I skipped out of work early on Friday afternoon excited about the first 70 degree day since endless winter started last December. The drive over Santiam Pass was beautiful and uneventful, and 5 months worth of snow was rapidly melting on either side of the highway. After a GPS snafu, a scary drive on a roller coaster road, and a complete lack of cell service making me lose my daughter (she was ahead of me in her truck), we arrived at the park.
It was just as beautiful as I’d hoped!
I got the motorhome settled into site B37, which we noticed was a little soggy, but that wasn’t important with the amazing weather. We were running to Salem, so I made a mental note to pick up a tarp and figured that would take care of mud near the door.
Saturday morning we had our usual camping feast of coffee and breakfast burritos, dressed in layers against the chilly, damp morning, and drove to the lodge. While we didn’t plan to hike the entire Trail of Ten Falls, we wanted to see at least a couple of them. We walked to the South Falls and then continued to the Lower South Falls. After that it was back to the lodge for people watching, free wifi, and coffee. They also have a cafe with snacks, quick meals, and a variety of beer both bottled and on tap. There are many tables to choose from including ones set up for kids with fun things like Lincoln Logs.
We left the day use area and decided that instead of going back to the campsite, we would go to another part of the park and pick up the falls trail again. We walked first to the North Falls, and then backtracked and picked up the trail to the Upper North Falls. Maybe next year I will be able to see the 6 falls that I missed. We made another stop at the lodge to use the wifi again so I could figure out when my husband would arrive.
We got back to the campsite just in time for the rain. It rained off and on the rest of the day. My husband showed up with a surprise – my oldest son and my grandson. We explored the campground a bit until a huge mud hole on the nature trail turned us back. We had a campfire, Then we settled in with a movie. Do you know how small a 24′ motorhome becomes with 2 extra people? Really, really small. Trust me on that one.
Sunday morning it was raining again, and we had to do something to make a dryish outside area, because several of my inlaws were coming to visit for a few hours. We put out the big patio mat, which didn’t really keep the mud away. We set up the EZup canopy and it’s sidewalls over the picnic table, put out the awning, and hoped for the best. We had an enjoyable visit even though it was really wet, really cold, and really muddy. After the inlaws left, I took my son and grandson to the South Falls, but it was a quick visit. We put away all the super soggy outside stuff, and thanks to the weather we were all in bed by 8pm.
It poured all night. I don’t think it stopped for even a minute. Not one.
The forecast had changed to snow in the mountains on the same beautiful pass I’d crossed just 3 days before. My husband, son, and grandson left early with a promise to let me know how the roads were. I finished packing up and drove to the day use are to use the the wifi and check pass cameras. It wasn’t good. I drove out of the park toward the nearest town to get a real cell signal. It still wasn’t good. I had to make a decision. I could bite the bullet and drive over the pass while it was still supposed to be above freezing and before the next phase of the storm moved in, or I could drive all the way up to Portland and go over slightly less snowy Mt. Hood.
I chose to brave Santiam Pass. It downpour for the first hour, and I watched the tempurature drop from 51 degrees to 35 degrees. Just past Marion Forks, the rain turned to snow. Gradually the side of the road were coved in a layer of slush, and then I passed a pickup buried in the snow on the side of the road. I just kept talking to Blitzen to keep myself as calm as possible. Then the scariest thing possible happened. I hit a patch of ice going 35ish miles per hour up a mountain while driving a really freaking heavy vehicle. I skidded for a second (or it might have been an hour or even a lifetime or a million years, I don’t know), and then I hit just wet pavement again. I think my heart almost exploded, and Blitzen and I both lost a life or two. A few minutes later I crested the pass and started downhill. The snow turned to rain, and I pulled off at a viewpoint to peel my fingers from the steering wheel and breathe again.
I was okay.
New rule: I will never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever schedule a camping trip on the other side of the Cascades before Memorial Day weekend. Ever.