Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tripping to the Oregon Coast

Sadie the Dalmatian thinks
I wimped out on our recent
trip to the Oregon Coast.
Well, here's the true story.
We arrived at Lookout State
Park and selected site C-10
for our tent at 1:41 p.m. on a
Sunday.
I donned my rain jacket and
pants. I wrapped Sadie in her
coat. And we rushed to the
beach.
On the way we passed a
sign that cautioned us about
sneaker waves and high
winds. We crossed the berm
and stepped onto the sand.
The sign was correct. A
gust nearly toppled me.
We turned south, with me
leaning into the wind that
flapped Sadie's ears. She
breathed through her mouth
and squinted. I squinted, too.
Just a few raindrops fell,
however, although heavy
clouds swirled low. I slipped
two camera bodies into plastic
bags so that each lens pro
truded from the opening.
We spent almost two hours
combing the beach and hiking
back through the woods.
As we neared our camp
site, the heavy rain began.
It fell steadily as I pitched
the tent, and Sadie rushed
inside. I huddled beneath the
pickup shell's raised lid to
dine on beans and hot choc
olate.
Darkness fell while I
stowed gear and locked the
truck. I unzipped the tent's
vestibule and backed inside.
I zipped the vestibule and
sat with my legs through the
tent's door. I undressed by the
soft illumination from an LED
headlamp.
I left boots (with a flashlight
and the truck keys inside) and
rolled up rain gear in the
vestibule.
With some grunting, I
pulled off my pants, rolled
them up and stowed them
behind my clothes-bag pillow.
Then I squeezed into my
share of the sleeping space
beside Sadie, who took up
half of my mattress.
She opened her eyes, but
she didn't raise her head. I
tucked her sleeping bag
around her and wriggled deep
into mine.
I checked the time (5:39
p.m.) and the temperature
(50.8 degrees).
The surf 200 yards away
reminded me of a busy free
way. I opened my book and a
Snickers bar.
I ate the Snickers and
dozed. When my eyes popped
open again, the tent thumped
and wobbled. The nylon walls
fluttered in the LED light.
Rain spritzed against the
rainfly. I lifted a corner of
Sadie's sleeping bag. A curled
front foot covered her nose,
and she opened one eye.
I dropped the bag back over
her, put away my book and
turned off the light. I slept
some, dozed some and
listened to the wind some.
I used the pitstop jug once,
at 11:47 p.m. Brrrr.
Wind and rain buffeted the
tent when I turned on the
headlamp and checked the
time again, at 6:17 a.m.
At 7:38 a.m., I sat up. I
pulled on my pants and boots,
put on rain gear and stumbled
into a 2-inch-deep puddle
around the tent.
I hurried to the toilet, 70
yards away.
Still wearing her coat,
Sadie followed. Wind flapped
her ears as she sniffed among
the weeds.
On the way back, rain, blew
parallel to the ground. It spat
tered my chest and face. It
spotted my glasses.
I put down the ramp, and
hounded Sadie into the truck.
I lit the propane stove and
put the water on. I squirted
olive oil on an English muffin
and put it into the fry pan
with a dozen turkey slices.
I set a jug of grape juice on
the tailgate with the stove, the
pot of water, the fry pan and
the bag of muffins.
A gust crashed into the
truck like a locomotive.
The truck wobbled. The
juice and muffins toppled to
the ground. The pot lid clat
tered into the grass. The fry
pan turned over. And the
stove went out.
I started over and finally
stood with rain pelting my
raincoat and shared breakfast
with Sadie.
I stowed the gear, and we
walked 56 yards to check the
beach: Wind, rain and high
tide. And sneaker waves?
No beach combing. Not yet,
anyway. We drove to the loop
around Cape Meres,
Oceanside and Netarts.
The storm never let up.
Rain slammed through the
window when I stopped to
photograph a flock of white
egrets.
At Cape Meres the wind
blew Sadie's coat up to her
neck twice as we walked to
the lighthouse and to the Oc
topus Tree, a giant Sitka
spruce with several trunks.
Even plastic bags didn't
keep the cameras dry.
We returned to camp at
11:18 a.m. and found one side
of the rainfly snapping like a
flag. Water had blown under
it and onto my mattress.
My sleeping bag remained
dry, and I could wipe up the
water with a towel. Yet, it
didn't seem worth the effort.
I sat in the truck to ponder,
with Sadie watching through
the back window. A weather
report on the radio said we
were having 40 mph winds
with gusts to 60 mph. A new
storm front approached.
I saw Sadie's face in the
mirror.
``Let's go home,'' her ex
pression said. ``Please.''
And 18 minutes later I had
sleeping bags, mattresses and
sopping tent stashed into the
back of the truck, and we
headed home.
And Sadie's smile stretched
from ear to ear.
That's my story, and I'm
sticking to it.