Summer never damp when you know how to camp

Part IV of Summer Pleasures series

Few true Northwesterners can deny the allure of the Great Outdoors. We work there, play there, relax there and even live there.

Most everyone in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana has an inborn connection with nature. But, for those who haven’t made the jump to becoming full-time backcountry dwellers, there are still ample opportunities to pretend for a few days.

Campgrounds galore grace the landscapes of the four Northwestern states, and if you can outduel the weekend warriors for a money spot, campin’ out is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a summer weekend.

Whether you’re into backpacking, kayaking, canoeing or plain-old car camping, the playgrounds of the Great Northwest ensure that you are never bored.

Scenic variety is abundant, as all four states house vastly variant forests, landscapes and bodies of water. Rock composition and plant life vary as much from place to place as bear danger and insect infestations.

A camping trip in northern Oregon has a much different feel than a camping trip in northern Montana, just as an overnight kayak in the San Juans feels drastically different than a multi-day raft trip on the Deschutes.

Each has its own appeal and each brings with it a unique outdoor experience. Some people prefer one over the other, but until you’ve run the gamut for all the camping opportunities in the Northwest, it’s impossible to say which is superior.

For instance, the national parks such as Crater Lake and Glacier have a leg up in scenic wonder, but campgrounds in the Mt. Hood, Olympic or Cascade national forests may offer equally inspiring natural vistas without the tourist traps or added costs.

But, regardless of where you camp in the Northwest, you’re in for a treat. Lucky for us that Mother Nature paid particularly close attention to detail when dreaming up the landscapes of this region.

Some of the most awe-inspiring natural beauty in the Northwest, if not the nation, can be found in the North and Central Cascades in Washington. Leavenworth, Marblemount and the Wenatchee River area are almost without equal, but all equally glorious.

If you can secure a spot alongside a stunning glacial lake off Icicle Creek Road near Leavenworth, you won’t want to leave. If you have seen some of the vistas — the 360-degree view of the mountains and pristine pools of water — from atop Lookout Mountain, you may never want for more.

But, as much as people love camping and backpacking for bringing them closer to the splendor of the outdoors, most of them realize that it’s all about the experience.

What makes camping such a time-honored summer activity is the memories. “Remember the time that raccoon got inside our tent? Remember soaking our feet in the lake after a five-mile uphill scorcher? Remember when you sat too close to the fire and singed the soles of your shoes?

These are the experiences that make camping so fulfilling. It’s not always dry, it’s not always clean, things don’t always go as planned. But, in the end, it’s always fun.

The excitement of finding the perfect spot. The joys of sitting around a campfire for hours, talking (or singing) about whatever comes up. The adventure of cooking with no light, lots of wind and a book of Safeway matches. The invigorating feeling of sleeping outside under the stars, breathing the freshest of fresh air, and knowing that you don’t have any set plans the next day.

One of the best things about camping is making it up as you go. “We’ll go for a hike ... if we feel like it. We’ll go fishing ... if time allows. We’ll stay two nights ... if it doesn’t rain.”

Organizing the perfect camping trip is all about perspective. Everyone has their own idea of how to maximize the outdoor experience. For some, it’s about the gear; for others, it’s about the beer.

But, no matter how you look at it, the pleasures of camping are universal. Living in nature for a few days is therapeutic. Just don’t forget the extra tarp.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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