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! :)

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:

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 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! :)


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