Monday, July 21, 2008

Spontaneous Camping Is Endangered

You would have thought that 15 years working around some of the most popular natural attractions on the west coast that I would have learned. To even think that you could leave your house at 2:00pm on a Saturday in mid-July and expect to find a campsite in our near one of our nation’s premier National Parks was foolish.

This is the story that led to our ride on the Mt Rainier Scenic Railroad. I just wanted to be somewhere other than home. We have been home all week. Let’s do something and if done right, it may only cost $15 plus gas.

As we entered Mt. Rainier National Park, we clearly saw the signs that all stated “All Campgrounds full”. Good call on their part; bad on my part, although it was not completely unanticipated. My plan had a back-up. We turned around and headed into the neighboring National Forest. At Big Creek Campground, the gate was partially closed with a sign that read, you guessed it, “Campground Full”.

Eagle Peak at sunset.

Now we were headed east on Skate Creek Road toward Packwood where I would check to see if La Wis Wis Campground shared a similar condition and to a final option at a private campground in the area.

As it turned out, dispersed camping saved my stern once again. Driving along, I noticed an intriguing pull-out that had a van in it, but no tents or sign of an active camp. When I pulled in, I asked the folks if they were camping and I was returned a rather unusual “you are crazy” look and the reply I was hoping for.

Our campsite was beautiful along side the Nisqually River right next to a sign that indicated we were as close to being in the National Park without actually being in it. We had several hundred yards of beach to enjoy, and at one point, I dipped my feet into the river which I am sure was inside the National Park.

Jared, Laurie and Kyle at our campsite next to the Nisqually River.

Now, unlike hundreds of cars that pass by that little nothing pull-out along Skate Creek Road, it now means something to us. We were intimate with another small piece of ground in Western Washington. It was far better than another summer evening spent in front of a television and oh ya, it only cost us gas!

While I was able to make good on one of my freedoms; the ability to leave, relatively unplanned and find a place in the woods where I can set up camp it is rapidly becoming a thing of the past Adjacent to the outdoor recreation-crazy populations of Seattle and Portland, it is tough to do. Reservations for a piece of ground on public lands are becoming widespread and to the determent of those inclined to be spontaneous.
The Nisqually River and Eagle Peak.

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