The first place I visited in Spokane was the Arena, it was an interesting feeling walking inside, even if it had only been for a short time that building held some great memories. I found some old restaurants, walked the river, and let the memories flow. For a few hours I walked with my eighteen year old self. I admired some things about that kid, but it was amazing to me then, walking through a place I had once called home, just how different I had become. Not better, not worse, just different.
Driving south through the Palouse hills I was struck by how incredible the journey of life truly is. That time, on the surface, seemed to pass so quickly, yet underneath upon closer inspection moved so slow. I could clearly remember my time in Spokane, yet it often felt like my hockey career passed by in a flash. It was a confusing dichotomy, I was truly a changed person, changed through the abundance of experience between then and now. When we count years they might seem to have slipped away, yet when we are forced to remember; details, successes, mistakes, emotions, places, connections, the time seems to stretch, that the person in your memory seems further away than the time it took to get where you are now.
My next stop was Palouse Falls, in southeastern Washington. It is a destination I will recommend to anyone who is travelling in that direction or is willing to drive off of the beaten path. The beauty for me, was in just how different it was to the waterfalls I was used to. An incredibly powerful waterfall in a predominantly flat, dry, land. It was its own beautiful sort of contradiction. Like many destinations on my journey, I wish I had stayed longer, the biggest mistake is to rush, to try and taste everything without truly enjoying anything. From there I moved into the Wallowas; a beautiful, dense forested and mountainous region in northeastern Oregon. Travelling through on thin winding roads, I made my way into the flat, desolate landscapes of Idaho. I slept at a rest stop outside of Boise and after maybe three hours awoke for the sunrise and a cup of coffee. Quickly on my way I moved towards Twin Falls with its bridges and waterfalls littering the intimidating gorge that carved its way through town. Southbound I headed into one of the most terrific and intimidating storms I had ever witnessed, the clouds, which lingered menacingly on the horizon, seemed to extend forever into the sky, as if they were going to swallow the road and everything else in their wake. It was incredible to see the contrast of a sunny day in Idaho with the chaotic skies of northern Nevada. Once I entered the cloud cover, the rain began to beat down, lightning struck and thunder bellowed.
Within an hour I found a ranch off the highway with a beautiful, desolate landscape behind it, the rain had let up slightly so I decided to go explore. Walking off of the road I saw a sign, knocked over, saying horseback tours 2 miles ahead, intrigued I walked back to my car. I hadn't seen much traffic and the weather was nothing better than horrible, so perhaps the ranch wouldn't be busy. I turned onto a beautiful dirt road and drove for a few minutes before I came to a nice, typical american, post-depression home. White shutters, and a white picket fence, without neighbours for miles, aside from two barns around a hundred yards in either direction. On the front door a sign read 'closed', I figured it was worth a shot. Walking up, I knocked three times and waited. A woman perhaps in her early fifties answered the door. I asked about the tours. She turned and called inside for a man named James. He walked to the door, I could hear him mutter 'really. today..' As he got to the door I introduced myself, shook his hand and told him that I had seen the sign a few miles back about horseback tours, that I had never ridden a horse, and figured, considering the area looked like a scene from Butch Cassidy, It might be a good place to learn.
The man chuckled in silent approval, "I always liked Paul Newman," he said. I laughed, I had come to the right place. Within minutes his wife had given me the various supplies, and I was in the barn setting up my horse. Sorry, watching her set up the horse. In the end all I needed to do was mount it. This was much easier than I had expected, it wasn't this horse's first rodeo, so to speak. Riding a horse was both empowering and intimidating, the animal made me feel both in control and insignificant, it was a truly unique and necessary experience. The man, James... Jim as he told me shortly into the ride, asked me to leave all my electronics in my car. He never said why, probably to keep the experience authentic, to keep focused on the moment, I appreciated it either way. I had and have an intense respect for a man who can live off the grid, perhaps even more for the woman who can stand such a man. Either way I admired Jim, as he lead me down a beaten trail in the pouring rain, shouting stories and spitting dip. The man was well read, he grew up in the city, he was a military man post-Vietnam, pre gulf war. When he was discharged he met a girl from rural Utah, she moved to California to live with him. Eventually they had enough of the city, and met their families halfway, equally far from either, equally far from everyone else for that matter. In nowhere Nevada. We talked Hemingway for what seemed like an hour. I battled the horse to follow beside him. When we got back to the ranch, I thanked Jim and his wife, she handed me a packed lunch as he told me I wasn't Butch Cassidy, but that he had sure seen worse. I backed out of the driveway, the rain had stopped, and they stood watching me go. I reached into the bag and pulled out a club sandwich, my favourite.