Off Ramp Camping

On Friday, the fun didn’t end in Vancouver, but continued back across the border as Vinny, Kelly, David and I worked our way through the Cascade Mountains through Stephen’s Pass. The sun was out in full force and with no … Continue reading

The Best Dam Experience

The Best Dam Experience

When I arrived back to Seattle after months away, my calendar was full of fun activities catching up with friends. My friend Kelly organized a camping trip in Eastern Washington where the highlight purpose was running a 5K over Grand … Continue reading

Quinessentially Northwest Camping: Day Three & Four

The second morning went very much like the first; Coffee was first and foremost. The forecast predicted the warmest day of the year, so we thought we should get an early start on our hike. Hiking wasn’t something I was ecstatic about, but I thought since I walk an average of 5 miles a day in the city, I would be well prepared. I was completely wrong. We hiked up to Pyramid lake, which was beautiful, but more strenuous than I was anticipating. At times I wish I would’ve straddled the St. Bernard and had Phoebe take me up the mountain. She seemed to have no problem, even with her saddlebag. I was flying to Boston a couple of days after our trip to be a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding and was overwhelmed with the fear of  mosquito bites, poison ivy, or a twisted ankle.  I promised Alex that I would show up to the wedding in one piece and ready for pictures, and I had every intention on delivering on that promise.  While climbing over rocks and trees, crossing creeks on logs, and dodging a wasp’s nest, I had decided this was my first and last hike.

After we ate lunch at the lake and I was full from my yet another lunch of Italian cured meats, the hike down was really enjoyable, if not fun. We stopped at a creek to refill our water canteens and it was the most delicious things I have ever drank. Glacial water from the Cascades is said to be among the purest water on the continent and it certainly tasted like it. Water bottles filled, we continued down the path until we reached a large berry patch and heard a rustling in the bushes. Joe, Jane, David and I all turned to the right fully expecting to see a deer or two. Twenty feet away from us barreling through the woods (thankfully in the opposite direction) was a large black bear. It doesn’t get more exciting than that for your first hike. By the time we got back down, I understood why so many people love to hike. Although I was miserable at times on the way up, the rush and the sense of accomplishment I felt on the way down was enough to make me do it again. I survived the hike without a scratch, sting, sprain or bear-bite, but had my fair share of mosquito bites. As it turns out, natural bug spray doesn’t work. I’ll take the chemicals next time, thanks.

Drenched in sweat, we headed back to camp to unwind before dinner. One of my favorite things about hiking I decided, was feeling like you deserved all the food and wine in the world. I earned it…right?  For dinner we had: figs and prosciutto, handmade hot dogs from a local Snohomish butcher, Boston baked beans (recipe to follow), peperonata and grilled corn on the cob. The hot dogs were amazing and unlike anything I have had before and believe me, I’ve had my fair share of sausages and hot dogs (including Kobe beef dogs). Our group doesn’t take camp cooking lightly and we won’t starve anytime soon.  I was a tad sad getting into my sleeping bag that night, knowing we had to pack up and drive back the next morning. I wasn’t ready to leave the woods and head back to the city. In the morning while feasting on eggs, bacon and sausage, we started planning our next camping trip. It made it a little easier to leave knowing we would be exploring another part of Washington state soon. I went from camping novice to camping lover really quickly.

We made friends with the Ranger. He was adorable.

Cascade National Forest

David collecting glacial water to drink

Berries for the bear!

Pretending to be happy on the hike up

Actually happy on the hike down

Someone else was exhausted from the hike too

Grilled Corn

Quintessentially Northwest Camping: Day One & Two

David grew up an avid camper/hiker/backpacker and has been complaining talking about how we haven’t done these activities since we moved out here (almost four years ago). The only “camping” I’ve done besides girl scouts was going to my best friends house on Jolly Island in New Hampshire which has no running water. I’ve always enjoyed bathing in the lake and the fancy outhouse, so I’m not a complete amateur; Although they do have electricity and a rustic lake house, but that’s the closest I’ve come to camping until recently.

David mentioned that he wants to take our kids camping in the future so I realized I needed to get my act together if I wanted to be apart of our family activities. Our friends Joe and Jane are very experienced outdoors-people, particularly here in Washington State, so they planned our long weekend away in the woods. On a Thursday afternoon, David and I packed up the car and headed north on the interstate to the North Cascades National Park. As we navigated the backcountry roads under clear blue skies and beautifully warm weather, the soft light bathed the mountains and valleys in a golden hue, which was breathtaking (photographers refer to this as the “golden hour” and it was the best we have ever seen). Razor sharp ridges, snow-capped peaks and the Skagit River, which was a tropical blue color, was all framed by endless Evergreen trees that covered the land like a thick green blanket. We were due to arrive just as the sun was setting and the scenery continued getting prettier the further east we got. We arrived at a campsite just west of Newhalem slightly before dark and found our friends. Jane being the professional camper that she is, helped David set up the tent within five minutes of our arrival. The campfire was already burning, the wine was already breathing and the snacks were already broken into. We chatted, laughed and listened to the nearby creek before climbing into our sleeping bags.

I slept unbelievably well that night with my mattress pad, flannel flat sheet and pillow (I’m a beginner, cut me some slack). Of course listening to trickling water from the creek and the cracking of a campfire made for a very peaceful sleep. David and Joe started brewing coffee using three different methods and contraptions (so Seattle). After breakfast we were joined by Jane’s son and grand-dog (her son’s St. Bernard named Phoebe) as well as Jane’s niece and their longtime friend Rich. Rich is a jack of all trades kind of guy who I nicknamed Renaissance Rich. Rich has worked for over 30 years for Washington State fisheries and the Indian tributes tracking salmon and studying them.

We headed to our put-in spot on the Skagit River to raft for the day. I was told that there were three rapids including a class-3 rapid on our planned section of the river. Bathing suit, life-jacket and my new water shoes were on and I packed enough cold cuts for lunch to last me a couple of days. You never can be too prepared, right? I’ve always wanted to go whitewater rafting and I fell in love with it immediately. I feel like I’ve wasted the past 15 years of my life, but better late than never. Class-4 rapids here I come! This was my first experience around glacial water and I wasn’t expecting the bright teal color; Nor did I think I would see so many salmon, most about 4 feet in length. I walk by whole salmon daily at Pike Place Market, but there was something special about watching the wild ones swim in the river. Rich was pointing out Salmon from 30 feet away and yelling out what type they were. We pulled in and ate lunch on a little beach and finished our rafting trip shortly after that.

On the way to Skagit River


Skagit River

Rich's Raft

David & Jane

Yay Rafting!

Arriving back at camp, Rich got started on dinner. He had brought two huge sides of salmon to grill that was caught the day before. After setting them on the campfire, Rich brought out this two-gallon keg of his homemade Northwest Amber Ale. I was chugging drinking one of the best beers I have ever tasted when Rich mentioned he made the beer with homegrown hops. See where I am going with the Renaissance man thing? Not only was Rich Mr. Northwest, but a wonderful guy and a true joy to be around. David and Jane made Kung-Pao vegetables to eat with the salmon and I quickly ripped opened the s’more fixings for dessert. Four, six, eight, who cares how many of bottles of wine later and we were hunkered down in our sleeping bags getting ready for our hike the following day. I went to bed relaxed and happy thinking that I could really get use to this whole camping thing. Day three and four coming up!

Renaissance Rich

Salmon on the Fire

Northwest Amber Ale