Friday, July 26, 2013

Beary Much Fun Camping Trip

We took a camping trip this past weekend to one of the northernmost camping sites in the area.  It was in big animal country, with signs posted everywhere of it being grizzly and black bear country, along with the moose, elk, and deer.  We camped at a US Forest Service campground with the only facility being a vault toilet, and central water.  It was a remote campsite tucked in a corner of the Priest Lake that really felt like we were next to heaven. 

When we first left to go camping, we had no idea if there was a campsite available.  All reservable sites were taken, and this particular campsite has 40% of their campsites available only by walk-in or arrival at the campsite to see what is available.  So, we decided to pack up, and take our chances there.

When we arrived, the lovely camp host gave us a choice of two campsites for that night, and then for the rest of the weekend, she said that her favorite campsite in the campground was available.  We were thrilled that taking our chances had worked out in our favor. 

We pulled into the campsite that was ours for one night.

First out were the dogs, who were ready to explore the camp area, and of course, Annie's top priority was security, and she was on high alert. 

 Cosmo was more concerned about getting a drink, and finding a nice comfortable place to lie down.

Our kids had just attended a 4H survival class where they learned how to start a fire without any help except a match.  They learned that cedar shavings made the best kindling.  Both of them got busy with getting the fire going, without any help from us. They were excited to show us the skills they had learned in their survival class. 

I'd say they had learned something!  Within a few minutes, they had a huge fire going without any help except one match.  They had learned which trees had the best firewood to get a fire going, how to blow on the fire to keep it going, how to search for dead wood, and how to build a roaring fire.  It wasn't long until we had roasted some hot dogs for a late supper (I think it was around 10:00 p.m.).  We didn't bother unpacking anything tonight, except for our lawn chairs to sit around the fire, as we would have to pack up and move in the morning. 

The next morning, we arrived at the campsite that would be ours for the weekend, and began to get things set up for a wonderful weekend of camping and relaxation.

Soon after we unpacked, we headed down to the lake to check it out.  It was absolutely amazing. We relaxed around the camp site for the rest of the day, unpacking everything, and checking out the campground. 

Soon it was getting dusk, and we headed back down to the lake to watch the sunset.

A sunset silhouette of my husband and I.  The moon was making its entrance in the background.

Annie wasn't too thrilled about the water.  She enjoyed sniffing the sand, and staying well away from the waves.  It became obvious that she could care less about the water.

Cosmo liked the water better than Annie, although, it really isn't his favorite thing either.  His favorite thing to do was to get in as far as his belly, and get a good drink, and then turn around and head for dry ground, and the sunshine. 

We watched a small wooden boat out on the lake.  We found out later he was about a 10-year-old boy who loved to fish. We saw him out there morning and night every day we were there.

Back at the campsite, we built a roaring fire to try to keep the mosquitoes away.  The temperature was cool, but not too cold.  Perfect weather for camping!

The next morning, we were up bright and early.  Our plans were to hike to the very tip of the Upper Priest Lake.  They dogs heard the word "walk" and they were anxiously pacing the campsite, waiting for us to hurry up and get ready.  We packed a picnic lunch and filled our water bottles, sprayed on some bug spray, gathered up our walking sticks, and secured our bear spray and off we went!

The Navigation trail is absolutely gorgeous.  It is a very well maintained trail in a gorgeous setting of old cedar trees.  Most of the trail is shaded, with a very few meadows and streams with beaver dams.  We were expecting to get a glimpse of some wildlife as we traversed into the back woods of this area, but... we saw absolutely nothing.  Not even a deer or a chipmunk!  We saw no animal poo either, which is usually a good sign that big animals are around.  We met quite a few hikers on the trail as we went, some coming, some going, and lots of bikers too. 

The cedars were huge through here, as you can see by this upturned tree stump.  This cedar had gone over quite a while ago, and just was left where it fell.

We stopped to look at the remains of an old trapping cabin, with a rusty bed spring left behind.  There wasn't much left of the cabin at all.  

Views of the Upper Priest River became available after about 3 miles out on the trail.  The river was shining in majestic loveliness with the water glistening. It was so beautiful to walk beside the river on this trail, and to listen to the cadence of the waves crashing onto the shoreline as we walked. 

Then the trail began to slope ever upwards, and away from the shoreline...

... until we were far up on the mountain looking down toward the lake.

Finally we had reached our destination, the Navigation campground, which is on the very tip end of Upper Priest Lake... six miles later!

It was pretty amazing to finally arrive at the tip of Upper Priest Lake!  There were a group of 90 youth at the campground when we arrived.  They were all part of a Russian Baptist church in Spokane, and had hiked up here for a youth outing. We talked to quite a few of them, and they were all very friendly, and looked like they were having a great time.  They were preparing to pack up and head back home, and it looked like quite a big deal to have that many kids camped out in one small campground!

We found a quiet spot on the beach, and kicked back and enjoyed our picnic that we had brought, along with the majestic views of the water and mountains.

 Annie even got in the water to cool off...

As did Cosmo! They were glad to have a nice cook drink, and bath after the long 6 miles we had just walked!

We enjoyed a few more minutes of just relaxing in the beauty of the mountains and water around us, before it was time for us to head back to camp. Knowing that there were six long miles ahead of us, we weren't real eager to leave and begin the trek, especially since we had just eaten a big picnic lunch, and the temperatures had hit the high 90s. 

But, back on the trail, it wasn't so bad.  The trees provided a wonderful shade from the hot sun, and we had fun on the way back singing songs, making up songs, and just laughing, and enjoying our time together.  The miles passed by fairly quickly.  Every so often we would meet other hikers and ask visit with them a while.  We met several bikers who had been almost to Canada and back that morning.  We met several couples out walking their dogs, and several families with children on the hike too.  We met one guy who had walked out the three miles to the Plowboy Campground to go fishing, and then we met him coming back, saying it wasn't worth the walk, as the fish weren't biting there anymore than they were at camp, and so he was headed back to camp to be with his family. 

Before long, we were back at the trail head.  We averaged 3 miles an hour... not bad! 

After getting back to camp, and relaxing a bit around the camp, we were getting ready to head to the beach for a swim, when my daughter got stung by one of the hundreds of yellow jackets that were hanging around our campsite.  I cut an onion in half, and she held it to her hand, and the onion pulled all the poison out from the sting, and within 15 minutes, she was good to go. 

Did you know that a freshly cut onion is the best way (that we've found) to deal with bee/wasp/hornet stings?  Just cut open an onion, and hold the cut end of the onion to the sting for about 15 minutes, and most of the poison from the sting will be pulled out of the body into the onion.  When we get a fresh onion on a sting, we don't experience any swelling, or residual pain or itching from the sting.  It really works!

This was the sight that greeted us as we headed down to the beach... it almost felt like we were in the tropics! The water was glistening, with the hazy mountains in the background, and the white sandy beach was dotted with colorful umbrellas, beach towels, and people relaxing and enjoying the sunshine and warm water, as well as all the kayaks...

This area is very popular for kayaking.  We saw a lot of kayakers making their way into Upper Priest Lake.  

The water was absolutely beautiful today, sparkling and inviting us in!

We floated on our tubes and floaties until about 5:30 or so, when the sun dipped behind the trees.  As soon as the sun was gone, the beach was emptied.  The water feels about 10 degrees colder when the sun disappears.  Our stomachs were growling anyway, so we headed out of the water back up to our campsite for a steak dinner.

We got a nice fire going with some great coals, and cooked up some steaks, with fresh squash from our garden, and fire roasted potatoes.  It was a meal fit for a king!

We headed back down to the beach after dinner to watch the sun go down, and the moon rise over the mountains.  It was absolutely breaktaking to watch.

Our little friend was out on his wooden dingy fishing away.  He told us he had caught three fish that morning, but was having no luck tonight.  But it wasn't for lack of trying!

The moon was casting a soft glow over the whole lake that was fascinating to watch.

Before long, as the moon began to rise higher in the sky, the boy's mother and sister showed up in kayaks to check on him.  He assured them that he was still having fun, and hoping to catch a fish.  After checking on him, they headed back to shore.

The next morning we spent the day swimming and relaxing around the campfire, and had some friends come up and join us.  We had a wonderful day together. We cooked hamburgers over the fire ate watermelon, and roasted some marshmallows... no better way to relax than this!

Our final day at the campsite had arrived, and it was time for us to pack up and head back home.  We sat down by the beach for a while and drank our coffee, enjoying the beauty of the early morning sun. 

Packing up and going home is never fun, but always lots of work!  Today was no exception.  We really hated to leave this beautiful place. It was definitely a camping trip that our family will always remember as beautiful, relaxing, and our little piece of heaven!  We are looking forward to our next opportunity to come back here and camp again.  I think I have to say that out of all the camping trips we've been on, this weekend was at the top of our list as the most beautiful and relaxing place of all to camp!

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