We could feel the daylight burning before the sun rose. We ate a quick breakfast and finished loading the camping gear into the back of our SUV. As we bid farewell to showers, cable, and central air conditioning, we embarked on our trip.
Our dogs, cramped in the back, noisily proclaimed their excitement as we drove to Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We were greeted by Mt. Adams, sporadically peeking out from behind the trees as we inched to our campsite. When we arrived, and squirmed out of the car, my toes and feet were sharply awakened. We stumbled through the beautiful campsite before setting up camp and preparing dinner. We passed through the threshold of our tent and fell asleep peering out of the mesh ceiling unto the stars.
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It was far too early. The air might as well have been an arctic breeze to my sleeping face. The cozy and warm sleeping bag made the chilly dew on the walls of the tent feel like a glacier had crashed into my skin. As we piled out of our tent, dogs and all, we made our way to the pit toilets. They were fairly clean, but it doesn't matter how much pine-sol you clean a pit toilet with, it will remain foul.
Nonetheless, our day had begun, and we were off to the lava tubes. We followed uneven and overgrown roads, and could see places where the ground had collapsed into the lava tubes. Giant boulders covered in moss and fallen trees filled what were once underground pathways all over the forest. We found a lightly traveled trail and marched through, delightfully surprised of the crater we soon encountered.
We looked down into the gaping crevice that lay before us. Any sign that it had been a tunnel at some point had been covered with trees, bushes, rocks, and moss. It wasn't until we continued our hike that we found a lava tube with outlets into other craters. We climbed down into the dark, damp, and slightly smelly cavern and looked up. We could see the separate layers of rock that had shaped the walls of the tube and the pockets of air that looked as though they could throw another layer of rubble on top of us.
After we admired the impressive structures we returned to camp for lunch and s'mores. I have never attended a camping trip without s'mores; a trip without s'mores is not worth having. The night sky washed over us as the daylight escaped through every nook and cranny of the forest. It revealed a black canvas that had been assaulted with glitter glue. We didn't need to be astronomers to admire the great and mysterious stars that hung like holiday lights above us.
We trudged off to bed, knowing that the next morning would bring packing and saying goodbye to the Atkisson Sno-Park (our campsite). The crickets serenaded us to sleep in the peaceful outdoors, and our dogs piled on top of my feet; the dogs would have to leave gallivanting in the woods to return home to a well-deserved bath.
I woke up to birds chirping and happy dogs licking my face. I was trapped in the cocoon of my sleeping bag and they held me hostage until I was appropriately “washed”. Breakfast was simple and breakdown was easy. My parents and I loaded the car with our dogs and gear and journeyed back to the city.
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