Editor’s Note: Technically this trip was longer than 48 hours, but given rain delays…
Recently Chad and I joined our friends Crystal and Troy for a camping trip to Taidnapam Park on Riffe Lake just southwest of Mount Rainier. We took advantage of the Labor Day weekend to escape to the mountains once last time before summer ended. We were excited to finish strong with some summer boating, swimming, roasting of the quintessential s’mores over a campfire, while toasting our toes near the open flames. But with the summer drought which caused the lake to be low and the boat launch to be closed, a burn ban in effect only in Lewis County (the county where Taidnapam Park is located), and with a sudden onslaught of rain…our best intentions went south…
Despite the rainy weather and the burn ban, below is a summary of our extremely fun 48+ hours camping near Mount Rainier.
Friday evening: Crystal and Troy arrived earlier in the day, so when we pulled into the campsite, it was already arranged like a photo set from Sunset Magazine.
We took a walk/tour of the campgrounds, which includes a spectacular fishing bridge, a fun children’s play area, and acres of incredibly huge trees.
In planning for this trip, the four of us decided it would be fun to have Camping Olympics in which we would compete in various water and land sports and games. As the four of us had previously participated in a Seattle Scavenger Hunt, the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Seattle Summer Sweep Clean-up of Lake Union, and the Beast Mode Challenge, we each had matching t-shirts from these events, which we thought would work well as our Olympic uniforms.
While touring the campground, we began preparing for the Olympic events to come that weekend. Our preparations included some serious tire swinging…
and the chain-bridge crawl.
After our mini-exercises, we decided it was time for dinner.
I had researched camping recipes online (many from Sunset Magazine), so I prepared salmon foil packets with a side of pasta with goat cheese packets (foil packets make camp cooking so easy!).
What doesn’t make things easy, however, is when there is a burn ban in effect only in this one small county in Washington State, despite the rains. Only propane grills were allowed. But Crystal and Troy were quick on their feet and bought some small propane grills so we could improvise our campfire.
After dinner, we made s’mores over our propane grill…
Saturday: Crystal made some delicious breakfast burritos (also wrapped in foil!).
After breakfast, due to the rain, we participated in a few indoor Olympic Games such as Bananagrams
The Game of Chips
and the crazy pigs dice game called Pass the Pigs.
Chad was a victor in that game.
After a hearty lunch of “Walking Tacos” (see recipe below), we decided the weather was good enough to don our first set of matching t-shirts and go on a hike at nearby High Rock.
High Rock is an awesome short, but steep hike, which follows the Sawtooth Ridge uphill through the forest
to what we can only assume are spectacular views of Mt. Rainier and surrounding mountains. We have to assume, because when we did the hike, the trail was surrounded in mist and clouds. But it was still offered wonderful scenery.
At the top of Sawtooth Ridge is a spectacularly spooky lookout cabin.
I’m sure in sunny weather, it looks perfectly normal, but in our misty surroundings it looked like something out of a Stephen King novel.
Descending again, we paused for a photo in what must have been the prior lookout cabin…
After our High Rock hike, we stopped at local artist Dan Klennert’s sculpture park to view his amazing sculptures made from recycled iron pieces.
As Mr. Klennert says on his website, “I do not form shapes. I collect shapes to create my forms.” Good job, Mr. Klennert! And thank you for providing us with such a fun diversion on our way back from hiking.
From there, we returned to our campsite and took our first “official” Camping Olympics photo.
Sunday: The next day, the weather proved to be no better. But Olympians know not to let a little bad weather stop them. There were outdoor Olympic sports to be played such as archery,
the bean bag toss,
and the ping pong ball toss. (Susan and Troy were the victors here).
After a lunch of “Cowboy Tacos” (basically hot dogs topped with bbq sauce, caramelized onions, spicy peppers and cheese),
we all participated in the crazy game called Boochie which delivered on its promise to have us “tossing, kicking, bowling, and throwing like never before!”
After the events that day, we took our second “official” Camping Olympics photo.
(We surely get gold medals for being “hams”!).
Monday: (I mentioned this was a little more than 48 hours, right?) On our last and final day of camping, Chad and Troy had a tie-breaker game of the ping pong ball toss. Afterwards, the medals (made from tin foil of course!) were awarded on our makeshift medals platform (you see a “picnic table”, we see a “medals platform”).
Despite the many things we were told we couldn’t do at this campsite,
we managed to have an incredible amount of fun.
After Chad took a victory lap around the campgrounds,
and one last “official” cheerleading inspired Camping Olympics photo,
we packed our things and headed for home.
No one should camp without knowing the Walking Tacos recipe (so easy and so delicious):
1 lb ground beef or 1 package of vegetarian “beef” crumbles
1 packet taco seasoning mix
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 hot pepper, chopped
Shredded cheddar cheese
Taco sauce such as El Tapatio
Individual lunch-size bags of Doritos, Corn Chips, or (if you are Troy) Cheetos
- Mix the ground beef with taco seasoning and cook this in a pan until the meat is cooked through.
- Taking individual packets of Doritos (or other chips), crush the bag so that the chips break into small pieces. Once sufficiently crushed, open the bag and add one portion of cooked ground beef, then add the chopped tomatoes, onions, lettuce and some shredded cheddar cheese. Top with hot sauce. Stir within the mini Doritos bag, and then eat out of the bag with a plastic fork.
The food looks great! In Texas, we call your recipe Frito Pie. You sure have a lot of T-shirts! Who won gold?
Chad won the gold, which was really silver tin foil decorated with pine trees branches!