What a weekend.
We saw that temperatures were going to be in the 80’s. In April. In Oregon. And we knew we had to do something outside. So, in the spirit of summertime, we decided to go camping.
We had both seen some pictures from Lost Lake and knew we wanted to visit, but I’d read that it gets crazy crowded in the summer, particularly on the weekends. But since the campground just opened for the season at the beginning of April, I thought our chances of enjoying a non-crowded weekend were pretty good. We made our plans a bit too late to get a campground reservation (apparently you need to book several days in advance, not the night before), so we hoped for the best and drove to Lost Lake on Saturday afternoon.
And since we were headed east of Portland, we had to stop by Pip’s to get some donut fuel. You know how it is.
After 2.5 years of living in Oregon and spending a lot of time wishing it would be warmer in the summer (I’ve always needed my Kentucky humidity to feel warm), I think I’ve finally adapted to the weather. Which means that I am officially a Pacific Northwestern weather wimp. That’s right. All you fellow Pacific Northwesterners get so whiny when it gets warm. One summer during college, I worked at a camp near Seattle, where I froze all summer long. And those kids would complain if we sat in the sun. It was too hot for them. But I think I’m there now. As we sat outside Pip’s with that perfect sunshine beaming down on us, I thought, this is it. This is as hot as I want it to get. And maybe I could go for a dip in a mountain lake to cool off. So, you win, Oregon. I’m going to have to live here forever because I can’t take the heat anymore.
Luckily, Oregon is gorgeous, so living here forever wouldn’t be too bad.
Lost Lake is about 2 hours from Portland, and after driving there, I completely understand how the lake got it’s name. How on earth did anyone ever find this thing? The lake is on the northwest side of Mount Hood, about an hour away from Hood River (one of my top 3 favorite Oregon locales), down some very windy roads.
When you get to Lost Lake, they send you to pick out your campground before you do anything else. This is very important. Go set up your camp (pitch your tent, cover the picnic table in stuff, and make it clear you are there), and then go up to the General Store to pay for your spot. If you go to the General Store to pay before you set up, you are likely to miss out on a spot (like the fella in line in front of us who was more than a little ticked that he couldn’t get the spot he wanted).
There are 148 campsites, plus cabins and yurts at Lost Lake. We opted for the last available spot in the F Loop (F8), which is the the only loop with car camping sites really close to the lake. It cost a little extra ($30, rather than $26), but it was worth it to have a private little path down to the lakeshore trail. From what I could tell, you can’t actually see the lake from any of the campsites, due to all the trees, but we could walk to views of the lake in about 20 seconds, which worked perfectly for us.
After we set up camp, we walked down to the day use area to relax in some lounge chairs on the dock on the lake, soaking up that sweet, sweet sun. It was fantastic. I should point out that elevation gain in Oregon is a tricky thing. And generally, if it is warm enough for a tank top (in April. in Oregon!) at lower elevations, it’s way colder a little higher up. But guys, I wore a tank top at an alpine lake in April. In Oregon. And it was just as glorious as it sounds.
Watching this kid almost bite the dust as he ran up and down this log in the water was great entertainment.
We also took a little stroll around part of the lakeshore trail to the viewpoint where you see Mount Hood towering over Lost Lake. Guys, it was every bit as awesome as it sounds. I know that we live in Portland and can see Mount Hood on the regular, but it never stops being really impressive.
Once the sun got to a point where it couldn’t keep me toasty in my tank top anymore, we headed back to our campsite to sit in our awesome camp rocking chairs (my Christmas gift to Eric, and the first time they’ve been used outside of our apartment), and do some reading (Jim Gaffigan’s “Food: A Love Story” for me). Hello, relaxation.
As the evening wore on, Eric got a fire started and we got to cooking. Now, my thoughts on camping are that you should constantly be eating. I mean, you are outside, probably being active, and therefore need to eat more than you would on a regular day. Generally, this is the case for us, since camping usually involves hiking, but I guess this wasn’t really true on this particular trip, where we had done a little walking and a lot of sitting. Still, we ate a lot. And I like to think we earned it. After all, when you have to build a fire, cook in the outdoors, and clean up your dishes without a sink, you deserve to indulge. In hopes of getting something remotely healthy in our bellies, I brought asparagus, which we cooked in our cast iron skillet with a little butter, salt, and pepper. Delish. I’m generally all for some hot dogs on a camping trip too (in fact, I was craving them as we sat around the fire), but we wanted to try out a freeze-dried meal in preparation for backpacking this summer. I’d never had one before, and after trying it, I’m not sure I ever want to eat one again. Any recommendations for tasty backpacking meals would be greatly appreciated.
Once it got dark, it got cold. I went from shorts and a tank top to jeans, wool socks, moccasins (always bring a comfy shoe on a camping trip so you aren’t limited to shoes with laces), a long-sleeved flannel shirt, a fleece pull-over, my winter jacket, and a wool hat. That’s the mountains for you.
Luckily, it was still warm enough by the fire for us to sit out in the dark and enjoy it. This hasn’t been the case on any camping trips in recent memory, where darkness brought temperatures below freezing. This time, we got to sit in our rocking chairs, drinking hot chocolate, and eating a blueberry cobbler that we cooked over the fire. Perfection.
In the morning, Eric made coffee for us to enjoy (I know there are much fancier ways to enjoy camp coffee, but we’ve found Starbucks Via to be a super simple and tasty way to get our morning brew) while I cooked breakfast. Now, I wanted breakfast to be impressive, so I settled on maple chicken sausage and cinnamon raisin french toast with raspberries (recipe follows). Had I thought of this earlier than the night before we left, I would have made my own cinnamon raisin bread, or at least had time to find some fresh stuff from a bakery, but what we ended up with worked well and was delish.
Now, here’s a life lesson for you. When you are cooking your breakfast sausage, and can only cook 4 at a time, due to the number of hands and skewers you own, don’t put the cooked sausage aside on a plate a few feet away from you while you cook the rest. Guard that sausage. Because what happens if you don’t guard your sausage is the enormous, loud, yelling bird you’ve seen and heard all morning will swoop in and steal a piece of your sausage. And you will be outraged and confused and won’t be able to stop laughing and imitating the bird as you imagine him eating this breakfast meat. So, if you take nothing else away from this post, remember: guard your sausage. The bird also attempted to get our raspberries, but I was smart enough to keep the lid on those bad boys. Fresh raspberries are as precious as gold, my friend.
After breakfast, while everyone else was still piddling around their campsites, we went down to the viewpoint on Lost Lake to see Mount Hood’s reflection in the still water. Oh my goodness. It was incredible. And we had the viewpoint to ourselves (not that I didn’t enjoy watching the little Asian boy perilously perched on the log the day before) for prime mountain enjoyment.
We had a long run to do as a part of our triathlon training, and the Lakeshore Trail (3.2 miles) happened to be just about the right distance we needed if we did it twice. So we went for a beautiful run through the woods (although you are running around the lake, you can only actually clearly see the lake a few times). And now I know for certain that Eric has surpassed me in swimming, cycling, and running skills, since he was flying through the trees, while I panted my way down the trail.
After our run, this happened:
Apparently, when you’ve been together for 8 1/2 years, this is the kind of thing that happens, even when you both pack your clothes separately. I laughed hysterically for a bit, and then we (somewhat ashamedly) rocked our matching outfits over to the boat dock to rent a row boat on the lake.
I believe this was the first time either of us had ever been in an actual rowboat, and even after watching various people struggle to row their boats across the lake, I thought it would be pretty easy. Let me tell you something. It’s not. Rowing a boat is hard! We took turns rowing, and I’ll give you one guess as to who was better at it. At least on the way out into the lake, we had the wind working in our favor (and it honestly had more to do with moving the boat than my rowing did), but when we decided to head back in, it was near impossible. We did seem to have an easier time than the fella we could hear cursing across the lake as he floated in various directions. It (joyously) reminded me of this hilarious commercial, which makes me laugh out loud every single time. But it was worth the struggle of rowing just to get out on the lake and see Mount Hood. And dream of what it would be like to live on an alpine lake. I would paddle board every morning. Or drink my coffee in the canoe. It would be magical, is what I’m saying. And I would have incredible arm muscles.
It was near impossible to find a photo of me rowing the boat where I didn’t look completely ridiculous (with oars at various heights in the air), but I wanted proof that I also rowed. So here’s the best I had. Eric looked like a natural the whole time, as per usual.
Here’s to Lost Lake, camping, and the start of summer adventures!
- 8 slices cinnamon raisin bread
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk (we used almond milk)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- raspberries and pure maple syrup, for serving
- Put a cast iron skillet on a grate over the campfire. Melt 1 tablespoon butter.
- In a shallow bowl (a tupperware container works nicely here), beat together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon.
- Put each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating both sides with egg. Place in the skillet and cook, flipping when the first side has browned.
- Serve with fresh raspberries and maple syrup.