“Opal Creek means an awakening to nature. A special place where people have fallen in love with the environment, so in love they want to save it.”—Alexa, Reynolds Learning Academy student
When I tell people I work for Opal Creek, I see an envious glimmer enter their eyes. Perhaps they imagine me and my coworkers, hiking off-trail in the Opal Creek Wilderness to a mossy rock ledge, where we pull out our laptops and write grants, make staff schedules, and do double-entry bookkeeping to the sounds of wind and birdsong.
I am at the company store explaining to a family about our backpacking trips for teenagers. Their young daughter looks up for an acknowledging sign; this is the summer adventure she’s been looking for. The parents tell her with a smile that they will talk about it at dinner and dog ear the Expeditions page in our catalog. Opal pool is their next destination, a family giving dad his day in the woods.
My grandchildren tell their friends that their Oma lives on a mountain, in a cabin, in the woods.
I am living a story book life.
My morning alarm is a robin’s trill followed by a choir of chirps and croaks and rustling of trees.
There was a snowy silence when I arrived in Jawbone Flats. Now the audible hum of spring has set in as school groups, cabin renters, and hikers filter through camp. Everything is new; the season, the staff, the creek have all shifted to a new rhythm and I am no exception. My mind is constantly racing as I absorb everything around me. From the scientific name of the Pacific Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) to the difference between mosses and liverworts,
It was just over two weeks ago when I noticed the first hummingbird had returned to Opal Creek. Lured here, no doubt, by the same sunshine and mild temperatures that drew many of us Oregonians outside over the Easter weekend. A day or two later, I heard the frogs calling to each other from the slowly warming muck at the pond’s edge, tucked into a still shady corner of the yard. But, just today when I woke, the frogs were silent and the hummingbirds were nowhere to be seen. In their place was a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow and cold, dark clouds raking the mountains overhead.
Opal Creek, wilderness, ancient trees, crystal clear streams…these are words I throw around a lot, with funders, with staff, with donors, with board members, and with friends. Each of these words alone invokes thoughts of tranquility, open space, room for the mind to roam and unwind. These are magical words.
Winters days are numbered in Jawbone Flats. In sync the melting snow, extended sunlight, and the patiently waiting buds and seedlings, I’ve been diligently planning, organizing and developing our programs for the coming season.