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

Monday Travel Memory: Cannon Beach

Happy Monday, kids. It’s a cold, wet day in Portland, but what’s new. Got a recent (and sunny) memory to share. Last Monday, Jaro had the day off (let’s not forget why) and we decided to head to the Oregon coast. We needed a little breather from all the house hunting stress. A two hour drive through pine forests lead us to Cannon Beach- a quaint, little beach town filled with art galleries and cafes. So cute. We strolled through town, wandered down a huge stretch of sand and finished the afternoon warming up over made-from-scratch clam chowder.Oregon

Cannon Beach, ORCannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach, OR

It will be interesting to see how our definition of travel changes as we adjust to life back in the U.S. We have to realize that not all travel needs to be exotic or foreign. Sometimes, it can be a short ride away. More on that later.

xxx

A Sunday Stroll

Sundays in Amsterdam are particularly lazy. Most shops and restaurants are closed, and it’s a good chance to catch up with family and friends. Jaro and I usually go for long walks on Sundays, but this one was a little different:

Walking among the houseboats

 

Yeah, that’s right. We took a nice, long walk on the frozen canals! It is the FIRST TIME in FIFTEEN YEARS that the Amsterdam canals froze enough to support hundreds of revelers like yours truly. How lucky are we? Our first winter here and what a bonus. It was lightly snowing and just beautiful. We walked from the top of Prinsengracht all the way back home. Along the way, entrepreneurial citizens set up booths selling hot chocolate (w/ or w/o rum), coffee and other treats. One such stand even had speakers and was playing lively music while people wobbled danced around on their skates.

I love this city. I fall more in love with it every day.

First Snow

It snowed for the first time since we moved here. Seeing Amsterdam as a Winter Wonderland is something I’m happy we are finally getting the chance to do. The picturesque canals are even more beautiful when frozen over and covered with a soft blanket of snow. But as is often the case, what makes a place charming also makes it a little less practical. Example: narrow cobblestone streets. Not surprisingly, the Dutch will still load the whole family onto a bike and hit the streets – life must go on after all. We, however, will be keeping Lazer and Cocoa under the stairs until the snow melts (Lazer and I had several close calls on our way home from work after the snow fell).

We took a stroll through Sarphati Park on our regularly scheduled Saturday walk to see families out enjoying the few inches of snow. Dogs were everywhere, kids were being pulled around on sleds and the hundreds of resident ducks were confined to about a tenth of their usual pond – it looked like a frozen South Beach for ducks. It was like pretend.

We will see what life is like during the week, something tells me riding the train isn’t going to be awesome. The snow doesn’t have anywhere to go until the sun comes to melt it. But as with everything, we will figure it out and are the best of it.

Until next time.

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