I’m always looking for free camps.
As the crew and I motor westward along the Tieton River in south-central Washington (Wednesday, August 14), my heart leaps at the occasional sight of RVs tucked under the trees on the far bank of the river. Oh, we have to get a camp like that! I wonder how they got over to that side. Well, tonight we’d better play it safe and camp in a campground.
A mile back I passed a trailhead with a sign posted, “Discover Pass Required.” When I drove into the elk feeding station, a sign proclaimed that another kind of pass was required. It being the off-season for elk-feeding, a pass wasn’t needed for us or for the guy geocaching there. However, that put in my head that I’d better figure out Washington’s pass system before I set up camp along the river. About all the geocache guy could tell me was that he found Washington passes very confusing.
I’m not taking any chances.
Nothing would spoil my first visit to the state of Washington more than a citation right from the get-go. County sheriff and forest service vehicles are all over the place. Not that I’d circumvent the pass requirement if they weren’t. We’ll settle into a campground at least for the night which will give me time to figure out the pass system.
I turn my focus to a campground search.
My Benchmark atlas for Washington shows the National Forest campgrounds on Route 12 . . . Windy Point, Willows, Wild Rose (day use only), and Hause Creek. Well, Windy Point doesn’t sound inviting and it’s the closest one to Yakima which means people. I pass it by. Hause Creek is the closest one to Rimrock Lake, further up ahead. The atlas informs me it has 42 sites. Probably popular with people visiting the lake.
That leaves Willows Campground.
The bulletin board at the entrance announces the fee is $14 regular or $7 with senior pass. It’s a fairly small campground (16 sites) and on the river – perfect! I take a fee envelope.
I drive us around the two short loops. Only one campsite is occupied. All the other riverside campsites have “reserved” tickets hanging from their posts. The reservations are for the weekend, starting on Friday. Well, that’s okay. It’s only Wednesday. We could stay for two days and by then I should know what I need to do to boondock on the other side of the river.
I pull us into the prettiest site.
The Best Little Trailer sits above the site’s picnic area.
This photo shows the view from the BLT. See the crew?
Having thoroughly sniffed our new yard, the crew relaxes under the picnic table while I write a check for two nights and fill out the fee envelope. Together we walk our payment over to the self-pay station. Already I love this camp by the Tieton River!
The next morning (Thursday, August 15) we investigate the other campsites.
I want to see the view of the river from each one. This campsite also has rocks set to form a circular pool.
Most of the sites have a sharp drop to the river. The Tieton runs deep and swift here. I wouldn’t advise a family to camp at Willows Campground . . . too dangerous for children.
The next photo is from one of the double sites. The river is such a pretty green in the morning light!
We meet a couple walking their dogs.
I notice they are neatly dressed in fresh clothes, unlike me, who desperately needs to find a laundromat! Harold and Candy arrived here shortly after we did. Of course, before we can learn anything about each other, the canines grab our attention.
Spike and Bridget are curious to meet a naked dog wearing only a harness, wig, fancy socks, and tail feathers!
That’s their rig in the background.
Harold holds their dogs away from the crew so Candy and I can chat. She asks questions about the PTV, the BLT, the solar panel, etc. I reveal that we live in the BLT full-time. Candy, like so many others I’ve met along the road, reacts with “all by yourself? I’d be too scared to do that.” I tell her I’ve not had one scary moment since hitting the road in August of 2011.
Candy is cheerful and pretty.
Her salt-and-pepper hair is softly tucked away from her face. Her eyes are lively and accented by the bright colors of her top. I suspect the phrase, “never meets a stranger,” fits her well.
Since Candy and her husband are Washingtonians, I ask about the pass system. Well, to shorten the ensuing conversation . . . Harold and Candy find the pass system confusing also. They suggest I drive to the Rimrock Grocery, about five miles up the road, and ask the lady there to explain it to me.
Then they do something that amazes me.
Harold goes back to their rig. When he returns, Candy says, “Here’s our annual forest pass. You take it. We want you to have it.” How they communicated their intended gift to me I have yet to figure out. They seem to be of the same mind.
“What? No, no! Tell me how much it costs and I’ll pay you for it.”
“No, absolutely not! We want you to have it,” Cindy replies. Then with a big smile she adds dramatically, “Welcome to Washington!”
The pass is good until next August.
It gives me free entrance to all day-use areas. A lump forms in my throat. I’m stunned by their generosity to someone they met only a few minutes ago. Gee, maybe I should dress like a derelict more often.
“Candy, you don’t even know me. I could be a terrible person.”
She laughs and says, “Well, I could be a terrible person, too.”
I’m pretty sure she’s not!
I thank them again and we say goodbye to go our separate ways. As we walk back to our rigs, I call out to Harold and Candy. When they look back, I wave the pass high above my head with a big grin on my face. “My spirits are sky high!”
Of course, as soon as I’m in the BLT I go online.
Welcome. Welcome to Washington indeed!
Did you see the news about our friends, Rusty and Timber?
I’m happy to see acknowledgement of the generosity and kindness of readers of this blog. I know Rusty is pleased that his story provides publicity for the veterans’ housing program via state and national media (USA Today carried the story, too!).
If you haven’t joined the house-warming party yet and would like to do so, go to the blog page, “House-warming for Rusty and Timber.”
And as always . . .
THANKS FOR SHOPPING AMAZON FROM MY BLOG!