“Lost” Creek Campout


Spencer here: There are over a million places called “Lost Creek” in the United States alone. If you Google it, a “Lost Creek” seems to pop up in every state. It is not to be overlooked that our species and its culture has such a perpetual name for so many places. It is also not to be overlooked that Billy and I ended up there last week, in the Mt. Hood National Forest, near the Zig Zag and Sandy Rivers. Our quest to seek out Bagby Hot Springs (I’ve still never soaked in them!) was thwarted again because the road was closed. I forgot it was closed because of the fire recently, (36 Pit Fire, started by target shooters) which ripped through 5500 acres of the Clackamas River Ranger District this summer. Then I remembered back in October, smelling the smoke from Portland and the air felt heavier and foggier, as the ash hung in the valley of the city, yet no one seemed to notice.

We took a detour–a quick drive through the town of Eagle Creek, over to highway 26. It was a chilly day, but not raining and I was in the mood to explore. We stopped by the Zig Zag Ranger Station and picked up some copied maps, which proved to be very silly for actual navigation, (and I chastised myself for leaving all my sweet maps back at home!), but I still love every time I stop into a ranger office. I learn something and I like to talk to the rangers about their favorite places and the conditions. Ramona Falls is very close to Lost Creek, and is a place very special to me, for its significance to Billy and I. Consequently, I always go to the falls and not the other surrounding areas. It was cool to see all the different micro-climates and drive down roads I have wondered about in the past. The area was bustling with gnome-like, bundled mushroom hunters on hundreds of little foot paths–tis the season! After driving on some not-so-great hole-y roads, (even with a jeep they were rough), we camped on Lost Creek in a closed campground called Riley Horse Camp. Gourmet snacks ensued and I was beginning to feel better getting out of the city. The dripping moss and weathered trees made me forget all about my boring job and the mounting anxieties I feel about working it for the rest of the year, getting tied down with bills, material goods, and other grand obligations of capitalism. In short, I was at Lost Creek because lately, I feel lost too, and sometimes I just want to go somewhere I don’t feel lost, like the woods.

Recently, I read a New York Times editorial (The Meaning of Fulfillment) about the meaning of fulfillment! It was written by a 66 year old, who felt she had only gotten to this point later in life–perhaps because it was later in life. I want to disagree with the assumption we only are fulfilled near the end of life, mostly because I am stretching for it right now and it is a bit heartbreaking to seek something totally achievable yet ethereal. Why wait! Be fulfilled now! Like a QVC pill or exercise gimmick. Which brings me back to my boring job. But it also brings me back to gratitude and faith. I can be fulfilled now, if I continue to focus on what is important for me, and resist speeding up to catch all the others. I have great moments of this legendary arrival already. I just need a reminder to go my own pace, with my adventuresome beau by my side and a song on my breathe, through the mossy woods… and they don’t make an app for that.


Billy here. It’s Halloween time, which means bundling up the fruits of the year and leaving a cup out for the dead. The mushrooms come out in droves this time of year here in the Pacific Northwest. We spent Hallow’s Eve on the creek bundled in a wet tent, surrounded by fungi. I felt cradled in them. They grew so many places that there was a massacre of them underfoot from all the gnomes collecting them.

We read placards along the Lost Creek Nature trail that described the Mt. Hood eruption, whose mud slides buried this area around 200 years ago. The mud killed the trees, which eventually decayed and left perfect tree shaped holes in the ground called tree wells. Now they are mostly filled in with moss and plant matter. The Multnomah (the tribe native to the Portland area) called Mt. Hood Wy’east. Samuel Hood, the man the mountain was named after by invaders, was an Englishman who never even saw the mountain. Wy’east and Pahto, or Klickitat, were sons of the Great Spirit Sahele who fought over the woman Loowit. Wy’east was turned into Mt. Hood, Pahto into Mt. Adams and Loowit into St. Helens. Shortly after the last eruption, the Multnomah were almost completely wiped out by disease after contact with the Lewis and Clark expedition a few decades before.

The Multnomah people lived off of fish, water birds, elk, berries and primarily wapato, commonly known as broadleaf arrowhead or Sagittaria latifolia. This wetland plant was the staple of indigenous diet here in the Willamette Valley and yet before today I was not familiar with it. It is not found in grocery stores, but its edible potato-like tuber is high in protein, iron, B vitamins and potassium. Arrowroot powder, though it sounds similar, is derived from tropical plants such as cassava. It is astounding to me that something so basic, so simple as a mother plant at the foundation of a diet can be so lost and disconnected from us.

So there we were at Lost Creek, becoming something else, voluntarily or not, along with everything else decomposing and growing out of itself. And all I could think of was all the mushrooms: how they transform and enrich the soil, the entire food web literally from the ground up, and how spores can survive in space.

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