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