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A Thanksgiving Adventure – Camping in Vantage, Washington


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.

A weekend trip to Vantage!

A weekend trip to Vantage!

Trip to Vantage

This trip happened a while ago, and I honestly never really have the mental energy to write it up particularly well.  But I did write out this quick summary, so please forgive the plot holes, lack of details, and general tomfoolery and poor quality writing below.


Friday night:

  • Drive out, via Panda Express and DQ!
  • Takes longer than expected, but we still find a pretty solid campsite for ourselves.
  • Sleep sleep



  • Cold morning… like, super cold. Too cold to climb, so breakfast and then wander a bit. Recon, right?
  • Lotsa people leave… boo, weenies.
  • Back to camp from Recon, then have some lunch and head back to the Sunshine Wall to climb
  • Climb some super fun routes, mostly just adventure climbing up random interesting looking bits
  • Ollie doesn’t like the slot canyon… but she gets over it, or rather, through it. Get it? Through it?
  • Finish off with a tough 5.9… I think it was called “Vantage Point” that I can’t actually finish, because fuck the last move. It’s scary. I cheat past it though, to get an amazing final panorama of the whole valley at sunset.
  • Back to camp, make an excellent dinner of chili cheese dogs (and a mouse for Ollie, though we didn’t let her keep it long enough to actually eat), and sleep!


  • Wake up, it’s much nicer today, so we head back to the same area and do some more routes!
  • Actually… they’re super full, because there’s a ton of people. So we end up doing a lot of the same routes, and some of the other ones that we saw people on the day before. They’re fun, and not as popular… but they’re not as long, and not exactly what Sarah wanted to climb, which is a bummer.
  • Note, high entertainment value from the group of new climbers next to us.
  • Sarah drew while Ben made lunch of Mac and Cheese in the wind.
  • Pack up, and head back home!


22, 23 & 24 April, 2016 – Climbing in Vantage again!

22, 23 & 24 April, 2016 – Climbing in Vantage again!
Thursday through Sunday, 21 – 24-April-2016
So, I’d talked with some of the interns at work about climbing.  They were curious – they’d been in the gym a time or three, but hadn’t ever gotten a chance to climb outside.  Well!  That?  That we just couldn’t allow.  My NUHOC leader exploded from it’s hiding place, and I planned out a trip for us all.  
To Smith, originally… but then Smith was rained out.  So instead of driving South, we drove North – to Vantage, where Sarah, Dave and I had climbed a few weekends earlier…
Since I’ve got Friday off, thanks to the whole 9/80 work schedule, I take Thursday evening slowly.  Sarah’s starting her Wilderness First Responder class this weekend, so I take the time to relax with her, and hang out with Ollie.
Sarah heads to WFR, I climb at the gym early morning for a bit of a preparation workout, before taking some more time to relax and chill with Ollie before heading out to Hood River.  Get some stuff done around the house.  It’s chill and nice.  Meet up with Dave ~6:00, and hit the road to… Vantage!  Drive late into the evening, find a parking spot that doesn’t rip the bottom out of my car, and sleep!  Note: we forgot Dave’s tent… so he sleeps out under the stars while Ollie and I crash in my ultralight tent.
Climb time!  Meet up with Interns A and B, AKA Jon and Sam (A and B change, depending on who’s farthest away.  Yes, we’re annoying).  We climb!  Tons of routes… don’t know all their names, but I do know… meh.  Who cares, honestly?  We have fun!  A quick synopsis is as follows:
Pre-Lunch, 4 climbs.
Sport line up the arete, face variant of arete, move anchor for 5.10b face, save gear for army guy.
Rest & lunch
Post-lunch, 2 routes, one twice.
Route near chimney, overhang, overhang again
Post-lunch rest… then two more routes!
Same route that I saved gear on, Jon’s first lead on a slab!
Basically, we took it easy… and I still got a solid 9 climbs in.  The rest didn’t re-do as many, but we still totaled out at… ohh, 30+ routes.  Short routes, but still.  Go us.
Ohh, and also.  Before we get to the photo gallery… there’s one thing that should be mentioned.  Sarah was in class this weekend – not able to come with us.  This marked the second weekend that we were apart… since we started dating almost 8 months ago.  So… it was special.  As a keepsake, Sarah gave me a little figurine of Rarity, from My Little Pony… she got it ages ago, and it’s near and dear to her heart.  She asked that I take pictures of it with me on the trip, so… I’m not one to refuse a request like that.
So that’s why there’s a cute little pony in my pictures.

Dinner for the night is canned Chili… which is kind of sad, but it’s what happens when four guys go camping together.  We’re not creative.
Then we chop up some firewood with my awesome battleaxe (see pictures of it in the firelight), and just relax and hang out!
One quick adventure does occur that evening; Dave gets to play First Responder when we hear a small creature (a child) screaming bloody murder.  Turns out she tripped over a tent-line, and only scraped up her knee.  But still – by the time we learn that fact we’re already over there, so help is offered and medical kits and presented.  None are used or accepted… but people are grateful none-the-less.  Dave feels good for being able to offer, and I feel good for dragging us over to make sure everything’s okay.
Then?  Sleeeeeeep…. with so much dust stuffed into the tent that I feel like I’m eating a desert.  Seriously.  It was WINDY  that day… and my tent is designed against rain and snow.  Not a full-power dust storm.  So… I eat dirt, and sleep.
Up early, and start the drive back.  Ollie does well, and we find ourselves in Hood River not too late.  A good weekend.