Horsethief Lake Camping

Last week, Tanner surprised me with a car camping trip. Now, Tanner knows I hate surprises (HATE them with an OCD passion, people) but for some reason he still finds it necessary to spring stuff on me. For spontaneous dinners or nights out, this can be fine, but for two-day overnight events, I go into a bit of a mental breakdown.

Me: "So, are you going to tell me where we're going?"
Tanner: "Nope."
Me: "I haven't really seen you planning anything... Are you sure you don't need any help?"
Tanner: "No, I have it taken care of."
Me: "But we're leaving tomorrow, and we haven't packed yet..."
Tanner: "I'm not worried about it."
Me: "But I don't know what to bring!"
Tanner: "It sounds like you need to bring a good attitude."
Me: .... "very funny."

Though it gave me a minor mental complex, he did manage to pull off organizing a car-camping trip for us last week with two whole days of festivities. And despite that I couldn't plan obsessively for it beforehand, I have to admit he did a pretty good job, in the long run. Well done, Tanner. I hoped you enjoyed it, because that was your one surprise for the year. :)

Early Wednesday morning (and by "early" I mean "noon") we set off into the Gorge and found ourselves on the Washington side of it, at a small state park called Horsethief Lake. After days of rain, we were graced with two days of sunshine and 80 degree weather with a gentle breeze -- I couldn't have planned it better, myself!

The topography an hour outside of Portland is nothing like it is in the green, rainy mist of the valley. Our trip was very similar to our Deschutes backpacking trip-- everything there was hot, arid, and sun-blasted, looking so similar to the rocky terrain of Arizona or Utah that I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in the southwest.

We set up our camp a short distance from where we parked. This was abnormally strange for me, because what I call a "fun" camping trip generally consists of hiking to the top of a 6,000 foot mountain for 30 miles loaded under the weight of a 40 pound pack for five days straight. Sounds awesome, right?

In fact, it's been so long since we've been car camping that most of our gear is backpacking gear -- it was kind of humorous to set up our huge picnic table with a tiny stove and pot while our neighbors were dressed to the nines in lanterns, picnic blankets, chairs, and a giant tent.

We did, at least, borrow something bigger than our usual 2-person tent, and it was kind of nice to have so much room to lounge around!

For the day's activity, we went to a nearby art museum (the Native American art was fascinating) and enjoyed the view of the Gorge from its expansive porch. Then we found a little spot called "Stonehenge" (you didn't realize Stonehenge was in Washington, did you??) and the view from there was even better, so of course I took 58735489 photos, and now you get to enjoy all of them. ;)

Back at the campsite that evening, I lay down in my hammock to "test it out" and got out of it four hours later. Reading in a hammock in perfect weather is just heaven.

Then at sunset (at 9:00 pm, I might add!) as I was taking some photos around the campsite, I suddenly got the idea that we should drive back out to Stonehenge and get some evening shots of the Gorge. Since it was a 15 minute drive, we raced our car to get there in time before the sun disappeared. We made it -- barely -- and stayed until 10 pm as the sun still lingered on the hills. Summer in the north rocks!

The next day we went on a hike in the Gorge. What started out as a 1/2 mile "jaunt" turned into a 6 mile hike (straight uphill) where we got lost half-way through and had to keep asking hikers nearby where we were going. It wasn't promising when a lot of them responded with, "I think you're only half-way through... there's a lot more uphill" or, "I've been on this hike for 2.5 hours, now!"

Eventually we did find our way out of the trail and back to our car, a bit dirtier and more sore than when we started. We treated ourselves to an early dinner out and drove home, admiring the views on the way back.

I kept pointing out trailheads of future hikes I wanted to go on, and spotted the Dog Mountain sign whizzing past me as we drove.

I said, "I hear Dog Mountain is a good one. It's supposed to be a difficult hike, but the wildflowers and views are supposed to be well worth the effort. I've been meaning to do it for a while, now. Do you want to go?"

"Sorry," said Tanner. "You lost me at 'difficult hike.'"