There is so much more to tell about our Oregon coast trip last month, but at the moment, while it’s fresh, here’s a quick take on the Ohanapecosh campground, in the southeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park.
U.S. National Parks, as you probably know, aren’t very accommodating to dogs. The reasons for this have been debated elsewhere, but it is what it is, so… when you take Cairn terriers camping to Mount Rainier, it’s mostly about the campground and its immediate environs. Dogs aren’t really allowed outside campgrounds, vehicles and parking lots. That’s it.
But our pals from Port Townsend have sung the praises of Ohanapecosh to us for many moons, and we had a few days in late August to kill. So there we went.
From our hovel in Gig Harbor, there are few ways to drive to Ohanapecosh: the fast way — one that involves Cayuse Pass and what our Mountain Directory books calls “a narrow, winding, bumpy road” and a number of drop-offs that cause Sooz to begin singing hymns and Wally to whimper — or either of two slower ways. For this trip we tried the two slower ways, both of which require driving south to the west of the park, then turning east and heading back up north a few miles from the White Pass Scenic Byway (Washington state route 12). State route 123 gets you from route 12 up to the park entrance and, just a few miles beyond, Ohanapecosh.
You get there, you find your campsite, you park, you hear the river rapids below. You’re in old-growth forest: Western Redcedar, Douglas fir, all the usual suspects. Crows call out (surely, they follow us around from campsite to campsite).
The campsites are fairly large, though the parking pads, not so much. And the roads through the campground loops are perhaps a little bit twistier than some places we have been. Not a problem for our little rig, but the campground says it can’t accommodate motorhomes over 32 feet long or trailers over 28 feet long. That sounds about right.
At any rate, our campsite (C-8), was at pretty much right angles to the loop road, and maneuvering into it required some fairly sharp turning. A little too sharp, at one point.
BANG went the tail light lens, when pressed upon by one of the lock clasps on our front storage box. At least we were alerted by a $59 lens and not hundreds-of-dollars’-worth of fender. Ooops. As you might guess, this incident led to lengthy discussions and plentiful Internet research about parking methods, teamwork, the cost of divorce lawyers vs. the cost of auto body shop repairs, etc.
Seriously, just an inexpensive lesson learned about just how acutely Toto and TinMan can angle their way in or out of somewhere. And I really did find some helpful new tips online that will even simplify poking Toto into his cozy beside-the-house storage slot.
So. We were camping, right? Yes. The sites were designed, I think, when tents were almost universally used. Firepits and picnic tables were back behind parking pads instead of beside them, and were placed so haphazardly that the rangers had decided to mark each firepit or picnic table with a site number. Every site also has a food locker to discourage critters from consuming junk food.
There are plenty of sites in the woods, along creeks, and — in a few cases — alongside the Ohanapecosh River.
For better or for worse, our site along the C loop was quite close to a vaguely designated Day Use Area.
The river just below our campsite offered some nice views, white-noise-producing rapids, and relatively serene (if chilly) swimming holes.
Ohanapecosh, for us, poses the question: How do we want to consume Natural Beauty?
Ohanapecosh is open for only about three months in summer — the rest of the time it’s under many feet of snow. That means there really is no “off-season” time we can visit — say, when school is in session. It’s a beautiful place. But, in our culture, beautiful places appeal not only to nature nerds, but to families with happily shouting young children, party-prone young adults, and other distractions. Hey, they pay their taxes, they have a right to be here, and enjoy it in their own way. But it does cut into our enjoyment. This is the price we pay for not being backpackers or wealthy landowners.
We have longtime friends — much more fit and agile than are we — who regularly do back-country hikes. They also take great pictures! They get to experience nature at its grandest, perhaps. We can approximate their experience on short day hikes, but with the terriers in tow they do have to be short.
Anyway, it’s a topic worth exploring, and one we have revisited frequently since our 3-week, peak-season Oregon coast trip. How to optimize RV-related joy. Hmmmm.
Well, there’s this approach: the short day hike, experienced early in the morning when it’s uncrowded. This was a lovely walk, right from the campground.
What we missed: A two-mile loop hike to Silver Falls departs right from the campground, and a stroll through something called the Grove of the Patriarchs is a short drive away. Next time.Sharing is caring!
Following is daring.