The perfect camping spot
Our first night officially camping. That is where this photo came from, but how did we get here?
The road trip had started two days before in Snowmass Village, Colorado. From there we had driven 10 hours to Jackson, Wyoming where we slept in the car in a shopping center parking lot. It wasn’t the best night of sleep, but it got the job done. We spent Sunday driving through the Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks, then Gustavo made the decision to drive through the night, we stopped somewhere in Western Idaho to get a few hours before heading further west into Washington State.
We joked that we would never actually camp this whole trip. However, neither one of us minded we knew going in what we would be getting ourselves into. I do remember getting pretty upset when Gustavo decided he wanted us to drive through the night. We had been up for 15 hours and most of the day had been driving. We tried to stick to hourly shifts. I was exhausted and hungry, a very bad combination. I drove two hours after the sun had set and I wasn’t sure how I managed to keep my head from drooping forward and my eyes falling shut. Once we switched, me in the passenger seat drawing my knees up to my chest, Gustavo in the driver’s seat adjusting the mirrors I brought up the idea of food.
“So, when are we going to stop to eat?” My stomach was practically burning with hunger, my arms felt shaky, and I vaguely remember Gustavo promising me a burger and fries earlier in the day.
“We have some food in the car. I figured we would keep driving so we can get to Western Washington by tomorrow night.”
I groaned. This was the only part of the trip I was not prepared for…a lack of food and small often scarce meals. Now, maybe you’re thinking well why didn’t you just eat out whenever you could? That would be the dream, but doing so would have gotten very expensive in the six weeks we were on the road. We typically made our own meals on the small camp stove. However, we had not unpacked it from its place in the blue bin in the trunk. We also had nowhere to really stop and do this. During later trips I would become an expert at setting our mini kitchen up and making us something to eat anywhere, food is essential. I was not yet that expert.
“Gustavo, I HAVE to eat. I’ll literally pass out if I don’t” Always the dramatic one I figured playing the passing out card would get me a quick stop at a roadside McDonald’s. No such luck he did not want to stop.
“Tava, there are a few cans of soup in the back if you’re really hungry you can eat one of those.”
He was right we had two cans of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup that we had brought from his apartment in Colorado. Beggars can’t be choosers. We had already started driving, so I crawled clumsily from the front to the back seat, rifled around in one of the many bags back there, grabbed my goods, and made my way back to the front seat. Thankfully, this can did not need a can opener otherwise Gustavo’s head may have aided in operation: open my dinner.
Without a word I opened the can and drank its entirety stone cold. It was the best thing I had tasted all day! I wiped my mouth with a paper towel, stuffed it in the can and placed it on the side of my door. Then I curled up under my blanket and reclined the seat.
“Better now?” Gustavo asked. And even though I was still a little frustrated with him for denying me a proper dinner I had to admit that the soup served its purpose. I was satisfied…for now.
“Yeah, much better.”
“Try to get some sleep, I’ll wake you when it’s your turn.”
I drifted into a deep sleep listening to the rain patter the windshield and Sam Smith croon softly from Gustavo’s portable speaker.
Next thing I knew it was 4:00 A.M. The car was stopped at a rest stop and I had to pee so bad.
“I figured we could rest here for a little, we are almost in Washington.” Gustavo had driven five hours.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Because you looked so cozy, I couldn’t find it in me to wake you up.”
I rolled my eyes, but this would become a pattern we would both soon be guilty of, being too nice to wake the other person even when the driver would be fiercely fighting exhaustion. We spent the next few hours sleeping in the car yet again, somewhere along a highway in Idaho.
Once the light woke us up we continued driving. We drove for the rest of the day stopping to take pictures now and then of cool scenery. Did you know Washington has a desert? I had expected the typical Pacific Northwest, but instead, we encountered flat lands, large canyons, and plateaus that went on for miles. We reached the mountains during the later afternoon and continued driving.
Our destination was Big Four Ice Cave in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. I had seen pictures on Instagram and knew we had to go here. We arrived in the forest just as the sun was setting. We had traveled through a sketchy looking town and then immediately lost our cell service. We couldn’t look anything up so we would have to go on faith. As we traveled along the road that led to the ice cave trail head we saw quite a few families camped in the forest along the side of the road. We spent a great deal of time deciding where we would set up our campsite. After doubling back a few times we picked a spot that sloped down from the road, was shielded by large pine trees, and was close to the river. It was our first time getting everything set up, so it took us a bit longer than we thought. It was dark when we were finished. I turned on the lantern and placed it in the tent. We ate apples and left over Subway sandwiches that we had picked up in a town called Cashmere. Then with not much else to do we locked the car, and climbed into our little two person tent.
Once I laid down, my stomach erupted in butterflies. We were actually doing this. Tonight was our first night sleeping on a forest floor. Tomorrow we would hike to the cave, and then move on towards Seattle. I grabbed Gustavo’s hand and squeezed it, he was smiling and I could tell he was just as excited as I was. I flicked off the lantern and we settled into the darkness. The trees were rustling in the light wind, the river was rushing to our right, and owls could be heard as they came out for their nightly hunt. It was only 9 P.M.
A little after midnight the rain began. Gustavo shook me awake.
“Tava, the tents going to get wet, we have to cover it with the tarp.”
I remember groggily sliding out of my sleeping back, slipping on my shoes and joining Gustavo outside. We both couldn’t see a thing without our contacts in. The tent was glowing like an orb with the lantern. We each grabbed a side of the blue tarp and draped it over the tent. In less than five minutes we were crawling back inside and wrapping our cold bodies up in our sleeping bags. We wouldn't be getting soaked tonight.
4 A.M. came and Gustavo was wide awake with excitement. I tried to coax him back to sleep, but he desperately wanted to start the day. I roused myself the best I could, not being the best morning person I’d say I did a pretty good job.
When we emerged from the tent our mouths dropped open. We felt like we were in our own fairytale. Anyone who knows us well knows how much we love foggy mornings, and this was the ultimate. The fog hung low in the air. It moved through the pine trees and shrouded our campsite. It smelled like rain, and everything was an eerie green. Before breaking anything down we got pictures. The image that Gustavo took is one of my most favorite, because of how it makes me feel. Every time I look at it I am transported back to that moment in time. A time when we were just starting out, charting new territory and learning all about what it takes to live life one day at a time. I know I walked around that whole day with a perpetual smile. Here we were in the Pacific Northwest finally seeing and experiencing the things we had dreamed about for so long. There’s no better feeling in the world.