Thursday, August 20, 2009

I snagged the last camping spot in Leavenworth...

From N.
I haven't totally given up on backpacking, but it's easy to think of all the reasons to avoid it: bear bags, 40-pound packs, simple food that's maybe even freeze-dried, less prep and repacking of bags. Wine weighs a lot.

By comparison, car camping is total luxury. Although I'm pretty bare bones compared to the RVs that roll around with full set-ups including tables, canopies with mosquito netting and grills. Here's my tent.

Backpacking gets you deep into the wilderness, but car camping still gets you two to three hours closer to amazing hikes. This past weekend, my friend L. and I headed to Leavenworth, the uber kitschy Bavarian town set in stunning scenery two and a half hours from Seattle. We were there to get a taste of the Alpine Lakes that are the entryway to the popular Enchantments, which is, you know, overrun with backpackers.

My friends and I are always last-minute about camping. We tend to drive someplace, cross our fingers and look for camp sites. I think Leavenworth has more rock climbers and families camping than any place in the state. Seriously. We drove through four full campgrounds on Icicle Creek Road before a guy waved us down at Ida Creek, the very last campground on the road. He told us to wait for the people clearing out of spot 5. If that site wasn't open, I'm not sure what we would have done. Possibly panic.

We set up my tent, then took a stroll along Icicle Creek, exerting ourselves just enough to tell ourselves we deserved our hamburger dinner. But first, L. set us up with an adorable oilcloth tablecloth on the picnic table and even lit colorful citronella tea candles to try and dissuade the bugs. It didn't work on the bees.

While she got the fire going, I made hamburgers on my camp stove. There ain't no hamburgers when you backpack. I seasoned the patties with salt and pepper, then pan-fried them on my stove. Our patties were cradled in buttered, grilled brioche buns lathered with mustard and then topped with melted cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes from L.'s garden and sliced crunchy pickles. Hamburgers are awesome anywhere, but they are unspeakably awesome in the woods. We ate it along with a delicious potato salad with olive oil and herbs L. made and Caesar salad from a bag. We finished off the night with dark chocolate wafers and some Maker's Mark in front of a fire. Car camping totally wins.

The next day, we sprinted past the backpackers with our featherlight daypacks on the 4.5-mile trail to Lake Stuart at the foot of Mount Stuart. The moderate trail is gorgeous, winding along a creek in a dappled forest before opening up to alpine vistas. We ended with lunch by the lake. It was quite perfect.

The backpackers are headed past these peaks into the Enchantments. So I'm maybe, slightly, just a little bit jealous. I could probably be convinced to do it. Sigh. Maybe backpacking wins.

1 comment:

  1. I am loving that oilcloth tablecloth! I have an oilcloth apron and have been wanting to expand my collection :)