Sunday, October 18 promised to be our best day yet. After all, it’s not every day you get to see gravity work backward and hike to a Bigfoot Trap intended to solve the Sasquatch mystery (built by the now disbanded North American Wildlife Research team)! When he realized I had listed eight (yes eight) places on our itinerary for the day, Kelly suggested we scale it back so we would have more time to see the ones we were most excited about.

We decided to cut the Susan Creek Indian Mounds near Roseburg, so we could save driving time and hike longer around the Bigfoot Trap. This meant we would begin by to visiting a couple fiberglass statues in Grants Pass.

Stop #1, Paul Bunyan in front of the Cedarwood Saloon. He is one of many statues around Oregon honoring the mythical lumberjack and the timber industry. International Fiberglass built the first Bunyan for a cafe in Flagstaff, Arizona, and he became the inspiration and original mold for this guy, plus the many Muffler Men who showed up at car dealerships and businesses in the 60’s. Paul played the strong silent type as we leaped from our car and took a couple selfies, then waved goodbye and traveled on.

The Caveman Statue wasn’t far from there. We posed for a few more pics next to the 18 foot tall colossus. Originally built to draw attention to the Oregon Caves, Caveman has become somewhat of a mascot for the city. Kelly did his best to take the proper posture to impress me.

After a delicious Dutch Bros. break, we drove thirty minutes to the Oregon Vortex in Gold Hill, destination #3. What a gorgeous, sunny day, with an expected high of 75 degrees, in mid-October, no less! Perfect for our next weird attraction opened by John Lister in 1930. The book said objects roll uphill there, things lean at odd angles, and people walking on a flat surface appear to grow and shrink as they go. 

But when we arrived the sign said you could only get in by appointment. I had checked the website to make sure they were open, but hadn’t noticed that detail. And the next available slot was two hours away! Too long to wait. Disappointed, we paused in Jacksonville for a picnic lunch on our way to the Bigfoot Trap. That was sure to be fun! And since we hadn’t been able to see the Vortex, we would have more time to hike and enjoy the forest trails.

Jacksonville was a lovely town. Starving, we unpacked food from our cooler and found a couple benches—one in the sun for me and one for Kelly in the shade. It felt so good we both leaned back for a little nap. But then Kelly’s tummy rebelled from too much spicy food and he took a break while I walked around town.

An hour later he was feeling better, so we set our GPS for the Collings Mountain Trail. Twenty-three point six miles of beautiful scenery, but increasingly windy roads. Finally, we arrived at our destination. They were closed for the season. Really? I didn’t notice that on their website. I was beginning to feel like a travel guide failure. After logging many miles and most of the day in fruitless travel, our spirits begin to sag. What was next on the agenda? Oh yes, Ralph.

Butte Falls claimed to be the only town completely enclosed by a fence. Plus it had a statue of Ralph Bunyan—the mythical brother of the mythical Paul Bunyon. Kelly and I liked the idea of a statue dedicated to the average man. We all know how hard it is to live in someone else’s shadow. But the trip proved anticlimactic. We never found any fence surrounding the town, and the 6 foot statue stood unceremoniously in the corner of City Park. Thankfully the bathroom was open. Now, the biggest problem was our GPS wouldn’t connect there so we didn’t know which way to go out of town.

We finally picked a direction and were thankful when it proved to be the right choice, but we didn’t find that out for dozens of nail-biting miles of unmarked roads. Our only clue we were going the right direction was the compass in our car. Could this day get any worse?

Yes it could.

By the time we got our bearings it was too late to include Gearhart Mountain, which as it turned out was nearly three hours away. There a Japanese weapon of war called the Fu-Go (balloon bomb), left over from World War II, went off, accidentally killing six people. Five month pregnant Elsie and the five children with her were just walking toward her pastor husband saying, “Look what we found” when it exploded in her hands. The story seemed rather fitting with the way our day was going.

It was getting late, and we had to give up on our final intended destination as well. It would have been too dark to do any sightseeing at Crater Lake by the time we got there. Tired and disappointed, we drove toward our hotel in silence. We passed through miles of burnt trees, homes, and abandoned vehicles. Occasionally one or two would stand untouched surrounded by devastated ruins. Sobering, sad; a fitting epitaph for the day.

We reached the hotel at 4:30. In a last effort to salvage the last rays of sunshine, we decided to take a little hike before dinner. The lady at check in told us about a lovely park 8 miles down the road. We took our luggage to our room and hopped back in the car. But not far from the hotel we saw more evidence of the forest fire. The park was closed.

The casino next to our hotel was the only restaurant around. With hopeful good cheer, we “hiked” the parking lot on our way to dinner and called it good. Though the building and menu were unimpressive, and my expectations low, I devoured the best chicken quesadilla I’ve ever had.

This day, with the best weather of the whole trip, we spent stuck in the car, with Kelly not feeling well, driving to places we couldn’t experience, lost until it was too late to do anything but stop for the night. All we saw were three statues and forest fire debris! We took hot showers, read a few chapters of our book, and looked at the schedule for the next day, hoping it would go better.

Life is like that sometimes. The things we think will bring us the most joy or satisfaction can turn out to be the most disappointing. We look forward to—marriage, jobs, parenting, retirement, special events—but they don’t always live up to our expectations. Sometimes we’re not fully prepared, or we make assumptions. Sometimes things happen beyond our control; our choice is what we do with what we’re given.

We chose to be grateful, despite the setbacks, and be glad we were with each other on this sunny day. We savored the memory of our picnic, thanked God for a comfortable bed, and snuggled into each other’s arms for the night.

As believers, we hold onto hope, not only that Jesus will come back and take us to heaven to live with Him forever, but also for days like this when nothing goes the way we want it to. I often remember Tom Hank’s line in Castaway about the flotsam that became his life raft, “You never know what’s going to come in on the next wave.” “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Our hope was more than rewarded the next day of our Weird Oregon trip, which proved to be our BEST day ever. Come back tomorrow to hear about Fort Rock, Crack in the Ground and more.