Suttle Lake, Oregon. Camping Review. Sprinter DIY

We live in the Willamette Valley. The coastal range is to the East and the Cascades to the West. It rains; it is wet. Lichen and fungi are prolific.

CD and I met in the high mountains of Colorado. The high desert is a comfortable climate for us. With that being said, we both enjoy the Willamette Valley. It is not typically until I leave the valley that I realize how much more comfortable I am with brown pine needles than with banana slugs and trees chocked by lichen.

It was CD’s birthday weekend. We had been home from our summer trip for less than a month. Our Oregon to Oregon odometer reading for the summer was 8528 miles and our trip timer reading was 190 hours and 55 minutes. Even with just having returned home, we missed the Sprinter life. The kids and I suggested an overnight camping trip for CD’s birthday. It needed to be a quick 1 night get-away.

We all agreed to drive East towards Sisters. CD had eyed up a few places and chose Suttle Lake mostly because we were short on time. It wasn’t as far as Sisters or Bend but was still on the dry side of the pass. There were several National Forest campgrounds and had easy access from the highway. Although he is not a fisherman, CD was kind enough to suggest that the kids and I bring our fishing poles and try our luck. We were sold.

If you have even driven Highway 20 from I-5 to Sisters, you may remember that there is a tipping point were the lichen stops and the high desert begins. I can’t tell you at exactly which mile marker this happens. This time, I didn’t think much of it until we pulled in to the campground. The ground and the air was dry.

The campgrounds were only a few miles from the highway. We drove through Blue Bay campground. It was nice but we kept going and settled on Link Creek. There were plenty of sites available. We chose a central site so that the kids could fish from the dock and we could see them from the van.
There was a dirt boat launch, fish cleaning stations, and pit toilets. The sites were plenty large and it was generally clean.

It was CD’s birthday so he was calling the shots. CD was happy to sit on the picnic table, strum his guitar, and enjoy the air. The view wasn’t anything spectacular.

Sprinter DIY. #vanlife
Sprinter DIY. #vanlife

I set up the kids fishing poles and started dinner. There were a few boats on the lake. From where we stood, it was shallow and not very inviting for swimming. It may be noted, however, that I was born and raised in Michigan and have high fresh water standards.

In any case, it wasn’t long before we heard a motor revving. Some sort of race boat with two exhaust pipes sticking up launched at the adjacent dock and was driving around the lake. This lake isn’t huge, by the way. The boat would speed around the lake two or three times, then idle for a bit. When it was driving it was so loud that we could barely talk to each other. I am sure other campers were irritated but I was more amazed, interested, and surprised. The whole thing went on for an hour or so and then they loaded the boat on the trailer and drove away.

The second most interesting thing we saw was a good sized cabin cruiser. It was anchored off shore a bit. Again, this is not a huge lake. I assumed they would sleep there but rather than doing so, they pulled into the dock at the campground and slept in a tent.

I guess people really love boating on this lake. Based on our lack of success fishing and the fishing equipment on their boat, it occurred to me that you may need a boat to get to the fish.

Several campers had kayaks pulled up on shore and easily accessed by walking paths from their campsites. This seemed like a nice idea to me.

By the time the kids and I got back, CD was fully immersed in his much anticipated awning experiment. Years ago he made an awning for our minivan. He had been wanting to try it out on the Sprinter. Rain was expected over night and I guess he decided this was his chance.

Here it is. Don’t trip over the guylines. Sprinter DIY. #vanlife
Sprinter DIY. #vanlife

Well, he did it. It was set up and surprisingly solid. I was curious about the sag in the middle but it sounded like he had a plan. The guylines were a bit of a hazard but I was willing to humor him and give the thing a try. It was his birthday after all.

He told me to walk around the van to see how he secured the awning. I really hadn’t thought much about it and wasn’t really that curious but, again, I humored him. This is what I found:

Sprinter DIY. #vanlife

He seemed to know it was ridiculous and not any sort of ground breaking invention. Since we couldn’t open the driver’s side door, it was barely even a short term solution but he was so happy.

HB woke up around dawn. We found a bridge that we had failed to see the night before. There were fish rising and jumping all over the place. We headed over the bridge and ended up on the dock for the larger boat launch. We tried every fishing trick I knew but they just didn’t bite. We watched the sun come up and saw trail runners. We walked some of the trail. It may be worth mentioning that you can see and hear highway 20 while standing on the shore. We didn’t notice this from our campsite.

Shortly after CD and Grace woke up, the skies opened up. The awning held. We ate oatmeal in the van and broke camp.

CD was curious about the Suttle Lake Lodge. It was near Highway 20 and not far off the road. We walked into the main lodge and were greeted by a crowded room of happy lodge guests. There was shelf after shelf of board games. The dining area was community style with big long tables next to sofas and coffee tables. Dogs were welcome and everyone was smiling. Big windows and glass doors offered a lake view. A large patio and lawn were beyond. There were docks with row boats and fishing boats for rent.

I am quite sure that CD didn’t intend to spend time or money here but it was just too tempting. I ordered fresh squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, and an egg sandwich with aged cheddar.

We already had breakfast at camp but the opportunity to drink fresh squeezed juice while playing board games by a hot fire with tons of happy people just seemed like the right thing to do. The kitchen was slow but for good reason. The place was packed and they were obviously making every order one by one. We didn’t mind the wait.

Would I camp at Suttle Lake again? Probably not.

What would I do differently if camped there again? I would walk, boat, or bike to breakfast at the Suttle Lake Lodge. I would spend time playing corn hole and drinking fresh juice. I may consider happy hour at the lodge too. I may consider just staying at the lodge if I need an easy to get to lodging location for a few people that like that kind of thing.

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