As I got older, camping was a little less fun and a lot more challenging. Here I am washing my hair with a bucket of water to the side of our camp spot. In those days, Oregon campgrounds had no amenities. No running water, no chopped firewood, no outhouses. We hauled water from a rapidly flowing stream. My father chopped up dead trees. We dug latrines off in the woods. There were no designated camp spots either; we just set up near the lake and not too close to anyone else. For my 16 year old self, it was getting old.
Clearly I was still worried about my appearance, at least enough to wash my hair, despite the fact that no one I knew was around. However, this is some outfit! Cutoff jeans with knee socks with my tank bathing suit and red Keds.
Activities at the lake that used to intrigue me now were bo-r-r-r-ing. The little camp store(really just a person renting rowboats and selling Hershey’s candy bars) lacked interest. I was able to rent a rowboat, row myself out to the middle of the lake, hunker down on the floor of the boat and be alone. As I recall, being alone when I was 16 was preferable to being with my younger siblings.
I longed for easier accommodations. Hotel anyone?
One of the constants of my growing up was tent camping. Here, at age two, I have been bedded down in my own little pup tent, just large enough for a single air mattress, even though I only fill half of it. My parents shared a larger tent for the two of them. In fact, whenever we went camping the kids were in one tent and my parents in another. Eventually the kids were in two tents and my parents were in the station wagon. When we asked them why they preferred the car to a tent, they told us they liked to listen to the car radio!
We had a favorite place to go camping in central Oregon called Three Creek Lake. Today it is easily accessible from the now booming town of Sisters. In the 1950’s Sisters was a small ranching town and the road up to Three Creek was dirt and barely navigable. The ruts were very deep, and my parents had to balance the wheels to the sides of the ruts to drive on the road. To drive in the ruts ensured what they called “bottoming out” which apparently was a very bad idea.
For us kids, the drive was well worth the difficulty. We would watch our parents pitch the tents next to the lake, put on our bathing suits and jump in. Here I am floating on another of those war surplus air mattresses that we had plenty of. The lake was utterly freezing since it was at an altitude of 6550 feet, but we loved it. Only when we were shaking with cold and spouting blue lips did our mother insist we get out. “But Mom, we’re fine!”
My parents moved from the Bronx to Oregon in 1948. My father had failed to make partner in his Wall Street law firm, so he went to work for the District Attorney in Portland. While his first jobs were routine, he joined the legal profession at a good time in the West. Here, unlike the East, there wasn’t a surplus of attorneys.
Being more than short on money, my parents(I was left with my grandparents–hence all those photos of me with them) drove across the country in this car. Again, without funds for hotels, they camped by the side of the car as they went. My mother is sitting with their dog, and I can see a Coleman lantern to her side.
They were astonished on the last leg of the trip to take the Columbia River Gorge Highway which had just been completed before the war by the W.P.A.(government funded public works for the unemployed in the Depression.) It clung to the side of the gorge, winding up and down along the mighty–as yet undammed–Columbia River.
Although Interstate 80 runs along the thrice dammed river now, there are still wonderful remnants of the old highway which give access to the hikes up the gorge. I parked along it often as an adult, setting off on nearly vertical trails to the top. Fortunately, as they say, “it was all downhill from there!”