I started my Saturday feeling stressed: so many things to do, so much to organize, gotta get ready to go, go, go… Then I kicked myself and said, “Nope. Not doing this that way.” S and I were heading off on our Idaho adventure that night, but this vacation is not a scheduled, structured, must-do plan. There is no agenda, no planes to miss or clock to punch. This vacation is a wander-around, have-fun, enjoy-our-time together ramble. So instead of spending my Saturday feeling stressed, I wrote some words, enjoyed the sunshine, and along the way, baked granola, packed the van up, and got ready to go. A much nicer day, and probably no different in accomplishment but totally different in experience.

When S got home from work at 4:30, I was ready to go and by a little after 5, we were on the road. A winding drive along the coast and through the redwoods as the sun went down led to Panther Flat Campground, in the Smith River National Recreation Area. $15 for a nice-sized site, reasonable bathrooms (although I didn’t check out the showers), easily accessible water, and plenty of trash and recycling bins. I made blueberry pancakes for dinner, and it was so nice that Suzanne didn’t set up her tent, just set out her camping pad and sleeping bag and slept under the trees. As I went to sleep in the van, I thought, “I should really sleep outside sometime.” At about 2AM, I was awake, so I opened the windows and admired the distant stars — very bright but very hidden behind the redwoods — until I got chilled and thought how nice it was to have a heated, comfy van to stay in. I am probably not going to start sleeping outside any time soon.

Panther Flat is going to be one of those parks that I have no clear memory of. It was too much like too many other parks. Trees, campsites, a picnic table. At ground-level, it was pretty generic. Until you looked up. The trees went on forever. And I have a picture to post, but alas, the internet is so slow that I’m giving up. Someday maybe I’ll come back to this post and update it with pictures. But California trees grow big!

Sunday morning, we headed out early. The bad news about getting on the road by 8 on a Sunday morning is that the fun places to stop are basically closed. The good news is that you make progress toward your destination. But we stopped at a Fred Meyers in Grant’s Pass and picked up some groceries, including some sushi for lunch. Yep, sushi camping.

Around noon, S thought one of her dogs might be indicating a need for a rest break, so we pulled over at the next possible place for a quick dog walk, the Rogue Elk Park and Campground. It charged a $4 day use fee for parking. We had some momentary uncertainty about that — $4 for a quick dog pee? — but I said, eh, let’s just do it, it’s $4. So I paid the money and we drove in and it was such a good call. I don’t know whether the campground would be fun, because it’s right off the road, and there might be road noise all night long, but it’s also right off the river. We walked the dogs along the water, let them get their feet wet, and then ate our sushi lunch at the picnic tables in the sunshine, enjoying the weather and the water view. S liked the weather so much she changed into shorts. I considered that thought momentarily, but then I considered our next destination: Crater Lake. I knew almost nothing about Crater Lake, but my mental images definitely included snow-capped mountains. I did not change into shorts.

We drove to Crater Lake, and S promptly changed clothes again. The snow was so high! The mounds of snow were overhead — six feet? Eight feet? I don’t even know how high, but seriously, tons of snow. She and her dogs played in it for a while — rolling and romping. Z and I admired them from the parking lot, thinking, “Hmm, snow. That’s awfully cold, isn’t it?” (We did walk onto the snow, too, but Z indicated a strong preference for not staying in it and gave no indication that she wanted to play in it.)

After admiring the lake, we continued on. We checked out a campground along the way, but decided to pass on it (it was a parking lot, really, with tent sites) and wound up continuing to LaPine State Park. My first Oregon State Park, and an excellent deal — $29 for a full hook-up, pull-through spot. I dumped the black tanks and refilled the fresh water and settled in.

But wow, it was cold. I made salads for dinner with mixed greens, strawberries, avocado, fig goat cheese, carmelized onions and chicken-apple sausage, plus a fig balsamic vinaigrette, and by the time I finished eating my salad, the last bites of sausage were as cold as if they’d been refrigerated. It was so cold that it really wasn’t fun to sit outside, so we took the dogs for one last walk, and then settled in, S to her tent, me to my van.

In the night, the temps dropped into the 20s. Brrr! Even in the van, it was chilly (not helped by the fact that I forgot that I’d turned the fan on when I was cooking the sausages and it had been pouring my heat out all night long.) But that made for a pleasant cozy morning of coffee and blog-post writing under the covers. I wish the internet was faster, because I really do have some fun pictures to post. But I’m not going to fight with it today, because I have better things to do. We are headed off to Bend, Oregon and a carefully-selected brunch spot, and then after that, the John Day Fossil Beds. Tomorrow, Idaho! But first, I’ve got a dog that wants walking. She doesn’t care that it’s still only 31 degrees outside. Fingers crossed that Idaho is a little warmer!