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Baker Lake
posted by John : August 1-3, 2008

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Not backpacking

Fresh from almost 30 miles in the Olympics it was time to turn down the intensity a bit so it was fitting that we had a car camping trip with the Grays planned. As much as I might try to inject hiking into car camping there's no chance it's going to get crazy with James, Megan, and their four kids (and their two dogs). At least not on the trails. Don't worry, there's plenty of adventure to be had even when car camping.

Start with a three hour drive north to Baker Lake off Highway 20. We tried to start super early, but alas, it was a mid morning departure. The weather was looking a bit sketchy so we had to pack for everything from swimsuits to snowsuits (or at fleeces and rain jackets). Even with the extra spacious Pilot we had to bring the trailer. I'll blame it on the cord of wood we brought, but really there was no chance we'd get it all in or on the truck. Looks like we'll have to buy a bike rack, too. One big enough for bikes and trikes and scooters.

In spite of our hillbilly appearance rolling through the suburbs we finally arrived at the Shannon Creek Campground near the north end of Baker Lake around 3pm. We had two spots reserved and knowing the Grays were going to need two tents we chose the smaller of the two. Quite a sacrifice, too, since we were trying to set up the Taj Mahal of tents. Three rooms and a full 1,000 square feet of living space. (Yes, the same tent I made fun of when Daryl set it up in Methow and that I'd make fun of later this night when the Grays set theirs up.)

We finally found a spot that sort of worked, cut a tarp to fit under it (can you believe nobody makes L-shaped tarps?), and set up all the beds and sleeping bags. The girls got our trusty basecamp thermarests (too big for any other tent, but tiny in this one), Henry was in the Pack-n-Play, and Amy and I were on a queen size blow-up mattress. We even had plenty of room to stow all our gear inside, though the bikes had to stay outside.

Tokul was relegated to the back of the truck since she has a habit of sleeping on top of people if she thinks it'll be softer than sleeping not on top of people. In the end she probably got the good end of this deal.

The Grays rolled in after many a false start that had the girls running toward the street yelling, "Our friends!" Connor is now in college and Austin has a thicker beard than I can manager even though he's our godson and I certainly don't feel that old. (Except on Monday morning's at 4:30 when nothing is right.) At least their girls, Sydney and Jordan, were appropriately aged. Of course, Clara renamed Sydney Cindy courtesy of either a speech impediment or verbal dyslexia.

While James and Megan were working on setting up their own personal tent city we made a fire and started dinner. Amy violated just about all the camping laws by having marinated chicken and other fancy foods instead of charcoal-black hot dogs, but it was tasty so I looked the other way when the local coppers swung by investigating the alluring aroma.

It took way too long to get the kids down even though they were genuinely exhausted, but once they did it started to rain. The four of us stood outside for a few minutes before calling it quits and retreating to the safety of our respective tents.

Of course, safety is a subjective term. Ours, it turns out, wasn't so safe. At least not from the rain. As usual, I was asleep almost instantly. Amy woke me to tell me that (a) it was raining (well, duh) and (b) the tent was leaking. Huh?

So I regeared and headed outside to do my manly duty and solve the problems. After all, that's what we men are supposed to do, right? We are the fixers. Usually, this is a big problem in relationships, but in the pouring rain that was the least of my worries. Instead, I tried to stretch and pull the rainfly out away from the body of the tent and guy it to the trees and rocks around the campsite. I suppose it helped a little, but the big damage was already done.

In the morning we assessed where we stood. We were dry as was Henry. The girls' down sleeping bags were wet near the feet (that's bad, in case that wasn't obvious, since down is worthless when wet) and some of the clothing we'd left out or used to stop the flow of water was damp/soaked.

However, the sky looked slightly better an in fact there was a bit of blue if you kind of squinted. We decided to at least stick around through lunch. First, though, we had to survive breakfast. That meant living and cooking under a big blue tarp. Non-TiVo readers in the Northwest might have noticed the Pemco ads talking about unique Northwest weirdoes like Blue Tarp Camper Guy. Yep. That was us. To quote the ad, "We brought our own blue skies."

The girls were introduced to hobo pies (as were we as far as a breakfast food goes), but they were more interested in chips and other decidedly non-breakfast foods.

Throughout the morning and into the afternoon we kept an eye on the sky to try to predict what the weather would do. While waiting we drove to the end of the road and hiked about a mile up the Baker Lake Trail to a bridge over the Baker River. Poor Clara was feeling so poorly she rode on Amy's back and hung like a rag doll. Lilly and Tokul had a blast running with the boys and Sydney, though. (Jordan and James were napping back at camp.)

The trail wanders past some neat big trees, but probably gets better upstream from the bridge as it enters North Cascades National Park. Still, from the vantage point afforded by the bridge we could see blue sky to the west and held out hope that it was moving our direction.

So we decided to stay. As usual, bacon figured prominently in our meal that night. Burgers (with cheese and bacon mixed into the meet) with options of cheese and bacon for the top. (Yeah, that's more bacon on top.) We had better luck after the kids went down and were able to hang out and talk about all manner of topics from the boring (work) to the interesting (play) to the embarrassing (and not to be posted here).

Unfortunately, as Amy and I were getting things put away in the car for the night I heard a shriek and Amy was standing on a rock in a sort of Karate Kid crane pose. She claimed there was a mouse in the car. Really? A quick glance in and sure enough the little bugger shot up under the front console.

It turns out saying something like, "Well, we'll set a trap when we get home," is not exactly what Amy wanted to hear. Soon after James was on one side with the broom and I was on the other with a marshmallow roasting stick jamming it into the gaps in the console. It came out once, but James missed it. We never saw it again even though we tried for an hour.

Amy was rocking in a fetal position in the tent when I returned and although I had been advised to tell her that we had gotten it out that seemed a bad plan to me. With my luck it would inevitably have come out a week later and sat in front of the speedometer. So I told the truth and promised we'd try again in the morning.

At least it didn't rain.

We took the tarp down when mother nature provided some real blue skies to cook under and Amy made... more bacon (and pancakes and some other non-bacon related food, but I don't know that anybody noticed that stuff).

Half the morning was devoted to tearing down our camp and loading the trailer while the other half was spent devising ways to force the mouse out. James and I went for a drive on a bumpy road figuring maybe this was actually a city mouse looking for a lift back to town and the dirt road wouldn't be to its liking, but that didn't work. We also tried both heat and cold, but you could almost hear it sighing with pleasure as it adjusted to the new environment. (I had, in fact, found a bunch of mouse-sign throughout the truck so we suspected it was still in there.)

As we left the campground I was annoyed to see perfect blue skies above. We had bandied about the idea of going up to Schreiber Meadows, a popular trailhead on the flanks of Mt. Baker, even if just for the view, but nixed the idea. I got a shot of the mountain up Boulder Creek instead.

Amy managed to keep her feet on the dash for the entire road home. The kids were none the wiser for the whole infestation. Good thing, too. No telling how they'd have reacted. We stopped a couple of times on the way home, but no stop was as important as the one at ACE hardware in North Bend where we bought mousetraps. Amy found some newfangled traps that promised no mess and easy disposal. Perfect. Especially since I was heading out of town for a couple of days and it was... highly unlikely she'd be inclined to handle our little friend dead or alive.

And did we get him? Stay tuned.

(There might have been some exaggeration in this story.)

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