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  • Writer's pictureashleylodato

Been there, done that

Pandemic stir-crazy and itchy to capture the first camping trip of the season our cancelled spring break plans cheated us out of, my family recently pulled off an overnight at a nearby vista. The "trip" was in many ways so pedestrian that in normal times we simply wouldn't have bothered to undertake it. But as a nod to the 30th night of a life that no longer included school buildings, workplaces, and typical means of socializing, it hit the spot.

We hit the spot after dinner, having elected to bookend the trip between meals so that we could travel without food or kitchen gear. Wearing backpacks that contained sleeping bags, pads, warm clothes, and a container of overcooked (my fault) vegan (the kids' fault) brownies, we hopped on our bikes for the 5-mile trail ride uphill to the overlook we planned to poach for the night.

What started out as a family bike ride quickly became a solitary journey for me, as the weakest link in our family mountain biking chain. I occasionally glimpsed one of my party several switchbacks above me, weaving through the arrowleaf balsamroot that were just beginning to bloom, but mostly I was alone, affording me the freedom to fixate on the discomfort of the backpack pushing my helmet forward and forcing my neck into an unnatural position.

I reached the overlook shortly before sunset and found my family perched on a boulder, already in down jackets, gazing west. We watched the sun set over the Cascades, the final rays turning the distant glaciers gold, then pink, before leaving only the blackened silhouettes of spiky summits.

We slept under the stars, just the way we like it, no tent ceiling impeding our view of the night sky. And even though once I've taken my contacts out for the night the constellations blur into The Big Dipper, and everything else, I still feel a stir of contentment when I wake up in the night and look up from the peephole in my sleeping bag to see the fuzzy pinpricks of light moving through their formations--which I did quite frequently that night, as it was a bit chilly for our 3-season sleeping bags and sleep was fitful.

After sunrise we packed up and biked home for breakfast, a scant 12 hours after we had departed the day before. With no tent, cooking equipment, or food, unpacking from the trip was easy. But when our dew-soaked sleeping bags and ground sheets were hanging from the clothesline, just as they would have been after a longer expedition, they made us look like people who had been somewhere and done something. Which, in many ways, we felt as if we had.

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