On Monday afternoon we turned our tires away from Oregon’s extravagantly fertile coastal forests and headed inland, landing for the night at Grand Ronde’s Spirit Mountain Casino. 105 miles of challenging cycling left most of us too weary to show much interest in the casino, but rumor has it that one of our number parlayed a stray $20 into a $500 windfall.
Tuesday morning we were welcomed to the Willamette Valley by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon in a moving ceremony set near a river on their tribal campus. The native drummers performed an honor song, their voices rising and falling over the landscape, followed by a native song performed by a cluster of preschoolers huddled together in the cool morning air. The story of the Grand Ronde Community’s travails at the hands of the US Government and its struggle to re-establish itself as a self-sufficient and fully realized nation was eloquently told, and we planted and blessed three trees on the riverbank. The trees are part of a restoration project along the water’s edge, an ongoing effort to claim, hold and beautify the gradually expanding lands this tribe proudly calls home. We were honored and proud to have a part in it, and to have our mission treated with such reverence.
Our alleged “active recovery day” provided some gorgeous scenery and featured stops at Coelho Winery and Stoller Vineyards. The terrain was rolling and verdant. Everything grows bigger in Oregon, it seems. Especially the hills at the end of the day. The community of Wilsonville turned out to welcome us at the Holiday Inn with cookies, chocolate milk and a big dose of small-town hospitality. Wilsonville is proud of its trees and goes to great lengths to care for them, and Mayor Tim Knapp welcomed us as keepers of the same flame.
We finished the day with dinner at the beautiful home of Team Collier, atop a mountain in West Linn. A small battalion of volunteers from the tree care community showed up to help make sure every detail was perfect. The sun set, spectacularly, right on cue, washing the gardens in rosy light and bringing the day to a close. Tuesday was memorable. Wednesday looks like a lot of work.