“Alpinism is the art of climbing mountains by confronting the greatest dangers with the greatest prudence. Art is used here to mean the accomplishment of knowledge in action.
You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again…
So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully.”
~ René Daumal, “Mount Analogue”
It’s blasted hot in Seattle this week, and when my roommate suggested we get out of town and head to the coast, I was onboard. While putting together a rough packing list, I realized the first three items on the list aren’t actually necessities, but certainly are items that I love to have with me.
Let’s be real: When it comes to car camping, it’s appropriate to take everything, including some kind of kitchen sink. Despite this I try to keep a minimal camp haul, mostly because I don’t like digging around the back of the car for things I know I brought and can’t find. I’m a fan of keeping it simple.
A good camp chair. I’m not fussy when it comes to sitting, but I’d prefer to not have my extremities fall asleep, sit hunched over, or feel like a child because my feet don’t touch the ground. With Ellie in tow, it’s essential to have proper lap space, too. I love my G4Free camp chair I received as a Christmas gift last year. It’s small, light, and simple to assemble once we’re settled at camp. AND, it leaves ample lap space for Ellie.
A long-sleeve shirt. I L-O-V-E my long-sleeved Sombrio MTB shirts.
They’re comfy, have a nice fit, and there’s a perfectly sized, zipper-pocket in the back seam that’s easy to reach with just one hand. Wearing one is reminiscent of stealing your boyfriends plaid, but it’s totally cut for the girls. I had a groovy endo on my mountain bike a few months ago that left me with an incredible sore elbow, a really beautiful bruise for at least two weeks, and a solid contusion that’s still hanging out with me. I was wearing my Sombrio plaid at the time, and there’s not even a scratch in the fabric. Plus, long sleeves keep me cooler in the sunshine and this is the perfect layer to throw on over a swimsuit, sweaty sports bra, or as an extra layer around camp. I’m pretty sure this shirt will fill all three of these roles this weekend, and the only relevant question is whether to bring the blue or the green, because yes, I have both.
A sun hat. For me, this item is less about sun protection and way more about covering up sweaty helmet hair. My favorite hat is a nondescript straw one from Target, so don’t get up in a pinch about which one to grab. Just take one that fits your head, won’t blow away in the breeze, and keeps sun glare off your sunglasses. This brim is wide enough to keep the sun off my neck and ears, but not so wide that it feels like I’m walking around with an umbrella. I love attaching it to my pack on casual, destination bike rides to the brewery, park, or coffee shop to cover my helmet hair. Ellie usually ends up lying on top of it in the car, and it’s held up remarkably well.
I find car camping to be the best place to try out a new piece of gear, new approach, or a new system, since it’s relatively consequence-free. It doesn’t really matter what you do or don’t take, as long as you’re safe, having fun, and taking pictures.
Just kidding. Don’t spend your vacation taking pictures. That’s silly.
Journal Notes – This text appears as written, with light editing for spelling and grammar.
It’s Monday evening and the sun has set. The golden yellow light that’s warmed my skin all weekend is gone; it’s gold changed to pink and purple. The rainbow of sunset has ended and I’m left with vaguely blue-gray clouds in the distance until today’s light fades forever.
It seems to me sightly narcissistic to be writing away about my own experience and privilege of a long weekend spend sun-soaked, friended, and intoxicated, both of beer and good times. While that experience is, at best, privileged, it is one I worked for, chose, and protect. Being able to stay one day longer in Oregon’s high desert is indeed a privilege.
We’re parked comfortably in a state park. Ellie has made her presence known to all who dare walk by our campsite. I’ve always known her to be a remarkable companion. Not much of a complainer, and always up for a car ride as long as there’s ample room to make a nest just out of sunshine’s reach. Now, she’s curled in her camp chair with her blanket and snoozing away, lifting her head only when the scuff of sandals crosses near our drive.
I have no deep thoughts tonight. It seems silly to recount all the lovely things that happened this weekend. Separated from the people and the place, the stories would fall shallow of their true depth of affectation. All of that to say, it’s been a memorable weekend, even if it was filled completely with Type 1 fun.
The truth is, any recounting of specifics would belie a year’s worth of relationships, dozens of adventures together, and adventures yet to come that would add depth and context to the relation of any one story.
A tale is not singular unto itself, for it is wrapped and tangled with stories enough for books.
The time turns to 9 p.m. and I remember that it’s the time I was hoping to stay awake for. I rarely make it past sunset, but the typing, and dare I say blue light of my computer screen, has jogged my brain and I’m a flurry with thoughts and memories and threads of stories. I’m sure that a few paragraphs while snug in my backseat-bed would put me right to sleep. The sound of water, the Deschutes River sings in my ears. The river is a mere 30 yards from my perch, obscured by low lying wetland shrubs and willows. But no matter, with sound is music enough to my ears.
It’s hard to translate what being outdoors means to my soul. Even the outdoors of a state park, where other people are merely across the street, less than 50 yards away. And that far only because the sites on either side of me are left unoccupied at this hour. There are no hollering children, and there is no music coming from a site or two away. This would be the joy of camping on Monday night. Especially on the Monday of a long weekend, when others have rushed home on their feelings of guilt and pleasure, wishing they could indulge in another day away but never fully indulging of their agency to do so.
There’s no fire tonight, even though the fire pit is taunting me and begging for the warmth. I have no way to start a fire. A bundle of wood was only $5, and I deeply considered buying from the warm and friendly camp host. But then I remembered my lack of fire starting equipment. There’s not even a lighter to be had. If I were brave, I would have borrowed a flame from a neighbor, but we know I’m not that person.
Instead, I’ll go to bed here shortly. I’ll turn on my twinkle lights, roll up my car windows in defense of the bugs, and read for a few minutes until my eyes no longer stay open on their own. Ellie and I will snuggle in, and we’ll sleep until the sun rises and tomorrow’s light begins.
I had a little mini breakdown at the trailhead this weekend. I’m not proud of it. It wasn’t a great moment. But it happened, so I’m owning it.
This is what happened: I forgot my socks. The socks I had so painstakingly packed to ensure my feet wouldn’t get new blisters. The wool socks and thin liner socks that would help keep my feet dry and hotspot-free. They were not where I had put them. And therefore, they were not in the car but in my overnight bag at The Boy’s house.
The thing is, the mountains are where I’m competent. I transition quickly. I know the trail. I know my limits and I push myself beyond them. I am on time. I am prepared.
But not this week.