We are driving down a one-lane road, looking for a camping spot somewhere in the foothills of Mt Hood. A ranger at the forest service station told us the campground at Lost Lake would be open, but like all too many campgrounds we have seen on this trip, a big metal gate announced its closure for the winter. So we took the unmarked road off to the side. It seemed like a good idea at first… get off the beaten track. Except that there were no pullouts and no places to turn around. We just kept going down the mountain to some unknown destination.
The day has already been strange enough. We started out at my brother’s house in west Portand, meandered through freeway interchanges, and were spit out in the gorgeous Columbia Gorge. The kids fell asleep after Multnomah Falls, and when our attempts to find an open campground failed, we decided to seek out our former manager’s restaurant, Sawtooth Grill for a fortifying lunch. Google Maps told us to drive up out of Hood River towards the mountains, and we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by fruit trees and grape vines growing up picturesque hillsides, reminiscent of Italy.
We found the Sawtooth, right next to a sawmill, of course. We ate great pizza and caught up with Lori, and then went to chase down a campsite, which is how we ended up at the ranger station. She was so certain that it would be open, or at least not gated, that we decided to make the trek up the mountain. The sun was shining and the views were incredible.
And now we are loosing sun, the kids are going crazy, and we are not sure how we are going to get out of here. And then, as if out of a dream, a perfect pull-out appears, with a fire pit, a flat spot for the trailer, and a stream nearby. I take the kids down to the stream to throw rocks while Matt gets the trailer set up. There is not another person around. After dinner Matt takes the kids out to look at the stars. The night is clear and cold and the stars go on forever. It is one of the best campsites of the trip so far, and it is free.