EclipseTrip Day 4: More Shakespeare and a Spooky Forest

Smoky sunset over Diamond Lake, near Crater Lake.

The less fun thing about staying in home exchanges on a trip is that when you leave, you have to clean. We could tell that the owners of this house, who had no children, were pretty stringent about cleanliness, and in fact they had mentioned in their instructions that they had had the place professionally cleaned for us (which I also do before sharing my home). 

Now, the hosts had left us the number of a cleaning service, and I considered calling the service to save ourselves the work, since we were on vacation and all. But cleaning it ourselves wasn’t so bad. After we got up Tuesday morning everyone pitched in, so it only took about two hours to get packed up and get the place clean.

That gave us time to drive downtown and share a french press at the adorable Bloomsbury Books Coffee House, do a little shopping in the cute stores, then have a yummy lunch at Hiro Ramen, which is apparently new and the only ramen shop in the region. Between us we sampled all the broths, and I think the miso was the best.

Then I drove Pebbles back to the house, and, to save us time after the show, took the clean sheets out of the dryer and had her help me put them back on the beds, and we unloaded the clean dishes from the dishwasher and put them away. (I think the homeowners had said leaving their clean sheets in the dryer would be good enough, but I wanted to go the extra mile and have the place ready for them to crash when they got home.)

By the time I got back in the car I had less than half an hour until curtain, but I felt OK about that because I planned to pay for parking in a lot near the theater and it is only a five-minute drive.

Welp, the lots near the theater were all full. I was driving with a large cargo basket attached to the back of our SUV, so I couldn’t fit into just any little gap on the street. I had to drive around searching for a street parking spot that was not limited to two hours. Quickly as the clock ticked down, I gave up on that and decided to just park in a two-hour spot and hope not to get a ticket during the three-hour show. But the first spot I found, on a residential block, was actually not limited. I jumped out of the car and literally ran to the theater, arriving just after the ushers had locked the doors. I was panting and sweating as I sheepishly tapped on the glass. They told me the play had just begun, and offered to walk me in after about 10 minutes. Then they put me in front of a TV screen showing the play.

I felt terrible, but at least I had time to run for the bathroom. Then when I came out a different usher came along and said she’d bring me in in about 20 minutes. I was dejected! As I watched on the screen, it became clear that King Henry IV Part 1 was going to be so much better than Part 2. A party scene had begun, and the actors carried an inflatable pool out onto the stage, and foam fell from the ceiling like in a Cancun foam club. As Prince Hal raised his arms to catch foam, I could just cry that I was watching all this on a screen instead of being there.

But then the usher brought me in — through a deserted backstage area, with costumes hanging on a rack for quick changes and a monitor for actors to see the onstage action. We had to hug the wall like mice in case any actors ran through. She brought me into the theater through a door otherwise reserved for actors, and instead of my regular seat, she put me in the front row, at the level of the stage. All the other rows were on risers above the action. So as Prince Hal partied with Falstaff, I literally felt like I was at the party. I could see all kinds of little details, spit flying out of the actors’ mouths as they talked, and how well each supporting actor responded to every little thing the main actors were doing. I also had a great view of my family enjoying the show from their seats on the other side of the theater. So basically I was hugely rewarded for being late.

One of the reasons that Part 1 is better is that it has Hotspur, Prince Hal’s cousin who becomes a rebel. (Spoiler alert: Hotspur dies in the end of Part 1.) In this production, the part was played by a woman, a talented woman, and not only that, they didn’t try to disguise her as a man, but changed all the pronouns referring to her from “he” to “she,” and made it clear that she was a woman married to another woman. Now picture the spicy scene between Hotspur and wife, as Hotspur is leaving for the war — but played by two fiery women. It. Was. Awesome.

The other big reason that Part 1 of this production is better is that Prince Hal gets more time to be fun. And he and Falstaff have their epic insult battle. It’s just a romp.
After the play, we collected Pebbles. The homeowners were not due to arrive home until evening, but I of course had this nagging worry that they would come home while we were at the play and wonder why we had left our child at their house. Pebbles is a responsible kid and old enough to be alone, but given the situation I couldn’t help but worry a little. We arrived to find all well, and hit the road for Broken Arrow campground near Crater Lake, in the Umpqua National Forest.

It was only a two-hour drive, and as we left around 4 p.m., we figured we’d stop to pick up a fast food dinner on the way to the campground and bring it there to eat, since we hadn’t packed any cooking gear, just our tent and sleeping bags. We knew we wouldn’t have enough time to eat at a sit-down restaurant if we wanted to get our tent up before dark.

What we hadn’t counted on is how rural Oregon gets, fast. We didn’t pass any restaurants after Medford, that I recall. There was one place in the woods, about 30 miles before the campground, that looked promising, so we figured we’d set up camp and go back. But the road from there to the campground was long and twisty, and once we pulled into the campground, hungry, we knew we’d never want to drive all the way back there in the dark.

This was a National Forest campground, with no booth for staff to check us in. We drove around until we found the number site we’d reserved. The place was nearly empty, which was weird for summer and because the campgrounds inside Crater Lake National Park had been all booked up. The trees were skinny and far apart, but they were everywhere, so you had this feeling of being in a forest and yet also in the open. There was smoke in the distance and not much animal life, and the sun was setting. Nutmeg declared it a creepy, spooky forest.

The campground host came over to check on us, and informed us — to our surprise — that campfires were allowed. Now we had a new problem: We had been so sure campfires would be banned that we hadn’t even brought a lighter. But we didn’t really want to go to bed in this spooky forest with no food or warmth. I asked the host if there was a camp store, and she directed me to one at a nearby campground, which she thought closed at 8. It was 7:40. I had forgotten the directions by the time she was done saying them (I’m terrible at receiving verbal directions), but I decided to grab the smaller kids and try to find it, leaving Erik and Nutmeg to set up the tent.

I couldn’t remember which way I was supposed to turn as I exited Broken Arrow, but I soon realized that the highway there was basically a circle going around a lake, called Diamond Lake. So I never found the campground with the store, but I did find a community of vacation cottages, and a sign by the road listing every cottage, presumably so everyone could be rescued in case of forest fire. Eventually I came to an old-fashioned gas station with two pumps, and I was very happy it was open, because the elevation gains coming here from Ashland had used more gas than we had expected, and at half a tank, we were getting worried about whether we would find any gas before we ran out.

Since self service is illegal in Oregon, I let a crusty-looking mountain man  pump my gas, (almost) happily paid $3.69 per gallon even though the going rate was more like $2.89, and bought a lighter for nearly $3 and a bag of jerky for $6. So now we weren’t going to starve.

Being the weirdo that I am, I forgot to ask the mountain man if there was another store anywhere nearby, but we had seen signs for Diamond Lake Resort, so we decided to keep driving around the lake. We arrived at said resort just as the sunset was turning the smoky sky over the lake pink, which was nice to see. The resort was a collection of old-looking wooden buildings and a beach, and plenty of people were lingering to watch the sunset. The resort had a store which, after an afternoon driving through National Forest, looked huge to me. It had souvenir clothing, groceries, books, everything. It had the same lighters I had just bought one of at the gas station down the road, but for half the price.

 

We bought a pack of hot dogs, a bag of marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars, and paid a small fortune at the register. The young guy working there admired my Cubs sweatshirt and said he wished he could give me a discount for being a fan of the world series champs, and that they didn’t see many Cubs fans around there. We thanked him and drove back to the campground the way we came, although it might have been shorter at that point to keep going around the lake. I just wasn’t sure.

When we got back to camp, the tent and sleeping bags were set up, and Erik and Nutmeg were suitably impressed that we’d found food and fire. For their part, they had scavenged plenty of wood from the many empty fire rings around us. We soon had a fire crackling to push out the spookiness, and — despite the complaints about lack of ketchup and buns from some — we had some roasted weenies for dinner along with the snack peppers I’d purchased back at the Ashland Safeway. There were about a bazillion stars out there in the forest, and the smoke from forest fires was distant enough that they were not blotted out.