America’s Birthday

Long before we decided to trade in the Alpha Uno for the new Alpha One, we had been invited to a 4th of July campout by our good friends Devon and Jaimie. Devon and Jaimie lived next door to us for at least a year before we finally met them. Then one winter Portland actually experienced a decent snow storm and the whole neighborhood got snowed in. We live at the top of a steep hill, practically made for snow sledding. So me and Brandon grab a few beers, stick them in the snow to keep cold, and search the garage for anything resembling a sled. We came up with a large metal dish intended to catch ashes from a BBQ and a chair cushion taped to some cardboard. Our sleds were an epic failure but we were entertaining enough to draw our neighbors outside to watch. We offered them some beer and the opportunity to try out one of our terribly ineffective sleds and we’ve been friends ever since. Another neighbor saved the day with some real sleds shortly afterward.

The idea for a 4th of July campout had been hatched sometime in the spring. By the time the week of the 4th rolled around we still had no idea where we were going and everything seemed to be booked-up solid. Luckily, there was a cancelation at the Lost Lake Campground near Mount Hood just a few days before the 4th! We were super excited to find a spot and super excited to take our new RV out on its maiden voyage. The new RV is much longer than our previous rig but the spot was listed as an 80 foot spot so I was sure that we’d be fine.

I’ll start by saying that Lost Lake is absolutely stunning. It is a small lake at the base of Mount Hood that is reserved entirely for non-motorized water activities. You can swim, canoe, kayak, fish, basically anything without a motor. Without any motor boats to disturb the water it stays amazingly clear (and very safe for swimmers and people lazily floating around on a tube). From the lake you also have an incredible view of the mountain, which is at such a high elevation that it has snow year round. Mount Hood is actually one of the few mountains in North America that offer summer snow skiing. Just look at this place. I believe majestic is the right word.

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At this point you might be thinking: How are they going to drive a 37 foot RV up the mountain pass to get to such a high elevation? The answer is very slowly while honking the horn around every corner to alert other drivers that a bus is coming through. It was a harrowing drive, particularly for our first big trip in the RV, but we made it just fine. To be honest, it was kinda fun. During the drive up the mountain we played Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass. A rather salacious album cover but it makes for a great adventure soundtrack.

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When we finally arrived at the campground we realized that the roads within the campground were just as narrow as the road up the mountain. It was a tight fit as we navigated our way to our camping spot. On our first pass through the campground we missed the turn for our spot. The roads were one way (and we can’t reverse while towing the Jeep) so we asked a park staff member that we passed where we should turn around. He pointed us to the group camp spot further down the road. This was terrible advice. The group camp was on a loop with a turn far too sharp for us to make in our RV, let alone in the RV with the Jeep attached. But by the time we realized this we were already within the loop. We started unhitching the Jeep, which we’ve become pretty efficient at, intending to leave it parked at the group camp while we parked the RV at our campsite. We could come back for it in a few minutes. With the Jeep unhitched we were able to get the RV around the loop. It was a close turn, made even more awkward by a lady that insisted on standing unreasonably close and staring at us. I rolled down the window to  talk to her and the first thing she did was ask if we hit something. I said no, to which she replied “Good, cause I’m watching.” I like to think that camping is a fun, relaxing activity and this woman was neither. We assume she was the one that left the nasty note on the Jeep windshield when we returned for it 20 minutes later. Apparently, we were not parked in an acceptable parking spot.

When we finally got to our campsite we realized that while it really was 80 feet long, that was 80 feet of curve, not a straight driveway. This made parking a bit tough but Brandon handled it like a pro. We made it! Happy Birthday America!

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As I mentioned, Lost Lake is primarily known for the spectacular view of Mount Hood from the lake. It was getting late and had become too chilly for a swim so the first order of business was to drive around in the Jeep looking for a nice view of Mount Hood from the lake shore.

From here . . .

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I saw this.

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Our big plan for the next day was to float around that lake on inner tubes while enjoying the mountain in the background.

When we got back to our site we started setting up camp. While we had been checking out the view, a few more friends had arrived. In total, there were six of us. We were staying in the RV. Our friends set up two tents, one on each side of the campfire.

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We also set up an outdoor cooking station. It was very warm out and we didn’t want to heat up the interior of the RV. Plus, between us we had three Coleman stoves. Might as well use them! Our stove isn’t pictured. It is an older model. We found it at a garage sale, still in the original box from the 70s, having only been used a handful of times, and in perfect condition.

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We found this lantern at the same garage sale. This would be the lantern’s last campout though. It turns out that tree was not really cut out for the job.

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Time for dinner! Brandon made fajitas for everyone. They were delicious as usual.

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After dinner we played Cards Against Humanity and called it a night. Pictured is our neighbor’s dog Lily. If you let her snuggle on your lap she will love you forever.

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Our only plan for Saturday was to spend as much time on the lake as possible. We all came prepared with inflatable tubes and sunscreen. Brandon planned on renting a kayak. In the morning we loaded up our coolers with beer (and water) grabbed our floaties and took off for the lake.

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The campground at Lost Lake is not actually a state park even though much of the area around the lake is part of the state park system. This campground is the only one on the lake and is privately owned. The owners run a store next to the lake as well as the campground. At the store you can buy just about anything you forgot to bring: beer, ice, marshmallows and graham crackers, fishing poles, sunscreen, snacks from the deli, etc. You can also rent all sorts of fun things for your day on the lake, including kayaks, paddle boats, canoes, and fishing poles. Brandon decided to rent a kayak for a couple of hours. This turned out to be an excellent choice because he was able to tow all of us around on our tubes. He couldn’t tow us very fast, obviously, but it was super helpful when we all started drifting toward the shore. He was also able to carry the coolers on his kayak and made an excellent beer delivery boy. Below is the swimming beach and water craft launch area. Our home for the day. We couldn’t have been happier.

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We spent nearly the entire day out on the water so I have to apologize for the lack of photos. We don’t yet have a waterproof camera and I wasn’t brave enough to take my usual camera out onto the water for the day. You will just have to believe me that we had a wonderful time.

After our day out on the lake we headed back to camp to make dinner and relax for the evening. We had some delicious burgers (and a few more beers) to cap off an exceptional 4th of July weekend with good friends.

Things got interesting again on our drive home. We had to drive back down the narrow winding road to get to the bottom of the mountain. Once again we drove very slow and honked around every turn to let other drivers know that we were coming through. Thankfully, the drive down the mountain was without incident. We actually did not run into a problem until we were back at storage. We were driving over to the wash bay when we noticed that something was leaking from the engine. We got out to check and saw that it was antifreeze. We cleaned up the spill and backed into the wash bay, hoping that it was just an overflow and not an actual leak. But after we started washing down the rig Brandon decided to open up the engine compartment to make sure everything was ok. That is when we saw the shredded bits of belt. We had shredded the serpentine belt. This may have been related to an alternator repair that was done right before we purchased the RV. Either way, we were very thankful that the problem happened while we were at storage and not while we were driving down the mountain. We were able to drive the very short distance to our parking spot and leave the RV in a safe place to wait for a tow, rather than waiting on the side of the road.

We had actually planned on taking the RV to the shop for a number of other small repairs, but we had intended to drive it there ourselves. These repairs would also mean that our first trip in the RV was going to be the last until these repairs were finished.

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