About this time of year, me and some like-minded others start having camping withdrawal. The others would not include the Professors or Lefty, nor, truth be told, my own family. But I ignore them and forge ahead with the stalking of prime spots beginning in October the year BEFORE the summer we want to go. I am mocked in some circles for this anal planning. Til they pull up to the best sites in the place.
We’ve been camping as a family for about 7 years now, starting when the Boy Child was about 3. We’ve gone with the same core group – Frantzes Senior and Junior – with a few stragglers and school families added to the mix from time to time. One of the best things about this continuity and camping with a group is the kid entertainment factor. They pretty much show up when they want food and go about their merry way otherwise, especially now that they are older. Certainly back in the younger days, we paid a bit more attention to their general well-being and safety.
We have a routine within this core group. I pretty much choose sites and dates and nag them until they make reservations. We plan meals as a group – each family signs up for a few meals. Including Happy Hour. That way you aren’t stuck cooking the entire time. Frantz Senior brings his kick-ass grill/stove combo. Frantz-Senior-Wife and The Geek are in charge of dishes – though now the kids are old enough to take that on and perhaps a new system will develop this season.
We eat well. Very, very well. Some hits and/or traditions are corned beef hash, Roanoke Bloody Marys, bacon, blueberry pancakes, Frantz fajitas, anything Frantz Junior makes (including but not limited to Chicago dogs and gumbo, sausage for which he mail orders), flank steak (at least once we will have a “flank off” contest), margaritas, bacon, morning greyhounds and mimosas, and cake. Yes, we make cake in a dutch oven. And fruit crisp.
Each year we return to our favorite places and try a new one. The one must-do trip for the last several years has been Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island. It is quite a production to get there – you MUST get in line for the 10 AM ferry NO later than 9 am and even that is pushing it – last year we were the only ones in our group to make the ferry and the rest didn’t arrive for HOURS. Once safely in line, cocktail hour begins. Smart ferry campers pack the necessary items in an easily accessible place. It makes the time fly by. Some year we are hoping to make it to one of the other San Juan islands, but we missed the prime spot at Moran this year. I also just read about Lakedale Resort and will be checking that out. The Geek’s favorite thing about Lopez – drivers wave at you. Two fingers, off the steering wheel.
Other past favorites being revisited this year are Steamboat Rock State Park and Grayland Beach State Park. We went to Steamboat for the first time last year, in June, thinking it’d be nice there since it’s in eastern Washington. It was, for maybe 6 hours. Poured the rest of the time. We were damp. Very, very damp. The landscape is spectacular though. We’re hoping the weather is better this year. We’ve visited Grayland many times over the years. We reserve all four “walk-in” sites, so we have our own little compound. The berry fritters in Westport are not to be missed. Also, the crazy Star Wars store in Aberdeen.
Other favorites worth a trip: Deception Pass State Park, Scenic Beach State Park, Cape Disappointment, Pearrygin Lake, Lake Mayfield and Fort Flagler. You can check all these out at the State Parks website, including maps and reservations. We have also stayed at Kalaloch, which is a National Forest park, and I have to say I was not that impressed. People doing dishes in the bathroom for crying out loud.
Let’s get one thing straight – we are car campers. I do not backpack, or camp without flush toilets at least somewhere nearby. A pit toilet down on the beach is one thing, but unacceptable if it’s the ONLY toilet. Showers I can do without, though they are nice. We bring so much stuff, we took possession of my father-in-law’s cargo trailer a few years back. The Geek isn’t keen on driving it, but it does take the stress out of packing the car, especially since we now have Jack to cram in there too.
We have a big-ass tent. And a folding table. Two coolers. Pads. Sleeping bags. Chairs. Boxes of stuff. Food. Little but important things like the camera and trashy magazines for fireside reading. Password. If I had enough money and a proper towing vehicle, we’d have a pop-up or even better an Airstream. (Who am I kidding – if we had enough money, we’d have a vacation house).
Camping is a lot of work. But when you pull into your site and start unloading (after a cocktail is made, of course), you can feel yourself adjusting to camping time. The Geek cursing as he sets up the tent is music to my ears (after said cocktail). Even he relaxes at some point. Phones and other time-sucking devices are ignored. There is Password in the ferry line and around the fire. Horror at the skanky outfits in the trashy magazines. You make your second little home in the woods and strip it down to quality time with friends and family.
Our first trip out is in 5 weeks. I wonder if it’s too soon to start meal-planning….