Vernon was born in the Pacific Northwest and still lives in the shadow of Mt. Hood, near the small town where he grew up. Vernon has spent decades wandering the hills, hunting mushrooms, camping and riding motorcycles into the remotest nooks and crannies to be found in the region.
Arrival. Unseasonably warm for the last day of January.
The access road to Chanty Camp was under a half foot of wet snow. Saplings bent under the the weight of snow, criss-crossing the road. The wind had blown some trees across our path. We parked our trucks at the junction and hiked in.
I shouldered my pack and loaded Walter Dawg’s pulk with canvas.
It was a long, sloppy walk in. When we caught up with Andy, he was coming back for the truck. He thought we could make it in if we cut a tree and some brush out of the road. Walter and I hauled our loads into camp while Andy went back to fetch the chainsaw.
We cut the downed tree up and Walter hauled the wood back to the truck. With the road cleared we were able to drive closer to the camp and it was much easier dragging our gear in. Walter pulled most of it in the the sled.
Andy erected the kitchen lean-to while I got the tipi poles set up and tried to scrape the snow away from where our bunks would end up. The rain was unrelenting.
We took a lunch break, heating some ramen for lunch.
Even with the aid of a list and a clipboard, I forgot to pack the cutlery.
Andy whittled some chopsticks from vine maple.
I split a twig to make a fork.
At least the beer required no special equipment.
After lunch, we lifted the canvas into place.
We spread the canvas around the poles and laced it up the front. Andy started putting up the liner while I attempted to peg down the cover. This is an old tipi and many of the tent peg loops were torn or missing.
It got dark before we finished. Andy had to go back to town. I put up the rest of the liner and got a fire going in the tipi. Jason came up when he got off work, arriving in time to help cook potato chowder for dinner.
After dinner we stared at the fire, Jason tippling wine, and me drinking beer. The rain seemed to be letting up some, but the wind was roaring through the trees like a freight train.
The fire burned all night. It kept us dry and no trees fell on us so we were able to sleep snug.
The next day, I washed last nights dishes while Walter decided if it was worth getting up. He was a good dog this trip, and slept on his own blanket at the foot of my bunk instead of crawling up on top of Jason like he usually does.
We collected the runoff for washing. We probably got 30 gallons of water this way over the course of the weekend.
Andy came back up Saturday morning. The road was littered with debris from last night’s storm, but most of the snow had melted.
The access road was a mess; some snow remained but much of it was submerged.
He found camp still standing, but pretty soggy.
Andy’s timing, as usual, was impeccable. He stepped into the tipi just as Jason was putting breakfast together.
Biscuits and gravy. We added a little left over cornbread to the biscuits.
Nom nom nom
Andy brought an old, hollow birch log from home, which he fashioned into a rocket stove
He brought a stack of logs up to keep the kitchen fire going. Andy was very proud of his big wood.
The dish water was hot in no time and my brother was able to clean up after breakfast. Steam rolled off the tarp, but it never got hot enough to melt, despite our concerns.
While Andy was doing the dishes, Jason and I collected some pebbles and tied them around the edges of a liner from a smaller tipi.
We tied the long edge of this canvas inside the tipi at the top of the liner panels.
Then we fastened the center of the small liner to the anchor rope.
Once completed, this formed an ozan or interior ceiling to keep the water dripping from the poles off of us and our bunks.
The rain continued and the temperature began to drop. Brewing some hot chocolate and lacing it liberally with rum seemed like a reasonable plan, just to ward off the chill, don’t you know.
The wind was blowing rain in under the tarp, so Andy added tarps to form walls at the back of the lean-to and covered the gap at the top with an old campaign banner. It made the kitchen snug but lent it the air of a homeless camp.
With lunchtime approaching, Andy popped open some beers and Jason and I cut some skewers to roast brats with.
We had a nice bed of coals to cook our sausages, while the left over potato chowder warmed up.
We coated the brats with bannock. They looked like turds on a stick until the dough cooked.
toasted to perfection.
Lunch was finished and we’d drunk our beers; Jason brought out the wine.
Andy mentioned it was Super Bowl weekend. “Super Bowl,” Jason snorted. “That’s just an excuse to sit around and drink.”
I had some dried spices and white sugar mixed in a jar. We filled our mugs two-thirds full of red wine, topped them with cognac and stirred in a spoonful of the sweetened spices. Into this mixture I plunged a red-hot flip iron, heating the wine in an instant and filling the air with intoxicating fumes.
When we looked up from our wine, we realized it had grown dark.
I don’t want to give the impression that all we do when we camp is eat and drink. I don’t want to give that impression, but, well, what can I say? It was time to make dinner.
After dinner we retired to the warmth and sanctuary of the tipi.
The rain stopped. The moon came out and the temperature plummeted. Sometime in the dark hours of Sunday morning, it snowed lightly, blue crystals drifting through the trees and coating everything with a fine frost.
I rolled out Sunday morning, before my brother or Jason woke up.
Andy got up soon after I had the kitchen fire going.
We put the kettle on so I could have tea and he could make some coffee.
Since Jason seemed determined to sleep off the previous night’s excesses, Andy and I decided we would take a little wander through the woods.
We have the Back Country Navigator app installed on our phones, This seemed like the perfect opportunity to get more familiar with it.
We have spent a lot of time in this place, but never this time of year. We were surprised by all the standing water we found.
We found a few mushrooms, but almost all of them were slimy and frost damaged, like this patch of chanterelles.
These little hedgehogs were frozen solid when I found them, but thawed out firm and fresh.
The sun was shining brightly and Jason had also risen by the time we got back to camp.
Jason and I took down the canvas.
While Jason and I were packing, Andy put together a meal.
After we ate we policed the camp, dowsed the fires and headed out. Since the snow had melted Walter got out of hauling the sled. We packed out with the wheelbarrow.