Through White Pass to Gifford-Pinchot National Forest

Monday, August 26

After a quick, goodbye visit to the Tieton River bank, the crew and I hit the road!  We stop at Silver Beach RV Resort on Rimrock Lake to dump tanks and fill the fresh water tank ($7).  The lake is drained to a low level.  The geese like it!

1-P1060877On the way to White Pass I pull into a “viewing area” which is Clear Creek Falls.  This waterfall spills a delicate “veil” over the rocks which I didn’t quite capture in this photo.  Oh well . . .You get the idea.

1-P1060882I realize from the view that we’ve gained quite a lot of elevation.

1-P1060883The drive up and through White Pass is not difficult when going east to west.  It looks like a steeper climb driving in the opposite direction.  I’m enjoying the drive.  It’s very scenic but there are few places to stop for photos.

1-P1060887I pull into another viewpoint and notice three people staring.Heh-heh.  They’re looking at my rig and the solar panel, I bet. I get out of the PTV and put on a long-sleeved shirt over my tee shirt.  It’s colder at this elevation.

The man, woman, and another woman (who probably is the mother of one of the other two) ask many questions about my set-up which I’m happy to answer, aka brag about.

Mt. Ranier is visible from this look-out on any day other than the one in which I’m here.  Clouds totally obscure the mountain, much as the fog did when I drove A THOUSAND MILES to see the Pacific.

Moving right along . . .

1-P1060908In Packwood I gas up the PTV and get both propane tanks filled.  At the grocery I buy local produce — sweet corn, cantaloupe, plumcots, and a plum as big as a softball.

I discover the Packwood Ranger Station no longer exists.  I can see from the many RVs, cargo trailers, flea market tents, concessionaires, hustle and bustle, etc. that I need to keep going.

At Randle I visit the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest Station.

The ranger ladies give me a pretty good idea where I can’t disperse camp.  My impression is that they’re being negative.  However, when I get on Forest Road 23 I can see the difficulty in finding boondocks.  They weren’t being negative, just realistic.

This is FOREST. 

We’re talking dense forest, as in rainforest.  Moss that grows on anything not moving (so keep active here!), ferns with big fronds like palm tree fronds, trees so enormous if you try to hug them your arms won’t go halfway around and the tops are in the clouds.  You don’t want to know about the size of the slug I saw sliding along on its own slime. . . ewwww!

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!

Beautiful forest, but, man, hard to find boondocks.

The words of the rangers ring in my head.

“If you go down the spur roads, you won’t be able to turn your trailer around.  People camp with tents, mostly that they carry in.”

Since I have to leave the BLT by itself on Friday when I drive to Morton to pick up the registrations which will have arrived (being positive here!), I probably should camp in a campground anyway.  That’s a substantial trip and I don’t feel good about leaving the BLT in this forest.  Don’t ask me why — just a feeling.  Maybe that slug spooked me.

At Randle we head south on Forest Road 23.

I drive about 15 miles, give or take, up a winding, paved road to North Fork Campground.  Long before we reach the campground sign, I realize we’re out of internet signal territory.

If you’re looking at a map of our travels, you may wonder why we aren’t boondocking along the Cowlitz River, which, by the way, is a broad, slow-moving, and very green river that meanders through a wide valley.  Well, it’s all private land, that’s why not.

North Fork Campground is small.

1-P1060896It’s now even smaller because several campsites are blocked off because some of the big ol’ trees are rotting or diseased, making it hazardous to camp there.

All the sites ($18 regular/$9 senior pass) are reserved for Labor Day Weekend, starting September 29th.  Well, that’s a problem to deal with later.  Right now we need to find a site for tonight.

I love the anticipation of a new camp.  This is what one sees upon entering the campground.  Not many campers here today.

1-P1060897I find a site around the bend in the road you see in the above photo.

It’s a small, pull-through site with three great features.  It has its own water spigot of delicious water, it receives some sunshine, and it has a path to the North Fork!  (More about the campsite in a future post.)

“Yeah, Spike!  We have a creek in our back yard!  Come along.  You can soak later.”

1-P1060903I quickly set up camp.  Bridget, Spike, and I explore a trail.

1-P1060907There are several well-marked trails around the campground.  This environment is quite different from our last camp!

1-P1060905Bridget has to investigate this fern.  “Watch out for monster slugs, Bridge!”


“You like it here, don’t you, Spikey!”


Note:  Once again we’re without internet signal.  I won’t be able to respond to comments although eventually I will read and enjoy every one of them.  I love to read your comments!






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59 Responses to Through White Pass to Gifford-Pinchot National Forest

  1. katydid says:

    Oh no, RV Sue isn’t fond of the beautiful Banana Slug of the Pacific Northwest! I’m sure that one California University has the slug as a mascot. Give the creatures a chance; I think they are kinda cute. If you want to know more about slugs just consider slug sex, (just google it.) Kinky for sure, so maybe that’s why you don’t like them?

    • Chuck Hajek says:

      I believe that is the UC at Santa Cruz…..everything is a little(yeah RIGHT) strange there. Beautiful spot again, Sue and the crew looks happy as snails in the fog!!!!!

  2. cinandjules (NY) says:

    Oh the cat is away and ………………….we’re starting early! How does the topic of banana slug sex even pop into one’s mind? Nope didn’t google it…don’t want to know!

    Okay then…..That photo from the view point reminds me of Yosemite. The Pacific Northwest rain forest…moss is everywhere. The BLT looks like it’s going to be invaded! Are there mosquitos? Desolate area indeed…follow your instincts.

    Spike is smiling…Bridget is investigating! Have a peaceful night.

    • Phyllis says:

      You know you want to…. When you google ss there are actually quite a view videos to watch, yeah baby.

      • Donna D. (stickhouse in CT) says:

        The Attenborough you tube version of the leopard slugs was like something from Cirque du Soleil. 🙂

  3. Jean/Southaven, MS says:

    Beautiful!! Hope by the time you read this you will have taken lots of pictures. Get some rest, I detect some burnout here. I just read the White Princess by Phillipa Gregory. It was about Elizabeth of York, King Henry VIII’s mother. I recommend it. I bought a Kindle version thru your Amazon account. Be safe

  4. Teri in SoCal says:

    Your photos are lovely, as usual. Hope you guys are enjoying yourselves.

  5. Alan Rabe says:

    The heck with slugs, You’re in Big Foot country. 🙂
    Also Mt. St. Helens is just south of you, be ready to run if you feel the ground shaking, 🙂 🙂
    Cotton candy water is what happens when the shutter speed is too slow. Common issue with Point and Shoot cameras, they do what they need to capture the image, not always an artistic result. You need to be able to control your shutter speed and aperture. In some cases you will also need a tripod if a slow shutter speed is required.
    Looks like you might have trouble getting a campground for the holidays, might have to push it to your final destination, but I hope not, I know you like the little adventures.


  6. Diane says:

    Banana Slug…sex??? Oh well, what a gorgeous place!!!! Glad you found it. We missed you but I know that’s life on the road, glad you all are Okay. Thought maybe you got caught up in the mounds of online advertising and mountains of mail for all those turning 65…HA I’ll be there in October also.
    Enjoy yourselves in that beautiful place!!!!

  7. Rita says:

    Ah….I think labor day weekend starts 8/29/13 LOL. Beautiful pictures!! I’ve tent camped not far from La Push…they have beautiful hiking trails all over Olympic National Park. I loved the rain forest in and around Washington/Oregon.

  8. Wow look at all that greenery! Quite a contrast from your times in the desert a few months back. Most importantly, a nice place for Spike to get a soak! 🙂

    Hope your mail arrives as expected. Enjoy and watch out for those slugs!

  9. Phyllis says:


    My most favorite descriptions are when you talk about filling up the propane tanks, getting groceries, dumping the tanks, buying groceries, and getting gas. The simplicity of it all.

    The waterfall picture – girl you should have set the timer and cliff dived/dove in. Intuition – listen to it.

    Oh the suspense of the registration – will it be there or won’t it. I would love the chance to call you Outlaw Sue.

    Hey MICK you still working on an internet solution?

    Phyllis in Oklahoma

    • Mick says:

      Okie Phyllis we have a dilemma; people attract cell phone towers and repel RVsue! LOL

      • Chuck Hajek says:

        Hi Mick! Looking at a carry on tri fold out 95 watt solar panel and noticed Sue has 2 Yellow Top Optimas 75ah each. Would the Blue Top 8052-161 031M work a little better? Ours is a 30.5′ 5th wheel, 30 amp, currently 2 Interstates. We do have a propane converted i2000eu Honda gen we’ve been using. Would you rec the yellow top over the blue top?
        P.S. We lose our 15 year roof warranty putting solar on roof of 5er…. Any help would be gratly appreciated!

        • Mick says:

          Hi Chuck, I found this answer in the Optima FAQ section.
          It sounds like the Blue and Yellow are the same except for terminals but the Blue is available in a dark gray bottom which is a “starting” only battery.

          What is the difference between REDTOP®,YELLOWTOP® and BLUETOP® batteries?
          REDTOP®: Use this for normal engine starting where an alternator immediately monitors the state of charge and provides energy to the battery whenever it is needed. This would describe most stock vehicles.
          Automotive and RV underhood starting
          Heavy equipment where starting is the primary function
          Diesel-powered vehicles with no aftermarket electronics

          YELLOWTOP®: Use this when electrical loads are higher than average, or when the discharge cycle is more than typical engine starting, such as vehicles without alternators. This also includes vehicles with significant electrical loads that may exceed the average alternator output (for example, aftermarket audio systems, GPS, chargers, winches, snowplows, inverters, drag cars). This can also include vehicles that have a lot of electronics from the factory, such as a minivan with power sliding doors and a DVD player, especially if the DVD player is used when the engine isn’t running.
          Racing vehicles without a charging system (alternator or generator)
          Dedicated drag-racing vehicles
          Diesel-powered vehicles with aftermarket electronics
          Car audio/video applications exceeding 250 watts over the OE system
          Vehicles or heavy equipment with inverters, hydraulics, winches or other accessories
          Electric vehicles

          BLUETOP®: The BLUETOP® starting battery (dark gray case) is to be used when a dedicated starting battery is required; it should never be used for cycling duty. The dual-purpose BLUETOP® (light gray case) can be used for both starting and deep cycling; it is a true deep-cycle battery with extremely high cranking power.
          Trolling motors, marine applications with heavy electrical accessories and RVs should use a dual-purpose BLUETOP® (which is both a starting and deep-cycle battery)
          Use a BLUETOP® starting battery for marine applications and RVs when the battery’s only function is engine starting

          Note: The difference between BLUETOP® and YELLOWTOP® deep-cycle batteries is that BLUETOP® batteries have both automotive (SAE) posts and threaded studs, while YELLOWTOP®S (other than D31T) only have SAE terminals.

          If you ever get confused on the colored tops, just remember: if it has a dark gray case, then it’s a starting battery; if it has a light gray case, then it’s a deep-cycle (dual-purpose) battery.

          I suggested to another 5er that they build a portable frame to hold solar panels that would store in the 5er basement. The downside is setup time and the panels would be more vulnerable to damage on the ground. They would be easy to point at the sun on the ground but you could trip on the power cables. You could contact Wayne here:

        • Mick says:

          My comment needs moderation and it may be days until Sue has internet again so I’ll answer with no links.
          Go to Optima Batteries website and click on FAQ’s, then the question about the difference for an official answer.

          • rvsueandcrew says:

            Hi Mick… Just enough “juice” to post your comment. Thanks for enhancing my blog with your knowledge and expertise.

            Now if you could do something about all this rain . . .

            • Timber n' Rusty says:

              Rain? That’s Liquid Sunshine , that’s why Washington is green and that’s why a long time ago I left cause this kid is used to 300 days of the sun, but the monsoons been reminding me of the great Northwest,,,,LOL

            • Margie says:

              Saw a bumper sticker in Washington 30 years ago, Rusty “Washingtonians don’t tan… they rust”

  10. Jean wheatleyIn Molalla says:

    reminds me of the woods behind our house, no falls though? my son in law puts out shallow pans of beer for the slugs, they love it, and die happy

  11. Barb says:

    YAY! So do you see yourself at the Pacific any time soon?
    Hugs to you!

  12. Mark says:

    When Sue leaves us alone it’s like when the teacher leaves the classroom. You know we are all going to get into mischief. Didn’t take long to turn to slug sex.

    Salina ks

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

    I love forests and that is such a lush area. I don’t consider such an environment to be desolate or bleak. It is gorgeous. I think the falls photo is great along with all the others. I hope to see a northern rain forest area some day. Knowing you, you will find a great place to stay for awhile. (Be sure to not sit in your chair reading for very long or as you said, moss may start growing.)

  14. mockturtle says:

    I hope y’all know that we PAY for all this greenery with rain from October through June. 😉

    • cinandjules (NY) says:

      We do the same…but with snow! Our ferns are turning brown…which means…………… it’s only a matter of time!

    • Gayle says:

      I know, I know! I remember driving from Oregon and feeling depressed due to too many gray days, and into Crescent City, California, and it was as if someone flipped the switch on for sun and I cheered right up!

  15. KathyB. says:

    We love camping in Gifford Pinchot . Your descriptions and comments made me laugh. So true , gotta watch out for those slugs though, I tell ya.

    I always enjoy my trip here to your blog and reading about your BLT.

  16. Deborah says:

    Okay, so I admit I couldn’t help myself and decided to watch some good old slug sex. Wow! What a ballet of copulation! Really quite beautiful and most impressive! Thanks for the recommendation @katydid!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Seems prudent to be a bit more cautious of where you boondock in this state, Sue (and yes we are living here for a bit, still in a small apt near our daughter’s). After all, they recently legalized a specific substance, which is outlawed most other places…that one fact alone would make isolated places not too wise I think. We have found one thing very changed between when we were last here in Seattle area (about 18 months ago) and how it is this summer so far…driving has become WAY more hazardous…partly due to the texters, but we also wonder if many are smoking this certain substance and thus driving impaired…???
    Happy, safe travels!!

  18. Ladybug says:

    Hmmmm….Spike’s looking whiter lately, now that he’s out of the dusty desert! And yes, he definitely looks happy in that last shot.

  19. Ilse says:

    Too bad you are missing the most beautiful parts of the PNW, the Olympic Peninsula.

  20. Rattlesnake Joe says:

    Big Foot has been chased into these dense forests by the hordes. Like the Grizley who use to be a plains animal. The slugs have rights too…no more beer for the gentle and beautiful slug. Given enough time…will the slug evolve into a AK-47 toteing organism just to survive the beer parties?

    • Donna D. (stickhouse in CT) says:

      Rattlesnake Joe, I agree with live and let live for critters. I tried to teach my sons that if we are in their environment, we leave them alone. If they come into my environment (my house) well, depending on the critter and how many there are, they are fair game. But I also understand those that have gardens being decimated by the wildlife wanting to do something about it. Especially if they depend on the garden for some of their yearly food.

  21. Donna in W. Texas says:

    What wonderful pictures….I miss trees….in West TX we have mesquite bushes trying to pretend they are trees.

  22. Gaelyn says:

    You’re in my old backyard from working at Mt St Helens. And Packwood has a HUGE Flea Market over Labor Day Weekend.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      They’re already setting up the tents for the flea market. Loads of people and vehicles arriving . . .

  23. AZ Jim says:

    Hurry Back Sue! They’re talking naughty……

  24. PNW Alison says:

    Sue, so sorry I gave you poor advice in Gifford Pinchot! I guess it’s obvious I drive a small vehicle!

  25. How wet are you? We’re in Issaquah, in the foothills of the Cascades and it is WET! Here’s hoping it will stop soon. This can’t be good for the battery charging.

    • Timber n' Rusty says:

      It’s been raining here in Chino Valley almost everyday since the 2nd week of July and it’s heading north , so keep yer powder dry n’ keep an eye on yer top not ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,LOL ;~)

  26. Timber n' Rusty says:

    Mark in Massachusetts, We got your garden seeds today, I love All of them and can’t wait to plant them. I bought the Reader’s Digest of Illustrated Guide to Gardening Book and plan on growing all kinds of goodies,,,,Rusty ,,,,,,,,,,,,, now that Dad’s gone, hey Spike you look good in the river ,,,, Bridget be carefull ,,,,,,,,,,huh? , oh nothing , ,,, just looking at the screen Dad,,,, Why ,,,,gotta go ,,, Woof Rufff ,,,,see ya

  27. Betty says:

    Sue I was raised in Eatonville,Washington, 28 miles,(45min) North
    from Morton. Spent a lot of my younger years csmping around where you sre.

  28. Barb says:

    Well it is T day… Hope your tags are at the postal office!!! Sending good travel wishes…
    Hugs from Hoquiam

  29. Bodhi says:

    Sue, thank you for all you blog. You give me hope for my future retirement travels.

  30. Sally Purvis says:

    The slugs are called “Banana Slugs” and they are, believe it or not…. useful.
    You’re supposed to rub them on the spot where you have accidentally touched Stinging Nettles and it helps remove the sting.
    Thanks for coming to our campground and being happy campers Sue, Bridget and Spike!!! It was nice meeting you and having our chats.
    Sally and Jack

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It was fun meeting you both and sharing some laughs. Thanks again for all that you do. Maybe I’ll join you at the Huff n Puff someday!

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