Tag Archives: Camping

A Thanksgiving Adventure – Camping in Vantage, Washington

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A Thanksgiving adventure – Camping in Vantage, Washington

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. This is my first year being single in half a decade, and thanks to the COVID Pandemic it’s also the first year that I can’t travel, and don’t have any friends still in town. I’m flying solo, have a ton of vacation to burn, and am feeling energetic...

From Sunday, 29-Nov-2020 through Monday, 30-Nov-2020



I am drunk, and I am happy.

It’s been ages since I’ve been camping in the desert, and even longer since I’ve sat out under the stars by a campfire. This one is well-earned too – scrounged firewood from the various other campers, who’d headed home to Portland and Seattle earlier in the day.

The drink was earned too – This was my second-to-last night before heading back to work, and the ending of my first Thanksgiving vacation alone… ever, in fact. I’d driven nearly five hours from my home in Wilsonville to get here, and the views of the stars that I have right now were worth every second on the road.




Sunday, late morning


The day started quietly… just like nearly every other day of this vacation.


I got up, had a bite to eat, and finished packing up my gear into the Mustang. Then I got onto the road – stopping for a latte and a bagel for the road first, of course, but mostly just cruising on the open road, listening to music and enjoying the serenity of having a destination still hours in the future.

That’s something that I discussed with my councilor, during and shortly after my breakup with Sarah, that’s stuck with me – Everyone needs their own form of meditation, and for ages I was missing mine. One of the best ways for me to meditate, it turns out, is long drives… something that I got regularly in Boston driving up into New Hampshire, and something that I got while living in Hood River, and driving out to Portland.

Unsurprisingly, commuting to and from work didn’t quite scratch that itch… and now that I’m aware of it, I can enjoy drives like this even more.

So I drove.

As the sun set down toward the horizon, I got further into Washington, and closer to camp. My plan for the evening was simply to set up camp, have a quick dinner, and then enjoy the quiet of the desert night. Maybe have a fire, if I could scavenge enough firewood that had been left behind by other campers over the weekend.

As you may have guessed from the into to this post, dear reader, I succeeded in all of those goals.


Firewood was found – not a lot, but easily enough to have a quiet little fire that needed minimal tending.

Dinner was cooked, and fairly quickly scarfed down under the open sky.

Relaxation, and whiskey, were both had while sitting by the fire in my fold-out camp chair, staring up at the stars as the moon rose over the cliffs.




Monday morning


It snowed overnight!

I love waking up to snow – really anytime that I don’t have to shovel it, but especially when I’m waking up in a tent, looking out over a snow covered field.

The sun was quickly melting everything it touched though, so I quickly got myself moving and made a lovely quick breakfast and cup of coffee, enjoying the smell of the snow, and the crisp air for as long as I could.


Of course, as the day wore on the air warmed up quite nicely, and soon enough I was hiking around in just a long sleeve shirt, exploring and enjoying the landscape. Normally when I’d drive up to Vantage, it would be to climb… but since I was solo this time I spent the time wandering around places that I hadn’t had reason to go to before – the trails around the clifftops, farther down the ridgeline, all of those neat places that I’d passed by previously.

There’s not too much to say about them, aside from that it was completely beautiful and excellently relaxing. No stress, no timeline, and no pressure. Just enjoying the views and playing photographer until the sun started to set.

As the sun got closer to the horizon, I headed back to camp to pack up and start the drive home.

As we get closer to the solstice, it definitely does stink that the days keep getting shorter and shorter… but as with everything there’s a definite silver lining to be had – I was able to photograph during golden hour, and was still on track to get home before 9pm!

That was, until I got back to camp and ran into a subtle delay in plans… As I walked back, I could see my car from quite a ways away. I noticed, though, that I couldn’t quite see my tent though…

As I got closer, it became very obvious that my tent was, in fact, not standing next to my car. Now, one advantage to camping is that it never even crossed my mind that someone could have stolen it. That’s literally unthinkable, thankfully. Instead, I noticed the gusting wind, blowing sand, and remembered just how windy is can get at Vantage during the day – especially in the campground.

I was starting to formulate search plans to find my wayward camping gear when I arrived back, and was pleasantly surprised at just how amazing people really are – someone had saved my gear! My tent, with sleeping bag and everything still rolled up inside, was packed tightly down under my car, secured with a few rocks from nearby.

I spent a bit of time cleaning it up and packing it fully into the car, before wandering off in search of my mysterious benefactor.

I asked a few folks around if they’d been the ones to help me, or if they’d seen the ones who’d saved my gear, with the goal of gifting them my bottle of scotch as a thank-you gift. Unfortunately no one had seen anything, but on the way back to my car I was able to return the favor when I found someone else’s tent in the same predicament that mine had been – their camp was strewn around, thankfully caught on a few bushes, with their tent maybe 200 yards downhill, in a small gully.

As a return of karma, I was able to pack their gear up, secure it with a few rocks, and hopefully make someone’s day just a little bit brighter than it would have been otherwise.

With that happy, karmically-balanced, ending point… I drove off. Back onto the main highway, through the hills, quickly rolling back the miles to home.

The Start of the Summer – Hiking, dining, and sleeping on Mt. Hood

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Friday and Saturday, 19 & 20-June-2020

 

Well.

2020 has been a year, hasn’t it?

 

It started in Scotland, then dove into a global pandemic, then protests across the United States. Now, when COVID cases are starting to rise again, Oregon has decided to re-open itself.

Well, I can’t do anything about that. I can’t really do anything about any of those things… but what I can do is keep distancing myself, keep wearing a mask, and keep active. And maybe take advantage of the re-opening as best I can.

Today, I went hiking on Hood for the first time in recent memory.

From the Timberline Lodge, the Timberline Trail circumnavigates the whole mountain – to the West, there’s ZigZag Canyon and the beautiful paradise park. Perfect day-hike destinations. So I went East instead, where no one else generally goes. I saw not a single person on the trail, but had what seemed like the entire side of the mountain to myself.

It.

Was.

Perfect.

Warm weather, a good breeze, and bright sunlight. The mountain was in full glory, peaking above the treeline at almost every turn of the trail.

I went all the way down to the White River – not far, by any means, but something like a 5mile round trip. I felt good… for a starter hike, trying to regain my legs after nearly three months of COVID-related staying at home, I felt strong. I felt tired, but I’m proud of myself for pushing through and hiking at a fairly strong pace the whole time.

After the trail dropped me back off at my car, I treated myself. I’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier, after the stressful and sedentary recent months, but today I’d hiked at altitude, and had skipped lunch. And, I’d parked at the Timberline Lodge, which was still open for dinner.

I walked in 10 minutes before they closed – I was going to head back to the car to cook up a mountain house, but the waiter insisted that I should sit down anyways. We chatted a bit, I ordered, and that’s how I found myself sitting by the window, watching the sun set on the Southern face of Mt. Hood, with a pastrami sandwich, two cups of hot cocoa, and a full cup of whipped cream topped with chocolate and caramel.

The crazy thing is – I only ordered the sandwich. The cocoa? I saw the waiter walking by with them, and asked what they were. See, I love the cocoa at Timberline, but I hadn’t noticed it on the menu… so when I saw him carrying them, I needed to find out more. It turns out that they were mistakes – and he was carrying them back to the kitchen to be thrown out. Well, he offered, and I couldn’t say no! When he brought over the cup of toppings, I lost it.

I’ve had a bad year. It’s been unpleasant, challenging, and just simply a not good year. I recognize that many people have had it far, far worse than I have, and I’m infinitely thankful for everything I have in life. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.

The gift of two cups of cocoa, after my first hike, right before camping out on my own, was exactly what I needed.

Now, as I sit in my camp chair typing this up, I feel good. I’m tired, but it’s a good tired. A well-earned tired.

I can’t say I’m doing great. But sitting here, looking at the mountain, I can say that I’m doing well.

Backpacking out to Green Lakes!

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Saturday and Sunday, 22 & 23-Sept-2018

 

BACKPACKING!

 

We went backpacking again!

 

I’m really excited about how much we’ve been camping recently – we’re taking our gear out, we’re getting mud on our boots, and we’re getting stronger and stronger each time.

 

This weekend was our annual backpacking trip to the Green Lakes Wilderness, nestled in the basin between South Sister and Broken Top. It wasn’t planned to be an annual trip the first time we went on it… but that was one of the fun things that we realized as we were walking in on Saturday – we’ve backpacked into this area every year for the last three years, every time with a different level of success.

The first year? Pouring rain, hiked out the next day in soaked gear.

Second year? Summitted Broken Top.

 

This year? Had a beautiful day, perfect weather, and amazing skies.

I mean, seriously… We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was cool, crisp, clear and beautiful. It was that perfect temperature where you can walk with a pack for hours, but barely sweat at all. It did mean we had to put on jackets when we stopped for rests and snacks… But hey. Small price to pay, right?

We drove out on Saturday. We could have driven out Friday night… But hey. We worked all week. We deserve an evening to relax, right? Right. So we took one, packed at our own pace, and had a good dinner to prepare ourselves for the adventure to come.

Saturday morning, we tossed the gear in the Mustang and drove out, southbound toward Sisters. It’s a long drive though, so we clearly needed snacks, which meant Starbucks. Side note: sausage egg and cheese sandwiches are MIA all over Oregon. Dono why, but we had the chicken sausage and bacon ones instead, which were amazing and so much better. Especially when paired with Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Because I’m a college girl who loves her some fall spice. Other side note: we nearly got eaten by the lady behind us in line. No joke. She kept walking closer and closer behind us while we’re all in line, finally ending within a foot of Sarah before asking, “are you in line?”. Ma’am. No. We’ve just been standing here, walking forward as people are served, for no reason. Ugh.

Anyways it was tasty and then we drove and parked and started hiking ohh my god why did I write so much about Starbucks?

The hike started well – a pretty packed parking place, but we were presently plodding, packs perched politely upon our backs. There were a fair number of people on the trail, even at the beginning, but that was honestly to be expected – it’s a super popular place, so we weren’t surprised by the crowds.

The people thinned out as we moseyed onward, and we really started to enjoy the solitude of each other’s company… And the crashing of Ollie running through the underbrush, of course. In all honesty, we did really well on the trail to Green Lakes! We walked quickly, talked the whole way, and had a really great time.

We did run into some… Adventure… once we got to Green Lakes itself though.

See, green lakes is popular. And we’d seen a lot of folks hiking in with packs. And, for one reason or another, the first route that we took through the campground was the single combination of paths that took us past exactly zero campgrounds. And then, when we realized that, we retraced our steps instead of continuing on toward the camp site 50 yards away. And then, once we retraced, we walked the long way around toward the far end of the campground.

No idea why we did that. Don’t know who chose those routes. No idea. All I do know was that our 4mile day turned into an 8mile day, and that I got cranky enough for Sarah to literally tell me to “shut up, stop complaining, and eat a Snickers”.

It helped. It helped so much.

And then, at the far end of the Wilderness Area, at the edge of the world, we found the ideal campsite.

I can’t even begin to describe how happy we were when we saw the site marker, and realized that it was open for us. This place was covered by huge trees, had a nice little log to sit on and make dinner, and overlooked the meadow that drained into the lake nearby. There was a small steam gurgling nearby, and the trail was far off to the side. Like I said – ideal.

After we put down our bags and set up the tent, we kept walking a bit, curious as to what was down the path. We went a ways down, and ended up meeting a pair of backpackers who were also looking for a spot… they’d checked almost all the other ones, and were on their way out of the wilderness area planning on looking for a back-country spot outside of the camping restriction zone.

Being the good samaritans we are, we offered to share our site, and ended up having camping buddies for the evening!

They were friends from San Francisco and New York City, if I remember correctly, exploring Oregon for the week. They were fine – we honestly didn’t really chat that much; we had dinner together, but then sort of went back to our own sections of the campsite to relax for the evening.

Our evening activities? Stargazing, and celebrating the equinox! Summer had passed, and Fall was in; we burned some sage, talked about how far we’d come so far this year, and slept in the beautifully crisp night.

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The next morning we got up slowly – our campmates were up and gone by the time we started packing up, heading to summit South Sister, I believe.

We didn’t have remotely such lofty goals. Instead, we relaxed. We made some breakfast and a lot of coffee, and enjoyed the quiet as the day warmed up. I had brought a book, but it honestly took me a while to get into the swing of it… instead I just dozed and wandered a little, while Sarah explored the marsh by our campsite looking for an ideal place to paint.

Once she found it, I joined her and we lazed in the sun, her painting and me reading. It was a very good day.

But unfortunately home was calling. Not loudly, mind you, but it was calling. After a while we packed up camp, and started the hike back out.

Thankfully, hiking out always seems to go quicker than hiking in, and there honestly isn’t really much to report from the walk back. It was lovely, slightly quicker thanks to us going direct instead of circuitously, but extremely lovely. Good weather, happy excited Ollie running next to us, clear skies… Yes. It was absolutely a good day.