In 1804-06 there was Lewis and Clark. And in 2018 there was Brian and ZuZu. What we share is more important than our differences (such as ZuZu being a dog).
All four of us were imbued by a spirit of adventure, and a willingness to overcome extreme obstacles on our dangerous journey. Here is the story of Brian and ZuZu's Great Adventure at Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon.
It began with a dog gazing into uncharted territory, and a shadow of a man holding a camera to memorialize our adventure.
The initial stages of our quest to cross the Big Meadow, a place long rumored to exist, but possibly only a myth, took longer than expected. I trusted ZuZu to smell out danger, and indeed, she did a heck of a lot of pausing to do just that.
Pleasingly, passers-by who had preceded us left some signs to guide our way. Since my wife's name is Laurel, I took this as a providential indication to take this route farther into the unknown.
A faint trail passed between two cabins at the edge of civilization. Dog and I decided to see where it led.
An expanse of close-cut grass met our human and dog eyes. A flag resting in a hole in the middle of even shorter grass lay to our right. I decided to dart straight across to minimize our exposure in open ground.
That was a wise decision. A faint trail on the other side of the grassy expanse led into a grove of trees.
My courageous canine companion rested for a spell in the waters of what we later learned was called Paulina Springs by the natives.
Newly refreshed, we pressed onward over rickety boards that must have been left by travelers long past.
As we trudged onward, wondering if this strange path would ever end, ZuZu appeared famished. (Or maybe she was just licking her lips for the fun of it; hard to tell.)
Ah, light at the end of the boardwalk. It was encouraging to get a glimpse of the Big Meadow, since I had worried that it was just a frivolous tale.
A curiously rounded mountain lay in the distance. Perhaps this was... Black Butte.
We encountered a structure that tempted us to cross over into the meadow. But I thought, "That is exactly what whoever built it would expect us to do." So we avoided the likely trap, and pressed on.
We encountered some people approaching us from the direction of the wilderness we were about to enter. But they were moving quickly away, and we had no opportunity to question them as to why they were fleeing.
Seeing them depart, I wondered how long it would take for us to encounter fellow travelers again.
Not far ahead we encountered a disturbing message from the natives who inhabited the territory we were now entering. Even without the large "Warning," I would have considered the language to be, um, a warning to turn back.
But we continued on, though I took care to observe a large animal in the distance. Since it didn't appear to be a horse, we trekked deeper into the Big Meadow, albeit with more caution than before.
A clear path lay before us. But this appeared to be too obvious, so, remembering Robert Frost, I looked for a path less traveled.
Ah, just what I was looking for. The image of the bird of prey gave me pause, as did the warning from the natives about "foot traffic only," since my canine companion had paws, not feet. But we had come too far to turn back now.
I was fortunate that ZuZu was so willing to take the point on our hazardous journey.
Yet it didn't take long for my brave dog to look uncertain as we made our way deeper into the Big Meadow. Could there be trolls waiting under the bridge to ambush passers-by? We hurried across, just in case.
The path grew more indistinct. At times I questioned the wisdom of setting out on this quest to explore the farther reaches of Big Meadow. But then my zeal to explore the unknown returned.
We saw an amazing peak that begged for exploration. It would have to wait for another day, preferably after I'd re-read "The Lord of the Rings."
Another warning sign from the natives who inhabited this land. It didn't deter us (my dog can't read, thankfully).
Yikes! We finally encountered the horses that could bite or kick. ZuZu and I kept our distance. The horses seemed unaware of our presence, though they might have been enticing us to move into even greater danger.
Impassable, hah! By this time we had grown accustomed to warnings from the natives aimed at keeping us out of their land. They meant nothing to our determined hearts.
A bit further on we came to a courteous message from those who lived in this territory. I was unsure of its sincerity. But we did obligingly latch the gate.
A glimpse of the civilization that lay on the other side of Big Meadow encouraged us to keep moving. We were uncertain of how friendly they would be. However, uncertainty is what we explorers sprinkle on our cereal each morning. So tasty!
Those who lived on the far side of Big Meadow were curiously attired. I got the impression they were engaged in some sort of celebration. I'd caught a glimpse of a woman in white, who was treated with deference. The slanted box with a hole in it appeared to be part of a ritual involving sacred bags thrown in its direction.
Thankfully, the natives were friendly. After receiving a message that dog and I had arrived safely on the other side of Big Meadow, and been offered food and drink, my wife joined us in a celebratory meal at a dining hut termed "The Bistro."
On our return journey, which took a different route, we encountered more signs of the civilization we had discovered. They use these curious vehicles to traverse the large grassy areas we had crossed early in our adventure. There is more to discover in this strange land, for sure.