Category Archives: Van Camping

Camping Must Haves

A lot of people go camping on Memorial weekend. Generally B and I do not but thought this weekend would be a great time to post about our camping must haves.

Fireworks
Independence fireworks over Lake Lucern

I’ve mentioned before that we camp…A LOT! We camp in a VW bus about once a month rain or shine [or snow, or wind….we have pretty much camped in every kind of weather]. Over the years there are products that we have purchased that just really make the trip every time and are so worth the expense. In fact, they live in the bus so we have no need to repack them.

Busses
Camping with the Lagrou’s at Larrabee State Park

The white bus in the photo above is the Synchro [4WD bus] and not the one we usually camp in. This was a special trip for my birthday last summer.

I thought I would do a roundup for camping items we could live without but why would we since they make the experience so much easier! Go ahead, call me a glamper! The below list is by no means exhaustive but things that we use every time we go.

Bugs

I don’t know about you but camping in the summer is a must! What is NOT welcome are those pesky mosquitos. I am not a fan of using DEET products but prefer something a little more natural.

  • I made my own spray. Its basically essential oils, rubbing alcohol, witch hazel & water.
  • I also made citronella candles for the bus I reused old jam jars and some larger ones from existing candle containers and a cool bowl for our fire pit at home.
  • In our main camping bus we have a sunroof not a pop up [as in the photo above of the 4WD van]. I also made a mosquito net. It has magnets sewn in to the binding around the edge and covers the sunroof opening.

Bus Line Up

Marty is third from the right in the photo above.

Lighting + Electronics + Emergency

  • Guys the Luci light is a little solar lantern is amazing and worth the price! I think we have five of them now. I just discovered they even have ones that will charge your phone. It compresses down to practically nothing [1 inch] and inflates really easily. They are waterproof and float [just in case you want to take that midnight swim in your birthday suit]. We leave them on the dash of our bus to charge while we are driving. They have a handy strap and we can string them from a tie down strap [another handy item] that we always have in the bus and hook it up on the frame of our easy up. Our very own camping chandelier! Great for playing board & card games!
  • Flashlights are great and you should have one in your camping kit but even better so you can remain hands free is a head lamp. We have about five of them and prefer the Black Diamond brand. Pro tip; always keep a supply of AA batteries on hand.
  • A voltage converter in something we have and use occasionally to charge items like our phones and sometimes I bring my kindle or iPad mini to read a book. [The one pictured is not the one we have but I like how compact it is and it also has plugs for different countries].
  • A portable battery charger has come in handy a few times for us and for others. Old VW’s are notorious for issues and having this along is peace of mind.
  • Another item for peace of mind, a comprehensive first aid kit is a must. Especially if you are somewhere remote.
  • B and I do a lot of Geocaching. We generally use our phone app but in more remote or rural locations a GPS comes in handy. It can be used for more than just Geocaching. It’s a helpful tool for hiking as well.

Repurposed Items

  • Rubber backed bath mats. One of our first camping trips about five years ago together was in February and it poured! We had an easy up to sit under but nothing to sit on the wet benches. B took the rubber mats out from the foot wells of the bus so we could have something dry to sit on which gave me the this idea. They are perfect for sitting on a bench and keeping you dry and as a bonus just a bit of insulation [sometimes I will put this on the seat of my camp chair].
  • This squeegee is great because of its compact size. We use them to wipe away excess water on camp benches [tables too] before using our bath mats as well as wipe off interior condensation on van windows.
  • We also have a whisk broom that lives in the bus. Its great for sweeping off the floor and keeping things tidy.
  • Binder clips are indispensable for so many things! We have strings of battery powered lights that we like to clip to the easy up [we store them in an old ammo can]. They are great for hanging wet items to dry or keeping Luci lights in place. We even use them to clip multiple easy ups together, especially in wet weather so no water seeps in between.

Canine Comfort

  • My dog Beej comes camping with us. He has a dedicated camp chair and I attach the handle of his harness to it with a carabiner. My dog doesn’t like to wander around much but prefers his camp chair or the bus [with blankets and his sweater if its cold]. I also can use this to clip to my day pack when we hike. Other dogs that come camping with us like to have more freedom of movement so clipping their leash to a run of rope tied between two trees is great for them when their owners need to be hands free.
  • A dedicated dog towel is also a good idea. I wipe Beej’s paws off before he gets on the bed so he doesn’t track dirt in. The one I linked to is not the one I use but I like that its quick dry. I have a beach towel that is reserved specifically for him.
  • My dog also doesn’t drink much water [he will literally turn his head when offered – so I feed him a soupy style of food to keep him hydrated]. Anyway, a collapsible water bowl is a great option for those of you who have dogs who actually will use them!
  • A great item for hiking with your dog too is the OllyBottle which has a piece that comes off to make a bowl to fill for your dog. Great for hiking!

Personal Use

  • After one camping trip in November a few years back where I had to layer up in 5 degree weather and walk about 1000 feet to get to the bathroom I vowed to get myself something I could use in the van. Right after that trip I purchased the Luggable Loo and for $20 is was a great investment. [I even have used it for getting out and Geocaching in non populated areas – like long power trails where a bathroom is not convenient]. I just recently had to replace the lid after four years as the hinges broke [even that didn’t prevent me from using it]. The replacement was $19. To keep things contained I buy these toilet waste bags. They are double lined and have a gelatin in the bottom to help with odor [doubled up garbage bags and kitty litter work in a pinch]. Generally I try to use the toilet for liquid only since it is in the van where we sleep and the gelatin helps with no smell. Bonus it works as an additional seat in a pinch.
  • I place a roll of TP in a ziploc bag and that works great. We also have a couple of these portable dispensers which are awesome if you are out on a hike.
  • However, I just purchased this pop up portable changing room to use as a bathroom so solids are not a problem. This changing room collapses flat really easily about 2 feet around and comes with a carry bag. We plan to do more camping in areas where they don’t have facilities [BLM] so this tent will make it nice for both of us to use. Pro tip, place your luggable loo in a corner facing the opposite corner – it’s roomier.
  • I just recently purchased the pStyle for long hikes where there are no facilities. Definitely would recommend practicing with it at home first!

Cold Weather Gear

  • My feet get cold easily even sitting around a campfire. A friend told me about Bogs and I purchased these boots a couple years ago. You don’t even need to wear socks with them. They keep my feet nice and dry and warm! Great for hiking too. They are currently having a sale – use code MAYSALE for 25% off [expires 5.25 11:59 PM].
  • Hot water bottles are a great option for keeping parts of you warm.

Sparkels and Marty

The blue bus in the photo above is Marty who we normally camp in. This was at Camano Island State Park and it snowed on us [obviously]. Pictured is our friends school bus he converted to enjoy Burning Man which they go to every year. He now has a company that converts Ford Transits in to two person campervans.

Dishes & Utensils

We like to eat well when we camp and bring the necessary items to do so. Along with our camp stove, we have a dedicated set of pots and pans that live in plastic tubs in the bus and a full set of silverware. We also have a dedicated cheese grater, microplane, tablecloth, measuring cups/spoons, wine cork, bottle opener, French press, spatulas & mixing spoons, can opener, tongs etc. Some of this was made easy when we combined households so we didn’t have to go out and buy things.

  • We always travel with 5 gallons of potable water for washing dishes, drinking, putting out campfires, etc.
  • Our go to lunch or late night dinner is a panini. We found our camping panini press at the local goodwill but they are not that expensive.
  • Another item we love to use is the Toas-Tite. It takes Hot Pockets to a whole new level! [My fave is banana or strawberry and nutella].
  • Being beer loving campers we bring along melamine Solo cups to drink our beverages from. [Pro tip; let others know they are not disposable, we lost one to the garbage as a new camper threw it away not knowing – even though we have blue ones].
  • B was gifted a personalized stainless steel growler in a carrying case for helping a friend and this generally comes with us camping. We like to check out local breweries wherever we go and this allows us to take something we like home [or back to camp] with us.
  • We also recently started drinking more cocktails. B will mix up a batch of Manhattan’s or Old Fashioned’s to bring along. We use these plastic tumblers for sipping our cocktails.
  • One item that has made life easier are these super thin flexible cutting boards. Each color is marked with a symbol [beef, fish, poultry & veggies]. We don’t use them that way but they are easy, don’t take up a lot of room and clean up is a breeze! [Pro tip; clip them to the easy up with a binder clip for quick drying].
  • We also have a set of sleeved knives for cutting and chopping. They store away nice and safely!
  • We often pack paper dishes but found these melamine ones and have them in the bus. Easy to clean and match our dishes we have at home even! We bought four plates, four bowls and one serving bowl. Often when we camp we have a potluck dinner on Saturday night so a serving bowl comes in handy.

Other

  • A hatchet in a protective sleeve is super useful for cutting up wood for the campfire and making kindling.
  • B bought me my very own multi tool which has any number of useful items on it. [Sog is a brand B is loyal to. They are only a few minutes from our house, super friendly and if you bring in your knives they will sharpen them for you for free].
  • Delorme map for your state. Phones and Google maps work great but sometimes there is no reception and a phyiscal map is a good thing to have.
  • Reference books for trees, plants and geology for your area are also nice to have with you.

Furniture

  • Foldable camp chairs are a must have. Portable and easy to pack away.
  • We have this rollup camp table that B bought years ago. I found this similar one for a lower price. I may purchase it as we have thought about buying a second one and I would be curious to compare the two.
  • A shade cover is always packed in the bus. As good as it is for rainy trips it also nice on hot warm days as well.
  • An easily cleanable rug for right outside the van door. This way we leave nature outside and it doesn’t get all over our bed. [The one I linked to is not the one we have].
  • When we go camping I like some time just hanging out and reading a good book or taking a nap. I love the ability to hang a hammock. Our hammock takes up hardly any room and lives in the bus. It has really long ties and I keep additional peri cord so we can tie it up just about anywhere we have trees.
B in the Hammock
B the Camping Model

 

We also generally bring a bunch of board, card and lawn games to play. I wrote about our favorites a while back. Along with the games listed in that post we have picked up;

  • Codenames is a social word game with a simple premise and challenging game play. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their temmates know the agents only by their codenames. The teams complete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the table. Their teammates try to guess words of their color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. The game words very well with 4 players if you prefer to guess without help. Or you can add more players if you prefer lively discussion. There is also a cooperative variant where a single team tries to achieve the highest score they can by playing against the game itself.
  • Bocce although our version is called Extreme Woodland Bocce. One player tosses the small white ball we call the Botch and then players attempt to get as close to the Botch as possible. Highly entertaining for player and spectators, especially when beer is involved. There have been several instances of quite a bit of time spent searching for the balls. Many times down holes. One time we had to dig out a tree stump to get a ball back.

Even with all of the above I do have a few wish list items;

  • Non toxic, bee safe mosquito repellent sticks are a product I currently do not have in my camping goodie bag but am interested in purchasing them and will report back.
  • My dog still hikes but as he get’s older longer trails are harder for him [he will be 15 in July]. I found this four in one dog carrier which I have not purchased but have my eye on [for dogs under 15 pounds]. You can wear it as a backpack, a cross body bag, or a duffel. It has a fleece insert as well.
  • One thing we currently do not have is a camp shower. We have never gone camping for more than a few days and generally we have gone somewhere where facilities are available. In future for longer trips and/or BLM camping we want to invest in a camp shower setup. I am researching this and will post when we have more info. We are thinking of rigging up something that attaches to the side of the bus so you don’t have to hold the shower head [I believe this heats the water as well]. A curtain you can pull around you and a cedar shower mat to stand on. This plastic shower caddy would be perfect to hold shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
  • Our friend Glen uses an old tea kettle he places right in the campfire to heat up water and then uses welding gloves to be able to pick it up and pour. Both items are on our purchase list.
  • We have utensils but I would like to get a couple of these sporks which is a fork, spoon and knife in one. I have owned these before but not in titanium. Purchasing a couple [even four] of these would reduce the amount of utensils we have in the bus and free up a little more room. Our utensils are in a double bagged ziplock which is a pain to find what you are looking for. I have considered making fabric cutlery bags [like this] so we can easily grab a setting. Shall see what we end up with. Maybe both!
  • I’ve debated getting a mosquito net door for the slider of our van. Not sure we would really use it that much since we have the sunroof and usually keep the door closed even when in camp.

Hope you like the list I put together and it helps you on your next camping trip. If you have suggestions for me leave them in the comments. I am always looking for great ideas and hacks to make our camping experience better!

 

 

A Pirate Geocaching Weekend

Our long weekend started Thursday night after dropping Beej off with a friend [he could not participate in one of our adventures this weekend and it was going to be HOT] we met up with friends who were visiting from California for dinner at McMenamins Anderson School. We ate at the North Shore Lagoon which features Polynesian style decor, food and drinks and is located above the hotel pool.

Pool

This hotel used to be a high school and sat for many years until McMenamins purchased and transformed it. The Art-Deco styling throughout the property is wonderful and very colorful. The goal of the owners who own many properties in Washington and Oregon is to “keep the past in the present, to celebrate and connect us all with people and events”. They “research, interview and compile materials to identify and commemorate our properties and their surroundings”. Not certain how the Polynesian theme came about but I loved it!

Tiki

The next morning B and I took Friday off and headed over to Port Orchard for some Pirate Geocaching fun. We got up very early and made it to the Fauntleroy/Southworth ferry in record time for our 8:45 crossing. We arrived in Port Orchard and found parking just in time for the lab caches to go live. We met a friend of the event creator and hunted down some of the labs with him. Unfortunately there was some miscommunication and not all the businesses were ready for us. We found 8 of the 10 and met up with friends for Bloody Mary’s at a local bar.

Bloody Mary's

The two lab caches we were waiting to complete were at business that opened while we were in the bar. Once our afternoon libations were done, we were able to complete the last two and were very high up on the leader board [4th & 5th respectively]. We grabbed some lunch at a local Mexican place and proceeded to Manchester State Park to check in to our camp site.

Flamingo and Beer

Our flamingos went up immediately.

B Natural Environment

B in his natural environment with a notorious “PNW vampire flamingo” as dubbed by a friend. We chilled a bit at our campsite and then headed back towards town for the first meet n greet at a sports bar, Everybody’s. B and I split a burger that had bacon jam on it. A side of potato macaroni salad was an interesting addition. Both were very good!

Log

The log was this telescope. We met some people we knew of their caching names from logs around the state. We stayed there for a few hours and search the parking lot for trackables on the backs of people cars.

On our way to the back of the parking lot we saw an interesting site.

Turkey in Tree

Yes that is a turkey in a tree.

Mosquito Netting

It was in the upper 80’s around 8:30 when we got back to our camp site. We opened up the sunroof and deployed the mosquito netting. That shiny spot is B with his headlamp. This made sleeping MUCH more comfortable!

We had a lazy morning of sipping coffee, breakfast and reading and headed back to town early afternoon. The second meet n greet of the weekend was at Slaughter which is a pirate themed brewery. The beers were really well balanced and good! B and I sampled a few and then headed to the dock of our two hour pirate battle aboard the tall ship The Hawaiian Chieftan. Our foe was the notorious Lady Washington which played the Interceptor in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

B dressed as a Pirate for a day.

My Pirate

The crew preparing to fire.

Prepare to Fire

And the aftermath – smoke on the water.

Smoke on the Water

The Lady in our sites.

Lady Washington

The two hours flew by and before we knew it we were docking. We went back to Slaughter where a fourth anniversary party was in full swing. Lots of people dressed as pirates and cannon being shot.

We soon returned to our campsite and our friends joined us for some snacks and a campfire.

The next morning we packed up after breakfast and headed out. There was a car show in town that B wanted to check out where we discovered this restored VW Kubelwagon. We chatted with the owner a bit who bought it from someone in Holland a year ago. It was the gentleman’s daily driver and he even towed a boat behind it. The new owner spent time tracking down and purchasing many accessories he had on display. We are hoping he attends B’s club vintage meet next year.

Kubelwagon

A couple other cars I liked at the show, a Willy’s Jeep.

Willys Jeep

This Nomad.

Nomad

I left B to wander while I got an iced coffee and took some shade. Our plan before hopping the ferry back to the mainland was to do some Goblindust caches while we were in the area. Goblindust was the creator of the Dead Men Tell No Tales Geocaching event  we had just attended. My favorite smiley of the day was The Super Pages. The effort and detail that went in to this caches was amazing! If you are in the area go check it out!

We had planned to do a night cache Saturday night but we ran out of time. That’s OK, just means we have to go back over!

Our weekend ended with picking up the dog and getting Zeek’s pizza for dinner.

 

Camping & Geocaching Lake Chelan

Our goal was seven state park caches in the Lake Chelan area. Thursday night after work we met up with Dug at the Nelson Creek Rest Stop on highway 2 where we stayed the night (more free camping).

The next morning we found sustenance  at Louie’s Cafe in Leavenworth. I chose to have a scramble with veggies and ham. The waitress gave me an extra veggie as I didn’t want cheese. I assumed the hash browns would be on the side. Oops they were mixed in. I did my best to pick around them. It was good!

Our Qwest led us further east to Sun Lakes-Dry Falls state park. We stopped to look at the Dry Falls where I took this selfie of B and I. I could not stop laughing.

  

There used to be great waterfalls in this area after the ice age when glaciers cut through the land. The photo above we are at the top of the falls area.

After touring the area and the visitor center and finding a cache hidden in the park sign we were off to the Sun Lakes below. The buses in the photo below as we were coming back from the state park cache hide. Potentially A LOT of desert fauna hiding in the scrub brush. Thousands of years ago this was under water.

  

At the end of the road was Deep Lake. There was Cottonwood “fluff” everywhere.

Cottonwood “fluff” on the water

Couldn’t help but take another of selfie.

Dug, B and I

We moved on to Steamboat Rock state park where we planned to camp for the night. After setting up our site we decided to knock out the cache before dinner. It’s listed as a difficulty 1.5 / terrain 4. 

Steamboat Rock

B thought we could find an easier way to the cache. It was a few hours before dark and we were prepared with headlamps, water and dogs. We saw lots of flowers along the way.

  

Columbine
 
Beej decided to walk with B for a while. He likes to be up front and has contests with Sausage for leader of the pack. Below Beej is winning and Sausageis stuck behind B.

 

We saw the sun set.

Sunset at Steamboat Rock

However, we DID NOT obtain the cache. B’s idea led us to this side of the rock which was a fairly easy hike. Once near the base we were faced with a slippery shale slope and then 800 feet straight up the rock face. Nope, we would have to try again in the morning.

We ended the eve with dinner and a campfire after I had a well deserved nap. I left the guys to their beer and hit the sack early.

The next morning after packing up we encountered wild turkeys.

Male turkey – Tom

We moved the buses to the day use area to be closer to the trailhead. B read up on the cache. 

We would need to climb to the top of Steamboat rock. 

Armed with water and hiking poles we set out. I was mentally preparing myself for a grueling hike. It soon became obvious why the terrain was a 4. It started to get steep and there was a lot of loose shale we had to walk over. Beej didn’t have a problem. I was not so sure I was going to like this. Dug had to carry Sausage. He is grinning in the photo below. All 40 pounds of him. Gus (Dug’s other dog) managed just fine.

  

Then it started to get really steep…

  

In the photo above, Dug was about ten feet above me. This was where I lost my shit and turned back. I have a slight issue with heights and combined with the slipping rock under my feet, a small dog attached to me and the thought of having to climb back down I just could not deal.

B carried Beej and I got back down to a level I could handle. He took our cache passports and proceeded with Dug. I sat at a bench and rested for a bit.

Bench still life

Below is a photo of the area where I turned back. You can kind of see where it switches back. I was halfway up the switchback before I turned around. The people in the photo give it a bit of perspective. If it had been dirt I think I would have managed.

  

I went back to the bus and brought out my knitting.
  

When Dug and B  got back a couple hours later they said it was a good thing I turned back and that I knew myself well enough to know I could not make the climb safely. B decided to stamp my passport for me since I was close the night before and made an effort to get it that day.

We decided to get Concanully next since it was sort of remote. We took a highway B and I have never been on before. We arrived in Concanully state park in time for a late lunch. This cache was an easy hike with just a little reroutinf due to some flooding of the wooded path.

On our way to Bridgeport we stopped at The Breadline Cafe to visit the owner and a friend of mine, Paula. She gave us a loaf of her freshly baked bread. It was lovely to catch up to her.

We swung by her house which is the original Omak Hotel and even has a song by the Paperboys which you can hear here.

Omak Hotel

Once arriving at Bridgeport state park we set up camp and quickly stated a fire and got dinner rolling.

Sunday morning our objective was the state park cache at Bridgeport. We are led ourselves with long pants and hiking poles and powered through tall grass and scrub brush. This was tick country.

The cache was a quick find and hidden sort of in plain site. I like to think we hid it better as the original owner intended. 

On our way to our next stop we passed Chief Joseph damn and did a few caches for their passport which we found out about that day. Hmmm another small Geotour. On the drive in to Alta Lake state park we saw evidence of charring and fire on the higheay and in the park which received heavy damage from the fires of the previous summer.

 

Burned trees and wild flowers
 
The cache was a quick one. But the view……

Alta Lake

Sadly there was not a lot to see here so we headed in to Chelan. The town of Lake Chelan or Chelan as it’s known to locals, is tucked in the rolling hills of central Washington and a destination for many a wine lover. 

Our purpose for visiting the area was two state parks and more importantly – state park Geocaches!

It was lunch time and I googled breweries in the area. We ended up at Lake Chelan Brewing for lunch and beer for the guys (I was still on the Whole30). Once we wakes in I knew I had been there before.

  
I remembered this very wall of graphities brick when I spent a couple days with my mom on a winery tour a few years previously. After lunch B wanted to check out Stormy Mountain brewing which was on the way to our next state park. We stopped in, Dug had a pint and B tried a flight of their four beers. The ambiance was good. The beer was just OK.

 

Old leather and hardwoods
 
Refreshed and ready to carry on we headed to Lake Chelan state park. Upon arrival we loaded up the dogs and headed out for an adventure.

 

Beej at the trailhead
 
The trail took us under the highway and through a lovely hiking trail full of flora and lots of signage to describe what we were seeing an experiencing. Some of the signs were very poetic. 

After finding the cache (hidden by a Geofriend Grievous Angel) we continued along the path. As we rounded the final bend back down to where we had come there was a disturbance in the brush. Later on we would find the two deer we had bothered watching us.

We continued out of the park on a loop that led us pastries of waterside camping spots.

Further along the lake we came to our last sto of the weekend and where we would spend Sunday night. Twenty-Five Mile Creek state park is way off the beaten path. We drove through the mostly deserted campground and found two excellent spots right on the rushing creek. Boy was it loud!

  
B and Dug went to pay for sites and I started setting up camp as well as performed tick inspection on Beej. He gets flea and tick medicine but that didn’t stop TWO of the little buggers from hanging out for a joyride. I promptly tossed them in to the fire and continued about my business.

TICKS ARE NASTY CREATURES!

Dinner was quickly made and eaten. Then it was time for a nice rousing game of Guillotine. Soon it was bed time and I was lulled to sleep by the rushing creek only a few feet away.

Monday morning after breakfast we quickly nabbed the final state park cache de the weekend. We thought a bit more caching was in order and followed up on some that B had stored including the one pictures in the photo below. There were a lot of ants. 

  

Off to Leavenworth and Icicle Creek brewing for the boys. This brewery serves one of my favorite porters – Dark Persuasion, it’s pretty much like drinking German chocolate cake (which was my dad’s fave). We had some munchies and on the way back to the car chatted with some local roller derby gals.

We returned home tired but satisfied. Only five state parks left in this challenge. With the deadline a scant two months away – we have the gold in our sights.

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.

Moo!

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!

FTF!

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.

November Wrap Up

November was downright cold. B and I enjoyed a Thanksgiving at a cabin near Leavenworth. Aside from our alternator going on on our drive up [we were rescued] it didn’t dampen our spirits and the weekend turned out really relaxing.

Net Worth

Still positive and I implemented the slush fund in my checking account again.

Retirement

  • 401[k] personal: $137.81
  • 401[k] employer match: $68.91

Total: $206.72

Savings

  • Savings: $750
  • Float: $78.83 [currently padding checking]

Debt

  • 401[k] Loan $35.34 payoff June 2016
  • Personal loan 2: $200 payoff April 2020

Total: $235.34

The Great Outdoors/Travel

  • Two camping trips this month both on the Peninsula, you can read about trip one and trip two.
  • Geocaches: 22 found [11 for our State Parks Challenge – we are officially over half way there, 1 mystery, 1 virtual & 2 multi]. The mystery was a night cache and SOO COOL! Check out campingtrip one for a recap of that.

Hand Crafts

  • Hexipuffs: 0
  • Knit second hat [Oak Trail Cloche]: on hold.
  • Ivy Trellis Socks: gradually working my way through the new stitches.
  • Second felted owl: completed and will be mailing it off to the UK soon!

P333

  • On hold and will be revisiting in 2016.

Gardening

  • Prep plants for coming indoors: Still need to do this

Minimalism

  • Move two book shelves to living room: Need to focus on this by year end
  • Sell my two book shelves, closet organization stuff & table from storage to spare room: Need to focus on this by year end
  • Clean up spare room: Need to focus on this by year end
  • Go through storage so I can eliminate that expense: Need to focus on this by year end

Better Health

  • Complete 3 hikes: Totally accomplished this wile Geocaching and camping.
  • Start working out again 2 days a week: Gradual
  • Journal my food choices: Decided against this.

Here’s to this month!

May Goals

After reviewing the first four months of the year I am making some changes to simplify things.

  • Eliminated slush fund and placed $250.40 back to checking. That amount covered a new phone I had to buy or I would have placed in savings.
  • Will transfer all monies left in checking to savings on pay day – zeroing out account for pay period.
  • Had planned on making extra payments on my car for May & June. Those payments will go to my credit card so my car will now be paid off in July [one month later – no interest]. Updates are added below.
  • Making my to do list less aggressive so I will actually get things done. The two main things I am focusing on this month are a basic veggie garden and decluttering the spare room to make room for my sewing table.
  • Getting back on a low sugar eating plan, drinking more water and exercising 20 minutes daily.

The first four days of the month we are headed to eastern Washington to visit B’s aunt, take her to Cirque de Soleil for her birthday, camp, do some Geocaching and drink some yummy beer. A mini vacation. I will try my best to not eat sugar and carbs but I can’t guarantee anything.

Originally we had planned a road trip in September/October of this year down to California to visit B’s grandparents. That might be on hold. B’s best friend since forever is moving from Baltimore, MD to Tampa, FL and asked us if we wanted to fly over there and drive one of their cars down. If this happens, it will be in mid June.

Here is to the second month in the second quarter!

Net Worth

My net worth percentage is a negative 7% [last month was negative 10%]. As mentioned at the end of April, I have decided to break savings and retirement goals in to two separate categories and I have a new debt thanks to Uncle Sam. I am not trying to set a goal for IRA interest any more but will just publish the interest as of the last day of the month. Also, my 401[k] is a guestimation as I have increased the amount and taxes are different. Will know more when I get my first check this month.

Retirement

  • 401[k] personal: $198.24 [guestimation]
  • 401[k] employer match: $99.12 [guestimation]
  • IRA interest: [tbd]

Total: $297.36 [+/- IRA interest]

Savings

  • Automated savings: $200
  • Additional savings: $200

Total: $400

Debt

  • Personal loan: $169 payoff this month
  • Credit Card: $175 payoff July 2015
  • Car payment: $200 payoff July 2015
  • Key Bank: $43.57 payoff August 2015
  • Taxes: $100 payoff December 2015

Total: $612.57

The Great Outdoors

  • Camping: Riverside State Park & Kitsap Memorial State Park
  • Geocaches 20: complete HQ Geo Tour & add 4 to WA State Parks Geo Tour

Hand Crafts

  • Hexipuffs: 5
  • Hanging storage for Marty
  • Purchase/sew clothing for warmer weather
  • Start woven pom pom rope rug

Gardening

  • Create compost bin for chicken yard
  • Create raised bed for vegetable garden
  • Plant Wandering Jew and purchase some succulents for mud room

Minimalism

  • Move all book cases to one wall in spare room
  • Set up temporary sewing space in spare room

Better Health

  • Workouts: 8
  • Hike: 3
  • Dog walks: Daily in nice weather
  • Lose 10 pounds

Here’s to this month!

January Camping

Over the weekend we went camping to Grayland Beach State Park which is about a three hour drive from our house. We got there pretty late Friday night. Enough time to situate our van and have a beer around the campfire.

The next day started windy and rainy. There were 8 of us, 6 of which I would call the regular camping crew that go no matter what the weather. We had a potluck breakfast of eggs and sausage and Jane made scones in her camping oven. They were awesome and I broke my no sugar rule for them.

Camp Oven

There was a lot of standing water in our site and it increased the next morning.

A Lake at our Site

It was pretty cold at the site but I did attempt some knitting. I finished the other half of this Hexi Puff for my Bee Keepers quilt and started another but my fingers were not cooperating and my bamboo needles didn’t like the moisture.

Knitting

The park is huge and there were a ton of people looking for clams out on the beach. Below is a photo bomb selfie with B peeking out from behind me, Jane and Dug.

January Camping Selfi

In the afternoon we found a Geocash under a log on the beach. We headed out to find another and after a half mile realized the weather was picking up and it was getting dark so turned back for camp. Below, Dug, Stuart, B and two of Dug’s dogs.

January Geocach

On our way back Jane had texted us there was a 40 mile an hour wind warning. We got back to camp and had a potluck dinner of Kielbasa, peppers and onions and Jane made camping Panini sammies. We had lashed our two easy ups together and ratchet strapped them to spare tires to keep them from blowing away. The winds were really too much and our easy up was damaged. We took the covers off and left the frames up, picked up everything that wouldn’t blow away and all headed to our vans just before six in the evening.

We always have games with us so B and I played Yahtzee in the van. Six rounds, we each won three and he beat me by one point. The lantern gave off plenty of light and did a great job of warming us up.

Yahtzee

Jane came over [we only had room for one more person in our van] and we played Phase 10.

B is Cozy

The passenger seat swivels around and a handy table B rigged up in the van made playing games super easy. Cozy! We went to bed around midnight and wow did the wind blow over night!

The next morning it was balmy and pretty nice out. We started putting out our wet clothing to dry off and hit the showers for a warm up. We moved over to some friends camp for another potluck breakfast and a campfire. One thing we do well on our trips is – EAT! A photo of my breakfast scramble and a little “garnish”.

Garnish

Below, another friends van seen through campfire smoke and vegetation.

Van Camping

After breakfast we headed in to town to watch the Seahawks game. Originally we were going to go to the Westport Winery but they could not get the sound on for the game. We ended up at Half Moon Bay Bar & Grill to watch the game.

Dug had quite the hair going on.

Big Wave Dug

Oh what a game it was! It was not looking good for the Hawks and we ended up scoring 15 points in 44 seconds at the end of the game. The Packers tied it up and then we won in OT. WOW! Truly exciting and nerve wracking.

Seahawks

After that we decided to look for another Geocash. It was up on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The dogs got to run around [except Beej – who was napping the van]. He didn’t care to much for the weather this weekend.

Beej

After that we hit to road to head home. Dug, B and I ended up at Engine House No. 9 for dinner. B and I split a pizza [oh yum and breaking my no sugar rule again] and we enjoyed a bourbon barrel aged beer and a porter. We got home pretty late and crashed out. Stay tuned for our next camping adventure!

 

 

2014 Camping – Year In Review

Although I didn’t post about each trip, B and I had 17 camping expeditions in 2014. Most of these were with B’s Volkswagen club The Cascade Kombis. A few of these adventures were combined with another Volkswagen group in the area the Wet Westies.

Passenger and Driver

January: Deception Pass State Park with the Wet Westies & Sparkles The Bus. Sparkles belongs to friends of ours in the Kombis. They converted a school bus in to a party bus/camping vehicle for burning man. B’s mom gave him Flamingo yard art and we quickly decided it should be our marker for our site.

Flamingoes in January

February: Fort Flagler State Park with the Wet Westies. Busses lined up in a row, Marty in front, he’s the BF’s bus. Next is Janes “Carolina” and then Dug’s bus [almost cruised away without him and just his three dogs inside] and then Jennie’s bus “Little Magic”.

Four Busses in a Row

Had Toas Tites for the first time. Using them over the camp fire.

Toas Tites

March: Dash Point State Park with Sparkles the Bus again. Very wet and grateful for my Wellies. Learned to play Phase 10. Did some geocashing.

Wellies

This is my dog Beej. He’s pretty mellow and comes on all of our camping trips.

Beej Chair

April: Camano Island State Park. B was in Japan. We thought this would start out as a girls only trip and Jane and I joked about making a sign on cardboard that said “No Boys Allowed” but then others showed up. The flamingoes now have leis.

Camping at Camano

Had Panini’s in Jane’s camping Panini Press. First time I took Marty out by myself. Sadly the trip ended with me getting a migraine Sunday morning. Everyone was awesome and got me home and I slept the rest of the day. We rescued Marty on Easter Sunday as it was parked at a friends mom’s house near the campground. Bus people are awesome!

Camping Panini Press

May: Kitsap Memorial State Park. As the weather warmed up more bus club members ventured out for camping. That is Curt’s van “The Rivi Room” in the front. He’s got a sound system and a flat screen TV in that thing.

Da Busses

Stopped in Port Gamble and saw a famous Camperdown Elm.

Camperdown Elm

June: Camano Island State Park again with the Wet Westies. Hung around the campground most of the time. Potluck on Saturday night where we tried some amazing Paleo bars. Yum! Checked out the cabins at Cama Beach State Park. Yes, I’m a mermaid! Learned to play the board game Sequence.

Karen Mermaid

July: Hammersley Inlet. Private property of one of the bus club members. The photo below is our view from the bus. It was my birthday so we made Gorgonzola stuffed, bacon wrapped dates and Jane brought oysters.

Hammersley Inlet

Jane and her son with a lovely shade umbrella as we waited in line for the ferry to take us home.

Happy Campers

August: Blue Fox Drive in Theater for a double feature of Guardian’s of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Injured my knee before trip. Airplane ride’s with Al [a guy in the club].

Blue Fox Drive In

B and Curt’s son Go Kart racing.

Go Karting

Whidbey Island for one of B’s best friends wedding.

Hells Gate State Park to visit B’s grandparents.

Hell's Gate

September: Riverside Sate Park to visit B’s aunt as well as trips to Breweries [No Li, Ramblin’ Road, Steam Plant & Waddell’s.

Bowl and Pitcher

Tasters

Big Pines Campground for river rafting and Moxee Park for Volksfest and a stop at Bale Breaker Brewing on our way out of town. We took White Pass home which was a little out of the way but fun.

Beej Goes Rafting

October: The Cove at Fish Lake Campground & Leavenworth for Oktoberfest and Blue Spirits tasting. I tried the vodka and the guys tried the whiskey. My tastings were little Bloody Mary’s. Dug brought pumpkins to carve.

Pumpkin

We also found quite a few varieties of mushrooms on our hike that weekend.

Orange Mushroom

Dugs three dogs are always along for the ride. We hiked down to an abandoned camp ground.

Hike

November: Visited B’s dad in Tri Cities. Kulshan Campground. Got down to 10 degrees and we adopted “the most interesting man in the world” [more about that in an upcoming camping post]. Stopped at Birdsview Brewing for beer and dinner.

Ten Degrees

December: Verlot Campground. Very wet! Big Four ice caves and geocashing.

Camping at Christmas

“Not all that wander are lost”.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

This year I will do a post for each trip with more photos per trip. Enjoy!