The Frontiersman’s Paradox reared its head and roared at me last weekend. I came to Sisters Country in search of hundreds of square miles of untrammeled forest meadow, stream and desert to roam. Found it, too, and have done a fair share of roaming over it. The newspaper I edit promotes outdoor recreation and tourism, which means I earn my daily bread encouraging people to share in Oregon’s bounty.
But, of course, I also want it all to myself. Frontiersman’s Paradox.
Marilyn and Ceili and I headed out into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness to hike a bit of the Jack Lake Trail. The subalpine trail lies west of Sisters at the foot of Three Fingered Jack. It’s fine country, which I haven’t hiked in a while. The road in is so washboarded that it will rattle your face right off your head (apologies to Robert Hunter). You might think that discourage people from venturing out there. You would be wrong.
The trailhead was jammed with cars, and the trail was swarming with hikers. Ugh. Now, granted, this was a Saturday in August, which is bound to be busy. And the coronavirus pandemic has sent more people than ever out into the woods looking for heathful activity away from crowded cities. But it is mighty disconcerting when your favorite spots are “discovered.”
On Sunday, after a few hours of banging on the keyboard, I headed out to what the Clan colloquially calls “The Shooting Woods” — the meadow and forest north and west of Zimmerman Butte, the cinderpit where I conduct my Frontier Partisan Biathlon. That area is my go-to woods ramble. It’s entirely flat, unless you choose to climb one of the buttes, so it really isn’t a “hike.” But I can reel off a ramble of a couple of miles or a dozen miles as the mood strikes.
This ain’t by any means a stretch of pristine woodland. It’s been logged over more than once and is crosshatched with logging roads. Kids go back in there to party, and for the past decade a decaying couch some drunken teenager dragged out there has marked a turnoff into the meadow for me.
But I seldom ever encounter a soul back there, and for nearly three decades now it’s felt like “my” woods.
On Sunday, I turned off at the ratty old couch and there was a new-cut trail across the meadow. A nice trail it is, too. It follows precisely the route that I have been taking for years through the sage, juniper and pine which nicely flatters my sense of trailblazing. But the fact that it’s there is a stark reminder that “my” woods are not mine.
I have to laugh at myself, but damned if I don’t feel like that cantankerous old frontiersman who sees the smoke of his neighbor’s cabin and figures it’s time to find a new country…
I mentioned the Frontier Partisan Biathlon, which is my form of workout — kettlebell complexes and shooting. I follow Dorothea Wierer on Facebook, which means I get to enjoy her posts on her summer training for the actual biathlon in the Italian Alps. Wierer is an Italian biathlete, who won back-to-back World Cup Championships in 2019 and 2020, which is a jaw-droppingly exceptional feat.
I like everything about this extraordinary athlete — her beauty, her athleticism, her vibrant personality and most of all the obvious joy she takes in her sport. She’s just pretty damn cool.
There are a couple of new films in the queue.
I’m not heavily into horror as a genre, but my attention was grabbed by the buzz about a new La Llorona film. La Llorona is the Weeping Woman of Latin American folklore. The 2020 La Llorona is from Guatemala, and the premise is most striking. The San Antonio Current :
(Director Jayro) Bustamante tells the story of the weeping woman through a political drama that follows a retired Guatemalan dictator, General Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz), found guilty of the genocide of tens of thousands of native lxil Mayan people during the early 1980s.
When his guilty verdict is overturned and he is set free, General Monteverde is driven into his home as protests against his release rage on just outside his house. When Alma (María Mercedes Coroy), a young native servant, arrives to his front door after most of his domestic staff quits, she brings with her a supernatural force that makes the general and his family confront the unimaginable sins he committed decades prior.
To call Bustamante’s La Llorona the best La Llorona movie ever made is an understatement. The unique, slow-burning, political horror/thriller he has created is ominous, atmospheric and never reduces itself to cheap scare tactics to instill fear in audiences. While some viewers might not consider this a true La Llorona film since the folklore is only used to support the larger narrative, there is no doubt Bustamante has tapped into something that brims with cultural significance and dread.
As someone who believes we are all haunted by frontier history, I’m in for this one.
I was in the ninth grade in April 1980, when Operation Eagle Claw went down. The attempt by a previously unheard-of unit called Delta Force to rescue the American hostages in Iran ended in a catastrophic, fiery failure at Desert One. It rocked my world, because I was 14 years old, patriotic and naive. I knew that badass American commandos could die; I didn’t know they could fail.
On August 21, Barbara Koppel’s documentary Desert One will drop.
In April 1980, the US government launched the Operation Eagle Claw, their response to the hostage crisis that was happening in Iran at that time. Helmed by the then-president Jimmy Carter, the Delta Force tried to rescue the 52 hostages that were detained in the U.S. Embassy and Foreign Ministry buildings in Tehran. The documentary film Desert One explores the different aspects of this failed mission through interviews with the hostages, soldiers, commanders, and even President Carter.
The doco has gotten favorable notices and I am looking forward to deepening my understanding of this incident, which can be said to have shaped the history far beyond its immediate impact. The failure of Operation Eagle Claw probably sealed Carter’s political doom and ushered in the era of Ronald Reagan — an era that defined the last part of the American Century.