First campout of 2014 – Stub Stewart

We broke out the camper at the end of February (2/28/14 – 3/2/14) for our first “shake-down” cruise to see what we needed to get back in shape for the season. The camper faired well in storage and despite my forgetting the keys to the hitch lock, it came home without any events. Getting New Seasons shoppers out of the way was it’s own challenge (talk about an entitled bunch). But despite the comedy of errors, we managed to get ourselves there and back in one piece. We didn’t take many photos, but here’s a small set.

Since this was the 2014 maiden voyage, and since we had recently been away, we decided to leave after school on Friday. We arrived to find the upper (east) campground still closed and had to settle for the lower (west) campground. A few loops through, we settled on a spot that was fetching the most sun and was reasonably close to the bathrooms. The set-up went well, all the systems seemed to work, and the girls were off and playing in the underbrush. Once we got settled, we bushwhacked up to the upper campground where the playground was so that the girls could play. The sun felt wonderful and the girls ditched their shoes and coats. We conversed with the retired boilermaker who had set up his escape pod nearby for a bit and then headed back for dinner.

Michelle was undaunted by the “first trip” mentality and made some incredible french dip sandwiches with broccoli. Following that, we played some Uno, lit a fire, and roasted some s’mores. We used some apple wood that Doug had brought. It was so dense that the hatchet was ineffective at splitting it. So we ended up relying on kindling and the dryness of the wood to get the fire going. As the sun set and stars rose, we savored the incredible night sky.

Day two was slightly overcast, but after a great breakfast, we packed up the van and headed to Vernonia Pond (lake) to try some fishing. We didn’t have any luck, but that makes some sense since the lake wasn’t going to be stocked for another week. We did see a muskrat or otter frolicking in the lake, and when Ella and I were looking at the Nehalem River, a deer swam by. Right down the stream, as if it was just out for a walk.

Fishing was a bust, so Michelle left me to try for some steelhead and she took the girls to the playground in town. I continued to have no luck but managed to snap myself in the crotch with a lead weight when the line broke after getting snagged. Barley’s luck was about the same. He someone managed to get a lure stuck in his leg. Michelle initially thought it was just a piece of foil, but ended up taking him to the local vet, who got some needle nose pliers from a neighbor to remove the hook. He gave us back the lure in a small vet med bottle. We picked up a maul (wood splitter) in Vernonia, which allowed for much easier campfire building later.

The rest of the day was foggy, and we played some frisbee, read, and prepped for a dutch oven beef stew. The stew was on the fire for quite some time and turned out amazing. The girls were only so-so on it, but were glad to use the remaining coals to roast mallows again before bedding down.

During the night, the propane in tank 1 ran out so the furnace stopped working. I went out to try and fix it in the rain and intense mist and discovered that the acme connection would leak when the hose was bent to reach the second tank. So, no more furnace that night. I could have used one as cold water was running off the camper and down my back.

The next morning we risked explosion to hook up the gas for breakfast and hot water. The girls both skipped on the monte cristos and opted for french toast, which I hope doesn’t mean the end of that wonderful, delicious tradition. Soon though, time was up and we packed the now soaking camper back up, drove home, fought with new seasons shoppers to get in to our driveway (I’m getting pretty good at backing in to the garage now) and set up the camper in the garage with the fans and heater on. It took about 2 days to get completely dry.

The benefit of the first trip, besides the fun? Discovering all the little things that need fixed. The drain fitting has cracked, the acme hose for the gas leaks from the crimp, the step still needs a rivet, and so on. Now to make those repairs and plan for the next trip.

I’m incredibly proud of my family for getting out during February and hope we’ll keep it up throughout the season.