A long-awaited sight at Spirit Lake and off we go to a new camp!

Tuesday, September 3 (continued)

I had given up all hope.

The crew and I are on our way to see Mt. St. Helens.  We stop at a viewpoint that gives another look at Spirit Lake.


Spirit Lake

A small group of people are gathered around, listening to a man in uniform.

“There was a herd of about a hundred here yesterday,” he remarks.  Hmm . . . a hundred tourists on Labor Day . . .  Wait a minute!  A herd?

A scope sits atop a tripod.  People are taking turns looking through it.  Could it be? Could this be my chance to see . . . an elk?

I step up and take a look.

What I see through the scope is . . .

A magnificent, 12-point bull elk lying down peacefully by the lake!  The scope makes it look like he’s less than 15 feet away.  Ooh, how I’d love to take a photo of that beautiful animal.

The crew and I traveled from Georgia through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, and New Mexico without ever seeing an elk.  Not one!  Until now, here in the state of Washington.

I’m not disappointed that the crater of Mt. St. Helens is hidden by clouds today.


Mt. St. Helens covered in clouds

I saw an elk!

Wednesday, September 4

The BLT is hitched to the PTV.  We’re leaving North Fork Campground today.  Shortly before we take off, camp hosts Sally and Jack stop their truck at our campsite.  Sally did some switching of reservations so the crew and I could keep our primo campsite through Labor Day Weekend.  We talk for a bit and share a few laughs before saying goodbye . . . or rather, until we meet again.

I want to mention the two guys I met, fellow campers Jerry and Stan.  They were very helpful, answering my questions about roads, getting out a map, sharing firewood and kindling . . . .  It’s true what you’ve heard:  You meet the nicest people while full-timing!

Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, Washington

The North Fork of the Cispus as seen from the bridge by the campground

The North Fork of the Cispus as seen from the bridge by the campground

The PTV parked along a forest road.

The PTV parked along a forest road near the Cispus River.

Spike at the start of the steep trail we never finished.

Spike at the start of the steep trail we never finished.

The bright green of forest leaves after a rain

The bright green of forest leaves after a rain . . . Click to enlarge.

You've heard of tree-hugging hippies.  This is a hippie tree.

You’ve heard of tree-hugging hippies. This is a hippie tree.







One of my favorites . . . I like the energy and the contrast between the fluid water and the stolid roots.  The fragile plant makes a gentle counterpoint.

One of my favorite photos of this forest.   I like the contrast between fluid water and solid roots. The fragile plant is counterpoint.

Bridget show how tall the trees are.  A third of their height is out of frame.

Bridget show how tall the trees are. A third of their height is out of frame.


A rustic, mossy tank encountered on a walk near the campground


Nature arranges eye-pleasing still lifes.

A still life arranged by Mother Nature






Will Spike soak in the icy water of the North Fork?

Will Spike soak in the icy water of the North Fork?



At first I thought the slippery-when-wet sign was a flaw in this photo's composition.  I've come to like it.  The eye prefers an arrangement of 3 (trees, bridge, sign), much more than 2 or 4.

At first I thought the slippery-when-wet sign was a flaw in this photo’s composition. I’ve come to like it. The eye prefers an arrangement of 3 (trees, bridge, sign), much more than 2 or 4.

Off to a new camp!

I drive us west on Route 12, pick up Interstate 5 and shoot north through Chehalis and Centralia.  It’s a dark, dreary day and the interstate traffic is terrible.  From Tumwater I take two-lane Route 101 through Shelton to Potlach where it traces the western shore of Hood Canal.  Shortly past the tiny village of Eldon I turn onto Forest Road 25 and drive six miles into Olympic National Forest.

We make camp at Hamma Hamma Campground.


We’re the only ones here!



Want to see some of the things that RVSue shoppers purchased recently?  Click on these links:

Andersen Camper Leveler
Nylabone Cozytime Pet Home and Carrier
Optima YellowTop Dual Purpose Battery
Goal Zero Solar Generator
thirtysomething: The Complete Third Season
Sony 16.1 MP Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

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77 Responses to A long-awaited sight at Spirit Lake and off we go to a new camp!

  1. Pleinguy says:

    I love the deep forest camps. They seem so private and serene. Surprised it’s taken this long for you to see an elk. When I lived in the area of Utah you passed through, they were all over the place.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      In previous posts I ruminated on the fact that everybody sees elk and I never do. I came face-to-face with a grizzly mama and her two cubs, saw a moose and her baby grazing in the willows, bison surrounding the PTV, a badger at my campsite… no elk. Finally!

      • Connie & Mugsy (ND/MN/AZ) says:

        No photo… so I’m still not convinced that elk exist. I too have driven through supposed elk country for years and never seen one. Plenty of mule deer, white tail, and pronghorn… but not an elk to be seen..

    • Cecilia says:

      My father lived in Ravensdale, WA a little outside of Kent, WA. He had a herd of elk that slept in his yard at night. Beautiful and awesome, but the gifts they leave aren’t pleasant. It was a very large lot, and not any close neighbors.
      I always enjoy your blogs. Now that you’re in Washington they really speak to me. I remember many camping trips by those cold water rivers. I can’t believe Spike can handle that cold.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        I don’t know how Spike soaks in some of these icy rivers. Then… I can’t figure out a lot of his behaviors.

        Nice of you to tell me you enjoy my blogs, Cecilia. The elk must have felt safe at your father’s place.

  2. AZ Jim says:

    When I lived in Idaho, I saw many Elk. They used to travel the dirt road my cabin was on. I have seen them by the dozens. Also Moose. In fact on day we had a moose looking in our kitchen window. They are amazing swimmers too, the moose would swim from one side of Bear Lake to the other (around 10 miles). One need only be in one place for an extensive time to see all manner of wildlife. Nics pics Sue.

  3. Mick says:

    Your the only one there … well strike up the band and do the “Hamma-hamma”.

  4. Angie2B says:

    Oh, I am so happy you saw your elk! You’ve talked about that before. Good for you!

  5. Jeff says:

    I noticed that on the FS website it says 21′ maximum. Did you have any trouble getting your rig in?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Jeff!

      Nope, I didn’t have any trouble at all. Some of the sites here are very long and since no one is here, I had my pick.

      I’ve been confused about the maximum lengths posted for campgrounds. I contacted one of the forest services a while back and asked about it. I was told . . . When it says 21′ maximum, it means the rig, and in my case, it means the BLT. So at 17′ we’re well within the length.

      • Jeff says:

        I have been very confused on the length restrictions as well. So my 23′ motorhome pulling my 10′ cargo trailer (14′ including tongue) wouldn’t technically be legal even though my overall length is about what you are.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I don’t know if it’s a matter of being “legal” or not, Jeff. I’m thinking those lengths are stated as a guide to help people avoid arriving at a place where they won’t fit.

          A 23′ motorhome towing a car would probably fit in some of these sites because the car could squeeze next to the motorhome or sit crosswise in front of the MH.

          The site I’m in right now could handle your MH and cargo trailer just as they are hitched. I think there’s another extra-long site here, too.

          • Linda Sand says:

            Sometimes it has to do with the road in as well–can you make the turn?

            • rvsueandcrew says:

              And I’m not a good one to judge that. There’s an uphill S-turn on the way up, but I think he could manage it with his rig, as well as the campground turns… but, again, I’m not an expert on big rigs and what they can or cannot do.

  6. cinandjules (NY) says:

    At last……….the elusive elk! Whooooeeee!

    Spike always appears to be meditating when he soaks.

    How unfortunate you didn’t get to see the crater. I spent probably 4 hours reading about the eruption and efforts to “restore” the area. Your site continues to be a learning experience.

    Stay dry and enjoy your night. It’s supposed to drop to 34 degrees tonight ..don’t you miss living in upstate NY?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      The story of Mt. St. Helens… before and after the eruption… is very interesting, as you discovered.

      34 degrees tonight? Summer in upstate NYS . . . Lasts from late Tuesday evening to early Friday morning. No, I don’t miss it at all. But then I didn’t live at a gorgeous lake with a dock and boat. 🙂

      • cinandjules (NY) says:

        It really is over rated…I’ve been out on the boat once. The dock is a place for me to stand..when I hurl SaraAnn’s H20 toy into the water.

        She loves the water…as most Golden’s do. I’m thinking she’s part crocodile! It’s so much better for her old bones to swim than run.

        Ya think it’s too soon to get the down comforter out?

      • Gayle says:

        Which town in upstate New York were you from? My son’s father was from Ogdensburg. Ever heard of it? On St. Lawrence. Three feet of snow overnight not unusual, but of course, you know that!

        • Pauline says:

          Oh I miss the Fall season in Cambridge, Washington County, UPSTATE New York. RVSue , sister Nancy and I spent our childhood in one of the most beautiful valleys in NYS….right on the Vermont border.

    • Timber n' Rusty says:

      34 ? We wont see that till November, it’s 95 now and in the morning it gets down to 56, well it’s coming, W–t– and —-. ,,,LoL

  7. PNW alison says:

    Sue, you might hear elk “bugling” this time of year. It is an odd whistle/horn kind of sound that almost sounds supernatural. Unlike any other animal I’ve ever heard.
    Hope you enjoy the Hood Canal and eastern side of the Olympics. I love the place names around there: Hamma Hamma. Duckabush. Dosewallups.
    Hood Canal has the warmest water anywhere in the PNW. Its just so dang far from the open ocean I guess, so it has a chance to warm up.
    Also, you’re on the “dry” side of Olympics right now. Quinalt, and the western side is where the full-on hard core 12 feet of rain per year is. But its rarely torrential, like this morning was. Usually it just dribbles… a l l d a y l o n g !

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Alison…

      I tried to reply to your comment last night, but it wouldn’t go through. It’s weird. Even though I have a few bars, the internet connection dies between 7pm and 8pm.. Oh well… Maybe you’ll stop by here again and see this.

      Gee, if this is the dry side . . . oh, boy, we’re in for it! It rained all night last night and it’s raining this morning. (Well, whatcha expect in a RAINforest!)
      It’s cozy in the BLT, sitting in the glow of the laptop.

  8. Ladybug says:

    Ok, I gotta ask….did you bust out crying when you saw it???

    And, how is your solar handling the dense forest?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Ladybug,

      No, I didn’t cry, but I did act like a fool in front of people I don’t know. “I saw an elk! I’ve never seen an elk before!” etc. It’s nice that I’ll never see them again.

      Solar is hanging in there. I compensate for the ever-present cloud cover by driving the PTV with the laptop plugged into the dash. So far that takes up the slack.

      • Walt says:

        I assume you’re talking about the people and not the elk when you say “It’s nice that I’ll never see them again.” 😀

  9. Timber n' Rusty says:

    YAYYYYY, A Bull Elk, Right on Sue,,,,,,, Timber’s outside in the shade and asked me to say Hi to Bridget and cool soakin’ Spike ,,,,,,,Hey Bridget and Spike ,,,:~0

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Rusty . . . Remember how I looked and looked for an elk, way back in April of 2012, when we both camped at Ash Fork? This 12-pointer was worth waiting and searching for.

      Hi to Timber… Keep cool in the shade, boy!

  10. Cherylyn says:

    Glad you got to see your elk. In the winter here about 10 miles outside town there is an elk feeding station in the winter. My kids and I always loved to take the binoculars up and watch them come down out of the forest, usually 100-200 of them. Another of the feeding stations uses a team of horses and wagon to feed and you can get a ride down into the middle of the herd, pretty amazing animals.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Oh gee, Cherylyn! I don’t know where “here” is. You’re making me crazy. 🙂

      Over a hundred elk at a time. . . That must be quite a sight. Now my goal is to see ONE without looking through a high-powered lens!

      What a great memory for your kids… riding into an elk herd.

      • Cherylyn says:

        Oops, sorry! ” Here” is in eastern Oregon along the eastern slope of the Blue Mountains.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Thanks… I don’t have a face to remember people by, so I rely on location. I should put the “eastern slope of the Blue Mtns” on my list.

  11. Gaelyn says:

    To me, Mt St Helens is more about the landscape than the volcano. So glad you finally got to see an elk. And now you are in an even thicker forest environment.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I agree with you, Gaelyn. I could’ve turned around at Spirit Lake and still have had an exceptional day to remember. I enjoyed the entire trip.

      I didn’t try to describe the landscape because I knew I’d fail. One has to see it in person.

  12. Pam says:

    I love the hama hama we used to camp there a lot when we had a truck camper now with the 5th wheel we are to big to fit in the sites. I can tell by the photo that you are in one of my favorite sites….enjoy your stay.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Pam . . . You recognized the site? It is a nice one! Right now it’s raining. I look out the window and there’s a moss-covered tree trunk about 5 feet in diameter less than 10 feet from the BLT.

      The crew likes it here because they don’t have to be on-leash. No one is here. The only sound is the rain on the roof.

      • Pam says:

        Glad you are enjoying your stay there, I thought of you last nite when we were having a thunder storm here in Shelton lots of rain here bet it was wet up there. From the picture it looked like the site we stayed in a lot I think the number was either #12 or #14 its been a while since we have stayed there…really miss going there but I enjoy my space in our 5th wheel …guess there are always trade offs.

  13. texastom says:

    hama hama, I think I had dibs on that site. Sue you got a lot of splain to do. Respecting dibs has a direct correlation with an elks willingness to be seen. ;c{>

    You made my day with those pictures….keep it up.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I guess I need to have dibs on an elk, huh?

      Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed the pics. I particularly enjoyed taking the photos around North Fork Campground. The light was lovely.

  14. Allison says:

    I saw my first elk two days ago. There was an entire field of them right next to the road. They were all females, just hanging out eating. The field next to them was full of cows. I got a terrible picture of them, so they’re real.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Allison… Congratulations! An “entire field” of elk…

      Gee, I’ll have to be happy with one so far away I couldn’t photograph it. The spell is broken… Maybe I’ll see more soon. Nice to hear from you, Allison with two ls. 🙂

  15. B (real name ... or nickname) says:

    If you look through binoculars or a telescope and love the image … put your camera up to the binoculars or telescope and try to take the picture. It may not work … but it ma work!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I wanted to do that, but it wasn’t my telescope and people were already thinking I was weird, getting so excited over the elk . . .

  16. Donna D. (stickhouse in CT) says:

    Finally! I’m so glad you got to see an elk. Now that your elk drought is over, you’ll probably see them more often now. I’ve been waiting for years to see a moose around here. I keep being told there are a few in this area but I just don’t ever seem to be in the right place at the right time.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Moose in Connecticut? Are you sure people aren’t pulling your leg? Good luck with that. I think you’re up to a bigger challenge than I am with elk. 🙂

  17. Marsha says:

    You should have stayed one night at Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone and you would have gotten to see lots of elk. I’m sitting in the Casita catching up on your blog and I hear the bull bugling. A whole herd comes thru every morning and evening and yesterday three decided to hang out under the trees across from our site.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Marsha…. If I had stayed one night in Mammoth Campground that would be the one night the elk take a road trip to Devil’s Tower or whatever.

      I’m happy that you get to see them, but, really, did you have to rub it in with the “I’m sitting in the Casita . . . and I hear the bull bugling” ?

      Just kidding . 🙂 . . Nice to hear from you again.

  18. Rita from Phoenix says:

    I’ve been thru the area you’re in…very beautiful. I took a ferry across from Bremerton to Seattle and from Port Angels to Victoria Island. I’d love to visit one of the small islands around the area. I camped and drove around Olympia NP…beautiful all around. Back in the day when you could carry camping equipment on the plane and didn’t have to pay luggage fees. Now, I have to rent equipment from REI if there is one nearby or carry a sleeping bag on board and rent cabins. Safe travels to you and the crew. Still very hot in Phoenix and prob won’t cool down until November or December.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Gee, Rita… You’re quite the adventurer!

      Looking at the map, I see state parks on islands and the only way to get there is by boat. That must be fun… Take a boat to an island to camp.

      You people in Phoenix are incredible… Still hot. Hang in there… You’ll have the best weather soon!

  19. Pauline says:

    HALLELUJAH!!!! An ELK….Susan saw an ELK. I am really happy for you, Dear Sister. I know that was one of your goals.
    Love you!!

  20. Anne H says:

    Soon you should be able to hear the elk, even if you don’t see them! Late September, if you’re still in the mountains, rut will start and the clash of antlers and eerie sounds of bugling are really fun to listen to.
    If you won’t be in Washington, I’ve seen big herds in northern California along hwy 101.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’d love to hear that, Anne. Of course, I have no idea where the crew and I will be in a few weeks. Isn’t this a fascinating world? The more I travel, the more amazed I become.

  21. stan watkins says:

    Next summer you must go to the Canadian Rockys. Banff and Jasper parks and the Icefield Parkway are amazing. The residents would love having you there because they are over run by elk and if you showed up the elk would disappear for a few days giving them a little relief.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Stan! You’ve given me a great idea! The crew and I could get into the elk-control business.

      “Got elk? Call RVSue and her canine crew! Your elk will disappear, guaranteed!”

      I am thinking about a straight shot up through Glacier into Canada. . . Of course, I rarely do what I set out to do. 🙂

  22. stan watkins says:

    I take you as a person who is open to learning and new experiences so I am going to give you a little bigfooting advice. When one is around you make experience : a terrible B.O./ wet dog smell that may come and go. The crew may act nervous and refuse to leave the BLT and generally cower at your feet. Little rocks and sticks may land near by you or even hit you. You may hear screams that are unusual. If you really pay attention you will be able to distingwish these sounds from coyotes by the lower notes and length of the scream. If the scream is very near the shear volume will be mind boggling. If the creature is near it may pace you from the forest as you walk and with the thick woods you are in you probably won ‘t see it. You may also hear woodknocks that will be answered in kind from somewhere else. You may have one down right try to scare you off by shaking trees,screaming and rock throwing. Now that I have either freaked you out (which is not my intention) or educated you, I hope you will be attentive. If you go to the BFRO website you can even look up experiences from the areas you have passed through and are currently staying.select the option that gives you both A and B class reports. You may have surmised by now that I had a life altering experience in this regard. I don ‘t consider myself a believer but a knower. I now return you to your regularly programming .

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Okay, Stan…. got it! Consider me “in the know” considering BigFoot. I’ll take a look at the website. The vegetation around here … mossy, monster trees… dark and spooky… looks like BigFoot would feel at home here. Spike has been alerted.

  23. PNW Alison says:

    Eeee Gads, I hope you’re not camping to close to the creek!
    I swear this weather is unusual around here!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Yeah… I expected rain, fog, mist, and thunderstorms… but now it’s time for some sunshine!

      No, we’re not close to Hamma Hamma. It has a wide, flat riverbed with plenty of room to overflow before it hits the campground. Although I think I read somewhere that it washed out a campsite in ’07.

  24. Laurie says:

    Hi Sue,
    Laurie from Boca Raton, Florida here. I thought it might be interesting to see a map of all your wonderings from here to there and back and here and there and back. : )
    Of course, you may already have done that and I missed it.

    Oh buy the way, do you find the Casita cushions comfortable for a good night sleep or did you buy a mattress for the twin? Cheers.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      No, I haven’t done that, Laurie, and I would like to have a page for each year that shows a map of our travels. I’m not sure I know how to do that kind of map. Sounds like a good winter project for me.

      I’m using the Casita cushions and I’m comfy. Just last night I was thinking how comfortable I am in this narrow bed. At first it bothered me — the narrowness– especially with the Bridge beside me, but we’ve adapted and we sleep well. I suppose we’ll wear out these cushions (God willing) and I’ll need to order a real mattress.

      • Laurie Spear says:

        Well, I sure would love to see that map. It will probably look like the stock market, up and down. Ha ha!
        There has to be some techie out there that knows how to do that, I’d like to learn that to.

        I keep hearing and seeing all the modifications concerning the sleeping arrangements for the Casita. Some are like you who like the cushions and others buy mattresses. Decisions……. too many.

        My two black dogs are space hogs. No curling up for Luna, she is spread eagle. Cassie, the hot potato, wants to almost be on top
        of you. They have been banished to the floor. So sad. They will be in heaven being so close to use in the trailer.

  25. Linda Sand says:

    I appreciate it when you give us links to some of the things people buy from your Amazon button. I’ve found several good things to put on my wish list that way.

  26. Caroline A Cooper says:

    Beautiful photos! You always capture such peace and tranquility. But then again your blog is a peaceful place. My favorite shot is the mossy root system along the creek.
    The Peninsula has loads of elk, deer and mountain goats so hopefully you’ll see more wildlife. So glad you’re enjoying our state, but you seem to find wonderful places and good people wherever you travel. Enjoy

  27. Marcia GB says:

    This whole elk thing reminds me of a few years ago when we met my daughter and her family at Rocky MTNP. We came from the East Coast and they from the West. She had never seen an elk so that was one of her goals. Well, we saw so many during our travels there that when my hubby and I went to stop for an elk photo op, she drew her hand across her neck and said “no more elk”. We all cracked up.

  28. Jolene/Iowa says:

    Plenty of elk in the Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park. That area is wonderful. Trail Ridge Road is an awesome drive between Estes Park and Grand Lake. I think you would enjoy the quieter side on the west side of this park. Also a little to the west of Grand Lake is Hot Sulpher Springs. Another nice area. I would love to get back out there someday.

  29. Jolene/Iowa says:

    I did a search just really quick and this is a link you will need to read through because it is 3 pages long but it has some good information but older so it may be out of date. The Fort Collins area is also nice and we have went into the Poudre River canyon they are talking about.

    I have another fly fishing story with that one. This time a bat caught a fly in flight and we had to get it off. lol Anyway, here is the link. It appears to me that some of this is east of Estes Park. Oh, you have to drive the Big Thompson canyon between Estes Park and Fort Collins. Wow is all I can say. I want to look on the west side of Trail Ridge Road also. http://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fuseaction/thread/tid/22511736.cfm

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, Jolene. You’re sweet. I’ll take a look at the link.

      Fly-fishing, fly-snaking, fly-batting . . . You’re one versatile lady!

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