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Archive for May, 2011

While I work on my map making skills so I can show you all some more results from my trip to Staircase two weeks ago, let me tell you how excited I am about my next planned camping trip–and it’s not even in the Olympics!

Next weekend I’ll be chaperoning somewhere between ten and fifteen junior high students from the church youth group on a “Rock and Roll” trip, meaning we’ll be going rock climbing and river rafting.  I’m going because I know how to belay.  (I’ve actually taken a group of junior highers camping and rock climbing in the same spot we’ll be going to when I worked for a summer at Tall Timber Ranch.)  The other half, the river rafting, I’ve never done before, and I’m both excited and a little nervous to do it.  It’s not that I think I’ll drown, I just don’t want to get wet and cold.  I know, I’m a sissy.

It is my plan to be thoroughly over prepared for this trip.  Most of the gear will be provided by someone else, but I still intend on bringing most of my camping supplies–just in case, right?  And anyway, when you’re responsible for a bunch of younger teens, it never hurts to have some extra stuff, which is why I’m bringing two sleeping bags and three waterbottles, as well as extra sweaters.

Those extra sweaters might turn out quite handy, if I am to believe one of the ladies who went on the trip last year.  Apparently all the guys were warm, but the gals, who were informed by one of those guys that it wouldn’t get too cold on the trip, were all freezing.  I’m not surprised.  Staying warm is always my biggest problem on camping trips, which is why I fell in love with wool last year.

Wool is amazing!  I don’t understand why it’s gotten such a bad rap.  It’s warm, durable, doesn’t hold odors, and isn’t even itchy if you get stuff that’s been handled well.  Last spring I bought myself a set of wool/synthetic blend long underwear and it pretty much saved my life when we were camping in Yellowstone in June and the temperature dropped to around 25 degrees every night and it snowed half of the days we were there.  I recently knitted myself two sweaters out of 100% wool, and let me tell you, they are warm and comfy and not scratchy at all.  I have a feeling they will come in quite handy next weekend.

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Getting to Staircase is more difficult that it seems it ought to be.  I suppose it should come as no surprise in this land of water and mountains; traveling between points in Western Washington often take two or three times as long as it would anywhere else.

My journey began with a circuitous rout south and west and north again around Hood Canal to join up with Highway 101, the necessary starting point for all journeys into Olympic.

The turn for Staircase is an unassuming road hiding in the middle of Hoodsport, a cute little town that I will have to return to and explore.  It looks to be a good place to pick up supplies that may have been forgotten at home or to take a break from the road.  Driving by I saw a gas station, an IGA grocery store, a promising looking coffee shop, and a run down “Family Mexican Restaurant” that (knowing how these things usually work) probably has some pretty good food.

119 (the road to Staircase) immediately starts climbing into the hills towards Lake Cushman.  Lake Cushman is not a pretty lake.  It was created by a dam, as the dead trees and stumps sticking up out of low water will tell you.  A fork in the road directs you left around the lake on a forest service road of compact gravel plagued with pot holes.

Upon reaching the park boundery, the change in management is immediately apparent.  The road is paved, second- and third-growth forest gives way to towering old-growth trees, and even those who know nothing about river ecosystems will notice that the north fork of the Skokomish River looks much healthier here than when if flows into the lake a mile downstream.

Half a mile later the road ends in a parking area by the ranger station, campground, and trailheads.  I laughed to see a phone booth sitting under the hemlocks and cedars as we left the car to set off up the trail.

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I’m thinking of going to Staircase (in the south-east corner of the park) this weekend.  That should give me some more material to post soon.  In the mean time, check out two illustrations I worked up today:

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

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