I started camping in high school. My family only took vacation to visit relatives and the most adventurous thing we ever did was go horseback riding. One of my high school teachers also taught in Outward Bound and started a club for students which was called The Alpine Club. He introduced many of us to camping, rock climbing, hiking, skiing and the love of the outdoors.
I have fond memories of several overnight camping trips we did in my Senior year. These were two day overnight trips within 2 hour drive of the Central Valley. There were usually around 12 students in the group and three teachers who would drive. None of us had tents or camp stoves so we would all sleep under the stars and cook over an open fire. We’d also go on hikes in the area. We did overnights to Big Sur, Pinnacles, Mendocino and Yosemite. I loved it.
G and my first date was actually a double date with our good friend from high school. We went camping in Yosemite Valley. G’s friend brought a huge military tent and we found a spot along the Merced River. We spent the evening around the campfire getting to know each other.
Camping became an inexpensive way of vacation during our early years after we married. We bought tent, camp stove, pads, new sleeping bag for G and spent several weekends exploring Washington State. We also did two great road trip camping vacations. We went north into Canada exploring Jasper, Banff and Glacier Parks. The next year we went south and visited Yellowstone, Teton, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. We also did a coastal camp trip.
We also started backpacking and did less car camping. As we got older, we discovered the joys of international travel and staying in rentals. Our camping gear fell by the wayside. Our last camping trip was to Death Valley in 2005. We mainly camped because we couldn’t get reservations at the motel in Death Valley and we didn’t want to stay at the more upscale Furnace Inn.
I think my backpacking days are over. It would take a significant effort to build up the strength to carry 30lbs again. But I do miss being out under the stars. We decided to do more car camping this year.
The first step was to purchase a new tent. We still have the original tent that we bought 30 years ago. It is fine but a little small. I went to REI during their members sale in March and took a look at the tents. We would only be car camping so we could consider a bigger tent. They had several 4 man tents set up. You could stand up in them and they were big enough to even fit a cot. Hmmm.. now we’re talking.
We purchased a Big Agnes Big House 4. I liked the roomy interior and the great ventilation. We pulled out the rest of our gear. Our camp stove stopped working several years ago but we still had our single burner backpacking stove. The rest of our gear was in pretty good shape other than maybe a little smelly.
We finally had a chance to try it out last weekend. Washington State has a good on-line reservation system for the State Parks. We checked mid-May and there were a few sites still available for a couple of the park not far from here on Whidbey Island. We reserved a spot for one night at South Whidbey State Park. It would give us a chance to try out the new and old gear.
It was a good test. The weather turned ugly for Memorial Day weekend but there was a small break on Sunday. You can get to Whidbey Island either via a ferry or by driving an extra 30 miles up to Anacortes and back down the island. We decided to be cheap and drive around. It was not too bad of a drive on Sunday although the weather was off and on drizzle.
We couldn’t check into our site until 2:30pm so we went to Ebey Landing and did a bluff hike. It was great until it started to rain. I was so grumpy and worried about having to spend the night in a tent damp and wet. Fortunately, it didn’t rain hard enough to soak us and we dried off before we got to camp.
The tent was a breeze to set up. Our site was a little sheltered so we had an area to cook that was out of the drizzle. The campground was not too busy either since many parties had decided to stay home. I brought along some pre-cooked vegetarian chili and warmed some tortillas which were easy to prepare. We will want to get a different stove just to have two burners. Our backpacking stove uses white gas so it is a little bit of a pain to use. We want to switch to the newer stoves that use propane canisters. G also brought along some dry wood and he was able to start a campfire with one match! Even in the rain.
It was early to bed for us. Surprisingly we were able to sleep pretty well. I did wake up once or twice from sleeping on the hard ground but did not have any aches and pains the next day. The tent kept us dry although we could tell that there may be one area that will be trouble in heavier rain. It also gave a chance to figure out how to stake down the fly.
We are also looking at other items to bring such as a ‘blue tarp’. Blue tarps are traditional here in the NW as a rain shelter. You string them up between the trees at your site. We also want to get some folding chairs.
We hope to spend a couple of weekends camping in different areas and we may make a longer trip in September/October. Maybe even back to Yosemite where it all began.
Setting up the tent