Leap Year Campout in the Lava Bed

Friday evening

The Adventurer, Vernon Wade

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.


The forecast Friday was for passably fair weather. 50 degree Fahrenheit temps, 3 mph winds, maybe a little rain and lower temperatures with a little snow or hail late Saturday afternoon. It didn’t work out that way.






Russ arrived at the house on his Ural Retro around eleven and we rode down the hill and across the river.

We met Michael at the Park and Ride on the Washington shore and he followed us over Underwood Mountain in his Audi. The trip started out in beautiful weather; clear blue sky, the river as flat as glass.





We left the Retro and Mike’s car at the pavement and I shuttled my friends into the lava bed.






I got the Biolite Campstove fired up to make hot toddies. The wind picked up a little while we were having our drinks.








I made a double boiler by nesting two cook-pots and making sort of a trivet from broken branches to rest the smaller pot on inside the larger pot, I added some water to the larger pot and placed some frozen beef stroganof in the smaller one, and put the lids on.  The double boiler went on the camp stove to simmer while I put up my shelter, a Finnish version of a Baker’s tent.


Russ and Mike sat by the stove and visited, occasionally offering helpful advice as I struggled to get the tent erected in the increasing wind.

The stove went out about the time I finished. Russ and Michael tried to get it going again, adding fuel, but it emitted dense clouds of smoke, refusing to re-ignite. The blustery wind kept blowing out their lighters, adding to the frustration. They tried using chairs and plates to make a windscreen but the gusts circled around them.

Russ needed to get home, so I gave him a lift him back to his bike, leaving Mike to fight with the camp stove. He hadn’t made any progress by the time I got back and it was looking like we might have a cold dinner. The stove had gone into shut down mode and the fan refused to start, I ended up dumping the embers and half burned wood out and starting over, moving the stove under the lee of my tent. Using the last of my fire starter and a bundle of pine twigs I was able to coax it back into life and we were finally ably to enjoy our hot stroganof.








Alone in camp


After dinner, I ferried Mike across the lava to his car. Walter and I were alone in the camp. By sundown it was raining. Rather than fuss with the stove I sat under the awning and had a beer, before crawling into my bunk to read by flashlight until I fell asleep.





The tent blew down around midnight. I set it up again. The rain transitioned to freezing rain. Sometime in the dark hours of morning, it collapsed under the weight of the snow. I set it up again. This happened several times. I would wake from time to time and knock the snow off, then doze a little before doing it again, There was only about an inch or two on the ground when it finally began to get light, but it was wet, heavy and very slippery. It was still snowing.


I skipped making a fire and breakfast in favor of getting packed. The snow had not let up. I had about a mile and a half of rugged road through the lava beds. Open trenches, pits and caves on either side and natural bridges to cross. I wasn’t sure how treacherous it might be, buried in snow. I could hike out if I had to, but I really didn’t want to abandon my bike until it thawed again.
We made it back to the pavement without problem. I stopped under the shelter of a tree to wipe the snow off my glasses and thaw my fingers behind the tail pipes. We still had about thirty miles to go. Once we were rolling again, Walter stood up and leaned forward, nose into the wind. The snow turned to rain about fifteen miles down the road. My boots filled with water as we reached the toll bridge, about ten miles from home. The crotch of my leathers soaked through as I turned up my street. We were both glad to get off the bike when we reached home.

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1 Comment

  1. David Bigelow

    Thanks Menace


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