I remember the first time I saw the trailer for Old Joy. I remember being captivated by the sense of space, the pace, and Yo La Tengo’s beautiful score. It took a bit of time to hunt the film down, but eventually my friend Trevor got it through Netflix. We were seniors in college and our group of friends was about to scatter across the country and, after four years of growing together, begin the process of individual maturation. It was therefore a particularly poignant time for such a story.
People commonly claim that movie adaptations aren’t as “good” as the book. I think it’s generally unfair to compare different mediums, but I’ve read Jonathan Raymond’s Livability and feel confident in the assertion that Kelly Reichart’s adaptation is a more fully realised and mature reflection of relationships.
The story itself is a meditation on male friendship. It is a quiet portrait of two old friends who have drifted apart over the years and their attempt to reconnect on a camping trip. The emotional centrepiece of both the story and film takes place at an unnamed hot spring somewhere in Oregon. Seeing it for the first time, I was transfixed by this mysterious place. How could I possibly get there?
When we began seriously thinking about this trip, lists developed in various scattered notebooks and TextEdit files of places we wanted to visit. Detroit, the Redwoods, the Chattanooga region of Tennessee… and always ‘the hot springs from Old Joy.’ A simple Google search revealed the location as Bagby Hot springs, which sits about an hour southeast of Portland, Oregon in Mount Hood National Forest. And that was it.
Getting to Bagby requires a three mile hike through beautiful, dense forest. The path follows a clear stream that descends from the hills. Lush moss hangs from the massive cedars and large, prehistoric looking ferns grow to shoulder height. The arrival at Bagby itself is something better left to experience, but suffice it to say that this place is worthy of a pilgrimage.