Last year we went camping for a weekend at Gone Creek Campground on Timothy Lake. Located in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest, Timothy Lake is an enormous, man-made lake in the center of intense beauty. Mt. Hood looms like a protective mother hen with foothills hemming in the lake on all sides. The campgrounds are primitive providing only outhouses and running water for drinking and dish washing. When we camped last year, we scoped out the campground and picked our favorite site. Sporting amazing views of the lake and the foothills, it's nestled in a clearing of thick woods on a bluff above the 13-mile hiking trail that circles the lake. We determined to reserve it for camping this year and Curt diligently checked the website every day starting January 1st until they opened sites for reservations. He booked site 39 and we all began to look forward to our mini-vacation.
Last year we took the back road adding about an hour to our trip and taking years off our life by driving the narrowest, curviest gravel road with sharp drop-offs on one side. This year we took the main highway and arrived anxiety-free, safe and sound in record time.
Last year we had to postpone our camping trip by a month because Paige, then the dog, then Katie got really sick within 24 hours of departure time. This year an hour before we left Paige started looking puny. When we took her temperature, it was 101.5 F and all the kids immediately panicked. "Oh no. Not again. We have to go camping. We can't stay home because Paige is sick." I felt a twinge more empathy for my poor, flushed baby curled in a heap on the kitchen table but after discussion we decided if she was going to be miserable anyway, she might as well be miserable in paradise instead of in our air-conditioned home and comfy bed. Not sure where the logic was in that, but everyone (including Paige) was relieved that the camping trip was still on. We thanked God for making us aware of her situation before we left and added Advil and Tylenol to our camping box. She was quite the little trooper - perking up with proper doses of medicine and playing hard until the fever came back when she'd curl up in her camp chair in the shade and wait for the medicine to kick in again.
Grant and Curt were our manly providers. They set up the camp site, gathered firewood in the forest and chopped away with their saw and hatchet. I've stopped being nervous that Grant loves his hatchet, except when he runs with it. Then I panic just a wee bit. The first night we accidentally burned some wet wood. It made such a display of smoke that it thoroughly stripped my hair of any hint of smelling clean and plunged me straight into grungy camping mode.
Paige got a new bag of hand-me-down clothes before we left for our trip. She packed a backpack full of "new"outfits but settled on one dress that she decided she needed to wear EVERY DAY we were gone. Since she was sick, it would cause no harm to her or others, and we were camping anyway, we let her. She wore the same outfit three days in a row and spared her other clothes from layers of grime and dirt. Wasn't that thoughtful of her?
We found our own private little beach in a nook on the lake and spent an afternoon chilling as family. The boys fished while the girls squealed and splashed in the frigid mountain lake. Is it shocking that they didn't catch any fish? We tried to get Dusty to swim but she is the only dog I've ever been around that is scared of the water. She wanted nothing to do with being in the water and after her initial swim sat on the beach acting insulted that we'd even suggest it.
When Paige was feeling well we hiked the trails around the lake and marveled at how tall the tress were and how beautiful the forest was when illuminated with sunlight filtering through the tall canopy. We saw the tiniest baby chipmunk on the hiking trail, chirping for his mother and looking so adorable that he almost didn't look real. A few feet later, Alli stepped on a snake and barely flinched. Had it been me everyone in a five-state radius would have heard my shriek.
We drove to nearby Trillium Lake and hiked the two miles around the lake. It boasts stunning views of Mt. Hood and some really cool boardwalks over the marshy areas. The last time we hiked Trillium Lake was the summer of 2007 and we were Chicago residents visiting family in Oregon. Now we live here. How crazy is that?
We sat around the camp fire, made smores and pudgy pies for dessert and talked. The kids played cards by lantern light and stayed up late. Paige and I watched the sun set over the lake from the window in the tent while she was falling asleep.
On our last night, Curt heard "footsteps," grabbed his flashlight and discovered the biggest and cutest toad I have ever seen. It was hopping slowly through our campsite. Since Dusty isn't exactly an outdoorsy dog, we got a kick out of showing her the toad. She was baffled and would slowly approach it then jump off the ground every time it hopped. She'd lean in for a sniff, then jump. Approach the toad, then jump. We were laughing so hard I thought I might wet my pants.
To get our entire family and all our camping gear to the mountain requires a bit of genius packing. Curt loads all the big stuff in the van, then we load the kids and the dog. Once they're buckled up we start piling stuff on and around them. The finished product is quite hilarious and we can almost see their heads over the mounds of pillows, camping mats and sleeping bags.
We finished our weekend by driving up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. The expansive views from the lodge are difficult to capture on camera and even more difficult to describe. Mountain range upon mountain range upon vast expanse. It makes you realize just how small and insignificant you are. The kids thought it was super cool that in the middle of July, the mountain was still covered with snow and dotted with skiers and snowboarders and we got pictures of them standing in the snow in their tank tops, shorts and flip flops.
It was a wonderful trip from start to finish. Sometimes things are just better the second time.