Wednesday, August 8, 2012

4th Annual Lake Roosevelt Camping Trip

This year was the Fourth Annual Lake Roosevelt Camping Trip with our friends from Bellingham. Each summer we compare calendars, pick a weekend, and pack our bags for a weekend of fun in the sun.

Each year the cast changes, but the core group is Mark Bailey, Mark Thayer, Amy Berdan (currently known as Mrs. Thayer!), Joel and me. The game plan is the same every year, Thayer and Amy drive down from Bellingham, meet up with Bailey and the Odells, and we all head east together. We drive to Quincy where we stop at Thayer's parent's house where we pick up the boat. Most years it is past midnight by the time we reach Quincy, so we usually stay the night. After a wonderful breakfast served by Thayer's mom, we continue our journey to Canyon Creek State Park. This is where we unload all the gear into the boat, and take off down the river looking for the perfect beach to set up camp. The south side of the river is public beach, so you can set up camp any place your heart desires. We have two spots that are quickly becoming a favorite.

This year the start of our trip went a bit differently. Thayer was hoping to get off work early enough to meet up with us in Woodinville at 4:00pm on Friday. I decided to take the entire day off work so I could pack our bags while Joel worked from home to get in a few extra hours. Right on schedule, Thayer was off work and headed south. After sitting in traffic in Bellingham, Mt. Vernon, Smokey Point, Marysville, Everett and Lynnwood, the drive was taking Thayer longer than planned. The great debate of the night begins here. Our original plan was to pick up the boat and be back on the road to Lake Roosevelt in time to set up camp on the beach before dusk. However, with the traffic delay, we were not sure if this would be possible. Joel, however, was not skeptical. He knew we would make it and encouraged us to believe the same.

Once we combined all our gear into the back of Thayer's new pick up, we set off. After a stop for dinner, Thayer, Bailey, Joel and I were making our way across the state. (Amy had to work, so she and her friend, Mallory, were going to meet up with us later that night.) At some point, we had to pull over the side of the freeway to let Bella, Amy's dog, out to use the bathroom. We believe this is where we picked up the nail; keep this fact in mind. Time files and we arrive in Quincy just as dusk is starting to set in. Our excitement is put on hold when we discover that we don't have the right connection for the lights on the boat trailer. The closest hardware store is closed by this time and the closest 24-hour store that might carry what we need is about an hour and a half away. Any other group might have been defeated to stay the night and wait until morning to solve the problem, but not us. We had MarkGyver. Thayer, with our assistance of course, was able make the cord we needed from two other cords he had on hand. (I bet you weren't expecting me to meet a celebrity in Quincy, Washington, but I did!) After cheers and high fives, we were back on route to being on the beach in no time. However, when Thayer went to install the battery in the boat, we discovered it was deader than a doornail. But MarkGyver doesn't quit. After checking the electrical currents, he discovered that the breaker switch had been thrown and it was a simple fix. This time we didn't wait around to cheer and high-five, we got back on the road. By this time it was dark and we were very behind schedule. Amy and her friend, Mallory, had already reached the lake - that is how behind schedule we were! They left Bellingham after Thayer did, but still beat us to our destination. After many phone calls letting Amy know that we were having trouble with the boat, Amy and Mallory decided to get a hotel room for the night rather than doubling back to Quincy where we were. But now that the boat was in working order, we called Amy to let her know we were on the way.

When we stopped for gas, we noticed the back tire of the pick up was low. We put more air in the tire and get back on the road. With a great sense of accomplishment, we finally pulled up to the boat launch just after midnight. We loaded up the boat with our gear and had pulled the trailer out of the water, when Thayer tried to start up the boat. Nothing. Nothing happened when he turned the key. We are in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in the water, and we had a dead battery. We had come this far, we were not going to be defeated now. We unload enough gear to get to the battery, turned the boat around, and brought the truck back down to the edge of the water. We used the truck to jump the boat battery. Yes, we stretched a jumper cable across the water in the dark to connect two batteries. It was a bit sketchy, but we weren't going to give up now! Great Success. With the boat up and running, we started loading up the boat again. After about five minutes, the boat started to choke and it died before I could get to the throttle. Once again we were sitting ducks. So again, we jumped the boat off the truck battery. This time we let it run for a while and decided we were going to change our plans just a bit. We unloaded everything from the boat planning to take only the necessities. Our tents, clothes, food, and chairs were loaded after we made sure plenty of beer was packed into the boat. At this point in the night, I knew the only thing to do was to crack a beer and cheers to tenacity. We decided to take the battery out of Amy's car and take it with us to the beach, just in case we would need to jump the boat battery again come morning. It was at this point, just after 1:00am, when the Sheriff pulled up. Image what he saw, Thayer in his underpants (he had taken off his jeans when we were jumping the boat batter, because he was standing in between the boat and truck holding the jumper cable up in the air out of the water), pulling the battery out of a car, standing between Amy and Baily. Down at the boat launch is a hug pile of stuff and three more people sitting around trying to hide the fact they are drinking beer. We thought we were toast. No one in their right mind should be launching a boat at 1:00am in complete darkness, but he just cruised on by and let us carry on with our crazy adventure. He probably didn't want anything to do with a bunch of idiots at 1:00am in the morning. Thank you Sheriff, thank you.

After returning all the unnecessary items to the cars, everyone got into the boat and we started out into the pitch black to look for our campsite. With our fingers crossed that the boat wouldn't die again while we were in the middle of the lake, we started down the river. Joel had anticipated such activity and had purchased a bright spot light. We slowly cruised down the river, shining our light onto shore looking for our perfect spot. After about thirty minutes of drinking beers, laughing at our selves, slowly creeping down the river while watching for logs, and shinning our light into the pitch black abyss, we found our beach. I can honestly say I thought setting up a tent in the dark would be much harder but I seemed to get it up alright without help from Joel. He was busy setting up chairs, putting beer in coolers and getting ready to party; he didn't come all this way to go bed. So after making sure everyone had a place to sleep, we sat down and shared some brews. I would guess it was close to 4:00am when we finally called it a night.

I remember thinking to myself as I woke up in the morning, is that the sound of a running boat? Joel and I jumped out of our sleeping bags and the tent to see Thayer sitting in the boat looking surprised. He said it started right up with the first turn of the key. The boys took the boat and went back to the trucks to get the rest of the gear while the girls stayed at the beach to await their return. I eventually become hungry and scavenged a few crackers to tide me over until we could head into town for some breakfast. It was taking the boys a long time to return,we decide the only thing to do while stranded on beach without much food was to drink. Amy, Mallory, and I dragged our chairs down to the waters edge, put our feet in the sand, and drank a few beers while we welcomed the first morning of our vacation. After a few beers the boys were back and we helped unload the rest of the gear.  With everyone in the boat, we went into town to get some much needed breakfast.

We had been to this restaurant before, but this time the waitress had an extra spoonful of attitude in her coffee that morning. It is a small place that is visited by locals, and then us. When we asked for water the waitress said she would only bring us water if we promised to drink the whole cup. She continued to explain how annoying it is when customers ask for water and then don't finish the cup. It means she can't stack the cups when she buses the table. She said she would bring us water, after we promised to drink all the water, and we had to swear that if we didn't finish our water, we would take our cups outside to water the flowers for her. She took a liking to Bailey and brought him a special cup. After breakfast, we made a quick stop at the gas station for more beer, water, and a few other items before we headed back to our beach. Thayer's mom and sister joined us at the lake for an afternoon of sitting in floaties, laughter, and fun.

Joel found a new floaty that he was excited to bring on the trip this year. It is two seats connected in the middle by a cooler for your drinks. The cooler will hold one bag of ice and 14 beers. Perfect for this trip, where no one wants to leave the water to go ashore for a beer run. Once we loaded up the cooler with beer, we all floated out a bit, before looping a rope through each floaty, tying the rope to a big rock and letting it act as an anchor. Doing this allows us to float in comfort without having to fight the current. This is what I wait for all summer long. Sitting in my floaty, nursing a good buzz, and laughing with my friends in the heat of the August sun on the Columbia River.

The next three days were filled with trips into town for breakfast, floating on the river, drinking games, and late nights of drinking. It was a total cheat weekend for me. No diets, no exercising, no nothing. It was hard to take the first bite of a burger, but once I got started, there was no stopping me! I was going to enjoy myself, waist line be damned.

Our journey home consisted of almost losing a few items on the freeway, an extremely flat tire, lots of naps, and water. I took Tuesday off work as well, and I needed the extra day at home to do some laundry, put things away, rest and celebrate my birthday! This camping trip was a great start to celebrating my 28th birthday.

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