Bike Camping, Battle Ground Lake, 27-28 January 2017

It’s been three months since I camped. Last time it was on Lopez Island as part of my Islands tour. Since then, the weather seemed either too wet, or too cold and snowy to pull off camping. But after all the rain in October and November, and the snow and cold in December and the first half of January, something amazing happened: The weather improved. We got back to a more normal high for January, mid 40’s. And high pressure has been keeping the rain at bay for the most part. Bike camping time.

Originally I had planned on camping on Tuesday and Wednesday with my friend Brad, as it were my days off and the weather was supposed to be okay. But I didn’t feel great Tuesday morning and called it off. It was for the best, as a heavy fog lingered for most of the day, keeping things colder and damper than preferred. Wednesday wasn’t much better.

But Brad told me that our friend James was organizing two nights (two nights!) of bike camping over the weekend, Friday night at Battle Ground Lake, Saturday at Oxbow. And man, I really wanted to go. Yeah, work interfered, but I managed to finagle leaving early (1 pm) on Friday and working Saturday night. So I could go camping at Battle Ground Lake! In the winter! With people!

And man, it was glorious outside when I left work on Friday at 1 pm: brightly sunny, and in the upper 40’s F (about 8 C). I took the MAX light rail to near the airport and got a bit of food. Mount Hood and Saint Helens were beaming, clear as a bell and glistening with snow. Even the slog over the I-205 (Glenn Jackson) Bridge didn’t seem too bad.

Going up via 205 is not my preferred option, but it was the easiest option from work. Plus it’s a bit faster and more direct. The first half through outer Vancouver (Washington) suburbia, then the exurban ruralness. I was unfortunately hitting this all right at rush hour, and most of the exurban roads lack shoulders or bike lanes. Thankfully, things weren’t that bad. I managed to get to the campground at 5:30 pm, right when the last good light of day was waning. I’m glad I got out of work two hours early, as it wouldn’t have been fun to ride out here in the dark.

There were four other folks on the trip, already there: Brad, James, Nate, and Chris. (There were rumors of other folks possibly joining on Saturday night.) They all rode as a group from Portland in the late morning. I quickly set up my tent, made some food, and got in the serious business of hanging out with folks. And I was really glad that it was a social outing with other people, because the nights are still long. There was a classic moment where someone thought it must be past nine, and it was just seven. I’ve been out here solo a couple times in the winter. The first time was more lonely than I hoped (esp. since I was going out with April and she was home), however the second time was much better.

The temperature dropped to around freezing overnight. I was pretty warm in my 32F/0C down bag with vapor barrier liner. I brought along my lightweight bivy sack in case it got really cold, but didn’t need it this time. If it was much colder, I could see using the bivy inside the tent, but I had enough clothes, a good bag, and the vapor barrier liner.

Morning was pretty perfunctory: make coffee and pancakes, pack up. I left a little after 9:30 am. Everyone else was still in camp, but they had a bit more time than I. I had to ride about 25 miles back to home, drop off stuff, shower and change, and get to work by 3 pm! So no lollygagging. I took my preferred “bucolic” way back towards downtown Vancouver and the Interstate (I-5) Bridge, stopping briefly for coffee and then food. The weather was decent again, though cooler (low 40’s) and high clouds diffused the sunlight. I managed to do all I needed, and got to work just a little late. Whew.

Man, bike camping was just what the doctor ordered. It was fun to be outside again overnight, and to hang out with folks. And Battle Ground Lake is one of my favorite close-by camping destinations. I’m glad I managed to make it all work, but it was definitely a rushed trip due to circumstances. I barely took any photos. Next time I go camping, I hope to have a little more breathing room.

And since I successfully got a camping trip in during January, does this mean I’ll be part of the Bike Overnight A Month club? We shall see. I have plans to camp at Stub Stewart in February with folks. And this time, we got cabins, which are so nice for the off season!

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