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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.

Hiking McNeil Point – 24-Oct-2020

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Saturday, 24-Oct-2020

Mt. Hood is beautiful, year round.

Sun, rain, clouds or fog… it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter what sort of coat Hood is wearing, the views are always breathtaking.

Today was a good example of that: the forecast called for rain, changing into snow as the elevation increased. The trailhead would be a light mist, and McNeil point itself would be cleanly into the sub-freezing temperatures.

Did that stop us?

Heck no! That just meant that the trailhead would be empty!

The hike was glorious – I clocked a total of 11 miles and ~2,800ft elevation gain… though the official count is supposed to be 10.4 miles & 2,200ft gain. Meh, I’ve been working out more, and thankfully it wasn’t too bad of a hike. Made easier by a, frankly silly-large, breakfast order from Starbucks…a Danish, egg bites, and a burrito… on top of a pumpkin-spice latte. Yup. I’m cool.

I went with my friend Bri – McNeil point is her happy place, and I was really thankful to go with someone who knows the trail as well as she does. We walked, gasped at the views, and took breaks to chat, eat snacks, and enjoy the perfectly crisp air.

I love hiking up into the mountains in the fall – as the miles vanished beneath our boots, the trees got more and more snow-covered, and the trail crunched just a little bit more under each footfall. I never had to put on crampons, and we didn’t really see any true snow on the ground, but the thin layer of frost and ice that covered everything added that perfectly mystical quality to the whole world.

We had two lunches – various snacks that we’d brought, along with my standard French sandwich (apple, brie, and prosciutto on a baguette) – one at a beautiful rock about 3 miles in, and then the second lunch at McNeil point itself beside the shelter. We took a few other breaks too… but mostly just pressed onward slowly but steadily.

When we did get to McNeil point itself, we were greeted with the bluest skies of the day – The clouds didn’t fully clear, of course, but they did open up just enough for us to see the summit of Hood peaking out through the mist!

We took a shortcut on the way up, a steeper side trail that Bri knew about, but on the way down we took the longer / more scenic route – just in time to be greeted by our second clearing of the clouds for Sunset!

See, that’s another advantage to cloudy days; the sunsets are especially vibrant, and we caught a beautiful spot where we could see one layer of clouds above us, and one layer below of scraping over the mountains in the distance, being lit up a vibrant red as the sun dipped below the horizon.

We watched the sun dip below the horizon.

Well, we’d brought headlamps, since hiking out in the dark was always a very real possibility. Daniel would have been proud too – after one of the headlamps died, and is USB-charge only so I couldn’t just replace the batteries, we pulled out our phones and used the extra battery there as a flashlight… Not that we really needed it, thanks to the light of the moon… but still. Better to have headlamps.

Back to the car, then down from the trailhead and into town for dinner.

Where we learned a second lesson – dive bars don’t always have pub-food.

Sometimes, they have some of the best fried chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches that I’ve ever eaten. Also, the spiciest cajun fries.

Yeah. It was a very good day.

Snow in March!

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Saturday, 14-Mar-2020

Alert! Snow! Alert! It’s snowed in Portland!

That’s pretty much it. I got excited. Not enough to shovel, but it stuck for a solid few hours!

Yay Snow! Ollie and I took a long walk in it, all the way down to where the Cherry Trees were blooming by the river – a few miles, and a beautiful day for it!