Our summer work camping position was at Tollgate Campground in the Mt. Hood National Forrest, Rhododendron, Oregon. We left our spot at the Kilchis River at the end of May, and arrived in Rhododendron around 10:00 PM that night. Since it was dark, and we were unsure if the gate to the campground would be open, we decided to unload the car at a gas station close by so I could drive it up and check it out. The campground was so dark due to the heavy tree cover, you could not see a thing and the headlights didn’t penetrate the woods very far. We decided to stop at the day use parking area just inside the gate, then figure out how to best get into our host site the following morning. It took some careful maneuvering with the bus and trailer, but our site was HUGE and the layout worked nicely for us. We backed the bus in and let the trailer overhang into the forrest, which positioned the bus perfectly to hook up to the water and sewer provided. Our 10×20 canopy was set up in front of the stone fireplace with the door just a few feet from the fire. It turned out to be very beneficial on the few cool and rainy days we had since the fire would heat up the shelter nicely. We also placed the two large picnic tables that were provided inside the canopy end to end which allowed a lot of room for sitting, cooking, and eating.
The campground is bordered by the Zig Zag River on the back side, the roar of the swift water combined with the dense forrest made it nice for drowning out our rather loud girls (most of the time). It is definitely not a “swimming” kind of river, even on the few 90 degree days we had, the water was much too cold for swimming, even for my mountain girls. The tree leaning out toward the river was at a site just across from ours. That was a favorite spot for the girls to play when the site wasn’t occupied by campers.
The stone fireplace at our site was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or C.C.C., as part President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Our campground was built around the same time the Timberline Lodge ski area was built on Mt. Hood. This fireplace became the center of attention for us this summer, since we didn’t have electricity, and didn’t want to use our propane to cook with, outdoor cooking was our go-to option. The meals cooked over this roaring fire, stoked with the dead cedar logs that could be found all around the campground, were the talk of the campground at times. The Dutch Ovens were center stage, while the other side was modified to use the cast iron skillets. I will do several posts later about cooking this summer, it was a dining experience I will repeat as often as possible.
We spent a lot of time cutting wood to use since that was our main method of cooking. Learning to cook over cedar was much different from the hardwoods I had been used to burning back East. Once I got used to it, I could control a fire nicely, but you couldn’t walk away since it burned so fast and didn’t leave a bed of coals. I spent a lot of time relaxing in our hammock between work duties and cooking adventures.
There will be several posts about our adventures this summer, so sit tight and enjoy as we remember living this adventure all over again.
NOTE: Any of our friends we met over the summer while hosting at Tollgate, we are looking for good pictures of the bus in our site. I know many of you took pictures of the bus while you were there, so please share them with us… Thanks