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Salmon La Sac
posted by John : August 22-24, 2008

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Good housekeeping

Here we go again. Tempting fate by rolling all five of us up into a single tent. At least this time it wasn't supposed to rain. And we were pretty familiar with the area, if not the newly refurbished campground.

The last time we tried to go camping in the Salmon La Sac area it was pretty much a disaster. We couldn't get a spot in the Salmon La Sac campground proper so we wound up in the dust bowl otherwise known as the Cle Elum River campground. It's poorly named since the river itself is a fair hike through bone-dry meadows. Lilly had been smack in the middle of her acid reflux days and enjoyed little other than screaming. Amy and I each spent a night with her in the truck trying to shield our fellow campers from her cries.

Coincidentally, it was the Lymans that were with us that time and they'd be our campmates this time, too. We hoped they wouldn't be a curse resulting in little sleep, but only time would tell. (Cue ominous foreshadowing music.)

We left home at about 9:30 on Friday morning. No small feat since I'd been out with TNAB the night before and only managed to load wood into the trailer before nearly collapsing. Amy had done the bulk of the packing while I was off being irresponsible. Of course, there were a couple of items forgotten. None so important we'd have to come home, but they would provide a nearly endless opportunity for harassment over the next few days.

We had the trailer filled up to the top with not only our gear, but also the Lyman's. Nothing says car camping with the family like three bikes, a trike, and two scooters protruding from the top of a trailer following behind an SUV. I drove, which helped keep me awake. Tokul, my accomplice on the trail the night before, had the luxury of sleeping in her corner carved out of the back.

When we got to Salmon La Sac we were shocked/stunned/(dare I say, "pissed") to find that the campground wasn't finished. They've been working on it for several years, but most of the unreservable spots we'd been counting on were still closed. That meant the only sites that were available were a few pull-through sites designed for RVs, not Taj Majal style tents like ours. (And, in fact, Michelle and Daryl had their own three-room monstrosity to complement ours.)

We bailed on Salmon La Sac and drove to the Red Mountain campground just down the road. There was one site available, right by the road, but the fire pits were all closed due to fire danger. (They were open at Salmon La Sac even though it was only a few miles distant. Go figure.) At this point we split up.

Amy suggested Daryl and I go to Cooper Lake to check out sites there while she and Michelle go squat in a pull-through site at Salmon La Sac. Realizing I was likely to jump on the first site I could (heck, I wanted to stay at Red Mountain) I altered the plan and Amy and Daryl, the two with strongest opinions, headed to Cooper Lake while Michelle and I (and Moosefish entourage) went back to Salmon La Sac.

Michelle and I found a couple of pull-through sites, but none really said more than, "Yeah, I suppose, but we're going to have to pitch the tent on the pavement." We turned a corner to head back around the loop to pick the best of the worst and stumbled on lucky site #8. Perfect. How did we miss it earlier? How did nobody else have it already? Is it reserved?

Turns out nobody looks at sites #7 and #8. They are the only two on a short road bisecting the main loop of the campground. There's no reason to go there unless you're trying to leave. There was easily room for both tents, it was secluded, the only problem was the distance to the river, but even that wasn't too bad. Now we just had to hope Amy and Daryl failed at Cooper Lake. (Cell coverage was a joke and the only people we could raise on the two-way radio weren't interested in talking to us.)

We got lucky on two fronts. Amy and Daryl didn't like any of the spots at Cooper Lake (at least not with little kids running around and falling into the water) and Michelle was able to con the campground hosts into letting us set up two tents at a non-group site. Woo hoo!

We spent much of the rest of Friday setting up camp. The kids found a spot they could race their scooters down a little hill with minimal negative consequences and Tokul was content to chill in the dirt on a long tether. Across the street spot #7 came open and then was immediately occupied by a group that didn't quite realize their good fortune.

Remember that "thing" that was forgotten? It was the cooking grill. Although the Forest Service is kind enough to put a grate of sorts over the fire pits it's big enough to drop a hamburger through and not exactly clean. We resorted to using aluminum foil to cook our chicken. (This actually resulted in a significantly less black product, but I still received a fair amount of abuse for not packing the grill.)

When we finally retired late in the evening the clouds had cleared, the stars were brilliant, and we were looking forward to a glorious Saturday in the mountains.

That lasted until about 2am when Lilly woke up in a sort of night terror. Nothing new, but definitely a downer when eight others are trying to sleep in thinly walled tents. Her fussing was too much for Henry who woke up and took over wailing duties so LIlly could go back to sleep. Amy tried to rock him back to sleep, but after 30 minutes had to give in. I took him to the truck and he restlessly cuddled in my arms before falling asleep about 3am. I tiptoed back to the tent, laid him down, and immediately retreated to the car.

The truck was still attached to the trailer, but I had Michelle's keys so we took off in their car. Henry wasn't unhappy, just awake. I drove around a bit hoping he'd fall asleep in just a few moments, but he refused to oblige. We had a couple of 15 minute catnaps before he'd wake me up demanding to start moving again. Finally, at 5:30 I couldn't keep my eyes open any more so we parked on the side of a creek on the Cooper Lake road. We slept until 7am when I woke with a start and a crick in my neck.

Back at camp everyone except Daryl was awake. I had hot chocolate and a sausage and then went to bed. The three hours of sleep I got in the mid morning was amazing and by 11 I was up again and feeling almost human.

We had few plans for the day, but the first order of business was making lunch (at least for me). On Thursday I'd picked up a bunch of (get ready for the politically insensitive description) Hobo Pie Makers at REI. Also known as Fire Pie Makers or Campfire Cooking Irons these cast iron cooking utensils are like a waffle iron on a stick. Sort of. We filled ours with pizza fixin's and white bread. Mmm... hobo pizzas. Daryl pointed out that although we had three of them we really needed six so hobo spiders could join in the fun.

After lunch Amy and Henry took a nap while the rest of us (minus Tokul, poor Tokul had to sit around and sleep all day, lucky dog) walked down to the river. It was a wee bit chilly, but that didn't stop the kids from getting soaked. Even if it meant their candy necklaces got all sticky.

A friend of ours, "Shadle," has been showing us pictures (on his fancy iPhone ARGH!) of enormous rocks he's been balancing on beaches and anywhere he can find suitable candidates. He's of the zen opinion that everything has a balancing point and you just have to find it. I decided that while he was going big I'd go small. I set up a veritable garden of tiny rocks precariously balanced on a big smooth rock. Good times. (Of course, I did one bigger cairn because even when going small you sometimes need to think big.)

Back at camp we found Amy and Henry refreshed and we dug into dinner preparations. The kids had macaroni and cheese (of course) with hot dogs (of course) and ate only a fraction of what they should have (of course). Our dinner was to be steak, but without a grill it was challenging (of course). We tried the foil approach, but the meat stuck and threatened a suicide leap into the flames as it became time to turn it over.

While looking for solutions to the problem Michelle suggested we transfer the steaks to the griddle and then lay down a new layer of foil.

Wait... we have a griddle? Why are we using foil? Ah ha! Someone else to take the abuse instead of me! Victory! With steaks sizzling nicely on the griddle we also cooked corn and potatoes and all was going well until Daryl picked up the griddle. It was hot enough that even my welding gloves couldn't stave off the heat and he put it down on the table cloth. The plastic table cloth. Hm... I gues that was my fault, too. The gloves weren't sufficient and we wouldn't be using the griddle in the first place if we'd had the grill. Dang.

After many, many, many marshmallows we retired to the tents. Our plan was to immediately bundle Lilly off to the car if she went off again in order to keep Henry asleep. A dicey plan, but it worked! She looked stunned when she came to in the Lyman's car still wrapped in her sleeping bag. It was only 11:30 and she slept the rest of the night through.

Sunday morning it was starting to cloud up. The decline in the weather was accompanied by a apparent tiring of the kids. They fell down more and argued more. For the first time one of them, Lilly, took a header running down the little hill they'd been playing on all weekend. We took it as a sign and started packing up. Thankfully, it hadn't rained all weekend so the tent and fly were dry meaning we wouldn't have to unpack them later.

Just as we had all the gear stowed in the truck we felt the first drops of rain. By the time we crossed Snoqualmie Pass it was a downright downpour, but it stopped when we got home so we could unload.

When we go back we'll probably try to grab spot #8 again and also #6, which abuts #8 and will save us from having to convince the hosts to let us have multiple families in a single spot.

The kids claim to have had a good time so it was a worthwhile investment in the future when we won't have to be as attentive to Henry and his penchant for eating sticks and dirt and the older kids won't be prone to quarrels about sticks. (I'm sure they'll find something far more serious to fight about like rocks.)

Now we just need to clean the gear, clean the dog, and replace the tablecloth. (Oh yes, Daryl, there's a new tablecloth in our future. And next time I won't forget the grill.)

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