky was totally covered as though it was going to rain. I didn't expect that at all, it was supposed to be sunny both days! We were ready and the rain came in, high winds for a few minutes - I was on the fence about still going to the springs but Curtis reasoned that the rain probably would only be present as suddenly as it had come. The walk was a short 1/8 of a mile, mostly through tree coverings, to get to the well maintained Hot Springs. We grabbed our things, wrapped up in towels and headed that way.

The walk to the springs feels like heading deep into another world. I love Oregon, the fallen trees overgrown with mossy fixtures and leading to new plant life. The walk was fairly short, but when we got there Phoenix was not interested. It took a while, but I had brought his bath tub teapot and used my Mom super-powers to play with it to make the water look like the most amazing thing on this Earth while Curtis held Phoenix and made happy admiration noises. Soon he warmed up but still wouldn't take his shirt off. The springs are clothing optional - a huge benefit to having a toddler because he is potty trained enough to go in naked. It took me ditching my bathing suit and convincing him it was a giant bath (it kind of was!) to finally take off his wet shirt that was making him cold. These springs were perfect for kids because the natural levels of the rocks gave him places to stand/sit in the water enough to both play and be warm - even in the rainy mist. The springs weren't very busy, but still had a fair amount of people. Phoenix watched the other kids around for a while as well, never actually talking to any of them. By the end of the adventure he was happy to leave. We must have stayed a good few hours before heading back to the truck to eat snacks/dinner.


When it started dripping water from the sky, one of our concerns was the fact that the tent cover wasn't on the tent. It was fairly covered but we left with the readiness that our blankets might be wet and we might need to reevaluate staying another night. Sure enough when we returned, the 10 minutes of rain did dampen the blankets. It wasn't much, but with the air growing colder the thought that they wouldn't dry out any more than they already were was evident, so we packed up and set off to find a place in town. On one of our earlier detours, Curtis saw a little locally owned motel in Blue River that when we stopped at turned out to have rooms available last minute at a discounted rate. I have to say, it was actually really nice to be warm next to the fireplace and take a real shower that next morning!

On the way back to my car we took a scenic route through Clear Water Lake where the underground forest is. Unfortunately we couldn't see the forest because you have to go out by boat, and it was closing in on Phoenix's naptime so we didn't stay. It's on our list of things to see now! Before looking for the forest we did get to stop at the falls and go for a short walk. Phoenix wanted to hike the whole way, but we needed to get his grumpy self to sleep. The detour went through the forest, up through Sweet Home where my family is, and then through the highway. It gave us a good chance to reflect and I was able to point out some of my childhood and adulthood memories to him along the way.


Phoenix and I stopped and saw my Grandma after we parted ways with Curtis, and continued on our way home. Most of that driving time I spent in awe overload about how great that trip was, how everything seemed to line up perfectly, and the little moments along the way where I was entranced by the whole sensory experience that we created. Even the times where Curtis and I would look at each other and go "what now?" we figured things out without little issue.


I left on that trip not really knowing what to expect, but with a vision of awesomeness that came quickly to life. I had the best company I could've asked for. That first morning we all woke up and Curtis took Phoenix to the water so I could wake up and stretch. He'd actually taken the tent cover off so we could all look at the trees, which is what I did in meditation after they left and also why the tent cover was off when it later rained for those few minutes. What a beautiful feeling it was to wake up in the middle of the forest and feel that everything was right. I didn't know how much I needed this experience until I was there. My inspiration started flowing, I felt totally free like I used to when I adventured during the summers on my own, and even better that I had two amazing people to share that feeling with this time. I've come so far this past year - in asking for what I want, in knowing what I need, in allowing myself to be a vulnerable person again in some of the most soul crushing ways. There's beauty in this place, there's beauty in every day. There's beauty in the ways we, as people, interact with each other and there's lessons to be learned out in this world. Never let a pain become your life, because if you can even inch past it there will be something amazing that you never knew you could feel on the other side.

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