Saturday, April 26, 2014

Primal Wilderness Rambling From Walla Walla

Nearly 50 miles stood between me and my final destination after landing in the sleepy Pasco Washington airport. Crouched near an electrical outlet in the baggage claim area with my dying phone, I got as much direction as I could from my friend in Walla Walla. When luggage began to trickle out on the conveyor belt, I hung up and noticed a man who had been listening to my entire conversation. I gave him a dirty look. He informed me that I was “definitely from LA”. Perhaps I have now adopted southern California ways, but I still have some backwoods in me.

I decided to visit Walla Walla Washington as a last-minute getaway. It was a chance to see my longtime Facebook friends, Carlene & Ray Morrison. Picking up my rental car, I drove East on Highway 12, crossing the Snake River and into the twilight zone. The landscape seemed bleak in the dark with miles of sparsely covered hills in my headlights. On vaguely-memorized directions, I found my way past Walla Walla to a spot in the woods called Mill Creek, arriving at the Morrison’s cabin around 9 pm. As I stepped out of the car, I was met by the smell of creek water and the sound of a thousand frogs croaking happily in the nearby swamp. I felt a sense of home. LA seemed like another planet.

I’ll admit that I spent my first night there sequestered in a tiny cabin room wondering if I would be ax-murdered while a banjo player provided the soundtrack for my demise. You know, normal vacation thoughts. The next morning, I woke up chilled with rain drizzing outside. Carlene, a well-endowed redhead, said she needed more kindling. So, I cheerfully volunteered to visit the wood pile, where I gleefully discovered that I hadn’t lost my touch with an ax. (Ex-boyfriends take note.)

Later, we drove up Mill Creek Road, a winding route that turns to gravel and weaves into the Blue Mountains on the border between Washington and Oregon. We arrived at the cabin of Carlene’s daughter to breath-taking views of pine-studded crests. Ray, who is a tall mix of John Wayne and Daniel Day-Lewis, laid out a target shooting area up a slope by blueberry bushes and Christmas trees. I shot a pistol then a .223 rifle, discovering much to my delight that I still have decent aim. (Ex-boyfriends take further note).

I took my hosts to lunch in town, as any good guest will do. Walla Walla is rich in history, beginnning in 1818 as Fort Nez Perce, a trading post with Walla Walla Natives. Now, it's a hub for vineyard tasting rooms and wine shoppes. I was surprised that parking meters and paid parking lots were non-existent. They do things a little differently up North. Mill Creek runs through the center of town, where we found the restaurant T. Maccarones on Coville Street. Our waiter was a boyishly handsome fellow named Cougar, who wasn’t shy about flirting with an older city woman. After showing his license to prove he was 18 going on 19, I felt like a cougar hunting Cougar. The Morrisons were entertained and the food was impeccably fresh. I recommend this rustic vineyard town and hitting up T. Maccarones for roasted-chili brussels sprouts and ahi tuna salad.

We also stopped by the Walla Walla Foundry where Ray serves as a supervisor and welder. I was impressed to learn the foundry works with top artists to bring their conceptions to life in mediums including metal and many other materials. Equally impressive is the roster of celebrity clients. Meeting a few of the folks who make it happen, we headed back to the cabin for my final evening in Walla Walla. I reflected around the fire pit on the geographical and cultural diversity of this mountain farmland. We ended the day observing reindeer that live on their property. You know, just ordinary activities up North. That’s how we roll.

I’d love to tell you all the sights seen and tales heard during my stay: Charles Manson lookalike encounters, incidents of incest and murder-by-poison, insatiably horny locals. However, I don’t kiss and tell. A bit of melancholy overcast my return trip. I missed the Morrisons, the frogs, and the reindeer, but I couldn’t wait to get back to Los Angeles. I now understand why I am torn between two existences: my life of future destiny here in the city with the backwoods always in my heart.

Aimee Conner crawled out of a cave in a remote part of central Oregon. She can play the old-time fiddle and work the ancient magic of baking. She has now joined "civilized" society in Los Angeles, where you can't shoot the animals, but the animals sometimes shoot at you. She's the author of the psychological thriller Scrapbook.


  1. Aimee, regarding your concern about having a little backwoods, which I assume is the redneck girl's version of the old hip hop phrase: "Baby got back." Although a nature-lover in general, I particularly like your backwoods. I would like to visit your backwoods. I want to camp in your backwoods. I want to plant a tall sturdy tree in your backwoods for the enjoyment of today and the children of tomorrow. I've just written a letter to the parks service demanding that your backwoods be named a national scenic treasure and declared off-limits to all casual and recreational use, except for that of serious wilderness lovers and researchers like myself. In the hope that you will share my love for primal beauty, I am tentatively entitling a future book The Geographical, Topographical, and Spiritual Guide to Aimee Conner's Backwoods. May I count on your support for this literary and ecological labor of love?

  2. A splendid and entertaining post, Aimee!

    Good with an ax and guns? Remind me not to annoy you.

  3. Lyn,

    You not only have my unwavering support, you have the shelf of my backwoods to store your book in.

    William, Thank you so much for reading! Not to fret, I only ax the exes! :-)

  4. 5 Star Blog!!!!
    Vivid Captivating Colorful Descriptive Trip to the Beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I felt like i was there sharing it with you.
    Whether you're in LA, Washington or any part of the planet, you would make it shine…You and your words.
    Please continue sharing your writing,
    Thank You