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Archive for the ‘Staircase’ Category

After a long foray into the land of Photoshop, with a stop at the island nation of Learning-a-ton-more-about-Photoshop, I have emerged victorious with a map of the Staircase Campground!  (Click on it to see a larger version.)

Staircase Campground sits on the inside of a bend in the North Fork of the Skokomish River.  It used to have 56 sites, but that number is down to 50 because the southern waterfront sites were washed out by the river.  These washout sites are listed in parentheses on the map.  Site 14 has a semi-circle of benches set up in what’s left of it.  The remaining waterfront sites are 1-7 (except for 3) and they are the most spacious sites in the campground.  If you don’t mind sleeping next to loud, rushing water, try to grab one of these.  You’ll have room to spread out and a nice view of the river.

I’m always a sucker for walk-in sites at campgrounds.  They give you just the tiniest taste of hike-in camping (alright, it’s more like a smell than a taste.)  I enjoy the larger, wilder nature of walk-in sites, as well as the guarantee that I won’t have an RV for a neighbor.  Staircase’s 5 walk-in sites are all well set up with fire pit and bear-box, but the ones towards the back give a little more cover, and are near the river to boot.  #24 is my choice for the best walk-in site.

If you’re camping with a larger group than will fit in a single site, there are a couple of good options for you.  44 and 45 are close together, and when I visited the campground there was a large family using them as basically one site.  10 and 11 share the same parking strip, and if you combine them with 46 and 48 behind them, you have a very spacious, relatively open area to share.  If you have younger kids with good imaginations, I would suggest snagging site 51, which has a large hollow cedar stump in it, perfect for a castle or fortress.

I would not recommend sites 32-41.  These are up-hill from the rest of the campground, next to the road.  While they are sheltered among denser trees, these sites are quite small and not very flat.  They also have to longest walks to the bathrooms, which are both located on the lower level.  42 and 43, while on the upper level, are much larger and flatter than their neighbors.

Now for some miscellaneous details:

Site 46 is a designated handicap spot: very flat, next to the bathrooms, and with a larger tent pad.

Camping fee is $12.  Checkout is at 11:00.  Collecting firewood is prohibited in the area.  Standard campground quiet hours are 10:00-6:00.

The nearest RV dump station is down the road at Lake Cushman and there is a $5 fee.

And finally, the Lavon award for best campsite goes to #31, a medium-sized, flat site tucked in the corner of the campground, sheltered by several evergreens, with one particularly nice western hemlock providing a canopy over the picnic table and tent pad.  Thanks, Lavon, for assisting me in my survey.  Hopefully we can stay at site 31 some time.

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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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