Long before we decided to move to Astoria, we looked ahead at the summer weekends of 2011 and started to plan some camping trips. We probably started planning in January or February. We looked at all the festivals, street fairs, weddings, Timbers games, and all the other stuff going on in the summer. Then we blocked out weekends to go camping.
We set reminders to get our favorite sites as soon as they were open to registration. Because those sites get snapped up months in advance. We were a well oiled machine. We executed flawlessly. Everything fell into place. And then we up and moved to Astoria, and all our fine tuned summer plans got shot to hell.
We haven’t been able to do as much camping this year as we normally like. So we were both really looking forward to getting back to Camp Creek. Now instead of it being an hour drive from Portland, it was about a three hour drive from Astoria. And since we were traveling on a weekday, every single bridge on 26 was under construction. We were halted in traffic every few miles, for up to 20 minutes, until my skull got burny and my skin felt too tight for my head.
We met friends for lunch in Portland, then kept driving east. And, surprise! 26 was under being paved up to Mt Hood too! Awesome! Somebody (me) was super fricken crabby by the time we got to the camp site.
But, oh, how it is worth it.
This is why we go back again and again. We set up our tent 10 feet from this spot. We fell asleep to the sound of water rushing over the rocks.
We unpacked, set up our tent, and sat our butts down in our camp chairs. And
I drank a few glasses of wine decompressed from the drive.
A huge reason we love camping is cooking with camp fire. Because we are uber planners and we don’t have jobs, we prearranged our meals and prepped before we left. For our first dinner, we had sliced potatoes and onions topped with a ground beef/meat loaf concoction. Some spicy BBQ sauce, some bacon strips, and baked it all in the dutch oven.
It was fricken delicious. I’m not actually going to show you what it looked like, because honestly, it didn’t look that appetizing. But I assure you, it was awesome. And it was easy to make. And if you do any camping at all, and you don’t have a dutch oven, you need to get your shit together and get one. It has become our favorite piece of camping equipment.
We slept that night by the river, the temperature was perfect, and I had some of the best, solid sleep I’ve had in a long, long time.
Except. As is normal and customary, I had to pee in the middle of the night. When I’m home, this is no big deal. But when camping, it becomes a problem. This little campground has pit toilets only and no running water. So the last thing I want to do is get out of my warm, comfy bed, crawl over Dave in the dark, put on my hiking shoes, venture out into the cold woods, and schlep over to a stinky hole in the ground.
So I did what I imagine what most normal people do…I held it. And I tried to sleep it through. And because I was sleeping so well, it sort of worked for a time. But remember, we pitched our tent right near the river. It was not quiet. It was also not conducive to battling the urge to pee. It was thousands and thousands of gallons of water rushing by.
Eventually, after a hard fought battle, biology won. I debated going all the way to the pit toilet, or just doing the crouch in the woods. I really am telling you this. I wanted to avoid using a flashlight or lantern. But it was so, so dark, I couldn’t even see my shoes inside the tent. I had to roll over Dave like a pile of logs to get to the door. He slept closer to the door as an extra measure of protection should we be attacked by bears. Isn’t that nice?
I had to turn on the lantern to find my shoes. Once I had my shoes on, I exited the tent. It was so dark. It was so, so, so dark. Like, darkness you never find in civilization. Granted, I had just shot my night vision with the lantern. But it was so dark, I could barely see the tent. This campground is at the bottom of a ravine carved by the river. Above us were giant old growth trees. Beyond that was a moonless sky. The stars were bright, but they weren’t going to help me pee.
Before I wandered too far from the tent, I fished through the door for the lantern. There was no way I was walking around the campground in that inky blackness. The river now sounded a bit ominous. I found the lantern and turned it on. It was embarrassingly bright. If you’re stalking around the woods in the middle of the night with a bright ass lantern, there’s really no question what you’re trying to do. I know guys pee in the woods all the time and probably don’t think twice about it. They probably don’t even need a light. But I’m a girl, and I needed to find just the right spot. Somewhere away from any walking we’d do, and somewhere near plants and vegetation that would cover the evidence. I needed the light to do all this. I found a perfect place and turned off my light. Because no one needed to see this.
Oh, peeing in the woods. Communing with nature. Men, you are so, so lucky. It was the best pee of my life.
I made a mental note not to drink so much wine for the second night.
In the morning, we made our coffee and oatmeal and planned our day. We had friends arriving to camp with us in the evening. So we decided to take a drive over to Timothy Lake. There are four campgrounds around the lake, with over 200 total sites. When we’re out camping, we always like to scout other nearby campgrounds to see if we might want to stay there. We camp in a tent and we camp just to spend time outdoors. We try to avoid big RV parks or areas that focus on motorized recreation. But don’t get me wrong. We fantasize about an RV or trailer every time we load up our little car with camping gear. If we won a million dollars, we’d probably buy an Airstream before we bought a house.
I didn’t actually get any great pictures of Timothy Lake. We stopped at the info center near the Clackamas Lake Historic Cabin. We talked to the volunteer there and she said these were some of the last few historic cabins remaining. She said in the 70s, the funding for national forests got cut. To keep the historic cabins (built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s) from falling to vandals or disrepair THEY BURNED THEM DOWN. That’s right. They burned down the historic structures because they lost the funding. I heard that and it blew my mind. I just did some light googling to see if I could learn more about what happened, but I’m going to have to dig a little deeper. It’s endlessly baffling to think that our leaders were so short sighted they cut the funding and destroyed some of our heritage just to save a few bucks. But then, of course, during our current debt ceiling “crisis” it’s not hard to imagine.
We drove around Timothy Lake and meandered through some of the campgrounds. Though the lake is not far from Camp Creek, the climate and forest are different. Within the span of a few miles, the mountains of the Cascades withhold moisture and precipitation on the western side, where the forest is mossy and lush. On the eastern side, the pines are more scrappy and parched. It feels more like high desert and ranch land. It even smells different.
We saw a sign for “Little Crater Lake,” and had to take a look. There was an easy trail through a lovely goddamned meadow that just makes your heart ache, it’s so pretty.
It makes you feel like you’ve never taken a real breath in your life, until you’ve seen a place like this. And Little Crater Lake…they weren’t lying.
It’s 45 feet deep. It’s crystal clear blue to the bottom. It’s 34 degrees. It’s not a swimming hole.
It looked like an optical illusion. Instead of me explaining how this happened, look at the sign that was at the side of the lake.
We wrapped up at Timothy Lake and headed to Government Camp for lunch at Ice Axe Grill. Just washing my hands with warm water and soap was a joy. We headed back to our campsite to snack, read books and drink beer. Why can’t I do this full time?
This camping trip felt too short. While there is no running water and I pretty much can’t stand myself after 48 hours without showering, I could have spent another night or two in the woods. We were happy to have guests for our second night. Our friend Roxy brought her parents out to camp with us.
Look at this kid. She’s got the best tasting fingers on the planet. She’s already a camping superstar. If Dave and I procreate, you can bet your butt we’re going to take our kid camping. Maybe we’ll have an Airstream by then.