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
David & Jane
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!
Salmon on the Fire
Northwest Amber Ale