Monday, June 2, 2014

Beavertail Canyon Campout... Adventure?

On a soggy winter day, Charley, sensing my cabin fever, suggested we go camping this summer at Beavertail Canyon on the Deschutes. My eyes lit up, “Really?”


Fast forward to May and the day has arrived to find me in a knot.  This is our family's first campout, if we have a great time, odds are Charley will be a willing participant in doing this again. Maybe even more than once a year... If it is a disaster, which with personality dynamics of our family makes that a likely outcome, it may ruin my family for camping.

So I searched for advice online, from my friends, and thought everything through. For a few weeks before we left, we talked about the trip with the girls, telling them the fun things we'll do, and what to expect, and what not to, what the hazards were, e.g. rattlesnakes, fast water. I also got them their own sleeping bags, (huge hit!) and mess kits, (Boots was pretty thrilled about it but to Berzo it just looked like regular dishes) and borrowed some kid sized spin casting poles for them to try out.

We packed the pickup to bursting on a bright Friday morning and were off. The drive was pleasant, Berzo was content to watch Frozen over and over, and Boots was interested in watching the scenery morph from moss and waterfall draped Western Oregon, to the Ponderosa Pines and golden hills of Central Oregon.
The other side of Mt. Hood

As we descended into Maupin, Charley and I relived our younger, freer days, when we were making the same trip to raft the Deschutes with the Brooklyn Crew. Smiles crept onto our faces.

We stopped at the revered Oasis Cafe for a potty break, and continued on to Beavertail Canyon. Each camp we passed was speckled with tents, and Charley fought to keep his anxiety at bay; Beavertail Canyon campsites are available on a first come first serve basis.

Sherars Falls
We passed Elevator Rapids and wished we had a couple life jackets handy to give it another go. Then came Sandy Beach, which would be more aptly named, Rocky Beach, and remembered our rafting take-out. We gawked at Sherars Falls and the tribal fishing platforms there. We watched as the outflow cuts through solid basalt channels and rages like a mustang herd fleeing through a corral chute.

We arrived and were relieved to see a campsite available right away—out in the blistering sun, right next to the outhouse, but hey, at least it was something. We cruised the campground and found another spot—thank goodness—tucked into a small cliff near the river with a shady picnic area. It looked lovely and inviting. Yes, please.

Tired little Berzo Bear.
We pulled in to claim our spot and released the monkeys to stretch their legs. They both jumped out hugging their sleeping bags.  After some cajoling we got them to return their sleeping bags to the pickup. Right away, truck numb Berzo, started whining, and Boots began to explore. We trekked over to the pay station and dropped in our fee, Berzo whining all the way about how faaaaaarrr away it was, and how she was too tiiiirred to walk, and how she wants to go hooooommmeee, while Boots spoke at a pace so rapid that I could barely make sense of one question before the next trampled all over it. The beauty of the place waited patiently while it absorbed the brain clutter we cast off.

Now that the spot was officially ours, I took the girls down to the water to show them how swift and cold the water ran. They both dipped in their toes and hands, Charley sprouted a few new gray hairs, and then they ran back to the campsite to play.

All set up and not blown away...
The day hastened towards evening and Charley began to set up our tent. As if on cue, the wind picked up, whipping my hair and pulling at my clothes. Charley laid out the tarp and unrolled the tent. The wind folded it back up. Undeterred, he tried again and so did the wind. A few calm moments allowed him time to stake the tent into the sandy ground and get a pole ready. He called me over to help and just as we erected the first pole the wind laughed as it blew so hard as to pull up a few of the stakes, knock the tent over and roll up the tarp again. Charley failed to see the humor in the situation, and ripped the tarp out and flung it aside. He told Boots to stand on it so it wouldn't blow away. She stood on a tiny corner of it and it whipped and flapped. I ran over and muscled our fully loaded cooler and dropped it in the middle. Then I ran over to the pickup and grabbed our bags and threw them in the tent corners to anchor the thing down. The girls both took it as their cue to bring in their sleeping bags. I wanted to snap at them to, “Just wait!” but thankfully my mouth works slightly slower than my brain and I instead I said, “Ok, toss 'em in.”

The wind continued to rip at the tent and pull up the stakes as Charley and I finished the setup, but we persevered; windows down to provide the wind a path through the tent. We both watched with trepidation from the picnic table as the wind flattened and flapped our tent ominously.

“Do you think it could blow us into the river?”

“I’m sure there are winds are strong enough to do that, but these aren't them,” I said with false confidence.

Thanks for the bouncy house, Papa!
Soon the wind died down and the pleasant breeze returned. I could swear I heard laughter; perhaps it was just the river babbling… Or maybe it was Berzo, who was pleased to use our air mattresses and tent as her very own bouncy house.

However, we were not pleased about how difficult it is to get her to take off her shoes when she was inside, and put them back on when she came out. We stayed insistent on shoes outside, due to the thorns and bits of broken glass sprinkled over the campsite. It was a major source of aggravation, I mean how difficult is it to wear shoes?!? When you have nature monkeys like mine, it's very difficult, apparently. Then I remembered how rarely I wore shoes in the summer as a kid...

I sense our trip is not going well and I start to fret… There's the worry of the river, poison oak plants mere yards from our campsite, rattlesnakes, thorns, glass, the river again… Charley's striving to keep his mood light but the trials of the day are really starting to get to him.

Sensing my discomfort from the Droopy Dog face I was wearing, he suggests I take a walk. I invite Boots and we explored the campground, and scoped out spots along the river that weren't quite so apt to swallow up a toddler. We found a sandy bank to play in and two birds came squawking and thrashing into the clearing. Flashes of bright yellow and streaked gray wings tumbled for a moment and then as one got a good hold of the other's tail feathers they thrashed back through the tree canopy. Boots was looking at me wide-eyed, with a what-the-heck look on her face.

“I think that was a couple Western Meadowlarks!” I say.

“Hey, that's our state bird! We just started a section on Oregon last week and we just learned about them. I'm gonna tell Miss Buckles!”

So cool. I was born here and had yet to see our state bird in anything other than a photo, and I got to experience that with Boots. Feeling lighter we headed back to camp to start dinner.

Slop me up, Papa!
We cooked up some hot dogs and baked beans for dinner on our camp stove and the girls loved the experience of eating outside with mess kits. When the beans were ready, I instructed the girls to hand their plates to Papa and say, “Slop me up, Papa!” Which they both did with much enthusiasm.  Afterwards it was s'mores time.

The evening began to set it and Berzo asked for her jammies and cocoa. Our littlest camper is a stickler for her bedtime routine. Although it was only a little after seven, we decided to hit the hay together, since we were all pretty wrung out. We read the girls some books and then went to bed.

Berzo, had a hard time becoming restful for sleep, after all she was in a bouncy house. We kiboshed the bouncing and tried to settle in. Then Berzo became offended by Boots' presence on “her” air mattress. Boots then became offended and started getting upset too. We tried to explain to Berzo that the double sized air mattress, was in fact, intended for both of them. It fell on deaf ears. Or at least I thought we'd go deaf from the screaming. Apparently two-year-olds are not so keen on sharing their portable bouncy houses… Huh. Go figure.

"I'm not sleeping!!" 
Fast forward another hour and a half. Boots has thrown herself on the floor of our tent, angry and put-out, Berzo is still squirmy and very fussy, I'm fuming (I've just wasted a sunset, an evening walk, stars, to listen to my kids—not sleeping), Charley is snapping at Berzo and Boots is echoing him…. Aaaand kaboom! my head exploded. All the angst about everyone enjoying the trip, all the annoyances, frustrations, anxieties. I yelled, ripped open the zippers, and stomped out to the picnic table.

I stayed out there for about an hour, at first having a pity party, then I reigned that in and tried to make sense of what was happening. Nothing was going my way, even the stars seemed to refuse to come out. Then I gave up. I had tried so hard to prepare and think of everything that would give us the best odds of having a good time… I can't control anything. I have no control.

Then suddenly there was the big dipper. Then with every pass of my eyes dozens of other stars appeared, faintly at first then more confidently. I felt much more peaceful. I felt I could brave returning to the tent.

I came in and slipped into my sleeping bag and Charley welcomed me back. (I know, I'm lucky.) He said that we should just think of this trip as a learning experience; there's nothing like it when your husband uses your own tricks on you. “We'll figure out what works and what doesn't for next time.” (Whew! He's willing to try again.) Then he listed off the things we've learned from this trip… “We'll need to use our utility trailer, so we can pack easier…”

Of course. It was so obvious. What is an adventure but the overcoming of challenges and hardships? I love adventure, I love the outdoors, and unfortunately for me, that's where I expect my challenges arise, not from discord in my family… But it's all the same. I'd never try to change the course of the river to suit my purposes, I accept it and navigate accordingly. So why do I try to control the flow of personalities in my family? If I simply accepted and navigated it as it was, not how I wished it to be, maybe I wouldn't get swept away—right out of the tent…

The next morning dawned bright.

The canyon walls were luminous as the river babbled its good mornings. A train rumbled and screeched through the canyon on the other side of the river and captured our awe.

We were all relaxed and happy. What a difference from last night.

Coffee Deliciousness
I went fishing. Although I didn't catch anything, I was euphoric with gratitude to be on the Deschutes River with my fly in the water. When I got back, Charley made me a cup of instant coffee, and it was the most delicious cup of coffee I have ever tasted. The same crystals at home have an aftertaste of burnt flakes from the bottom of the coffee pot and cigarette ashes… Funny how that is.

We spent the day fishing with the girls, watching the wildlife, laughing, playing in the sand, and all the wonderful things you do while camping, then we packed up and headed home, talking all the way about how much we like Central Oregon, and all the unturned stones there are out there...

Until next time...

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