This last week officially marked the real start of bike camping season for me. It’s a little late this year, I think, for a few reasons. One is that during my first break of the year, when last year I took advantage of the time to take a mini trip to the Clackamas River, I opted instead to go to Las Vegas to visit my brother and his girlfriend. (Which was definitely the right decision, I might add;) Also, with the notable exception of a few days, mostly it’s been a pretty cold, wet year, less exciting to spend in a tent.
But! Early last week, when it was sunny, I got a late-night email from Shawn over at Urban Adventure League asking if I wanted to spend the night at Oxbow the next day. Heck yeah I did! I did a hyper-speed packing job, got up six and a half hours later to bike myself and my camping gear to work, and even managed to have enough time to stop on the way to my office to buy the food I still needed. (Ironically, for work, I took my crew to Oxbow, where we’re helping build the new campground loop that will open next year.) Then, after work, I went back to Oxbow — which, I might add, is closer to my office than my house is.
Shawn and I chatted it up, enjoyed the clear, warm, moon-ful evening, made a fire, and went to sleep to the sounds of the Sandy River. It was a fantastic mini camping adventure, tucked into my normal work week. I love that Oxbow is so accessible, so beautiful, so empty during a spring weekday, and such a good mini retreat (how rad is it to be able to arrive at old growth forest straight from work?) (This is also keeping with the recent theme of friends inspiring you to do things that you might not otherwise think of — thanks, Shawn!:)
So that was Monday night.
Friday, I replayed the scenario, this time with James and our friend Michael, who weeks ago had reserved us a campsite out at Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. The Ruckel Ridge biathlon, I think he called it in his initial email: a bike ride out to camp by a trailhead where we could take a rather strenuous 9.6-ish mile hike up an amazing ridge and through fields and fields of wildflowers.
For the second time that week, I biked out to work with all my camping gear; when the work day was over, James and Michael both met me near my office in Gresham, right near the historic highway that we took all the way out to Eagle Creek.
The weather was a little less overtly pleasant for this camping trip, but, as always, it turns out that when you’re out in it, it doesn’t really matter what the weather’s like: it’s always worth it to be outside. Our hike on Saturday was rather soggy, and it rained on us most of both nights we were out there (though I do so love that sound, raindrops on a tent). But it was so awesome to be out traipsing through a bazillion different kinds of flowers, marveling at the scrubby oak trees and the crazy-awesome-steep-narrow trail.
Michael took off after our hike on Saturday so as to be home with his wife and kiddos for mother’s day. James and I spent a second night, taking the evening to explore Eagle Creek, watching the American dippers play in the water, and trying to rehydrate the lentils and couscous in our dinner with cold water when the fuel canister I packed ran out of fuel (poor packing, stasia!).
Sunday morning, we gathered up all of our soggy and muddy gear and took the 45ish miles home at a leisurely stroll (I wonder if the extra weight of all the waterlogged stuff we carried was offset by the fact that we ate and were thus no longer carrying all of our food?). And when we got home in the late afternoon, it felt like we’d had a grand adventure, even in just a weekend.
It’s a good reminder to me that adventure doesn’t have to come in days-long chunks; a weekend or even an overnight will do. Anything that gets me out doing something unusual, seeing new things, discovering new plants and places. That’s a particularly good reminder for me right now, since I’ve been grumpy that my between-work-seasons spring break is super truncated by the fact that I have a bunch of obligations for my other job smack in the middle of the time I would otherwise have off. So this last week is a timely reminder that I don’t necessarily need large swaths of free days to feel like I’m having an adventure (although geez, large swaths are certainly lovely and welcome:)
(More pictures from our Michael-inspired Eagle Creek weekend are here. Again, thanks to friends!!:)