Ah, yes, I said to myself. I need to go camping. As in, I need to go real life camping in a real life campground. Not as in “I need to go pitch a tent somewhere.” As in, I need to take Li’l Homey off to nature, out of civilization, into the wilds. Some place where there are big tall pine trees and little nature trails. Some place where bears hang out nearby, but maybe not in my campsite. Some place where I can sit around a fire ring with a nice toasty fire in it and drink a glass of nice toasty wine. Ok, maybe the wine doesn’t need to be toasty but it should definitely be nice and tasty.
So I began the search for a campsite and found one at Silver Falls State Park near Silverton, Oregon. Not too far away; not too close.
I’ve been to Silver Falls before. I’ve even hiked to eight of the ten waterfalls, which is about a six-mile hike. I’ve had dinner at a friends’ campsite when they were visiting family nearby. But I’ve never camped there on my own. Seemed like the perfect place to spend a few days with Dinah Dog, and maybe son Mark and partner Nick would want to come along and bring Isabelle Pug. Now we’re talkin’. Gonna be a fun few days in the wilds! Hot dogs! S’mores! Wine! Beer! Nature! Woo hoo!
We pulled into Silver Falls late on a Friday afternoon and after a couple of attempts at backing into the space, got ourselves all situated and set up. I did the trailer and the guys did their tent. Easy peasy!
As soon as everything was in place, it was time to start dinner. Tonight, it’s hot dogs on sticks over the wood fire along with chips and drinks. Wine, that is. And beer. Mark got the fire going and Nick put the dogs on the sticks – Polish kielbasas for them and vegan hot dogs for me. We fixed up our buns, each of us with our own unique concoctions made with a variety of condiments… after all, we did bring my entire house along with all the stuff in the fridge and cupboard! Ketchup, mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, old fashioned mustard, new-fangled mustard, dill pickles, kalamata olives – you name it, I think we had it. Attempts were made to toast the buns but it turned out to be a dismal failure so we skipped that part. And for some reason, food always tastes better when cooked in a campground!
Dessert that first night was red vines and milk chocolate. Not together, of course, but perhaps we should have tried it that way! We didn’t have the s’mores I’d envisioned when I was first dreaming of this get-away – out of the three ingredients necessary to make at least “plain” s’mores, we had only brought the chocolate with us, and melting it over the fire could have been ugly and certainly a waste of some good chocolate. Sometimes ya just gotta be flexible and go with what ya got!
Relaxing in our space, with an electric extension cord going to Mark’s computer so they could watch videos and movies later, we kicked back, slathered in bug juice, and spent an altogether pleasant evening amongst our camping neighbors – mostly trailers, fifth wheels, motor homes, and a tent or two thrown in for good measure. Watching the skies over head for satellites kept the three of us busy; I think Nick counted fifteen of them in the space of a couple hours. The Milky Way was brilliant and the several shooting stars we saw made our star gazing the perfect end to a perfect day. I’m off to sleep; the guys are off to the tent to watch whatever they’re going to watch on Mark’s laptop.
Morning brought scrambled eggs for the guys and a toasted English muffin with peanut butter and apricot fruit spread for me, and then it was off to the falls to see just how much we could see with two dogs in tow. Turns out, dogs are not allowed on any of the canyon trails, so while Mark and Nick hiked down to South Falls, Dinah, Isabelle and I sat and relaxed up top-side, where we could enjoy the quiet wind through the tree tops and the sound of water rushing over the 177′ cliffs of South Falls. At least, that’s how it was until a gang of a hundred or so students showed up, complete with worksheets in hand for some project they were working on, and the silence was effectively shattered by the noise and chatter of all those bazillions of high-school-aged young people, excited about being in the woods, happy about going down to the falls, chattering on about who knows what – the music of enthusiastic boys and girls on an outing.
Once the guys got back from their hike to the falls, we poked around the old South Falls Lodge, built in the 1930s, looking at the photographs from that era posted on the walls, talking to the full-of-information volunteers, pausing at the big, huge rock fireplaces, running our hands over the original wood tables cut from single trees, and eyeing the menu board at the little cafe for ice cream possibilities. We then drove over and checked out the swimming hole in Silver Creek where Nick wanted to dive right in, swim suit or not. We had to hold him back. Wait! we said. Let’s come back later when it’s a bit warmer and you have the proper attire for a dunk in the ice cold river water! We can still see our breath in front of us! It’s bound to get a little warmer! And maybe you can find your wet suit in the meantime…
The afternoon did indeed bring a trip back the swimming hole after lunch but it was only Nick who braved the ice cold water for a dip, Mark and I being too chicken to even put our toes in, afraid they might get frostbite and we’d have to rush off to the infirmary, or something like that. There was, however, a very cool inflatable raft-y lounge-y thing out in the river with four people in it, all of them completely kicked back, looking so relaxed they could have been floating in their own backyard pool. I find myself thinking I need one of those inflatables! Costco – $89.99. Or so the lone guy in the floater said. But what could he possibly know? I mean, come on… out on a river, floating in a really cool inflatable, with three gorgeous women, all four with wine glasses in their hands – what did he really know anyway? And where would I put it if I had it? It was almost as big as Li’l Homey, for pete’s sake.
We finally dragged Nick out of the water, blue and freezing (not really but he should have been because the water was so cold – or so he said), and headed back to the campground to make some dinner. I mixed up a couple of specialty (coff coff) margaritas using a nice silver tequila, a dash of lime juice, and some home-made calamansi liqueur I bottled up last year. (Calamansi are a little tiny citrus fruit that’s popular in Philipino food and they turned out one of the best liqueurs I’ve made, so it was the perfect substitute for the triple sec I usually use. In fact, it was so good, I’ll make margaritas with it again, on purpose!) Big bowls of vegan chili with corn chips on top – what’s not to like? The guys put some cheddar cheese on theirs and dinner was a wrap. Another relaxing night under the stars watching satellites and shooting stars, and the weekend was coming to a close way too fast.
The next morning, after a breakfast of cereal and milk (almond for me, cows for the guys), I set off on a nature hike. Only prepared for about 15 minutes of walking, an hour later, I had no idea where I was or where the trail went or how long it was going to be before I made it back to any kind of civilization. My nose was running and I had to use the bathroom and I was not prepared for either one of those things out there on the trail. I tried to keep my focus on putting one foot in front of the other and staying in the appreciation of the glorious nature around me, but it was becoming increasingly more challenging the farther I went. I found myself thinking it would be shorter to keep going forward instead of turning back and retracing my steps, but as I went on, I began to wonder if I’d chosen the correct thing to do. I had no idea where I was, no way to call for help, no map, no “people” sounds to aim towards, thick vegetation on either side of the trail, no sign of campers or other hikers or even of any horse riders. So, yes, I kept going forward and eventually landed right back in the campground across the little asphalt road from our campsite. Yay! I headed straight for the restroom, not passing Go, not collecting two hundred dollars, but noticing as I did so, that the guys had packed us up completely and had everything ready to put into the trailer and car so we could leave and go home as soon as I got back. I’d been gone far longer than I had planned and was very happy they had done this! Thanks, Mark & Nick!
We had a great weekend camping at Silver Falls and I would definitely go again. Maybe next time you’ll go with us or even just come out for roasted weinies over the campfire and a glass of wine or a beer. How about let’s make a date and do it!
Silver Falls State Park is just under 60 miles south of Portland, OR. There are a number of ways to get there – I recommend driving one of the routes that takes you through the country-side, instead of staying the main highways. The scenery will be far more interesting and is actually shorter than driving the entire distance on the interstate. Click here for a Google map with several different route options from the Portland area. There are various accommodations in the park including tent and RV camping, horse camps, and cabins, some of which are pet-friendly. Click here to see all the choices.