I book an Airbnb apartment in Jacksonville Oregon, for the month of February so I can explore the area. I’m seriously contemplating moving here. I like the fact that it’s a small historic town 30 miles north of the California/Oregon border. It’s near the cities of Medford and Ashland which is great for shopping and entertainment. There’s a lot of outdoor recreation which I’m a fan of. Most importantly: Sun! According to a number of websites the average sunny days per year is 196 just like back home in Massachusetts but warmer (no long cold dreary winters).
As I drive through the town I feel as though I’m being transported back in time during the gold/silver rush as the town was known for. It has an old western town vibe. Only a few things have changed; the streets have changed from dirt to pavement and the cars have replaced horses. I’m looking forward to checking out the local scene.
It’s getting late and I want to settle in before dark. The property is 20 minutes out-of-town on a 90 acre horse sanctuary. I miss the turn because the GPS points me to a non-existent driveway. The irritating male voice on the GPS is yelling at me to turn around and it’s rerouting endlessly due to no cell service. “Just great” I mutter to myself. I tell him to shut up as I turn the car around. I find the house number on a tree and follow a long gravel driveway as it meanders through the Conifer forest. The road comes to a T intersection and I ponder which way to go. I see small arrows pointing to the right and I follow. As I drive, the forest gives way to beautiful green fields and meadows in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains.
I pass through an open metal gate with a sign posted: SLOW: Free Range Horses. I cautiously drive looking for them near or on the road. In the distance I see horses grazing on a hill and I feel relieved since horses are herd animals and stick together. I pass a few houses tucked behind trees and pastures with white fences. Finally I find the apartment.
I park the car and survey the building. The apartment is attached to a modern one and a half story red barn. An outdoor riding ring with white fencing is directly in front of the apartment. A large low-lying deck leads to the french door entrance. No one is there to greet me but they know I’m coming. The studio has a cottage feel with soft yellow painted walls, white trim, sandy gold color tile floors and simple slate blue color furnishings. Photographs of horses hang on the walls. Strategically placed windows offer views. To the left is the dining area and a kitchenette. A living/bedroom with couch, trundle-bed and Armoire are to the right of the entrance. Interesting that the full bath and laundry room is in the barn. I guess that’s so other’s can use it. All in all it’s a great space in a beautiful setting.
As I settle in I realize cell service and internet is at a minimum. Actually there is no cell service and the internet is extremely slow if working at all. It’s funny how for years I survived quite nicely without these modern conveniences but now that I’m on the road in an unknown area I feel isolated. I’m a hardy New Englander however, who is willing to adapt for this adventure.
The next morning I awake to Black Beauty peering through my window. He nickers softly as I acknowledge him in the morning light. With a large cup of hot tea I walk up the hill and gaze to the East watching the sun rise. The horses are grazing in the distance.
The sun slowly makes its way
Horse prints fade in the morning dew
Fog gently fades away
As the days go by I explore the area hiking up into the hills behind the property going further each day. I don’t have a map just good instincts on how not to get lost. Where two paths converge, I pile rocks or sticks to leave a trail pointing the way home. On one of my hikes, I see a huge foot print in the mud. I take a picture since it reminds me of the legendary Bigfoot. I know it’s not, I don’t believe in the imaginary creature but a friend does, so I will send it to him.
One day as I’m hiking in the woods, I hear a loud crash and
I see this large black blur careening through the woods. At first I think its people on horses but where would they have gone? I stop dead in my tracks paralyzed with fear. I’m at least two miles from civilization without bear spray or a weapon.
I stand motionless for what seems to be an eternity. Silence. I contemplate going back but I take a deep breath and move forward. I will not let fear ruin my hike. It must have been a black bear. I’m on full alert, scanning the area and listening intently. I feel as though I’m a deer in the woods being hunted.
I will never know what it was but my vivid imagination gave me a clue. I’m glad I continued and overcame my fear of the unknown that day.