Camping in a Lookout Tower part 2

You can read part 1 here

Hello everyone. The tale of our lookout tower camping continues (with lots of photos this time). I last left you with the fact that we survived the first night. That in itself was an achievement. The next day was equally nerve-wrecking due to the gale force winds that constantly shook our little cage. Let’s just say if I was standing outside I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had an arm anymore much less the umbrella I’d be holding.

In all honesty, we had heard rumblings about a winter storm warning but, psh, brushed them off because, really? It’s the very beginning of the season. Sitting in the whiteout through the morning hours, however, we agreed that if it was still coming down at 3pm, we’d head home. We were so remote that getting stranded would have been disastrous.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

As we whiled away the hours playing Risk and drinking hot toddies, I got used to the constant rocking and was having genuine fun. Flinck was cozied up in front of the stove and life was good.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

It was during this fun that we noticed a small poster on the wall, which was basically a tribute to the original tower that had fallen 10 years earlier in a storm. Umm. It couldn’t have been all that different from what we were experiencing, but I comforted myself with the notion that this new structure must have been built with proper reinforcement…

Lo and behold, the snow stopped right at 3 and didn’t appear to have accumulated much at all. With determination in our eyes, we all agreed to stay another night. Unfortunately, it was still so windy and cold that we decided not to go hiking, which had been our plan. Sad face. More Risk and more whiskey helped pass the time.

Jaro did brave the wind for these cool shots of the tower:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Because we weren’t tortured enough from getting lost and struggling with terrible weather, there was one more element of disquiet that I want to share. While we played our games and had our PG fun, random hunters would drive up to the tower and all climb out of their enormous vehicles for a peek around (for tracks?) throughout the day. They would stare up at us and we would stare back, attempting to smile and wave. It was never reciprocated. Creepy! And rude. We were all a little rattled by our surprise visitors and just hoping they wouldn’t come back and try to murder us in the night. These are the thoughts of rational adults, I swear…

As dusk shrouded us in its shadows, the winds picked up even more. We were in for another rough night. As we all attempted sleep, the tower shook so violently I thought we were going to get pulled right off the ground into a tornado. Wizard of Oz style. It was intense. But maybe worth it? The next morning, we awoke before sunrise and caught these incredible views:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

On our last morning, I finally understood the appeal. The panorama was simply stunning. Just incredible landscapes in every direction. We relished the views for a few hours before starting our trek home. Because of the thick snowfall overnight (oops), we couldn’t see the treacherous potholes, and took turns walking in front of the car again. But at least this time, it was sunny. And beautiful.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

All in all, it was so worth it. We all survived. We all had fun. Even Flinck! If you’d like to find lookout towers available in your area, click here. In the search, choose “lookouts.” We stayed at the one listed, Flag Point.

xxx

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Camping in a Lookout Tower part 1

Are you adventurous? I like to think I am. I’ve traveled alone. Gone paragliding. Road-tripped around Europe with no itinerary. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but I have challenged myself in different ways. Stepped outside of my comfort zone.

None of that prepared me for this.

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but this was a seriously scary experience. You may remember that I booked this little getaway six months in advance to secure the first weekend of the rental season. November 1st. How bad could it be? We had barely begun to see the rains come down in Portland, there was no way the weather could be that bad already. Right? Wrong. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and I’ll tell you the story…

It started out innocently enough. We piled in the car (pup included!), grabbed our two friends that were joining us, blasted some jams and headed out to Mt. Hood. The sky was clear as can be. Mt. Hood loomed in the distance. I smiled to myself.

My only goal was to make it to the tower before nightfall. As we approached the mountain, we realized we would have to rely on the park service directions as our phones would lose reception. Let’s just say that writing out detailed directions for unmarked roads is not the park service’s strong suit. We were lost (embarrassingly) for hours. A wrong turn here, a muddy misstep there and it was nightfall. Great.

After trudging along on a pothole infested road and losing all hope of finding the tower, we saw a light in the distance. So we drove up to it and realized it was a camp. Help! Yay! Almost immediately, a flashlight starts walking toward us from one of the cabins. Help? I was convinced it was a crazy mountain hermit/murderer. As he shined the light in our eyes, we could barely make him out aside from a long, scraggly gray beard. He peered at us suspiciously.

“You folks lost or somethin’?” 

Then we four city kids proceeded to explain our plight and plead for help. After informing us that we were quite far off and giving us very helpful, detailed directions, we got ready to pull away.

“Don’t get snowed in.” 

We laughed because… ridiculous. There was no snow, no wind, no weather of any kind. It wasn’t even that cold. Yet he just stared at us. Serious. Somber. ..Hmm.

Now that it was 8pm, we were finally heading in the right direction. Making our last turn onto the dirt service road that would lead us to our destination, we started to second guess ourselves. The potholes were asteroid craters and we kept scraping the bottom of our car. To lighten the load, the four of us passengers (yes, including Flinck) had to get out and walk to prevent the car from bouncing into the pits. It was… the pits. Our 4-wheel drive could barely manage it. So after stumbling into the pitch black darkness for over an hour, we decided to stop the car and two of us ran ahead with flashlights (much faster than the car could move) to see if the tower was just around the riverbend. As their tiny streams of light faded into the wilderness, the other two of us and Flinck hung back by the car. And waited. And waited. Finally, they re-emerged saying we should turn around. We must have missed the spur.

Tower Camping

Walking into the abyss. (sorry for the terrible photo quality)

Turning around, we still walked in front of the car, staying in the headlight beams. Because, you know, bears. And boogeymen. At least we decided to start calming my nerves enjoying our beers. Arriving back at the turnoff (another hour later), we saw a small spur leading up a hill. Was that it all along? Was it right there? Piling back in the car, we started up this hill… which turned out to be nearly vertical. Impossible to climb even with our trusty Subaru. So again, we all pile out and start climbing on foot, with nothing but little headlamps and two flashlights to guide us.

One empty field. No tower. By some miracle, being up on this plateau afforded us cell service and we were able to see that we had been correct on that other road and it was just another mile further.

<Insert string of profanity here>

Some time after 10pm, we pulled up to this lookout tower. In pitch black darkness. From what I could make out, it looked like a melancholy perch sitting about 50 feet up on some toothpick stilts. Lots of stairs. And to add to our problems adventure, the wind had picked up tremendously. Gathering all of our stuff, we trekked to the top. The wind was so strong, we could barely keep our eyes open. With Flinck wedged between myself and a pillow, I climbed the rickety stairs with honest to god fear. Not being able to see more than an arm’s length in front of my face, I stared out at the endless darkness between the slatted stairs.

Finally! We had made it. All of us and all our things were now safely inside this crow’s nest. It was one tiny room, with 360 degree windows, a wood-burning stove, a propane stove, and some other meager furniture. As the temps had dipped to 30 degrees, we got a fire started for warmth first. Priorities, people. As there was no electricity, we made and devoured our dinner under the glow of a few candles and promptly drank most of our booze.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Falling asleep eventually, I wasn’t even bothered I was gently being rocked back and forth as the tower swayed in the wind. Waking up in the middle of the night with a start, it bothered me enormously. It was no longer gentle, more like violent rocking. Not only that, but our fire had gone out and the space was freezing. The wind continued to howl outside. One of the dudes woke up and groggily tried to restart our fire. This is… fun?

After an infinite night of worrying we were going to plummet to our deaths (well, maybe that was just me), we woke up to this:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Yep. We were in the clouds, quite literally. More on this adventure coming soon, including photos of how we passed the time and the (insanely gorgeous) view once we eventually saw it.

Thanks for reading.

xxx

On the National Park Closures

In light of the recent tantrums being thrown in Washington, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how the behavior of our government is affecting travel, something I am obviously very passionate about. This is not a political post and I’m not opening a debate about whether or not this shutdown is right or wrong. That’s not the point of my writing. I am simply speaking to one of the results of this mess.

As you probably know, all U.S. National Parks are CLOSED until this government shutdown shuts up. I’m very disappointed that one of the consequences of all the squabbling is taking something away, not only from the American people, but also other visitors who may have planned for years to come and see an extraordinary piece of the world that the United States is fortunate enough to possess.

Think about it. School kids have been forced to cancel their field trips. Excited campers that reserved all the gear, researched the trails, bought plane tickets, have been forced to cancel their plans. This makes me sad. A great experience is being revoked, or at the very least, put on hold.

One of my many bucket list items (I don’t really have a bucket list because I find that even an infinite list is limiting), is to visit all 59 National Parks. Today, I feel so lucky to have crossed off as many as I have, which is only eight. The National Parks are special places. Treasures. Here are some of my favorite pictures from over the years….

Redwoods National Park

Redwood National Park

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

I also have been to Haleakala in Hawaii, but no digital pictures back in 1999!

What do you think? Can I make it to all 59? Do you share the same goal to visit them all? I’m especially gung ho for American Samoa out in the South Pacific. Maybe we should have gone there instead of Fiji for our honeymoon. …Nah. Our honeymoon was perfect.

Here’s hoping that they’ll reopen soon.

xxx

P.S. My post about Acadia. And Redwood. And Everglades.

 

Monday Travel Memory: Cinque Terre

Hey kids. It’s been awhile. A solid three month absence. Sometimes it’s good to take some distance from stuff, even stuff we love, to come back with better focus and energy. Right? It’s been nice to have some space and not spend so much time at the computer. Sounds like a legit excuse. Maybe nobody even noticed. 

And maybe you did. I know I miss writing on here and sharing bits of our sometimes interesting life. So why the long held breath? This had a little something to do with it:

This is Flinck.

This is Flinck.

Yes, we adopted a tiny puppy from the shelter where I volunteer (Oregon Humane Society). His name is Flinck, in honor of the street we lived on in Amsterdam (Govert Flinckstraat). And, not that I’m biased, he’s the best. 

But back to the topic at hand. As August hit, I realized that I have not been swimming or have even donned a swimsuit this summer. That’s just not right. To me, that’s the quintessential summer experience that I have not had this year. Too many house projects and other commitments have consumed our time. Bummer. Summer bummer.

This had led to some serious reminiscing. About this time last year, we took our summer vacation to Italy. Twelve months and some crazy life changes later, I’m still enchanted. And amazed at just how much Italy has to offer. Oh, Italy. What can I possibly say about you that hasn’t been said before? From your bustling streets in Roma, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to your seaside luxury in Sorrento, to your decayed elegance in Venice, you truly have it all. And you have more. And on top of all that, you have this glorious little region known as the Cinque Terre.

I know I shared this trip with you before, but it’s fun to look at the pictures with fresh eyes and see the beauty anew. Sometimes I sit here and pinch myself because I cannot believe we were there. While far from a luxurious resort getaway (you lay out on rocks to sunbathe after all), it was the perfect break from reality for my husband and me.

When we arrived, I was instantly smitten with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. As we walked the narrow “streets” (they can hardly be called streets as barely a moped could squeeze through), you could smell the salty sea and catch whiffs of a grandmother’s sauce on the stove.

Each morning, we would wake up in our tiny room, head out for coffee and fresh fruit, then spend the days alternating between sunbathing on rocks and exploring the twisty streets in each of the five towns. Below are some more pictures that I didn’t include in my original write up. Those initial pictures captured little moments that I felt (at the time) best depicted our experience. Looking back, I realize I didn’t share much of the actual towns or the panoramas that created the wonderful backdrop to all those fried fish cones we devoured. Here you go:

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

The trail that connects the towns

the trail that connects the towns

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso’s beach scene

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Kiss!

Kiss! along the trail

sunset from Manarola

sunset from Manarola

Manarola at dusk

Manarola at dusk

happy tree in Corniglia

a happy tree in Corniglia

pretty door in Corniglia

a pretty door in Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Vernazza

a "street" in Vernazza

a “street” in Vernazza

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

5am quiet

5am quiet in Vernazza

Vernazza at night

Vernazza at night

Our trip to the Cinque Terre was one of my favorite vacations. Ever. These pictures make me want to be back there immediately. August, while brimming with tourists, is still a great time to go. Now if only I could find my bathing suit…

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Swiss Forgiveness

A few months ago, Jaro and I took a impromptu two week road trip through Europe. I wrote about Switzerland. Specifically, how I pretty much hated it. It’s funny to look back on those thoughts in retrospect. I mean, what a drama queen. Yes, it was shockingly expensive. Yes, I thought I was going to die when I went paragliding in Interlaken. But now, I realize how little those things mattered in the grand scheme of things. Okay, well maybe fearing for my life does sort of matter… but as much as I complained, I trusted. I lived. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Not be that annoying American tourist (cringe) complaining about money all the time? Just forgive and enjoy?

Now that we have our desktop up and running, I scrolled through the pictures from that portion of the trip and am blown away by the stunning beauty everywhere we turned in that country. And how lucky I am to have lived close enough to go.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

J+J in Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Me enjoying Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

I truly only have wonderful memories about our time in Switzerland. I don’t remember the expense. I don’t remember if the food was mediocre. I don’t remember other negatives. I only look back on it warmly. With nostalgia. Sometimes you (okay, I) need time to realize things aren’t as bad as they seem. I strongly, highly, totally 100% recommend visitors to Europe to include Switzerland. Don’t have the attitude I did. Just enjoy it. Switzerland, I forgive you for your (very few) flaws. I hope you forgive me.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Just All Of It

Fiji

Me in Fiji

Barcelona

Me in Barcelona

Istanbul, Turkey

Me in Istanbul

Kiev, Ukraine

Me in Kiev, Ukraine

Sahara Desert, Morocco

Me in the Sahara Desert

 San Gimignano, Italy

Me in San Gimignano

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days (weeks? I don’t even know what day it is).

I wish I could combine, in some way sum up, all the travel I have ever done in my life for this travel reflection. To keep this from getting out of control, I cut it down to these six similar images. It’s funny, all these pictures are all quiet moments I had while traveling over the past couple years. (Thanks for the shots, Jaro.) What’s funny about them is I can’t believe those are all of me. I mean, it looks like me. It’s my bod. I do not really remember being there. But all of it seems like a distant dream, a lifetime ago, something that may never really have actually happened but just been fabricated by my overactive imagination, when really it has only been a few months. Why?

Because I am now a homeowner.

Every single one of my thoughts is focused on this darn house. Every waking moment, I’m consumed by ideas for how to address the storage problem in our bedroom; deciding the right shade of paint color in our living room; getting those last few moving boxes out of our dining room. And don’t get me started on the renovation we want to start immediately on the bathroom.

Is this what happens? Instead of sitting on the floor daydreaming about trips to foreign lands, imagining myself sprawled on a deserted beach, dwarfed in a towering forest or lost in a crowded city, I’m distracted by the dust bunny in the corner and scramble over to catch it. Or find myself wondering how that little scratch got into the hardwoods and what I can do to fix it. Or sit there and go back to my paint color debate… It’s taking over 100% of my brain space. Is this what having a baby is like?

If so, I don’t think I’m ready.

Don’t worry – I’m not adding a pregnancy announcement to this post or likely any one soon. The house is enough for now. Still. I can’t believe how energy-zapping it is. How tired I am. How drained. And alarmed that my priorities have shifted so much. Not that it’s a bad thing. I’m proud we own a house. Right now, it’s just taking over my every waking thought a little time-consuming.

One saving grace: After 5 months of being apart, of living in other people’s spaces or the hollow hole of corporate housing, we are now reunited with our trinkets, big and small, from all of our travels. I finally dusted off that old globe from the Russian flea market and lovingly draped the blanket haggled from a Moroccan souk over a chair. I see these things and all the others, and smile. I’m pretty lucky to have visited a lot of incredible places.

Home may be here in Portland, but it is also all over the world.

Here’s to quiet moments, wherever they are. Here’s to being (finally) settled. And yet, here’s to re-igniting the little fire inside that beckons – but there’s so much more. 

xxx

P.S. One time I wrote about my favorite souvenirs.

Around Here: Cherry Blossoms

I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely love flowers. Well, Portland basically injected an IV into my veins with all the flowering cherry blossoms (these are cherry blossoms right?) that are lining the riverfront right now. They give me that high on life feeling where I can’t help but smile. A fortunate circumstance indeed given that we are otherwise totally miserable for being stuck in our corporate apartment this final week. Saturday can’t come fast enough. (Oh yeah, we move into our house Saturday for those of you wondering.)

Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland

The trees are so full, the grass is so green and the sky (on Sunday anyway) was so blue! How can this not put you in a good mood?

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Kauai

It’s spring break here in Portland and traffic was noticeably lighter this morning. Where is everyone? Oh, I know – HAWAII. I’d give anything to be on a warm beach right now. Anything except our house, that is. Alas, since we are moving into our house this coming weekend (oh my god, can you believe it?!) a proper spring break was not in the cards this year.

Jaro and I have been to Kauai together twice and are furiously itching to get back there again soon, especially now that it’s one short flight away. I won’t go into all the reasons why it is special (at least not in this post), suffice to say it’s one of our favorite places in the world for many, many reasons.

I took the photo below on our first visit back in 2008, when we hiked along the Kalalau Trail and soaked up the views of the incredible NaPali Coast. The sheer beauty of the island is truly awe-inspiring and this is one of the few instances in my life where I simply don’t have the words to describe it. Nothing seems to do it justice.NaPali Coast, KauaiIsn’t it… right?! Where are the words! Dumbstruck. It will have to hold me over until we figure out our life get settled enough to focus on a vacation.

To everyone on spring break – enjoy!! 

 

xxx

 

Hello Spring

Well, guys, spring is here! This is the season when my girly nature really goes nuts because I am obsessed with flowers. I just love them. They make me happy. Although it’s rainy here in Portland, I’m thinking about what all this rain will bring. I’m also reminded of that time last year when we went to Istanbul and I could not believe my eyes because there were so many gorgeous flowers everywhere. Especially the gardens at Topkapi Palace. It was just too much.

Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey

See what I mean? Spring is the best. So is Turkey.

xxx

P.S. Provence looks like an incredible place to visit in the spring.

Sunday Drive: Rockaway Beach

This past Sunday, the weather reports showed a 0% chance of rain between Portland and the coast. Seemed like the perfect day to pack a picnic and head to the beach. 

…Until it rained the entire day. Literally, the whole day. When we saw a few drops coming down in the morning, we thought it would pass. Trying to be optimistic, we still hopped in our shiny, new car and headed west. Instead of spending the whole day at the beach like we originally planned, we detoured to the Tillamook Cheese Farm, where we watched the factory churning out that glorious cheese, in a (failed) attempt to wait for the rain to pass before driving along the damp coast…

Tillamook Tillamook Tillamook Oregon Coast Oregon Coast Oregon Coast Oregon Coast Oregon Coast Oregon Coast Oregon Coast Oregon CoastDespite the moody, almost spooky atmosphere, It was still really fun. And our shoes were a nice bright spot. 🙂

xxx

P.S. You can see our last Sunday drive here.