Monday, August 08, 2005

mom and dad were right

A camping we will go, a camping we will go, hi ho a dairy oh, a camping we will go …

For the last 15 years my idea of roughing it has been a bad night in a cheap hotel. After spending every summer of my childhood in one kind of camping situation or another I had decided as an adult that I was done. No more sleeping on the ground, no more wondering what would constitute as a bathroom, no more days without the pleasure of a hot shower and a strong cup of coffee in the morning. Boy did I miss it!

The itch to spend the night outside has been growing for the past few years. I even borrowed a friend's tent last year in the hopes that maybe just maybe that would be enough to get me back into the swing of things… unfortunately, the tent, sleeping bag and lantern sat in my garage untouched until last weekend!

Friday night I flew into Seattle, after a trip to Mexico City, prepared to hit the woods. After fighting traffic from the airport (and calling everyone I knew to inform them of my plans, and make sure that there would be a search team should I not return) I met my friend Dave and together we loaded up my “gear” and headed to the Olympic Mountains.

First stop: SEATTLE, WA
We made it to the Ferry in time to catch the 7:30 departure to Bremerton or Bainbridge (not sure which - I was too busy trying to learn how to read a map). Not bad, when you consider my flight did not arrive in Seattle until after 5pm. Once on board the Ferry we dove into these awesome sandwiches which Dave had made. I had no idea that you could purchase lettuce pre-shredded. Too Cool!

The Ferry ride was quick and soon we were headed up the highway toward the Hood Canal Bridge. The original plan was to stay at a camp called Deer Something or Other… but by the time we got to the turn off it was getting late so we decided to implement Plan B. Plan B (which was to stay on the beach) soon turned into Plan C, D, and E as campground after campground greeted us with either a full or closed sign. On our third trip through Squim we gave up and bunked down on a patch of grass at the Rainbow’s End RV Park. Not exactly the “getting close to nature” experience we had planned for but nonetheless it provided us with a enough space to pitch the tent and a great story of how we once slept underneath a Shell sign next to the freeway. Having stayed at a Chevron station once when I was “camping” with my family and our van broke down, I felt that sleeping underneath a gas sign and not actually at the gas station was an improvement.

The next morning we packed up the tent in record time and hit the road. The nice lady at the Rainbow’s End wished us well and encouraged us to visit again the next time we were in Squim. Dave responded politely and let me know that we would not be traveling through Squim again any time soon.

Before heading up to Hurricane Ridge for an easy morning hike, we stopped at Jessie’s Diner for Breakfast. The fact that there were neon beer signs in every window did not sway my decision in any way. Coming from a small town, I love eating where the locals eat. These are the kind of places where people talk to each other between tables and the waitress leaves the coffee pot on your table so that you do not have to wait for a refresher.

Jessie’s special was biscuits with country gravy and sausage and eggs on the side – my favorite! However, being that we would be hiking, I decided to go for the safer scrambled eggs instead. As soon as I opened the menu, I noticed that almost all of items had a red mark next to the names. Usually this would indicate some kind of house special. However, in Jessie’s case this red mark (as defined by the warning label at the bottom of the menu) meant the dish contained eggs which might be undercooked and therefore hazardous to your health. I ordered my eggs cooked hard and continued on with the adventure.

Hurricane Ridge was beautiful! From the top you can see the glaciers on the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Victoria, Canada to the north. Getting to the top is a “easy” 1.8 mile hike up a paved trail. I soon discovered that while I have no trouble on flat surfaces, walking up hill pretty much kicks my butt. Note to self – must work out to build cardio system. Next trip I will be ready!

From Hurricane Ridge the plan was to head to the west side of the Olympics. After looking at the map we determined that it would be best to pick up supplies for dinner in Port Angeles before heading out (there aren’t many towns on the west side.) Like the night before we found ourselves driving from one end of town to the other in a desperate search. Once we decided to give up and head out of town we were rewarded with a Safeway. HURRAY! My old camping instincts kicked in and we purchased tinfoil, salmon, a lemon, an onion and a loaf of sourdough.

Not wanting to again fight the crowds for a camping spot, we chose a “primitive camp” located off of Clear Creek. Perfect. Big trees, the sound of a rambling river, a great spot for the tent and a few logs left from the last campers. SWEEET! We put up the tent and then went for the ritualistic hunt for the perfect marshmallow stick.

The key to a great camping experience is a great camp fire. Fortunately, Dave is a master fire builder and within a matter of minutes he had an awesome fire going, and on one match to boot! Once the first logs had burned down we prepared our tinfoil salmon and placed it near the center of the fire like pros. Our moms would be so proud! The meal was fabulous and the smores that followed were made even better by the wine that accompanied them. Ummm marshmallows and red wine – who knew?

The next day was equally as cool – rainforests, tide pools, crashing waves… and as we headed into Seattle it became clear to me. I like to camp! I like being outdoors, I like cooking on an open fire, I like not having to worry about how I am dressed, I like being on the top of a hill and looking down on world below, I like seeing fuzzy little creatures (not rats) scurrying across the path in front of me, and I like the quiet of not hearing the constant noise of the world. So, I guess this is another one of those instances when my parents were right. Thanks mom and dad for taking me camping when I was a kid. It really is much better then staying in a cheap hotel.

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