Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Olallie Lake - The Best Accidental Camping Trip of Our Life

Our "summer" was short.  Curt was in doctoral school and Grant and Alli were both playing water polo through mid-July. Grant resumed water polo in the second week of August, so our family only had a three week window of unplanned, summer days and open weekends.

The first weekend Grant, Katie and Alli were away at church camp leaving Curt, Paige, and me all by ourselves.  We loaded up our dogs and drove to Central Oregon to go camping.  We didn't have a reservation, but we stumbled upon a pretty campsite in the West South Twin Lake Campground.  Paige didn't get bored until the last day and we loved having her to ourselves.
Happy Church Campers
Happy Tent Campers
We hiked to South Sister Mirror Lake for a picnic lunch.

The following weekend Curt and I ran the Cascade Lakes Relay together.  It's a 216 mile relay race (split between twelve team members) that starts in Diamond Lake and finishes in Bend.  The entire race is run at elevation, through extreme temperatures, and a lot of altitude changes. Sounds crazy but it is a riot! My non-running husband "loved everything about it except the running."  He even agreed to do it again next year.

The Finish Line is so sweet.
Our third and final weekend of freedom was held for "CAMPING."  Curt normally chooses our camping weekends in January, researches campgrounds online, and reserves the Reservable Campsites the day they become available.  But this year was different.  We were on a What Needs to Happen Today basis.  There was no planning ahead, even for camping.  The Stilp Family is learning to wing it!

We all love Timothy Lake, a giant man-made lake in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest.  It boasts several campgrounds with big, private, beautiful sites and a thirteen mile trail around the perimeter of the lake.  I was salivating over the possibility of such a long trail run and the kids were anxious to get back to their favorite place to camp.  With so many campgrounds we were certain we could get a campsite, but we were wrong.

Gone Creek Campground - our favorite on Timothy Lake - was already full by 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon.  The campground host warned us that "every campground on the lake was full." We went to two more neighboring campgrounds - each further off the lake and deeper into the forest - with no luck.  Our Crew was restless and disappointed.

I have wanted to go to Olallie Lake since we moved to Oregon.  One of our friends painted vivid stories of the rugged beauty and the memories made camping there year after year as a child.  It sounded idyllic - a Must See in the land of beauty that is Oregon.  But Olallie Lake is remote - you really have to want to go there.

We were out of options in the Timothy Lake area so we drove 30+ miles of Forest Service Road to get to the Olallie Lake junction, where we drove another fifteen uphill miles to get to the Olallie Lake Scenic Area. Nine of those fifteen miles were on a gravel road through what appeared to be the middle of Nowhere.  Finally we came across a map of the area.  Seven campgrounds and even one resort dotted the map. We had hope again.

The first two campgrounds weren't open. We kept driving to the "resort" which was really a smattering of tiny red cabins on the edge of one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen.  Mt. Jefferson - majestic and glorious - guarded the lake, while backpackers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail sat on the edge of the road reading and catching their breath.  It was like something straight out of a movie.

We talked to some hikers who assured us that a plethora of open campsites awaited us at Peninsula campground - another two miles around the lake and deeper into the wilderness.  They were right.  We scored a giant, private campsite right on the water's edge.  We had to park and pack all our stuff in about 1/4 of a mile from our car but it was well worth it because we pitched our tent right on the beach! Olallie Butte - the other prominent feature of the area - was directly across from our tent, beckoning us to come and explore.
first night sitting in our camp chairs.

that Olallie Butte and our tent on the beach. Plus my handsome men.

Katie (way in the distance on that log) exploring as the sun sets on that burned out area.

Sunset as seen from my camp chair.

There was a campfire ban so we met on the fishing dock to roast marshmallows over a propane fire, courtesy of the Resort staff.

Our tent - lit only by headlamps and the brilliant stars.

view from my cot inside the tent.
Our campground matched the surrounding wilderness: bare bones and rugged.  There was no potable water and only a few scattered pit toilets, but we liked it like that.  It had the rugged feel of backpacking without all the work.

Mornings on the peninsula were calm - quiet, smooth water with no hint of wind. But every afternoon, the water began to ripple and the wind began to stir.  It slowly increased to a steady hum in the tree tops that stayed throughout the entire night.  We retired early one night to our tent, all cozied in our sleeping bags listening to the wind and playing cards by the light of our headlamps.  It was just what our family needed.
Alli playing on Curt's phone

Paige - headlamp on the tent.

Katie being awesome.

Grant and Kimber snuggling.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - a hiking trail that starts in Mexico and finishes in Canada, goes right through the Olallie Lakes Scenic Area.  The trail junction was a mere 2 miles from our campsite. and we HAD to say we hiked the PCT. We hiked the trail three miles to Upper Lake - a scenic, quiet alpine lake that we had entirely to ourselves.  It was magical!
The PCT is marked with these signs on trees along the way.

happy Dusty

bathing in a snow melt alpine lake is FRIGID.  Here I am at Upper Lake trying to warm up on the sun soaked rock.

Oh Dusty - we love you.

Kimber and Grant - always in the lead.

Paigey about to give Kimber a treat.  Look at Dusty waiting too.

My Loves on the PCT - that's Mt. Jefferson.  Isn't she lovely?
We could have stayed a week in our paradise on the water's edge, but life forced us to pack up and come home.  Olallie Lake was THE BEST accidental camping trip of our life.  We will 100% be back again.  Thank you Jesus for teaching us to wing it and leading us to the perfect spot to unplug, unwind, and rest. We all agree these were the best three days of our summer.
the morning we left

That's a LOT of stuff to pack back up and out to the car.

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