So…I went rock climbing for the first time on REAL ROCKS!! You would think I would have warmed up to this idea before now due to my love of rocks in most other contexts.
Justin and I went on Memorial Day weekend to Tieton, WA to meet a friend and a big group of climbers. The camping was so strange in the national forest. There were just tons of people who found little nooks in the woods and decided to camp there. There were lots of designated camp grounds as well but also lots of random non-paying campers. It felt strange being in such a beautiful camping location without paying for it. The group’s campsite was right on a beautiful, but frigid river.
Justin and I were given a primitive map to help guide us to the group site but due to no cell coverage Justin and I were scrambling for any landmarks that would tell us where we were. As we felt we were getting to the correct spot we snooped in a campsite we though might be the climbing group’s site and hunted for clues. Climbing bumper sticker on one of the cars (which were mostly Subaru’s, which outdoorsy folk love), no-one at the site (which would be accurate with them climbing during the day) and the site looked like it was big enough to fit a big group of people. Done! It was settled, that was the site!
After taking a little snoozer in the pre-honey moon van we woke up to find that our detective work had payed off! We amazingly picked the right site. It was a great group of nice people. However, I couldn’t say the same for the people down the road. I guess I shouldn’t say they weren’t nice people. We didn’t stick around long enough to find out after seeing and hearing the group of drunkies shooting beer cans out of the trees with their riffles. Excellent! Super smart choice fellas! Lets keep that out of the gene pool, shall we?
I decided that I might try climbing the next day if nobody hassled me about it. There’s nothing worse than people building up your anxiety and then participating in an already strenuous and dangerous sport.
The next day I told myself I would enjoy myself on the rock and read my book and if I decided it was an appropriate time to climb and no one had been hassling me I would try it. The time was right, I was shaking like a leaf and I tried it! Holy Cow it was scary!! The rock was really crumbly which made me nervous and the wind was blowing like crazy. Earlier that day Justin was climbing, reached for a hold and the rock fell off the side of the cliff. Great!! Super sturdy! We were all on belay though so as long as all safety gear was put on correctly we would be caught by the rope if we fell.
I had barely started up the climb and my silly heart was pounding out of my chest. The rock we were climbing was on top of another cliff therefore it felt high and scary before I even started the climb. At one point I couldn’t go any farther because my arms felt like burning jello. “Let go of the rock and hang there so you can rest,” they shouted at me. Easier said then done. Whenever my hands/weight started leaving the rock the wind would blow me away from my climb to other parts of the cliff. I was clinging to the rock with, what seemed like, dear life. I decided to continue up, got tired pretty quickly and came down. If my brain wasn’t in panic mode I would have realized I could have held onto the lead rope attached to the belay to hold me in place while I rested. But by that time in the climb my brain and body was completely panicked. I am proud of myself for getting up there and I will definitely try it again…but wasn’t about to later that trip. My heart can only take so much.
Justin did really well. He even started climbing a 5.10. To give you perspective I was climbing a 5.8. Justin always looks so nice up there too because of the great reaches he can do with his long limbs.
I’m just realizing I wrote this post in a very calm tone. I guess it would have sounded different if I had written this right after coming back from the trip. I guess that’s a game our minds play on us (and women who have had children– “it wasn’t that bad.” We say that until we do it again!)
Oh yeah…I almost forgot. Justin and I and another couple went on a hike while the other climbers finished climbing for the day. The hike was beautiful but we found bear and elk tracks and some sort of giant poo!!! Super scary! I was glad when we got off that trail. It was meant to be a 4-wheeling trail with tons of mud pits.
Another cool thing about this trip was it was Justin’s birthday while camping! He was able to have a yummy camping breakfast on a rock next to the beautiful river, get serenaded by the climbing group singing happy birthday and make a candle birthday wish on one of the group member’s emergency candles.Read More
A couple weekends ago Justin and I decided we should take the honeymoon van out for yet another dry run. We headed up north into WA to explore a cave that many have told us about. Since we planned on arriving there after dark and figured we wouldn’t have cell coverage we were relying on topo trail maps for guidance. The plan was to find a campground/parking lot close the the Ape Cave entrance to sleep in for the night and then wake up bright and early Saturday morning to go exploring. Well, it didn’t go quite like that.
The roads within the park were very sparse and the signage wasn’t the best…the fact that it was dark didn’t help either. However, we figured it didn’t really matter where we slept since we had almost all we needed in the van (except for a potty…although we did just get one of those — yes, there are big girl potty chairs too). We were absolutely exhausted and had been driving for hours so Justin found a trail head that had promising bathrooms for the morning. Phew, we thought…what a nice place to finally get some rest.
Justin and I had almost finished getting ready for bed and closing up the van for the night when…sssccrrrapppee…ssccrappee…sssccraapee! My first thought was, “what the heck was that noise!!??” ”Did you hear that?” I said to Justin. ”Yeah, it’s probably just little critters or the wind” he says. A couple seconds go by…sssccrapeee…”Did you HEAR THAT??” I said…”it was that noise again.” ”Hmmm…” Justin says, “I’ll go check it out.”
“What?! Are you crazy?! What if it’s a bob cat or a bear??”
“Sarah, just let me check it out.”
With MUCH protest from me I arm him with our hatchet and Justin steps outside with headlamp on to check it out…while the door was open mind you which scared the life out of me! Nothing…no sound! He was out there for what seemed like forever but in actuality probably 3-4 minutes looking around, stopping to listen, then looking around some more.
Justin comes back in to the van, disregarding the danger that I was sure we were in. ”This is just like the movies! We’re going to be that stupid couple wandering off in the woods in the middle of the night that gets attacked by a wild animal!!” I told Justin. We started to finish getting ready for bed and all of a sudden within a minute of Justin closing his door…Ssssccrraappeee.
“That is NOT an animal!!! What the heck is that!!??”
Again with even more protest and anger I try to keep Justin in the van. Nope, wasn’t going to listen. Out Justin goes to explore again. No sound! Justin comes in again at which time I realize I’ve been holding my breath and gasp for air. Closes the door and not a minute later…ssscccrrrapppee!!
That was it! By that time Justin was freaked out too which made me even more freaked out!! Now I was sure it was a crazy ax murderer who was obviously dragging his last dead victim across the parking lot! We both decided to book it out of there as fast as possible. We ended up finding a parking lot in front of a visitor’s center we found with a somewhat reassuring Sheriff’s boat parked on a trailer not far from the parking lot. I did not get a wink of sleep that night.
In the morning we woke up…waited over an hour for the visiter’s center to open to use the bathroom until realizing it was closed down and no more safe than the ax murderer parking lot down the street.
Off to the caves. Finally signs of LIFE…other people who weren’t dragging dead bodies! Yay!
It was a lovely warm morning when we started out in the cave. We decided to start at the lower entrance of the cave and work our way up. These Ape Caves were named by the hiking group that discovered the cave, not due to hundreds of apes living in the cave which was what I was imagining. The caves were formed by the boiling hot lava that spewed from Mt St Helens thousands of years ago. The lava melted the existing rock then slowly drained out as it cooled and moved to lower valleys. Once we gave our eyes time to adjust to our headlamp light it was an amazing sight. Millions of little crevices, heaves and smooth surfaces were made by the lava. On the way in a guy gave us his glow sticks to loop on our shoes which actually really helped to get a better idea of your footing on the sharp loose rocks that I’m going to pretend didn’t fall from the ceiling wall of the cave. Justin and I climbed rock pile after rock pile making our way up to the top. We ran into 2 underground ponds (can I call them ponds?…idk) in the cave which took some finagling to get around. The darkness certainly was playing tricks on our eyes. The water was very hard to see until one of us stepped in it.
It was so neat…when the cave was pinched down to only an arms length wide the wind in the cave was super strong. It felt as if we were standing on the front of a moving boat – crazy! Most of the time the path was very clear but at one point Justin and I were following one wall and realized we hit a dead end where the ground we had been climbing up and the ceiling met. Eek! We back-tracked a bit and found the real path. That certainly got my heart pumping a bit!
At one point Justin and I heard other people coming toward us so we turned off our lights, covered our glow sticks and as they got closer started making noises to creep them out — totally Justin’s idea I promise. Does turning off all lights in the middle of a deep dark lava cave sound like me?? I think we startled them but not too awful bad.
Toward the end we got to a place where there was a hole in the ceiling of the cave letting light in which was an amazing sight to see. The cave is a consistent 42* so when we exited the cave we were immediately pealing off our layers to adapt to the 75* above ground temperature. Justin and I had a lovely picnic after coming out of the cave and headed home for our next adventure.Read More
We’ve been having some unusually cold weather for the last week in Portland– we even got some snow:
Despite the cold, Sarah and I have been aching to get back outdoors and do some camping. Sarah’s hours at her previous job (evenings and weekends) made camping trips difficult to plan, but with her new found freedom (a job where every day is a half day!) it’s much much easier. So this past weekend we disregarded the weather reports of temperatures in the single digits and headed out across the Columbia River Gorge to The Dalles. We chose The Dalles because we found a campground that was open year round and only cost $5.
The Dalles is on the other side of the cascade mountain range, which means it gets very different weather than Portland. In general, when it’s cold and rainy in Portland, it’s sunny and about 10 degrees warmer out in the high desert east of the Cascades, making it a great winter escape– especially for year-round camping. This weekend the temperatures were reversed– it was 10 degrees colder in The Dalles! But that was OK– we were curious to test ourselves and see how we’d do at temperatures well below freezing. Sarah had never been camping in very cold temperatures, and I haven’t been for many years.
As it turned out, the cold wasn’t a problem at all. We were so over packed with warm clothes that it was hard to even feel the cold. We were both wearing 3 layers on our bottoms and 4 on our tops, and each had several extra layers in the car as a backup plan. As Sarah said, we looked like the Michelin Tire man.
When we pulled into the Deschutes River State Recreation Area at 9pm on Friday night, we were a little disappointed by what we first saw. When I think of camping I think of a tent nestled into a tree covered canopy, but high desert camping is nothing like that– there are very few trees! The campground was essentially a big open field. We drove across the river to check out a park on the Washington side of the gorge, but that was pretty much just another big field that wanted $21– so we headed back to Oregon where the fields only cost $5 for a spot. It didn’t *really* matter so much, as far as privacy was concerned, that it was completely open– there was only one other couple at the park, and they were inside their trailer home.
What mattered a lot more was that the park was built right on a railroad track. And not an abandoned or rarely used railroad track– the Gorge is a major route of commerce, and about every hour a train barreled through and blew its horn, right next to our camp site. We woke up every hour to what sounded like a train coming through our tent! It got down to 12 degrees that night, but inside our sleeping bags that were stuffed inside another larger sleeping bag, we were actually sweating and had to take off a few layers in the middle of the night to not over-heat.
After the rough night of sleep, we decided to take it easy the next day. We did some wine tasting at a small winery called Marshall’s Winery on the Washington side of the river. Maybe it was just the good feeling of being in a warm room after spending the night outside in the cold, but every wine we tried tasted amazing– we ended up taking home 3 bottles, and there were actually 6 that we really liked!
We went on a short “hike” that was really more of a scramble up a small plateau on Horsethief Trail– but it had great views of the gorge!
We decided to cut it short as a one-night trip, since we didn’t really know of a better place to camp in the area. Next time we’ll do a better job researching the campground, but at-least we know that we can get outdoors and stay warm even during the colder days of the year!Read More
Okay, we have been slacking lately with our blog posts.
Last, last weekend Justin and I went camping in the northern part of WA just near the Canadian boarder, Oak Harbor to be exact, in Deception Pass (which is said to be WA’s favorite state park). You might be wondering why we traveled 5 hours to go camping when there are perfectly good camping spots practically in our back yard. Well…Justin was psyched to go to the kite festival that was being held in that area, we hadn’t explored that part of WA yet, Justin’s boss was in that area AND it was my last weekend before I started work. All great excuses to go on a road trip.
We left Thursday evening and set up in a wonderful “walk-in” campsite. Get this; on the WA campsite website they rate the campsites: poor or good, let you know how much people traffic it will get and they even show you an actual picture. Isn’t that neat!? Our campsite was one of the few rated “good” with little traffic
Friday Justin and I spent the day at the San Juan Islands (Beka, I did find out that it IS in fact IslandS ) with Justin’s boss, his wife and parents. The island we went to had such a nice relaxed island feel to it. The ocean around the islands were so calm and beautiful with the periodic seal or two on the shoreline. I guess it seemed so serene because when I think of ocean waters I think of crashing white caped waves and this was nothing like that. It looked more like a huge lake. Taking the ferry over to the island was super fun too!
That night the scariest thing happened!! It all started when Justin and I went on a short walk down to the beach with a lovely block of cheese and some wine. We were having a great time watching the itty bitty cars cross the distant bridge and listening to the water slosh into shore….when all of a sudden……..WE WERE almost ATTACKED!!!! From the corner of my eye I saw a big shadow crawling up next to Justin on the log we were sitting on. When I started screaming, jumping up and down and violently pointing at the unknown shadow, Justin turned on his light and we saw…A HONKIN COON!!! Not just ONE honkin coon but FIVE coons within a an arms length from us!!! What the heck! Since when do they travel in coon gangs?? It was SO scary! Those little mongrels must have smelled our cheese! That was it for us that night. We went straight back to the tent with me mistaking almost every tree, shadow, you name it for a pack of coons. Yipes!
On Saturday we got up “early,” as in “camping early,” and headed off about 45 minutes southwest to the where the kite festival was held. Where the kite festival was held LAST WEEK that is. Yup, that’s right…Justin pulled a ‘Sarah!’ The shoe was momentarily on the other foot people! We had a great time regardless. Just around the corner from the “kite festival” was Fort Casey, an amazing old fort that I don’t remember any details about Justin and I took some great pictures, explored and yes, Justin even got to fly his kites at his own personal kite festival.
Oh, I almost forgot! On the way home from the Islands Justin and I stopped in Seattle for the afternoon. We went to Pikes Market down by the water and Oh My Gracious did we see some neat things!? They had the biggest fruit I have ever seen! The pictures below don’t do them justice. We also found this AMAZING metal working artist who sold the most phenomenal jewelry! I’ve been looking at any metal working artists work I can find and his is incredible! He was able to work with all different kinds of metals while retaining his own style, elegance and detail. So nice!Read More
Justin and I were itching to get outdoors this weekend so we decided to go camping in the Columbia Gorge area (on the WA side) this weekend. Before I tell you details I just have to say, I am SO glad we had prepared for Portland weather prior to coming here!!
We arrived at the Moss Creek Campground in Gifford Pinchot National Forest after dark on Friday evening in a downpour rain. I drove around the deserted (even of a ranger) campground stopping at each site so that Justin could jump out…in the pouring rain…and see which were NOT flooded. Site after soggy site were practically floating in a muddy mess. I was getting discouraged but finally we came upon the magical slanted site #12!
Because of this great slant, most of the water was running through our site (like a small creek) rather than pooling up in the center. We quickly, or as quickly as we could in the slippery muddy mess, set up our “rain”/sun shelter over the pic-nic table and then our tent in a somewhat padded spot off the site in the woods. I then cooked dinner under the shelter while Justin tied a tarp up over our tent to doubly protect us from getting wet. (I get cranky when I’m wet and cold…doesn’t everyone??)
This picture gives you an idea of what it looked like that night:
…After dinner Justin and I sad in our chairs on the pic-nic table under the shelter and read our books before bed. Having that shelter along with our rain jackets, rain pants and waterproof hiking boots made we so thankful!
The next sleepy morning we woke up to it only sprinkling We went on a day hike up Dog Mountain. It was about 6.9 miles with a 2,828 ft climb. There was a smaller mountain top that you get to just before Dog Mt that they call Puppy Mountain–isn’t that cute?! There were great views along the way of the gorge and the nearby mountains. The forest, as always, was a mossy jungle! –Really so amazing to see each time! Justin will have to post his moss pictures later, but here are some of mine.
If you ask me, Puppy Mountain had a much better view than Dog Mt did. Although the trail between Puppy and Dog Mt was outstanding. The side of the mountain that we were traveling on was windblown bear of trees so we could see the gorge the hole time. In the spring and summer that part of the path is covered in wild flowers! –We’ll have to go back to see that!
The morning rain held off until just about the moment we reached the top of Dog Mountain. Luckily on the way back down we were mostly under trees so besides the fairly frequent slip, slide, or skid on the wet path, the rain didn’t bother us much. That night sweet Justin made a lovely fire that we watched from underneath the dry cover of our shelter. (The reason why we went to Moss Creek Campground rather than another one I originally made reservations for was because the other one didn’t allow us to have fires. I insisted that we stay in a campground that would allow fires. –and then it rained )
The next morning I was awake at 2am and up prepping breakfast and taking a “shower” under a cold faucet pump by 4am. –The rain was SO loud on the tarp above our tent that I couldn’t get much sleep. Needless to say, we had a great breakfast at 7:30am when I woke Justin up…by then I was VERY hungry…and set off for our next adventure.
Long story long…camping in the rain isn’t bad if you have the right gear.Read More