Along For The Ride: Between Two Lakes
Between Two Lakes
One week remained before I had to be in Portland, Oregon, to meet my teenage son, Cole, at the airport, who was flying in from Pennsylvania to accompany me for some adventure. I was in Bend, only a few hours away from Portland, and had ample time to do some exploring in the region before his flight was scheduled to arrive.
My money situation was poor at the time, but I didn’t let this discourage me from pressing onward. I did my best to keep driving to a minimum and spent sensibly at the grocery store.
When it comes to living a mobile lifestyle, being in motion means that you’re spending money. We have a romantic vision of overlanders and van-lifers being constantly on-the-go, while in reality, this is extremely impractical. It makes more sense, in terms of cost-effectiveness, and also in terms of destination appreciation, to find a spot and linger there for a bit - for a few days at least.
In such an instance, you’re not putting miles on your vehicle, you’re not spending money on gas, and you’re making the most of the groceries you have on hand, so you’re not out shopping. Furthermore, you truly get to know places by spending more time there and exploring the immediate area on foot... or by kayak.
Searching for a Spot
I made my way west, past Mount Bachelor and into Deschutes National Forest. I studied the topographical map on GaiaGPS intensely as I drove, in search of forest roads and geographical features that might make attractive camping destinations.
The highway into the forest passed some exquisite, emerald mountain lakes which offered a few camping opportunities on their shores, but they were all occupied due to their splendor and ease of access from the highway.
I would have to go deeper!
A forest road took me past a somewhat more remote lake, and I finally found a clearing in a grove of pines only a short walk from the water. I came very close to setting up camp at that spot, but it was a wholly mediocre setting, and the mosquitoes were atrocious, so I decided to keep driving.
If I’m going to suffer a horde of mosquitoes, the campsite better be something special!
The forest road degraded from a groomed gravel route to a primitive two-track. It began to feel very remote as I was surrounded by towering pines adorned with vibrant, yellowish-green beard moss. My GPS showed the road continuing past Three Sisters Wilderness Area and into Willamette National Forest, though my map provided little indication of what might lie ahead.
After what felt like miles of driving through beautiful Oregonian forest, another road branched off to the left that wasn’t on my GPS. I hopped out of the Jeep and checked it out on foot, which I do on occasion to get a feel for routes - to see if they’re too degraded, well-traveled, or if they look interesting.
In a very short distance, the road ended abruptly at a beautiful, secluded campsite, on the shore of a large shimmering lake that wasn’t visible on my GPS.
Eureka! I had found my campsite and it was almost perfect!
I say “almost” because the mosquitoes were still extremely bad. However, unlike the previous potential campsite that I found, this one was well worth any bug bites that I might endure.
I didn’t hesitate and immediately claimed this site as my own. To provide some relief from the mosquitoes, I set up my ARB 2500 awning with Deluxe Screened Room overlooking the lake.
Once I was all settled in, I set off on foot to familiarize myself with my surroundings. Only a little bit further down the main forest road, there were several other, beautiful lakeside campsites - a couple of which were occupied. They would’ve been fine candidates, but I was happy with the privacy offered by my own.
As it turned out, the lake was actually two lakes, Taylor and Irish, and the stretch of forest road ran between them both, offering prime camping, and also swimming in their crystalline waters.
About a quarter mile from camp, the Pacific Crest Trail scenic hiking route, intersected with my forest road. Since my own journey was largely inspired by thru-hikers, I was happy to be camped in close proximity to those who might be kindred spirits.
I fashioned a sign out of a piece of paper inviting thru-hikers to the Jeep for temporary shelter and a cold beverage, and posted it to a trail marker with a tent stake.
Lingering a Bit
Since I had plenty of time to reach Portland, I opted to occupy this little slice of heaven (sans mosquitoes) for three nights.
I spent much of the time relaxing in the screened room, swimming, walking around taking photo a video of the lush coniferous setting, and exploring both lakes in my kayak. Being out on the water was another great way to get away from all of the mosquitoes, which were unable to sour this memorable experience - as much as they tried.
One thru-hiker did stop by, whom I treated to a cold beer, chips, and a can of soup. We enjoyed good conversation about our travels, and he was extremely grateful for the shelter and sustenance. It was nice to have company, and the experience was a good reminder to myself to actively try to meet new people.
After three lovely days and nights spent at a hidden gem of a campsite, I resumed traveling west, through a hauntingly beautiful section of Willamette National Forest that had been affected by wildfire years before.
Many miles later, I returned to pavement, bound for Portland!