Camping & Geocaching SE WA

Last Thursday night a week ago after work we took off on a four day camping/Geocaching trip. Our goal, to obtain 9 state park and 2 historic caches (placed in the first year of Geocaching) in south east WA. 

We drove east from Seattle about an hour and a half to the Indian John Hill rest area, arriving around ten PM. We quickly set up the bus for sleeping. I was tired and hit the sack right away. B stayed up for a bit and had a beer with Dug. Jane was already asleep when we got there. Free camping, can’t beat it!

Dug’s bus on the road

Early the following morning we drove in to Ellensburg for coffee and breakfast at the Palace Cafe. They had eggs Benedict on the menu so of course I had to have it – minus the English muffins and HUGE portion of hash browns which take up the left side of my plate in the photo below.


I suspect the hollandaise sauce and maybe even the ham “may” not have been W30 approved but I did my best. After breakfast it was off to Olmstead State Park for our first state park cache.

Recreation of a homestead

The cache was a nice walk along the river and a quick find. We scouted around some old buildings and peeked in some windows. 

The park is the original property of the Opmsteads, its namesake. After crossing Snoqualmie pass on horseback in the fall of 1875, a young family settled a few miles east of what is now Ellensburg. The two granddaughters of Samuel deeded the homestead to Washington state parks in 1968. 

From there it was another the thirty minutes along the old highway past a wind farm to Wanapum State Park (where we had unsuccessfully tried New Year’s Day in the snow) and quickly nabbed the cache.
It was where we thought it might be but under the snow the rocks were frozen so in Janury that was a DNF (did not find – Geocache speak).

Wanapum is part of the Ginko Petrified Forrest. There is camping and a boat launch.


Off to the Tri Cities to SacajaweaState Park. We had lunch and exercised the dogs. The walk to the cache started near some teepee frames and wound through high grasses and desert sage. We located the cache pretty quickly and B left a trackable.


The park was named after Sacajawea, the Indian guide who helped Lewis & Clark on their way to the west. In fact, many of the parks in this trip followed the Washington portion of the Lewis & Clark trail.

We had originally planned to get one of the historic caches near here but it was late in the day and we needed to get to our next stop. 

From here we went through Walla Walla and snappeda photo of the buses in front of a building on the campus of Whitman College (a fellow bus owners alma matter).

Busses at Whitman College

Our final caching destination of the day and where we planned to camp was Lewis and Clark Trail State Park. On the way in we drove through the town of Waitsburg and saw a sign for a brewery. B made a mental note and we moved on to the campground and set up. Right by our site we noticed a turkey in a tree. I didn’t think they could get that high.

Since the cash was literally 175 feet behind our site on a side trail that connected to the main trail that ran between the camp sites and the river we grabbed it.

Four state parks in one day – check.

Since I am doing the Whole30 I stayed at camp with Jane and knit while B and Dug went off to Laht Neppur (which is Gealic for “drink to life”) brewery. They shared the sampler (14 beers) to decide on which to buy and/or get growler fills of. B bought a few of his faves to share with me when I am done with W30. We plan on returning to the area another time for the Delorme challenge.

The next morning we went across the street to the day use area and nabbed three more caches. 


We headed in to Dayton to Elk Drug and experienced the oldest soda fountain in Washington and short shorty’s (well for the three dairy/sweet consuming members of our crew.


From the left; B, Dug & Jane

A short shorty is basically a small ice cream Sunday. And yes, that IS an elk head over the pharmacy counter.

Elk head over pharmacy counter

After browsing across the street in the hardware/everything store it was time to head to Palouse Falls State Park and enjoye the area. 

Palouse Falls

According to a story of the Palouse tribe, the Palouse River once flowed smoothly into the Snake. But four giant brothers, in pursuit of a mythic creature called Big Beaver, speared the great creature five times. Each time Big Beaver was wounded, he gouged the canyon walls, causing the river to bend and change. The fifth time he was speared, he fought the brothers valiantly and tore out a huge canyon. The river tumbled over a cliff at this point to become Palouse Falls. The jagged canyon walls show the deep marks of Big Beaver’s claws.

B and I at Palouse Falls

I was feeling a bit headachy so took Beej to the shade and waited for everyone to complete their wandering. We had a picnic lunch and then headed south to Camp Wooten State Park.

On our way in we came across a woman on an ATV with a slow sign. She asked if we would move over to the side of the road as they were moving cattle. As we came around a corner we saw a bridge and on the other side a LOT of cattle.


Remarkably these huge beasts were actually afraid of our busses (and some of them were almost as big).

Above a video of the cattle moving past the bus. Some of them went on both sides of Jane’s bus.

Camp Wooten is a retreat center. The cash was a quick find so we headed down the road to Tucannon campground. For dinner that night Jane made homemade chicken noodle soup. She was sweet enough to make the noodles separately so I didn’t have to pick them out. Ever the experimenter, Dug created a sort of meat loaf with sausage and inserting cut up veggies. He wrapped it in foil and threw it over the fire. It was pretty good.

The locals fired up a truck and blasted country music but we were far enough away it was a minor irritation. We played some card games and then hit the sack.

Dug is an %&$@ princess!

The next morning at breakfast we saw two wild turkeys. One up a hill and one near Jane’s bus. We started to move closer and the one in the photo below ran down the road away from us.

B had loaded other caches in his phone and discovered a cache placed two weeks previously that had not been found yet. Yeah we needed to get this one. It was a short walk near a lake and were indeed the co- FTF’s!


Our journey next took us to Clarkston (named for William Clark of the Lewis & Clark expedition) where we had a picnic lunch at a park. Jane decided to hang in town while B, Dug and I headed south about 40 minutes to Fields Springs State Park.

The cache here was a multi (more than one waypoint with clues to the next waypoint and final cache site). It was a short hike up a dirt road. At our first waypoint we were to leave the road and follow an animal trail out on to a meadow. 

The views were stunning! My photo does not do it justice. All I could think about was the the Sound of Music scene where Julie Andrews spins around singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”.


At the end of the meadow as it starts to slope down there was a boulder with a case that had the final coordinates in it.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

We traveled a little further up the road to an old farmstead and found the cache.

Back in Clarkston we met up with Jane and headed briefly through Lewiston, ID (named after Merriweather Lewis of the Lewis & Clark expedition) and up the grade toward our next destination, Steptoe Butte State Park.

Busses on the butte

Steptoe Butte was once known as Pyramid Peak, the landform was renamed Steptoe Butte after Colonel Edward J. Steptoe (1816-1865) who fought in the nearby 1858 Battle of Rosalia. Nearly two-decades later, pioneer James S. “Cashup” Davis purchased the promontory from the Northern Pacific Railroad. After building a wagon road to the summit, he erected a two-story mountaintop hotel in 1888. The hotel was capped by a glass observatory with a telescope. Guests using this telescope claimed to view the distant Cascade Range on a clear day. Although a unique destination, difficulty in reaching the 3,612-foot summit proved to be a barrier to travelers, and within a few years the hotel was scarcely occupied. Cashup and his wife Mary Ann remained occupants until Mary Ann’s death in 1894, and James’s death in 1896. On the evening of March 11, 1911, the neglected hotel burned to the ground, apparently the result of a teenager mishap with a cigarette. 

Sun starting to set

We went to the top of the butte for an amazing 360 degree view. On a clear day you can see 200 miles. 


Our final destination for the trip was Potholes State park but it was late and it was another two hours away. We decided to hit a favorite, Riverside Bowl & Pitcher state park (we nabbed thecache here last May) which was only a little over an hour away. 

On our way in to the campground we saw a porcupine up against a chain link fence. Dug shined his light on it. Apparently he didn’t like that so he presented his backside to us and puffed up his quills. B rolled up his window. Did you know porcupines could shoot their quills at you? Me neither.

Upon arrival and securing sites we made dinner and fell in to bed.

The next morning we made a quick trip to see B’s aunt and then went to NoLi brewing for the guys to pick up a few beverage so. I ended up with a pretty cool poster for free.

NoLi Brewing

We stopped at a coffee place nearby for some really good coffee! If you are ever in the Spokane area you should check out Riverwalk Coffee and NoLi Brewing oh and great pizza and beer (if you are not on W30 at Flying Goat.

With our last state park set in our sites we headed out of town. On the way to Potholes State Park I looked it up to refresh myself on the specifics of the cache and discovered to my chagrin it was temporarily disabled. No!

Turns out some terrible human broke the cache AND took the stamp we needed for our passports.


Exhibit A
I messaged the cache owner in the hopes it could be repaired before we got there.

No dice.

That also meant that we didn’t get the other historic cache which is in Potholes. Both B and I have it on our watch list and with less then two months left we are hopeful the stamp will be replaced in time. We don’t need it for the 100 gold coin but we would sure like it!

On our way back we stopped in Ellensburg for dinner at Valley Cafe with Art Deco decor. Even the bathroom stall lock was cool! 

I ordered a portobello sandwich without the cheese and bread and a side salad. I asked for lemon as a dressing as their balsamic had sugar in it. I explained to the waiter I was doing the W30. My food came out and ironic, my portobello mushroom, tomato and basil was covered in balsamic but the salad had lemon. 

We returned to Seattle just in time for B to get to a bus club meeting. I hung for a while then waited in the bus. We rolled in to our driveway around ten that night exhausted.


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