Reflections on the first camping trip

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Larry Nichols, his daughter Lyndsey (center), and wife Sally climbed Steamboat Rock to enjoy the view.

There are times when letting go of an event or adventure is difficult for me. Our first camping trip is one such case.

We traveled to Steamboat Rock State Park on Sunday, April 15 and settled into Site 87. This park is one of the most popular in the state, with only eight days of availability at our site in May, three in June, one in July, zero in August and four in September. Other sites have similar calendars.

Steamboat Rock is similar to our favorite place to camp, Potholes State Park. Steamboat has campsites arranged in 10 circles designed for camping trailers and motor homes, with several other sites designated for tent camping. A new camping area is under construction and will provide another 26 sites.

The site has a fire pit and picnic table close to our main door. Electrical, water and sewer hookups are available and there is a 14x14-foot tent pad. The grass isn't as plush as Potholes, but acceptable.

The big draw to this particular spot is the view. Our trailer has a large picture window at the rear end. The view is spectacular, stunning and magnificent all in one.

From the lounge chairs, we looked over the east part of Banks Lake to the eastern Coulee wall and Highway 17.

My wife, Garnet, and I have proclaimed Site 87 to be the finest site in the park, but we would not hesitate to reserve sites 82 through 88 in our circle, and several sites in other circles.

These all have a view of the lake, although some have trees between the water and the site.

Checking out various camping sites within a particular state park has become a ritual for us. First we can study the sites on the Internet at: www.parks.wa.gov and next click on "Make an online reservation or find campsite availability." Then click on "find sites on a map."

Here the state is divided into four sections. Steamboat Rock State Park is in the Northeast section. At this spot you will find 13 state parks to explore. Select Steamboat and a map of the campground will come up.

Pick the group of circles of your choice and a map of those circles will appear. At this point begin to explore the various sites.

Check site 87, for example and information about the site will appear. At the bottom left of this window are two points of interest. One says pictures and there should be one or more photos of the actual campsite.

Our trailer isn't the one in the photograph, but the photo demonstrates where the picnic table and fire pit are located, along with the stunning view we enjoyed.

Next select the site calendar and it will provide a view of the current month, plus the next two months.

A green circled check mark means the site is available on the particular date. A red circled X means the site has been reserved or is otherwise not available.

The fee for Site 87, a full hookup site, is $28 a night, plus $6.50 for making the reservation online.

We didn't have any particular activities planned on this trip. Most of our time was spent inside the trailer as rain, wind and cool weather prevented even an enjoyable campfire.

Ours was the second trailer in our circle of 10 spaces. The other was three spaces to the south and we only waved during the setting up process.

The next day another vacationer arrived in a pickup and camper arrangement.

The following morning the group of three from the pickup camper donned backpacks, hiking shoes and headed toward the park's namesake, the rock which looms over the entire campground.

They returned a couple of hours later and I asked for a report on their hike.

Sally and Larry Nichols, along with daughter, Lyndsey, of Olympia, have climbed the rock many times over the years.

This time they skirted the outside perimeter as well, spotting a herd of around 15 mule deer during the trip.

Two more campers arrived the following day, one in a fifth wheel and the other in a mini-motor home.

Before long two young girls ran past our position headed for the lake. Five minutes later they were headed back to the motor home.

After another five minutes Amelia and Livia, both 9-year-olds, were running again toward the lake, this time with swimming suits on.

Their parents, Maia costa and Jeff Lyden, all of Seattle, followed after them holding towels.

The squeals of delight bellowed up the sandy bank and across the short distance to our trailer.

Although it was a sunny day, the temperature was in the mid 50s with the lake surely considerably colder.

We headed down with camera in hand to watch the fun. A rope was attached to a tree limb allowing the girls to swing over the water and drop into the lake.

Time and again the action was repeated, with the girls finally stopping at Maia and Jeff's insistence. They ran to the motor home with towels wrapped around them and teeth chattering.

We invited everyone in our circle to share our campfire during our final night in camp. Smores were offered and out came the graham crackers, milk chocolate and marshmallows.

Besides visiting with the other campers, it was a delight to listen to and watch Amelia and Livia. Not only were these youngsters living in the same household, it was obvious they were best friends.

We broke camp the next morning and waved to everyone as we pulled out. The first camping trip was a success and we are looking forward to our next adventure.

"I need to stock up on more smore material," Garnet said as we headed south on Highway 17.

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