Thursday, July 6, 2017

June Camping: Belfair, WA and Lopez Island, WA

Alternative working title: In which the bathroom gods frowned upon us.

We went back-to-back camping in June, which was a bit unplanned.

It turns out that if you want a weekend camping spot in Washington state during the summer months, you have to reserve in December.  When I looked in April and May, all the weekend slots were taken, and I had to settle for a Sunday-Tuesday booking.  Even that was not enough for a Lopez Island campsite during the month of July. Instead, I had to settle for a late June spot.  After I reserved our campsite, I found out that the Father/Son campout for church was the Friday before our camping trip.  And then, because of ward feedback, they changed it to a ward campout vs just an exclusive Father/Son thing.  I would have been happy to skip it, but Finn had been looking forward to that particular camping trip all year.  So, we made life extra crazy by camping a night, coming back home for a day, and then setting off for another camping trip.

Luckily, the church camp is not too far away from us in Belfair, WA.  It is charmingly situated away in the woods and next to a lovely lake.  They have boats, canoes, life jackets, paddles, etc. all accessible to camp patrons.  There are also playgrounds and open fields.  Altogether, it is a nice setup.  My one main problem, which could be a future deal breaker, is that they only have pit toilets for *most* of the campsites.  I say *most* because there are actually some rather nice bathroom facilities, but the camp administrators are rather rudely authoritarian about who can actually use them.  Only those people staying in a particular building may actually use the nice toilets/showers, the rest of the campers have to use pit toilets.  Look, I get that there are places where there are only pit toilets (or even no toilets!), but the payoff of those particular campgrounds is that they are remote/limited use.  You change your mindset: you are there to embrace nature and to become one with it. Those are great and certainly have their place.  However, I am not at this stage of life going to go car camping with my family at a place that doesn't have flush toilets and a sink.  No bueno.  And come on, a church campground can take the effort to have flush toilets for it's patrons.

The ward designated a group campsite, where people could mingle and enjoy a campfire and have breakfast in the morning.  However, we saw very little of it since 1) our kids where *begging* for bedtime at 8pm and 2) we, for well documented reasons, have to fend for ourselves food-wise.  We did stop by in the morning to chat while our kids clustered around us and refused to play with the other kids.  (This did change when we were actually packing up the site to leave of course.)  The commonly asked question was, "so how did you sleep?"  To which I replied, "as good as we normally do."  Which is to say--horribly.  One person then said, "and yet, you still keep on camping...." Which implies that we are a bit crazy or masochistic.  I won't argue with that conclusion.  I guess some kids/parents sleep great when camping.  We do not.  Our kids have yet to master the trick of staying in their sleeping bags.  We, instead, spend the majority of the night getting kicked in various places and trying to keep the kids from freezing to death by throwing sleeping bags-turned blankets-over them.

Don't worry, they didn't stay in those bags for longer longer than the first few hours. Also, we gave them melatonin so that they would sleep when it was that light out.

I keep playing with the idea of longer camping trips, so that we could explore areas a bit farther from home.  But until we get better sleep, two nights is our max.

What we ate:

I tried to keep it simple since it was just going to be for a night.

Dinner: Mexican style crockpot chicken cooked earlier in the week over tortilla chips and topped with lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes.  Veggies and hummus as a side.  No dessert.

Breakfast: homemade granola (with modifications), with fresh berries and yogurt.  Hot chocolate.

We drove back on Saturday, swapped out clothing, loaded up our cooler with the next few days' worth of food, and headed out for our second camping trip on Sunday.

Minimalist campers we will never be.

After dealing with a less than ideal cooler situation for the past few years, I finally bit the bullet and ordered two new coolers: one large hard cooler and a smaller soft-sided cooler.  Up to this point, we had been using our plug-in cooler as our main cooler.  A few problems with this: it was too small for our camping needs, and it was not designed to hold ice/get wet.  The plug-in cooler is awesome for car trips and hotel visits where you can plug it in and have it act like a refrigerator.  It is not awesome for car camping.  Also, our soft-sided cooler was old and didn't keep things cool for very long.  After a lot of research and hemming and hawing and justification, I decided on this hard-sided cooler and this soft-sided cooler.  So far, the angels (and me) are singing their praises.

Also, planning for this Lopez Island camping trip highlighted Mr. F.'s and my personality differences.  I am a big picture sort of gal (N in Myer-Briggs speak).  For example, I researched great camping spots, saw that Lopez Island would be a great place and someplace we could bike, and went about reserving a campground.  It was only days before the trip that I started looking into how we would get there.  It turns out that we had to take two different ferries (I was expecting only one), and that the scheduling of the ferries were such that we could only get to the island at 6pm at the earliest.  Color me seriously bummed.  The trip as I planned it had us spending two days traveling with one full day left to explore the island.  When I explained this to Mr. F., he was all, "Didn't you see this coming?"  Turns out, he more or less expected this outcome.  If he were the one planning, he would most likely check travel details before making the reservations to see if the plan was even feasible.  He is all about the details.  (S in Myer-Briggs).

Live and learn.  We will not be heading back to the San Juans until we can handle more than two nights.  Otherwise, the travel time doesn't make it worth it.  That being said, We really enjoyed the camping trip.

Oh, expect for the small detail that the main bathroom for the campsite--the one with the flush toilets and sinks--was closed for renovation.  Why they didn't plan renovations for the winter when there wasn't so many campers, I have no idea.  Instead, they had a slew of port-a-potties that were all rank and filled to capacity.  (Dude, if you are going to do renovations to the toilets of a popular campground?  Make sure you keep on top of the pit toilet disposal!)  The toilet situation and the fact that I completely miscalculated the travel time, made me think that this camping trip was for the dogs.  Luckily, there was a second set of flush toilets in they day-use portion of the campground which was about as far of a hike as the port-a-potties.  Bonus, they were flying under cover of most of the campers so they weren't very crowded.  That find seriously saved the trip for me.

We spent our day on Lopez enjoying the campground (which was quite lovely with well-spaced camping spots with lots of privacy), lining up pinecones(?) while parents cooked, hiking to Shark Reef Sanctuary (very cool), and taking a family bike ride around the northern part of the island.

This is what I get when I ask for a nice picture with the kids.  Check out the version with their dad on Flickr--perfectly respectable.

Side note: I had heard that Lopez was great for biking since it was relatively flat.  This made me excited and is one of the reasons why I picked this camping location--I am always looking for places where we can go on a nice family bike ride.  However, I seriously want to know what they mean by "relatively," because dude, our ride was not flat.  I guess relative to the other islands, it is one of the flatter ones.  But there were some not trivial inclines, and they were at pretty regular intervals.  Mr. F. and I were huffing and puffing after our ten mile ride.  It was not helped by the fact that we were hauling our children either.

What we ate:

Lunch: Confetti salad, vegetables with hummus, fruit
Dinner: Hamburgers, steamed broccoli, s'mores
Breakfast: pancakes, hot cocoa (Mr. F. ate eggs)
Lunch: pizza quesadillas, fruit, vegetables with hummus (Mr. F. ate leftovers)
Dinner: chicken/pepper/snap pea salad, hash browns, s'mores
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, hash browns, hot cocoa
Lunch: sandwiches with lunch meat, leftover veggies/hummus, fruit

As usual, you can check out more pictures here.


Inder-ific said...

THis had me chuckling aloud! I'm glad I'm not the only person who really has a hard time dealing without proper bathroom facilities!!! The San Juan islands are gorgeous but I still need flushing toilets!! Lol!

Reggi said...

Loved reading this! As a note to timing and ferries... I just did a day trip to Friday Harbor albeit without little ones. It was a long day but a fun adventure and it worked even with two ferries! We walked on at Anacortes, spent four hours wandering around Friday harbor and then returned. Absolutely love the variety of adventures in this area of the world! Happy summer!!!

RFamily said...

Looks like a beautiful trip overall! I always appreciate the ideas your meal plans give me ;)


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