August 22nd, 2015: Day 1
Just as color starts coming to the world, three deer pass by the window outside of Wilder's room. A momma and two fauns regard Barry skeptically as he packs up his tent. "Oh was that the twins?" Deb says as she puts out milk, cereal and fruit for breakfast.
"Two babies and a momma?" I reply.
"Yep they live here, I don't think there's much food around for them. They're almost full grown aren't they?" Deb cuts the rest of the bread she made from scratch for dinner last night into slices, and shoves them on a pan into the oven, "They grow so fast. I picked up one of them up out of my garden earlier this year."
The morning moves smoothly as the full house stirs and comes alive with the bustling of packing and making sure that everyone is there for the step off ceremony. Deb's husband Ron, takes Dana, Jesse and I, in a hybrid to the gas hub in Malin.
The scar of the easement is the first thing I notice as we make the final turn to the station. It really doesn't seem that bad, it just looks like a gap in the landscape like back home, they are everywhere aren't they. But there are no telephone wires, no sequence of poles, just a bleak strip of brown running down the hill. And sometimes the worst things are the ones that are unassuming and boring.
The police and news are waiting in front of the fenced off facility. Angry barbed wire, lines the fence with large No Trespassing signs. A metal box for deliveries sits in front of the fence. Inside the perimeter is an array of pipes that are on the border of being huggable size, a metal shed and a constant hum.
The sun is well up now on the Oregon/California border, and I avoid being interviewed like the plague. It is already starting to warm up, but today is only a three mile hike. Some photos and banner displaying later, Alex has everyone circle up. He requests that people speak to their reasons why they are here, and why they want to support Hike the Pipe. Beautiful words are spoken, and the reasons range from longtime opposition to industrial exploitation of resources and communities, to having one's eyes really opened by a simple movie.
Smoke billows along the surrounding mountains; the road stretches before us as about a dozen of us begin walking toward Malin. This part of Oregon is really flat, and really dry. For the first two miles we are surrounded by agricultural fields, mostly potatoes and I wonder where their water comes from.
I walk quietly, half listening to the conversations around me, but it is more like a background murmur. Mostly I just think about what it would be like to live in a really rural town. I think about the people that would benefit from this pipeline if it goes through. When did fossil fuel become more valuable than water? I think about the people that merely believe they would benefit from the pipeline. It's as if, what people value, is a constant battle between the gauge of rarity and the immediacy of necessity.
I chatter with Jesse as the potato fields change into ranch homes and small houses with flower gardens. A black chicken clucks suspiciously at us from the shade of a truck. I cheer at a haphazard clump of tomatillo plants in someone's front yard. There is a fluffy sheepdog leashed on a runner line between two trees that stands stock still, and just barks at us as we pass.
Malin has a short main street, there's a auto body shop, Mexican restaurant, diner, post office, drug store, and a closed out pizza joint. Then there is a massive park with power outlets next to all of the trees on the east side. The reason for this is because those trees all get Christmas lights in the winter. The park is attached to a swimming pool, and our campsite has a perfect view, between buildings and foliage, of the scar three miles away.
The day passes with meetings and goodbyes and goodlucks. Logistics, hugs, safety, messages and maps. Every step I take buzzes with the many people that made this action possible. The sun is long down, and my fellow hikers and the pit crew climb over me as I huddle next to the charging station typing these little words. The air is chilly in the night, and the journey has just begun.