Camp Like A Girl

blog, photography, pnw & travel


“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather, a room where I could retreat to who I really was.”

– Cheryl Strayed

Being alone is essential to me. Besides the fact that I’m socially awkward, overly earnest, usually serious, and generally not great company, I simply prefer to be able to hear myself think. My batteries wear down faster than an old iPhone in roaming mode, and they need long stretches of silence to recharge. I rarely pass up the chance to go to that place, that room.

As a woman, however, there are circumstances in which it seems impossible for me to feel comfortable alone. Anywhere at night, for example. Even if I’m in my own house (say my boyfriend went on his own weekend trip), I am hypervigilant, attuned to every tiny noise or flutter of light outside, real or imagined.

So why the hell would I want to go camp by myself, out of cell range in Gifford Pinchot National Forest — for two whole days? My dad, who’s spent many a night alone in the woods, always says “there’s nothing in the woods at night that isn’t there during the day.” Which may be true (though I did recently come across this article in the Atlantic), but it’s what isn’t there at night, namely, sunlight with which to see.

Lavender Blue

blog, photography, pnw & travel

There’s a little corner of the United States, the upper left one, that is a conundrum of precipitation. This corner (the Olympic Peninsula) is the part of Washington that looks like it’s being torn away from the mainland. Mount Olympus sits astride this peninsula like the queen that she is, watching the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Salish Sea to the north, and the Sound to the East. She is one of the rainiest places in the entire US, getting about 220 inches of precipitation per year. A few miles west, the town of Forks, WA (of Twilight fame) gets about a hundred inches fewer. Seattle, for comparison, gets an average of 38 inches of rain per year.

Tucked in the midst of all this drizzle, sits the town of Sequim. Pronounced more like a tentacled sea creature than a shiny adornment, Sequim gets a meager 16 inches of rain per year (Los Angeles gets about 15!) The reason for this is a rain shadow.

A rain shadow occurs when a mountain(s) blocks moisture from its leeward side. This is kind of what happens between the western and eastern sides of the Cascade mountain range, making one side a lush, mossy paradise full of magic and wonder, and the other side a hot, dry, dusty wasteland that’s baked or frozen brown three-quarters of the year (but I digress).

This Broom’s Not for Sweeping

blog, pnw & travel, sustainable living

Sweep the house with blossomed broom in May; sweep the head of the household away…

~ traditional rhyme of Sussex

It’s a familiar sight here at the threshold of June: driving along I-5, watching the bright spots of yellow burst out, a patch here, a dot there, until blam! The entire hillsides radiate sunshine hues. It can be mesmerizing, almost pretty, if you didn’t know better. On my latest drive from Portland to Seattle, the sky was dark and moody, with giant banks of clouds jutting across in thick lines. The darkness reached almost to the horizon, leaving just enough of a gap for the late evening sun to strain through. Burnt gold sunlight lit up massive patches of Scotch Broom against the sky.

Deception Pass State Park

blog, photography, pnw & travel, Uncategorized

In case you have never yet heard of Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey/Fidalgo island in NW Washington, let me enlighten you. It is one of the most engaging hikes I have ever been on, and I’ve now been there twice in a month! It’s not difficult, only reaching about 500 or so feet of climbing, and the mossy, forested trail overlooks the Puget Sound most of the time.

The first time we went, I had Jim and my sister, Mary, with me. We forgot our Discover Pass, and in answer to whether or not we should purchase a $10 day pass, Jim said, “Nah. We can just dispute the ticket by putting our pass number on it. I did that at such-and-such a place and it was fine.”

So we just parked and hiked. Here is what we saw:

It was a perfect day: overcast, recently rained, cool but not blustery. There were plenty of overlook spots, and places that went down to the water. We explored (or tried, anyway) a sea cave, but the tide was coming in, so we couldn’t get there.

One of my favorite things about this hike is that you’re free to wander. There were very few railings, and you could get right up to the cliffs and look over. I’ve lived near the Pacific coast my whole life and I’ve never seen live bull kelp – still attached to the bottom, not washed up on shore like so many gullwhackers in Mariel of Redwall. It seemed like Ireland (or what I imagine Ireland to be in my head) up top, green and grassy, misty and rather morose (in a good way).

There are also a lot of madrone trees up here. It was pretty surreal – we are used to seeing them in hot, sunny, (mostly) dry Southern Oregon, and they don’t grow up past Eugene area, really. And then all the sudden, they pop back up in the rainy, cold, mossy Northernmost tip of Washington!

There were also tide pools on the north side of the hike – we hiked south first, then looped back to the parking lot and went north. I collected a ridiculous amount of rocks and shells, and poked a number of sea anemones. One tiny, iridescent shell caught my fancy, and I tucked it in my palm with the others and headed up to show my sister, when I felt a little tickle, shrieked, and flung the lot of it onto the beach. After gathering them back up, I discovered this coveted little shell was already taken!

You may be wondering how our “Nah we’ll just dispute it” ended up. Let’s just say this was a very expensive hike, and bring your fricking Discover Pass or pay the extra $10.

Anyway. On our second trip, Jim and I took his parents, and my mom (and our Discover Pass!) on this hike the day after my birthday. It was a lot windier, and pretty rainy that time around, but still beautiful! I tried to take some different photos. The tide was low, so we made it to the cave! This is my mom at the cave. We saw at least four banana slugs out, some pretty flowers, and more tiny crabs!

This is a beautiful hike, a quintessential NW trip, and I encourage people to go there. Just not too many people, ’cause I wanna hike there with no crowds. 🙂