Washington, Oregon and the Joy of Dispersed Camping

We spent the night in Spokane, WA the day after we left Glacier, then decided to head to Mount Rainier the following morning. By this point in the trip we had decided that while we loved seeing the country, we didn't want to see everything that there was to see all crammed in on this trip. We wanted to leave something to explore on future trips. So with that, we decided to skip the Cascades and northern Washington and do that on another trip, perhaps when we visit Alaska. We took the scenic way to Mount Rainier - the actual scenic way - not the way we took when I wasn't paying attention to directions. One thing that was surprising to Ben and I was that much of Washington state looked frighteningly like the trip to Glacier: beige, grasslands, wind farms. We finally crossed the threshold into the rain forest and were amazed by its lush green beauty.

The sign welcoming us to Mount Rainier 
One thing that became a problem on our trip was the weekends; campgrounds get full on the weekends and why shouldn't they? Camping is awesome – we should know. When we arrived on Friday late afternoon at the Mount Rainer campgrounds they were full - all of them. We had passed a few campgrounds thirty minutes earlier but were unsure if those would be full as well. So while we fretted on what to do for that evening we soon discovered that the trusty AllStays app tracks your GPS location even without any signal at all. Out of absolute necessity we decided to give dispersed camping a whirl. We'd heard about it, we'd read about it, we felt as if we were ready to take our camping experience to a whole new level. We drove a half a mile out of the park up a slightly marked, unpaved US Forest road and drove around for a while. Low and behold we found a fellow camper with his dog, H2 Hummer and his trailer up that hill. We asked him if we needed to do anything to camp in the area, to which he replied "Nope, I've been up here ten days and you two are the first I've seen." So with that we took a spin around and found a campfire ring of some previous campers and set up camp for the night. It was very windy but otherwise nice, quiet and free of critters. 
Our First Dispersed Camping Site

The next morning we got up, headed the campground that was full the night before, used their amenities and started our morning with a hike to some falls and hot springs. We also went to see the Grove of the Patriarchs, a nice grove of old and giant trees. While these trees were massive, it only got us more excited for the giant trees in California.

Morning Hike

The bottom of what we thought was a large tree
We headed to the visitors' center with the thought that we would get the best view of the mountain the closer we got - the clouds unfortunately had other ideas. We passed up a pretty good view for what we thought would be a great view, lesson learned: Stop and Smell the Roses! The mountain is massive, truly huge with 14,411 feet elevation and a prominence of 13,211 feet. You wanna know what else is massive at Mount Rainer? The crowds on a beautiful day in August. We survived, but the trails up the mountain looked pretty packed and pretty un-fun. So instead we collected our stamps and badges from the park gift shop and kept moving.
The best view we ever got of Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier from the visitors center. 
We wanted to do dispersed camping again since it was so nice and quiet and because the price was right (free fit into our budget.) We headed to a US Forest Service campground nearby ($23/night) and instead of staying there we found a book of Motor Vehicle Use Map and snapped a few pictures of roads we thought we'd like to camp on and off we went to find them. We chose poorly. If this was a Choose Your Own Adventure book we would be backing up the pages to choose the other option. The roads were even less maintained then the ones the night before, steeper and less remote. Also we were getting low on gas and without cell service. We finally found a gas station in a zero stop light town. As we were filling up Ben said to the truck of strangers next to us, "Hey do you guys know a good place to camp around here?" Much to my surprise, they were on their way to camp and said to follow them. Now, I'm not sure if this a good idea – Ben is suppose to be the logical one between the two of us. My role is the be the impulsive, goofy, free-spirit. I'm kind of taken aback but he reassures me that we'll be just fine. Ben broke his most sacred cardinal rule of the trip (always get good gas mileage) and floors it to caught up with our new friends from the gas station. We followed them a good ways into the Gifford Pichot National Forest but eventually turned off and settled into a quiet and free campsite for the night.
Dispersed campsite numero dos. 
The next morning we headed to the Mount St. Helen's State Park Monument. On our way we saw what I believe is the best political sign I will ever see. We weren't able to snap a picture but I recreated it.  If that guy didn't win I would be very surprised. I mean how could you NOT vote for that guy?? We arrived at the State Park Monument before they were officially open so we waited a few minutes only to realize that our parks pass wouldn't work at the state park so we decided to keep moving.
Recreation of the BEST political sign we've ever seen. 
As you may know by now Ben isn't thrilled about roadside attractions (see here and here) however, he made the mistake of mentioning that we could swing by the Goonies House when we drove through Astoria, OR. So clearly I forced him to go. One thing about Ben is that he's very courteous of others, one of many things I love about him.  With that, he genuinely feels bad about disturbing other people's day, say… on a Sunday… at 11:00am, to drive by a house that was involved in a movie from our childhood. They ask that you don't drive by but park down the hill in the neighborhood and walk up. There were eight or so other people doing the very same thing that morning, which didn't make Ben feel any better but it was justification enough for me! Astoria looked charming as we did the driving tour through.
The Goonies House!
The reminder to walk not drive up the driveway. 
Cannon Beach


Oregon Coast Usie!

Our trip thus far was very similar to the track the Lewis and Clark had taken, so when we came across the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon we went exploring. It was small but delightful and gave us a lot of perspective on what a challenge they must have faced on their journey. I wouldn't say we were struggling per say on our trip but we also had a lot of gear to keep us comfortable, which Lewis and Clark would not have had.  After that we took a trip to the Oregon Coast near Cannon Beach to enjoy some giant cliffs and an absolutely picture perfect day. That night we stopped at Spruce Run Campground and secured an amazing campsite that backed up to a babbling river. The next morning we also made some delicious sausage biscuits with huckleberry mash from our Glaicer berry picking. The following morning we got up and headed to Portland to explore.

Our campsite at Spruce Run Campground. 


  1. Loved reading this blog post and on top of it the photography is pretty amazing! Camping and hiking are my two absolute favourite sports too.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts