August 8th, 2005 | Published in old and busted
This weekend was a pretty big milestone for Ben: It was his first camping trip ever. The parents are calling it a success. I set the bar pretty low, mostly hoping for no running into the fire and a wakeup time of some time after 4:00 a.m.
We set out for Lost Lake on Saturday morning, planning to meet Justin, Dunetchka and Amelie at the campgrounds. Lost Lake is pretty popular and it runs out of camping spots quickly, so taking a distributed approach seemed to be the best strategy: No waiting around for one set of people or the other in case ten or fifteen minutes makes the difference between getting a camp site or being told you can pay $6 to wait around and hope one opens up.
We took a back way to get to the campground, going up 26 instead of 84, and taking the Lolo Pass Road in Zigzag. It’s a lot less smooth than getting at the campground via Hood River, but it shaves some time off the trip. It’s also a nice route to take for the views. There were some pretty dramatic vistas looking out on Mt. Hood along the way.
When we pulled up to the gate around 11, they already had the “campground full” sign out, so the lady had us pay $6 for the privilege of driving the campground looking for a vacant spot. We drove into the camp area and went about 100 feet before we spotted an empty site with two tent areas, including one up on a small rise. The previous occupants had left some toilet paper laying around, as well as a trail of Triscuits from the edge of the site and up the stairs to one of the tent areas, and the cardboard box from the tent and pool float they’d bought for their trip. Al took Ben to go back to the entrance to leave a note for Justin and Dunetchka while I set up the tent.
Justin and Dunetchka arrived while we were out walking the trails that lead down to the lake from the camp area. Even the “Lakeshore Express” trails, which are mostly a wheelchair-accessible point-a-to-point-b gravel path, have some nice things to see including giant old growth trees. Ben really dug walking around and poking at things with a stick, but he didn’t like walking around in the lake so much once we got down there: It’s pretty cold, even in the sunlit shallows.
Once everyone was set up and our camp was established, we hiked up the Lost Lake Butte trail. It’s a 1.9 mile hike that gains 1,300 feet. By comparison, there was our Ecola hike, which picked up 700 feet in about a mile; and the Multnomah/Wahkeena Falls hike, which gains 1,600 feet in about three miles. While we made our way up the trail, Al reminded me that the last time we’d done this one, she was pregnant and we were both wearing sandals. Everything’s harder with a 25 lb. baby on your back.
Ben and Amelie both fell asleep while we walked.
The worst part of the trail, which I remembered from last time, are the several paths out to overlooks that look mightily like “the top” but are not.
Once we got to the top, we were rewarded with the view. You can see Mt. Hood most prominently … it dominates the view, but Mt. Adams can be seen off to the right as well. While I was sitting on a rock, a butterfly landed on my hand and stayed there for a while. Al and Dunetchka were about five minutes behind Justin and I, and it stuck around long enough for Al to make it up with the camera so I could snap a picture.
Once we all got back down to the bottom, it was about time to fix dinner Ben was most happy carrying sticks around, periodically making a break for the road and climbing in and out of tents. We stopped him from going too close to the fire so many times that he’d eventually stop about six feet away from it, squat down, stare into it and go “Ooooohhhh.”
Bedtime for both kids was a little bit unsettled. Ben wasn’t too happy being put in his pack-n-play, and Amelie was unhappy with her bottle. Al and I won the lottery for the evening: All Ben needed was me going up and laying down where he could see me until he wasn’t so spooked by the tent. He settled into babbling to himself, so I eased out of the tent and let him do that until he fell asleep. Amelie had a rougher time of it, and took a long while to settle down.
Both slept the night through, with one minor exception. At 5 a.m., our tent was woken up by a Hell Bird. That’s the scientific name for the thing … I think they go by different names in different locations. Ben was pretty freaked out by it and it took him a few minutes to settle back down. He stayed asleep until six, though, which is about when he wakes up anyhow, give or take a few minutes.
Al got him dressed while I got myself around, I gave him a piece of cheese, loaded him into the backpack and we hiked down to the lake. He was a little fussy about it at first, but settled in alright by the time we were on the trail. I got a few pictures of Mt. Hood in the early morning sun. It’s hard to do justice to the scene with what I know about taking pictures, and a definite reminder that sometimes snapshots are less a complete representation than perhaps a memory-jogger.
Ben’s usually a chatterer on hikes, but when I sat down on a rock on the shore and enjoyed the morning light, he quieted down and was content to look around and take it all in.
By the time we walked back to the campsite (using a second trail designated as “Lakeshore express” that actually forms a connector between a gentle 3 mile loop around the lake and the steeper butte trail), Amelie was up and everyone was stirring. Due to circumstances I will not recount here, the tofu scrambler breakfast was deferred in favor of a location to be determined in Hood River. We broke camp and hit the road before 9:30.
So, from our perspective, the trip was a pretty big success. Ben dealt well with sleeping in a tent once he realized we were still around. The last time we travelled with him, he was up at 4:00 and that was in a hotel room. He found plenty to do around the site just fiddling with things, and the hike in the middle of it all didn’t put him off at all. I don’t know if we’ll be doing many more camping trips this season, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to do at least one more, and there’s room for two the way we’ve been talking.