The 2017 Camping Round Up

Another Summer come and gone.  Boys are well into their second week of school and we’ve officially packed away all the camping gear.  Last year I posted about each of the campsites we visited and ranked them.  It was just a fun recap but I’ve referred back to it so often, for myself and for others, so I thought I’d do another one this year.

I always think that I’ll remember every detail of each trip but by the time September rolls around I have a hard time distinguishing between the “trip where Isaiah threw up in the line for the ferry” with “that one with the crazy beautiful lake where Gryffin took a bad fall off his bike” from “the one when Jason had to hit the safety release on his kite and lost it but got it back when the sheriff showed up with his boat.”  You get the idea.

Here we go…

Nance’s 5 Star Campout Rating System

* View / Beauty
* Privacy
* Location
* Noise
* The Get-Away-From-It-All factor

Fort Flagler State Park

5/5 stars for the campground / weekend
2 nights

Me and Juliette, taking a breather on one of our Saturday morning hikes.

This was a last minute trip with some friends and we just totally lucked out with our site.   I reserved it two weeks beforehand and we were just hoping for the best.  Our site was phenomenal.  It was huge, for one, but also wooded and private and very quiet.

It’s only a couple hours from Seattle but the park itself feels separate and completely away from city things.  It was waterfront and we spent many hours throwing rocks, building sand castles, digging holes and the boys would want me to mention the little general store where I bought them each a bag of Cheetos (and thus became the mother-of-the-year).  There’s also several wooded trails that we walked on Saturday morning, exploring old bunkers and… top secret lookouts?  Whatever they were, the kids (and Jason and Shane) thought there were great for playing and tooling around.

Overall a great getaway not far from the city and if you can, snag site 43.  Sites 74, 75, and 23 also looked top notch.

Faye Bainbridge State Park

4/5 stars (bumped down a notch for the “away from it all” factor and view/beauty)
2 nights

This was a group campout with five other families. If you are looking for a spot with enough space for everyone to spread out, close to the water but not so close that you have to watch the toddlers every hot second, without having to drive too far, this is your spot.  We had sites 27, 28, 29 and there was plenty of room for all 21 of us (12 adults and 9 kids, if my math is right).

Several folks, Jason included, rode their bikes from the ferry terminal on Bainbridge up to the park and our boys joined in for the last couple of miles.

On the way home, Isaiah was busy throwing up in the line for the ferry (fun times) while Jason and Gryff biked the entire way home.  11 miles with a ferry ride in the middle and a quick stop for a poke bowl.

Gryffin was so proud of himself for biking the whole way. His face was red as a beet when he walked in the front door but he was so pumped.


Cal Cheak Recreation – British Columbia

5/5 stars
4 nights

Running across the suspension bridge over the river next to our campground. I think Kelly (or Juliette?) gets credit for this shot because I don’t remember taking it!

Thanks to Shane for his incredible planning, we had an amazing four days in July up in British Columbia.  The Cal Cheak Recreation Site is about 15 minutes south of Whistler and 30 minutes north of Squamish.  We stayed in sites 20 and 21 (thanks, again, to the Schnells for their quick border crossing and considerably less lollygagging than us) which are situated right next to the confluence of two rushing rivers.  It was actually really loud but… in a good way, we decided.

Location-wise, this campground can’t be beat.  It felt like we had endless options for hikes, bike rides, road rides, kiteboarding, and paddle boarding right at our fingertips.  We took a few beautiful hikes on nearby trails, Jason had two afternoons of kiteboarding in Squamish, a morning of paddle boarding and bike riding at Alta Lake (my favorite), and we capped off the trip with a downhill mountain bike ride for J on his birthday.

Oh, and we met up with more friends in Vancouver after the trip for an evening at the Richmond Night Market and a dim sum brunch the next day.  Not a bad way to wrap up a trip.

Hebo Lake

4/5 stars
4 nights

Our final hoorah.  Lake Hebo in the Suislaw National Forest near the Oregon coast for some eclipse chasing.  Jason heard a podcast about the eclipse last Spring and insisted we find a way to get in the line of totality.  We hemmed and hawed and worried about the crowds and the inevitable backlog of cars on Interstate 5 but Jason promised again and again that it would be worth whatever price we had to pay to the gods of traffic and crowd control.

And as much as it pains me to admit this, he was right.  We nabbed the very last spot at Lake Hebo campground.  The lake itself is tiny but the woods surrounding it are beautiful, the campground was quiet, and when we woke up Friday morning in site 1, the 7.5 hour trip to get there felt (mostly) worth it.  

The town of Hebo is, well, not much of a town, really.  There isn’t even a gas station, but we were close to Tillamook to the north and Pacific City to the south and Cape Lookout in between that we had a grand time exploring up and down the Oregon coast while we waited for Monday morning.

Isaiah declared the Tillamook cheese factory and their unlimited samples his most favorite place ever, we hiked the sand dunes near Pacific City, spent several afternoons on a beautiful stretch of beach in Netarts while Jason did some kiteboarding (and some kite losing — and re-fetching with the sheriff after the cops were called about a potential kiteboarder-in-distress).

And finally, the eclipse itself.  We packed up camp on Monday morning and headed down the road a few miles to a spot we had staked out earlier in the weekend.  We had worried about the loads of people that were rumored to be flooding into Oregon Monday morning but we didn’t see another soul as we walked up the hill to our viewing spot.

Isaiah and his pig walking up the hill for some eclipse viewing.

Jason took some audio recordings of us during the eclipse and it’s too embarrassing to post any of it here but it’s safe to say we about lost our minds when the moon crossed in front of the sun.  We had been watching it make its way across for about 45 minutes with our eclipse glasses.  About ten minutes beforehand, it started to get weirdly cold.  Then it slowly turned to dusk, and finally, dark.  We could see a few stars and look directly at the sun for about one minute, twenty seconds.  Having made a trip out of it, it was well worth getting into the line of totality and stands out as the best minute, twenty of the summer.

So that’s a wrap.  Camping 2017 in the bag.
‘Til next year!