Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Camping Trip

Dates: July 1 to July 3
Location: La Pine State Park, Central Oregon
Who: Uncle Rich and Aunt Eunice, and her son Mike (30ish)
Cousin Cory (Rich's son), his wife Samantha, and their two-year-old, Brock
Cousin Stacy and her fiancé Derek
Mom, Dad, Whitney, and me

Uncle Rich, Cory, and my dad all have white Dodge trucks, and I think most everyone on our loop pulled big white trailers with big white trucks. My parents pulled a 19' trailer and parked it on the slab at our site with my white car next to the other obsessive-compulsive ultra-white vehicles. Seriously, I doubt there was any dirt on or near any of the three trailers or trucks my family owned. My sister and I erected a tent near Stacy and Derek's tent in Mom and Dad's space.

Okay, before the real ranting begins (later), I must comment about my dislike for the Bend area. I do not understand what people find so fascinating about central Oregon. It's hot in the summer, freezing all winter, and uncomfortable most of the time. The trees are tall but offer no shade, and rocks... everywhere... oh dear. Yes, the mountains are incredible, and the views from the tops of the mountains are spectacular (see below), but down in the city and around Sunriver... well, I'd call it an overpopulated wasteland, but I've been to North Dakota... :P Now before you get all up in a huff about me not liking the Oregon Outback, saying I need to experience the natural beauty, let me tell you something important: I've seen it. Every important rock, every historical marker, caves, viewpoints, and natural phenomenon. I've spent weeks in the high desert, baking in the sun, rarely enjoying myself. I don't see the attraction. Crack-in-the-ground was cool, as was Lava River Cave, Newberry Crater and Paulina Lake/Peak. FYI, the "picturesque" Christmas Valley is a trashy little wide spot with a post office not far from Fort Rock (which was actually neat). Smith Rock... boring. Cascade High Lakes... cold and wet, just like most other lakes in Oregon. Watch out for the mosquitos. Juniper smells like cat piss when it gets wet. ...natural beauty my left foot. Give me Western Hemlocks and Douglas Firs anyday, big green fields of grass and wheat, and months of drippy rain!

I think I packed the lightest out of everyone for the trip, and I still felt like I was taking too much with only two bags (one for clothes, one for peripherals), a sleeping bag, pillow, and blanket. I didn't even take shampoo or a towel, not expecting to shower for two whole days (get over it). My sister took half her bathroom crap with her, and Mom even packed a hair dryer. I don't see why it is so hard to go a few days without these things. Then again, I guess I don't care what I look like when I'm camping with family... Uncle Rich and Cory had fun teasing me when Rich asked me if my hair was getting darker. I don't know, I guess it must be if people keep commenting on it... but I don't notice it. "'Jaggy', they make these things called mirrors." Yup, you're right, they do, but I'm not girly enough to know how to use one. My bad. By the second day, Mom ordered me into the showers, which I didn't complain against, but it was pretty pointless because I was going to be home showering the next day anyway. Point is, it doesn't take much to keep me happy or looking good, and while civilized conveniences are nice, if I could figure a way to live without them, I probably would. Except my compy... I do so like my compy. :) And my piano, of course.

Health score: One mosquito bite, left hand (everyone else seemed to be missing pints of blood, guess I got lucky). No sunburn, first time ever when camping. One papercut from wadding up old homework to use as fire kindling. I think I managed to go camping and not lose any weight this time! But Mom's a good cook and fed me healthy food. Thanks, Mom. :)

Forgot: my GPS. Planned out a bunch of geocaches to grab in the park, but I forgot my GPS at home. *whimper* the only piece of equipment I actually needed, I forgot. Stupid me! *DOH!*

I want kids so badly right now! Brock is adorable and curious about everything. He's learning how things work right now, and firetrucks are his thing. Sweet kid, just awesome. Needs a sibling to set him straight, but he'll be a good kid as he grows up. ooooh... want... but must not have... want!... will wait a while, definitely.

Speaking about leaving modern conveniences at home: cell phones! Reception at La Pine is almost nothing, but if you stand just right next to a car or with one leg up in the air and your hand as Napoleon might, you can get a signal through to the outside world. Personally, I enjoyed not being able to call out or hear a ringing phone for a couple days. Until my sister started in. Little backstory for ya: the real reason I had to come home Monday with my sister instead of Wednesday with my parents... my sister had to get home so she could spend a couple days with her boyfriend. I don't know why she couldn't drive herself back and leave me with my parents... that would have been fine by me! But no, I had to leave early too. We left Saturday morning and returned Monday afternoon... do you think she could go that long without talking to him? Oh no, every time her phone had signal she was on it to him. In the tent at night, talking on her phone or text messaging... even when I'm trying to sleep. I understand loving someone, missing them, wanting to talk to them every waking second, yeah, I've been there too. But it was for two short days. Give me a break! I'm not even dating the guy and I need my space!

There were three really awesome events all in one day!

Mt. Bachelor: we rode the chairlifts to the top of the mountain, with a little hiking and exploring between lifts and at the top. Lots of pictures (see below), and plenty of snow to keep us cool, although it was quite warm all the way up. So clear... we could see from Mt. Shasta to Mt. Hood, plus all the mountains between... even as far as Mary's Peak, a small but distinct rise on the horizon. Home :) That was my first chairlift experience since my family has never taken me skiing. With one exception (flying out of the summit station and feeling my stomach turn over), I never panicked, was never scared. Pretty good for someone terrified of heights! Truly a beautiful mountain with awe-inspiring views of the high lakes and surrounding peaks.

Lava River Cave: 2.4 miles long, constant 40°F year-round, total darkness after you leave the cave entrance. The first hundred yards are pretty rough with lots of stairs, but then it flattens out as you get farther into the cave. Not dirty or muddy at all, and I didn't see any bats (even though the cave is an hibernarium during the winter). Totally sweet experience, and it felt soooooo cool and refreshing in the hot afternoon. No need to wear sunscreen: you'll have 50+ feet of solid rock over your head. Sand Garden was incredible... the dripping water/minerals from the top have sculpted the sand on the floor into some pretty neat shapes. Six flashlights between the Dad, Whit, and me... plus three cameras with intense flash bulbs, and we still couldn't see or get very good pictures. Neat place, very cool.

Hail Storm: After Mt. Bachelor and Lava River Cave, we stopped at the Big Tree to do some hiking and exploring. We heard some distant thunder, that low and exciting rumble that isn't scary because it's so far away. My sister spooked; she hates thunder. An hour later, back at the campsite, we heard louder, closer thunder. I looked at Dad, our eyes lit up... we knew we were in for a show. Whitney and I picked as much stuff up off the tent floor as we could, but a tent's a tent... what can you do? Dad and I pulled the camp chairs under the canopy we'd erected the day before to provide some shade, and I helped him drop one end of the trailer awning to let water drain off if it rained. The temperature outside went from a warm 85-90° to a humid 70° in a hurry. No sooner had we prepped for a storm did I feel something very big and very hard hit my head and the ground next to me. I stepped back under the awning and the skies opened up. Half-inch to inch diameter hail stones pelted the ground kicking up dirt, bouncing a few times before settling to melt. Mom and Whitney hid in the trailer. Dad and I stood outside under the awning, hail stones hitting the canopy and ricocheting off onto our feet and legs. Those things hurt! We witnessed Cory running out of his trailer with a picnic table cloth and blanket to protect his truck from the hail... kids fleeing their bikes in the hopes of finding shelter in a tent or trailer. It hailed a good twenty minutes, raining at least another hour as we ate dinner. Everything not inside got soaked. Thankfully, our tent held and only a little water got in. We were very lucky. But it was SO COOL! The thunder was loud... wasn't about to make a dash to the tent to grab my camera in the storm, so I don't have pictures, but hopefully my sister will get some up so I can steal them. AAAH! So cool!

Then I got up Monday morning and drove home. Unpacked. Got stuff done. And drove to Corvallis to go dancing. I love those kids... they're great, and so kind... I waltzed and hustled the night away, even got a great Lindy from a nice guy... but the best part of the whole weekend was walking out of the dance hall back to my car. Answering to no one, just me, alone. The field (a few feet away) had been cut earlier in the day, and the whole world smelled like summer. I closed my eyes, breathed in the cool night air, and was happy for the first time in many days.

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