Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mt Rainier at Sunrise - White River Campground

If we can call anything as perfect camping, it was our camping at White River Campground, right at the foothills of Mt. Rainier. The perfect site, perfect timing for everything, and perfect relaxation.

We knew that the camp is first-cum-first basis, so we left early in the morning and beat the traffic on the freeway and reached the camp at 8:00 am. At the entrance we found the CAMP FULL board. Soon our friends also joined us. Considering that there is no network available, we had decided to meet at the entrance. It was after 30 minutes that we observed that few people were vacating their sites. So we kept looping in Loop D, right next to White River and successfully found a good site.






Bugs
We had read that there were lot of bugs, so we carried our bug repellant. We reached there but did not really feel the need of using the repellant though there were some bugs around.

Restrooms
There were flush toilets there, pretty clean. Of course at night you need to carry your flashlight or lantern to the restrooms. Tap water was very cold in the morning but few minutes under that water and you will not feel that cold!

Activities

Ranger program
This was interesting part of the campground.
They have ranger program for kids to help them understand the wilderness. In the evening they had a one hour presentation about the geology of the Cascades by a geologist.


Hike to Frozen Lake
We had our breakfast and then left for Sunrise point, hiked on Frozen Lake trail and returned by the Wonderland Trail. It was an amazing 2.4 miles hike, took us 2.5 hours. We returned to our camp and had lunch. Since we knew that we will be spending time on the hike, we had prepared food from home so we just warmed it  up and ate.

Some of the hike trail photos to Frozen Lake.



Mt. Rainier visible from everywhere on the trail

Beautiful valleys everywhere

Dusty trail, supposedly the most steep part

Mt. Rainier, we are getting close and below Wonderland Trail

Shadow Lake from above

Trail gets rocky and there at a distance is Frozen Lake

Mt. Rainier, sky and above, if that is not heaven!

Frozen Lake


After a short siesta, we went on the Wonderland trail and took some photos at the White River. The river had strong currents and Mt. Rainier treated us with fantastic view.
Conifers

White River

Bridge on the wonderland Trail

Mt. Rainier right before the sun was moving behind the hill

Sun-rays from behind the hill in the evening

Majestic at all times!

We tried firing up the coal without the lighter fuel with the help of just papers acting as wick and were glad that it worked. So our grilled food had a great flavour from just the coal and no lighter fuel smell. The camp fire was also fun and enjoyed it till nearly midnight. We even enjoyed the Supermoon and caught a meteor or a shooting star too!

Mt. Rainier at Sunrise
Next day morning woke up early to catch Mt. Rainier in its best colour! :) We were in no mood to travel again to Sunrise Point so stationed ourselves with our tripod in the middle of the white river next to our camp.
Well, even the photos do not do justice to what we witnessed that morning! It was breathtaking and we were awestruck!

Gradually changing from white

Slight hue of orange

Orange peak of Mt. Rainier

View from White river adjacent to the camp

It lasted like this for some 15 minutes before fading away to snow white again

This view of Mt. Rainier just completed our camping holistically! Nature at its best, we feel lucky to have witnessed this phenomena and hope to come back here again and explore the other trails which must be equally breathtaking!

This trip was a perfect blend of hiking and camping!! Wish to come back soon! :)


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

River Side Camping - Hause Creek Campground

As promised here I am with experiences to share regarding river side camping.

This weekend we went to Hause Creek Campground, very close to Rimrock lake. It is located along the Tieton River and comes under Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington. From Redmond, it took us 3 hours to reach the place. Best is to start early in the morning to beat the traffic. After crossing Snookum Falls viewpoint on 410, the roads were more winding and it became more edge-driving once we entered the Yakima County towards Rimrock Lake. The scenery was so impressive that one can easily get distracted. We kept reminding ourselves to look at the road.

One reminder for those travelling with kids that the roads get too winding at places and causes churning in the stomach leading to nausea and at times puke sessions as well. Hunger, heat and the constant winding can leave even adults nauseated. So take necessary precautions and to drive between 35-45 mph on those roads to have a smooth drive for everyone. It surely may increase your travel time but atleast will reach your destination in better stomach condition.



We finally reached our campground and straightaway headed for our campsite. Funnily in the reservation map, the site was shown behind the restrooms, but the restrooms were like 300 meters away from our site. Guess, it was good we booked despite the site shown behind a restroom.




As soon as we alighted from our car, we were welcomed by a short green snake slithering through the bushes! So this is going to be wildly adventurous camping for us! We surely alerted our son who was careful enough and would inform us where he would go and try to remain in our line of sight always. We surveyed our whole site and were wonderfully surprised to find so close to the Tieton River. Water had strong currents and absolutely cold! 

As we were checking out our site, we found the fire restriction notice on our campsite grill that charcoal grill and campfires are prohibited due to high fire risk!!! OUCH....! Thankfully, we had our propane gas with the stove so quickly changed our menu and form of cooking!! Also, we had brought cooked chicken Biryani in a box for emergency which lasted us for two meals!! Lesson learnt, always have something ready-to-eat in case of unexpected restrictions!




Here is a short video showing our campsite: 

First thing, we finished our lunch and then set up our tent close to the river on a ground with minimal bushes. 


 Adjacent campsites.


Tieton River next to our site.


Panoramic View from our site.


Tall conifers in and surrounding the campground. If you look up, you will feel like they may fall on you!



Coming to the restrooms, they were good and neat flush toilets. But one should remember to get their own hand wash as there is only provision for water which is icy cold! But you do not mind when the toilets are clean and hygienic.

After lunch, we visited the only store around in 6 mile radius, RimRock Grocery for propane gas and some snacks and cooking oil. Next one is at Rimrock Resort along US 12.


After the purchases, we took the road which is an off-shoot from US12 marked as RimRock Recreation Area. There we can find elks and deers walking on the road. We found one elk in the middle of the road looking at us. But by the time we could click a photo, it ran into the woods. It was really exciting for our 4-year old son who has never seen in the middle of the road!! 

The road led us to Peninsula Campground along side Rimrock Lake which is a walk-in campground and had $8 charge. 





It also had an air strip and we found one small plane near the ground and the family set a tent next to their plane!! So, you can come by air as well!!! :)


 Airstrip from the other side of the lake.


Few more photos from the road.





We turned back from here and returned to our camp for dinner. We had the picnic table just next to the river which was so amazing. I remember, how much we search for oceanside view or river view or some water-body view for our dinners while searching in hotels and here we are right in the middle of nature with so much of privacy. It is just us and the sounds and visuals of nature!!! What else can one ask for when on a nature trip!




There I am cooking on the stove frying the hashbrown patties. We came prepared for grilled menu but then everything changed due to fire restrictions. 


It was a bright sunny day and an equally starry night! Although we could not enjoy campfire under the stars but just had fun sitting in our chairs and gazing at stars munching chips.

Next day morning, enjoyed the best cup of coffee ever with the river in front and my novel in hand with no one to disturb!! Only visitors were squirrels and butterflies! So peaceful and refreshing. 

We had great breakfast - eggs, cup noodles, bread-and-cheese, coffee.

All of the items needed only boiled water so managed with the gas again.


Coffee on rocks!!

Mother-son chat session!


There we are enjoying our cup noodles!


The best camping ever. We packed peacefully and then headed home for lunch. 

We are happy that we are able to experience so much wilderness and learning lot of new things of how to manage while in nature, out of our comfort zones. One may think why go through all this when you can stay in a hotel. But for those nature lovers, no hotel stay can beat this experience of camping. It is such an enriching experience for adults as well as for kids. They learn and respect the power of nature early in their life. Also, these outings make us more open to live away from luxuries and help us adjust in most conditions. Broadens up our minds and attitude to a whole new dimension.

Wish everyone gets a chance and experiences nature in close proximity within safety limits!

Have a great week ahead everybody!









Saturday, July 26, 2014

Beach camping at First Beach in La Push

Having experienced a  nice cosy site for camping at San Juan Islands in June, we booked ourselves a campsite at Quileute Oceanside Resort sites at First Beach La Push near Fork, Olympic National Park. We went with a warm and friendly couple who are our good friends.

The weather was bright and sunny so we were excited for a great sunset and sunrise view at the beach!! We were informed that we could check-in anytime after 1 pm. So we stopped at Dungeness Bay to have our breakfast and hike till the beach. With a short stopover at Port Angeles for lunch we left for Lake Crescent and spent an hour there and finally reached First Beach around 2:30 pm.

On arrival 
 
No sooner had we crossed Second beach, there was a dense cloud cover and it was all grey! When we asked at the check-in counter, the lady said that it is always like this at First Beach.....guess no sunset and sunrise how we imagined. Second bummer was when we were told that it is beach campsite so we cannot take the cars till the site. Great, we had to carry all our camping stuff to the site on our shoulders crossing through logs of wood and ground of pebbles!!! So you see, we were little taken aback since we were still expecting it to be something like regular campsites where we take the car till our site. Anyway, we got out of the shock and after scouting we chose a supposedly sweet spot for view, we realised the next hurdle, WIND!!! It was so windy that if your jackets are not zipped, they will look like wings alongside your body and if your hair is let loose, soon you will look like someone who got an electric shock!!

After we had shipped most of our stuff to the site, we chose the location to hoist our tent. The pebble-ground actually was easier to nail the stakes and the big pebbles acted as good support over them. But the tent took us 45 minutes to install which would have taken us just 10 minutes, thanks to the WIND!! Successfully we put out the tent and gradually set things inside to make it cosy incase anyone wished to relax. This is how our site looked after we inhabited the place!! :)

View of the other campsites and the beach from our site.

 
Our son was very excited with the pebbles, then sand and ooooh, cold water! :)


Only bit of sunlight we saw for 10 minutes in the evening during our whole stay.



 Settlers having their grub! :)


Restrooms
There were the huneybuckets installed near the RV sites behind the beach camps and the flush toilets were some 300 meters away from the beach camps. So it used to be an ordeal reaching there walking through the pebbles. We all had a nice acupressure therapy thanks to the pebbles! :) All our acupressure points in our feet surely got activated!! Coming to the restrooms, the flush toilets had warm water which was a saver. There were coin-operated showers too, but we did not use them.

Fuel and fire

We had bought Sterno starter fuel and in a hurry did not read that it was a gel and not in liquid form. It would have been great had it not been so windy that the gel hardly could sustain any heat to burn the charcoal. So we purchased the Duraflame charcoal liquid firestarter from the only store on the site, Lonesome Creek. It was stocked with all the essentials for fire and snacks.

Gel-based                                                                     Liquid form

It was our first time starting our own grill and campfire so quite an experience. Learnt lot of things and remembered many of the science lessons during childhood. 
Charcoal having a higher calorific value(the amount of heat released during combustion of a specific amount) and being compact than wood, really is great for grills. We did not use pure charcoal, instead we used charcoal briquettes, which are composition of
  • Wood charcoal (fuel)
  • Mineral char (fuel)
  • Mineral carbon (fuel)
  • Limestone (ash colourant)
  • Starch (binder)
  • Borax (release agent)
  • Sodium nitrate (accelerant)
  • Sawdust
  • Wax (some brands: binder, accelerant, ignition facilitator).
  • Chaff (rice chaff and peanut chaff)
Well, if interested you can always read more using this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briquette

There are lot of debates regarding coal lumps and briquettes, but personally, did not find briquettes that bad and surely added a nice taste to the food! Here is one interesting opinion on this http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/24/186434261/the-great-charcoal-debate-briquettes-vs-lumps and one can google more and finally make their own personal choice.

Anyway, it took 20-25 minutes for the briquettes to acquire the white colour which is an indicator that we can start cooking. Again the wind factor played a big role in controlling the fire and the heat!

Campfire was a different ballgame altogether. We had to shovel around a bit to get a good pit and then arranged the wood, added the lighter fuel and lit it. It was windy so we had to take care of our seating. But it was so enlivening sitting on the beach next to our campfire watching the waves in the Pacific! :) No words can describe what we experienced that night, it was heavenly.
Soon a ranger came and inquired for our fire permit and that is when we realised that we should have taken the fire-permit at the time of check-in. Anyway, the ranger was a nice friendly guy and asked us to pay him the fees of $5 and gave us his name incase anyone comes and inquires. Lesson for next time, always inquire about campfire policy of the campground.

We had dinner alongside the campfire and then made s'mores, our son's favourite. Personally, even I enjoy putting the marshmallows on fire!! My son learnt that it melts when heated! :)

Here we are near our campfire.



Our son with our friends.


Family pose with the campfire!
 
 


Owing to the high-velocity winds, the campfires were not allowed near the tents. There was a designated placed where we could have our campfires. So we had to carry our chairs and food stuff to that place. Basically, if you do not mind all this carrying then you will surely enjoy this beach camping.

Morning walk

While everyone else was sleeping, I woke up in the morning and finished my morning ablutions. No rush near the restrooms as well. Then prepared my coffee and enjoyed the morning view of the waves. We were totally covered with clouds so no chance of any ray of sunlight that time. But it was peaceful with just the sound of the waves. We had early visitors, seagulls who tried searching for some food but we had all packed it and disposed the garbage at night.

After my coffee, picked up my camera and left for morning walk on the beach till the rocks. An amazing 1.5 hours to myself where I had no thoughts except that I was storing everything that I was seeing in my memory for life! It was so beautiful...:)

Here are few of the morning clicks:

Morning coffee and oceanside view!



Place where we had our campfire


Moving away from our tent, faint sunlight at the back!


At night, the tides were high (it was full moon day) and reached till the pebbles and kind of touched that first red tent!



Panoramic view from the rocks on the other end of the beach.
 

Small islands visible at the Second Beach.


Caught a glimpse of these shells and collected colourful pebbles.
 

Back to our tent site!


One can see the darkened pebbles telling us the waters reached this far at night. No wonder the sounded thunderous inside the tent while sleeping! :)

Around 8:30 am we started our breakfast preparations and packed our stuff and loaded the car and checked out by 12 noon.

We halted at Port Angeles for lunch and then headed to Kingston for the ferry and were home by evening.

Few things that we learnt for camping:

a) be as compact as possible if going to a specific campground for the first time.
b) always keep warm clothes a plenty as weather can make a 180 degree turn unexpectedly.
c) things packed in backpacks help the tent-site being less cluttered. We had many small bags which were obviously spread out near the tent.
d) keep phones in airplane mode as anyway the network is not available in the campgrounds. That saves the battery and can be used as a camera if you have one. I use my Lumia 1020 as a camera.
e) include ferry wait-time in the whole trip
f) if it is pure camping that one needs to enjoy then must reach the campsite first, leisurely put up the tent enjoy the grilled food hot and then plan hiking or fishing nearby.
g) if planning to visit other places before reaching the campsite, then best is to carry cooked food so that you do not reach all famished and have no energy to set up your camp.

I am sure more can be added to the list but I will keep it open for readers to extend the list.

Each camping experience is a revelation about nature and its power. This weekend we are trying riverside camping at Hause Creek Campgrounds. I shall soon add a post with new experiences there!

Till then, have a lovely weekend everybody! :)