I grew up camping, hiking, and fishing. It always served as my home away from home. I loved the little things about camping the most, like setting up camp or being able to see an endless sky of stars that didn’t seem to exist within the lights of Las Vegas. I loved challenging myself to reap the rewards of what nature had to offer. My fiancee, Sam, did not grow up camping, but I like to think over the 10 years we’ve been together she’s become more accustomed to the great outdoors. Sam’s 15-year old sister, Hanna, was coming to visit us. She had never been camping so we decided to head out to Lost Lake for a couple days. Lost Lake is about 30 miles outside of Hood River, and there is no cell phone service there. This would be an exciting new adventure for a teenager who works on getting a tan from the glow of a computer.
The campsites at Lost Lake were isolated and roomy. We set up the tent under a large tree nestled along a boulder. My fiancee’s sister marveled at the vastness of the surrounding area, even stating how much it reminded her of the movie Twilight. There was an outhouse close by so neither girl would have to really rough it, and Hanna even stated that it smelt like a hotel bathroom. Apparently, she stays at some interesting hotels. With camp set up we took a stroll down to the lake, which was only about 800 yards from camp. Lost Lake is truly mesmerizing, as trees engulf its 3 mile circumference and Mount Hood reflects off the blue water, its snowcapped peak illuminating the lake. After checking out the lake I told the girls we would summit the Lost Lake Butte Trail, a hike I knew was difficult but worth the climb for the panoramic view on the top.
The trail is four miles round trip, climbing over 1,600 feet past the tree line to the top of the butte. As we progressed through the start of the trail we took our time, not wanting to over exert ourselves and knowing we had no plans beyond what was happening at that exact moment. There were very few people on the trail, but as we hiked up, another group was heading down. I always like passing other hikers on remote trails, because there is a common unity in knowing we will go along the same path yet have completely different views on what we see. Only as we passed this group of hikers Sam and I were in for a very random surprise. Within the group was one of our friends from high school, which we attended in Las Vegas. Considering I never even run into people I know in Vegas, this was a freak occurrence that left me and Sam awestruck.
Continuing our hike we passed spider webs that were strung along branches as birds zipped through the trees. Both of the girls had gotten a little winded towards the end of the climb, but once we reached the summit it all came into focus for them. Hanna described Mt. Hood as looking Photoshopped, with every crease and snow sprinkled rock face seemingly right in front of our faces. The edge overlooked endless rows of trees in all directions as mountains in the distance created a valley of picturesque beauty. We rested on large boulders at the top before making our way back down. Although the hike down was easier, and at a much faster pace, Hanna managed to fall on at least three separate occasions, ensuring she would have proper battle wounds to show all her friends back in California.
Once we returned to camp I set up a casting rod to get some fishing in before dark. We all walked back down to the lake and found a perfect spot where I could fish and the girls could read up on celebrities in magazines, since checking TMZ was off limits without a cell phone. I cast my red devil lure out twice before I quickly caught a 10-inch rainbow trout with enough fight to dance out of the water. I decided to only fish for a little while longer before heading back, since we were going to rent a drift boat the next day and fish. Our night at camp was a perfect introduction to camping for Hanna, as we played games and laughed until the stars were visible overhead. Shutting our eyes while cocooned in our sleeping bags, allowing the stars to serve as our night lights was a perfect way to say goodbye to our first day at Lost Lake.
I woke up the next morning at 7AM to go rent a row boat for the day. At only $60 for a full day it was quite a bargain. The morning was brisk and very breezy but I really wanted to get the girls up to start fishing. For them camping was more fun when the weather was perfect and it wasn’t really early, but they managed to get up, eat breakfast and hike down to our boat by 7:30. I began rowing us around the lake, trying to keep us about 20 feet from the bank in order to fish the drop off. Unfortunately the wind continued to pick up and the cool air blown in from the mountains made the morning very chilly. And it only gets colder when you don't catch fish, and we weren't catching any fish. In fact by noon, we had resorted to comparing who had snagged the largest stick. I’m not exactly sure why we didn’t catch any fish all day, otherwise I probably would of tried to do something different. It was disheartening to both girls that they fished all day and didn't even hook a fish, but as my Uncle had told me in my youth, a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.
The camping trip turned out to be a success, even though we didn't catch any fish. The lake was still majestic. The campsite was tranquil. We had no cellphones and no worries. We had no computers and no TMZ. We got sweaty and didn’t shower. We used out houses and declared them hotel ready. We rowed around a lake for 8 hours, breaking waves and battling the wind in the morning. We slept on the ground and declared it comfier than any mattress. We ran into old friends and met new ones. We left with bruises and sore limbs. And we loved every second of it. Camping should have some tough moments. Moments where the summit seems unreachable and turning around sounds like the best idea. But once you persevere, and see the view from above, the only idea is when can you do it again.