Camping at Pelton

Simtustus LakeThe Freed family tried to go camping back in May, but were stymied by cold, rainy weather. Tent camping in 40F with an infant and 3 year old are no fun, so we skipped it. But planned another trip in August to the desert where the weather would have to be good. This time we opted for Pelton Campground, which is a park run by PGE on the Simtustus lake, a reservoir on the Deschutes River. The campground is about 10 miles south of Warm Springs, and a lovely piece of eastern Oregon. The whole family was along, so we had my parents in their popup, us in our gigantent, and Hilly & Hassy in another 2 person tent. It was quite the site as well, directly above the swim area and dog swim area.

Over the course of the long weekend, we did some fishing, canoeing, mallow roasting, cooking and eating, reading, and playing on the playground. The desert did disappoint a bit – it was never more than 75F, and most of the time it was also rather breezy, so swimming was a little challenging. The girls didn’t seem to mind much though, but still preferred the playground to the swimming. Ella even tried her hand at fishing, but didn’t have much success. She didn’t mind though because Grandma taught her about licorice, the bait that serious fishermen use for themselves. She really got in to that. We did find a slightly better place to fish later, but only caught pike minnows, which there’s a bounty on.

The good news is that the girls are really digging camping. Maddie woke up multiple times during the night, screaming on a few occasions, but Ella was upset when it was time to go home, expressing interest in staying longer. Here are a few pics.

The allure of zombie attacks

My family has been working off and on on preparing an emergency plan for in case of a disaster. The primary example we’re planning around is The Big One â„¢, the giant earthquake expected to someday wipe out most of the Pacific North West. It’s easiest to think about it in that sense, partly because it’s one of the most sanitary disasters, speaking purely in the likelyhood and on whose fault it would be. Plus, you can plan around a certain set of expected problems that are likely to occur. For example, you can expect that much of downtown Portland’s century old buildings would be destroyed. You can expect that many if not all bridges would be at least temporarily closed to car and/or even foot traffic. You can expect that you may need to turn off gas and you may not have electricity. You can expect that in a 90 year old home with no connection between the house and the brick foundation, that the house will slip off. You can also expect the reaction to be similar to other earthquakes, which we’ve had several recent examples of.

When you start to think of other potential disasters, you have a very wide variety of causes, be they natural or human-precipicated, a very different set of tools to respond to the disaster, a probably most intimidating, a myriad of ways the rest of the people around you will respond. I’ve been visiting a number of urban survival and emergency preparedness resources on the internet, and I’ve noticed some common themes among the most active and vocal contributors.

  1. The generic label of “the disaster” is often referred to as “SHTF,” or when the Shit Hits the Fan.
  2. There seems to be a common perception that SHTF will be a human-caused event, likely involving the collapse of economy and or government.
  3. and SHTF will mean that people will try to take your stuff

This is not a new phenomenon or a new set of fears; I think it’s as old as our nation. And it seems that the response and planning by most posters follow the same rules.

  1. Get your guns
  2. Get your stuff
  3. Get out of Dodge

There seems to be a universal disdain for the city and the collection of resources available in them, largely because you will have to share, no, compete with other survivors for them. And there’s some unease in talking about how each individual will respond to threats to their own security. The answer seems to be answered for most folks merely by the presence of a gun or many guns solves that unknown.

But there’s still a bit of a question mark there about how you will truly respond to people. And I have a suspicion that popularity of Zombie-themed survival films and literature actually attempts to deal with the response without actually answering the underlying question. Zombie lore is very common, and in many ways, Zombie scenarios are like many disasters in which an outbreak has caused competition for resources and diminished safety. And by having the antagonist be dead, or technically undead, you remove most of the guilt of having to kill a real person to protect yourself. You can pretty guiltlessly say that you’d shoot a zombie where as you can’t quite say that about someone with avian flu.

I haven’t yet read The Zombie Survival Guide, though I understand that it deals with such an artificial zombie attack like it were any other human disaster. I’m hoping that this isn’t dealt with right away in the book, because then I’ll just look like a plagiarist. But this came to me while trying to rectify what could be real human response and what could be fictional. It would suck to think that the community response to an earthquake would be a shotgun in the face. But I sense as an overall lack of preparation for events like this by the community at large, there will be a lot of scarcity, and thus a lot of poor responses.

Oh, and I should mention that Michelle and I just discovered The Colony, which is occasionaly educational, but in many ways as fanciful as Swiss Family Robinson. (Which I still love.)

Freezer Jam

Back in July, Michelle, the girls and I went out to Sauvie Island to pick berries. The trip was a blast, and the girls came home a mess. We picked way more berries than we could possibly eat fresh, but we did this with the intention of making freezer jam. It’s a method of preserving that seems to rely on there being way too much sugar in the jam to allow bad microbes from developing (I’m sure we all heard the osmotic pressure stories in biology). Also, being stored frozen helps. As a brewer, the lack of sanitary steps was somewhat alarming, but I suppose this isn’t anything new.

Anyway, we made Strawberry, Strawberry-Blueberry, and Raspberry. All three turned out quite well, though the Strawberry may have suffered slightly due to a lack of truly firm berries (they were definitely ripe). The Raspberry on the otherhand turned out most delicious, possibly owing to the opposite; the berries had literally just come on and were ripe enough but also still solid fruit.

All three jams are delicious though, and we’ve already managed to finish off two or three jars. It has been enjoyable to have our own stash of jam without the seeming complexity (read: a whole bunch of stuff) of canning.


This summer we met with close friends (and former college roommates) Meghan, Troy and kin in the Wallowas in Northeast Oregon. It was the culmination of years of planning and missed windows in what is truely a beautiful piece of Oregon. The idea has been to find a place somewhere between the two of us (they’re in Clarkston, WA) that would give us some time to actually catch up rather than our normal brief, chaotic encounters at weddings and such. Also, our broods have each grown enough that we wanted them to have a chance to play again longer than just the awkward first encounter.

The drive was long, and while challenging with two toddlers, was quite nice. Especially from La Grande to Joseph, which neither of us had been to before. The dry forest awoke a homesickness for Wyoming I’d long since forgotten, but it was tempered some since it was Chief Joseph Days, and the Rodeo was in town.

We rented a cabin on the south end of Wallowa Lake where we ate well, watched deer, played in an inflatable pool, and relaxed. From the cabin, we ventured out several times, including trips to Enterprise for dinner at the Terminal Gravity Brewery, Joseph for some ice cream and to see what the Chief Joseph Days were all about, several trips to the lake, and even a trip up the tram to the top of Mt. Howard.

The tram was a favorite for both Ella and I (Michelle, Meghan and the younger kids stayed back “because of the cost..”), and the nearly cloudless sky meant almost endless viewing from the various vantage points around the summit. The Royal Purple loop was probably Ella and Nate’s favorite because a couple gave Troy a baggie full of sunflower seeds, which the kids used to feed portly chipmunks from their hands. The views to the Eagle Cap wilderness, east across Hells Canyon, and north towards the lake, Joseph and Enterprise were stunning. I was pleased that the kids enjoyed the tram ride as much as Troy and I.

We also had a couple excursions to the lake, the best of which was on the Saturday before we had to leave. The weather was perfect, the crowds weren’t bad, and the lake water, though cool, were a perfect compliment to the 90 plus degrees of heat. We all had such a relaxed time, and I know this is expected, but we managed yet again to keep the kids from getting burned. That’s actually kind of impressive considering how often they were in their suits (or not in them).

The Wallowas and area are beautiful. Joseph and Enterprise have a charm their own that was, as I mentioned, a cause for some deeply buried homesickness for Cody. I’d heard the Eagle Cap Wilderness compared to the Enchantments in Central Washington, and while I didn’t ever get close enough to compare, I can see the comparison drawn to Leavenworth. The glacial moraine that frames Wallowa lake is really quite a trip because it’s steppe/desert that creeps in to forest in one direction and farmland in the other. Next time we go back, hopefully the girls will be ready to do some serious hiking.

Sadly, all good things come to an end and we had a 6 hour drive back to Portland. Why does the travel always try to unravel the relaxation?