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  • Writer's pictureMax S

Heading for the high desert

truck in forest with awning and tent out
Camp 3 of the whole trip. I woke up to frost covering everything. Still too cold for me, so I moved on.

That morning I woke up to a light rain on the tent. I got out, made a quick Nutella sandwich and coffee for breakfast and started heading toward the coast. I didn't have much of a plan in terms of how I was going to drive through the US. I started making my way down the coast in the now pouring rain, stopping at a few beaches along the way here and there. In the beginning of the trip I was determined not to buy SIM cards and just pick up information whenever I stopped somewhere with free Wi-Fi. At some point I pulled into a plaza with some fast food shops and parked out front. I connected to the internet and pulled up Windy, a great and free weather app. It showed that for the next few days and possibly weeks there would be a constant weather system coming in from the Pacific, meaning it would be raining along the coast pretty consistently. I looked for some options and decided to head inland through central and southern Oregon. I drove around the outskirts of Portland and found myself near the base of Mount Hood. It was late and getting dark at this point so I started to look for somewhere to camp.

Most of the area around the base of Mount Hood is gated off, so by the time I found a forest service road that was open it was pitch black outside and the rain was coming down hard. There were a few established free camp spots along the road that I kept in mind as I was zig-zagging up the switch backs. At the top I found a Ford Ranger with what I guessed was someone camping in it. I turned around and headed back down to one of the initial campsites. I got out in the rain and set up the awning quickly so I could make dinner. I was starving, I was trying to cover as much distance in that first week as I could within reason. I have this little rollout/foldout aluminum table that I use for cooking or editing. I got my stove setup and made some macaroni and beef with peppers and onions. I'm not much of a cook so for me this is gourmet. If you watched the first video in my series on this trip you can see how hard it was raining. After I ate I packed up and got in the tent to watch some movies I had downloaded and to read.

I hadn't put the awning away and for a while I was worried about it, the sound of the wind coming down the mountain sounded like a fully loaded truck barreling down the highway towards me. Luckily that camp spot was cut out of the tall pines and relatively sheltered from the wind. The awning was also staked into the ground, I eventually fell asleep without putting it away. In the morning I woke up around dawn feeling pretty cold. I listed the gear I keep in the tent under the truck build section on this website, but it maxes out in comfort just below 0 degrees Celsius. When I opened the tent I was surprised to see large wet snow flakes coming down. It was late October but it still felt early for snow. I made a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, and homemade hash browns. I left the trails and shortly got to the official base of Mount Hood, where you can take the road up the mountain if you wish. There was a decent layer of snow covering everything already and it was fairly slippery with that thick layer of wet slush that likes to pull the steering wheel from your hands when you leave the tracks of exposed pavement.

I drove down the east side of the mountain, it's a pretty substantial descent, and when I got to the bottom I was surprised to see the topography start to change in front of my eyes. The pine trees are still there but there are vast plains of shrubs and dry brush. I ended up driving sort of east of Bend, Oregon. I stopped to grab a few things at the dollar store before finding camp. I guess after growing up in Canada where there's a sales tax in every province, I was just a little surprised when the cashier told me it was going to be $8.00. I had 8 items at a dollar each, no tax. It's the little things you seem to remember the most. I found some trails pretty quickly and had a nice time driving through this dry, rocky environment. There was an old and small volcano that was fully overgrown but it left the ground covered in the porous rock. Eventually I found an opening in the trees at what seemed to be the end of the trail. It was nice to get to a spot when it was still light out. I had also stopped and bought some Oregon domestic craft beer. I had a few drinks and got out the Count of Monty Cristo, my favorite book of all time, and read until it was time to go to bed.

Truck parked in forest
This was the campsite for night #3

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