As we drove away from Celebration Park on Friday morning, S said to me, “I don’t know about you, but that was the best parking lot I ever camped in.” I laughed, as expected, because it was also the first parking lot S had ever camped in.

But then I considered the idea, thinking about all the parking lots I’ve stayed in, from the very first terrifying night in a West Virginia arts center, to Walmarts and Flying Js, a rest stop in Oregon, Cabela in Montana, a Cracker Barrel in Alabama, even the miserable night sitting outside the emergency vet longing for good news about Bartleby. And I had to agree, Celebration Park was the nicest parking lot I’ve camped in.

Parking lot with camper van parked in front of beautiful green hill and cliff. Also a cute Jack Russell terrier in front of the van.
That ridge of rock in the background, the cliff, is where the golden eagles were nesting.
A picnic table on sandy ground with a view of the river and a beautiful desert tree.
The picnic tables next to the parking lot.
Lots of rusty angles on a historic bridge over the Snake River.
Walking over the historic bridge.

But one night in a parking lot was plenty and then it was time to head back into Oregon. S had purchased a book on Oregon’s geology at the fossil beds and was excited to go thunder egg hunting. Thunder eggs, (basically rounded rocks with crystals inside), are the state rock of Oregon. She picked Succor Creek State Natural Area Campground as the place to go to find some. Sounded fine to me.

But I should have made her drive there.

Well, or maybe not. It might have made me incredibly nervous to have my home in someone else’s hands as we made our way down bumpy dirt roads for what felt like hours. Even more incredibly nervous than I was with my home in my own hands! The three hours that I drove on Friday morning were exhausting. At one point, we hit a deep spot in the road, filled with water, ridged on either side, with deep tracks from other vehicles, and if it hadn’t meant I’d have to drive ten miles back over the same roads, I might have just said no. Instead, we kept going.

It was totally worth it.

Campground view -- a long dirt road with a tiny van at the end of it, green trees, canyon walls on either side.
The view of the campground.

At the end of 15 miles of dirt road (predicted by Siri to take an hour of driving time), we reached an almost empty campground. We found a great spot, backing on a beautiful creek, and spent the afternoon there, enjoying the sunshine, warmth, and feeling of spring in the air, as the campground slowly filled up with people.

The slowly filling up with people part was a little surprising — this campground was remote! — but it was a beautiful Friday in spring, so it probably shouldn’t have been. I was glad we’d gotten there early, though, because we’d gotten a nice spot with enough room for S to comfortably set up her tent and we also had the fun of having the area to ourselves for a while.

We walked the dogs and then S climbed the hills and hunted for rocks. I started up the hill, but as I clambered over the rocks, I couldn’t help thinking that the rocks were a perfect place for rattlesnakes. And that if I was a rattlesnake on a sunny warm day in spring, with temperatures reaching the 80s, I would probably be out sunning myself on the rocks. And that as a human being, I could keep a careful eye out for snakes, but that the darling dog trailing along with me would probably not understand that a snake was dangerous. And that if I was bitten by a snake, approximately ninety minutes away from any medical care, I’d have a chance of surviving, but that a 16-pound dog would probably not last long enough to get to the emergency vet.

As a result, instead of searching the hills for interesting rocks, Z and I retreated to the comfort of the grassy creekside and I read a book. Honestly, it was really lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, so maybe I let anxiety win, but on the other hand, maybe I kept my dog safe and happy and didn’t miss anything much. It wasn’t like I’d be willing to load up Serenity with rocks, even if I found the coolest rocks ever.

Dog in grass
Happy Zelda, sitting in the grass under the tree.

That night, we finally did something I’d been yearning to do ever since I got the idea: we built a fire and barbecued Easter peeps. They were as delicious as I’d imagined they would be — crispy carmelized sugar on the outside, melty marshmallow on the inside. If you ever try it, be aware that the sugar gets really, really hot — much hotter than the marshmallow. S got to discover the effectiveness of lavender essential oil for burns but her burn was still bad enough to blister. But I think she’d agree that it was worth it!

Barbecued peep with S in the background eating another
A barbecued Easter peep.