I spent last Presidents’ Day Weekend at a cabin owned by the US Forest Service. I figured The Hubs would get a kick out of the cabin — it was built by a trapper back in the 1950’s using hand tools — so I reserved the cabin for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. A family emergency & its aftermath have largely changed my plans for the summer, but from the outset I told everyone that The Hubs & I were taking this weekend trip. I’m so glad we did!
Our reservation started on the 4th, so we weren’t part of the exodus traveling on Wednesday. A friend who lives not too far from our house agreed to be a point of contact if Dad needed a ride anywhere, and she & my dad both knew that if they needed to get in touch with me I could be reached by text. (There’s no cell coverage in the area. I had my satellite communicator with me.) That reduced my stress level a bit. I was still worried about leaving my dad alone, but it was the kind of thing I could let run in the background instead of it taking up most of my focus.
We arrived at the cabin and found the previous renter hadn’t cleaned much if at all, and some previous renter left a comforter. Bad move — the cabin has mice, and leaving a bunch of cloth just leaves them something to use as nesting material — but fortunately nothing came scurrying out when we moved the comforter. We also found that mice have chewed into one of the pillows. I’d warned Jim to assume that every horizontal surface has mouse urine & droppings on it, and strongly suggested he bring his own pillow. (He did.)
We’d eaten late enough that we didn’t need to cook dinner at the cabin the first night. We’d purchased firewood from a resident along the road to the cabin. The bundles seemed a little skimpy, but once we started burning it Jim was pleased with the wood — it was good quality pine & cedar, so our fire burned nicely & smelled lovely. There were a few people camped on the other side of the road in a dispersed camping area, but the area was pretty quiet.
The cabin has a bunk bed in it. I let Jim take the bottom bunk as I figured it’d be easier for me to get in & out of the top bunk. The next day, we decided we’d try sleeping outside. Even with the cabin’s three windows open, it was warm in the cabin. Jim coughed quite a bit during the night, and my sinuses were bugging me the next day. It could be the dust or the mice; either way, sleeping outside on a mild summer night would be more comfortable.
I brought along my hammock rig. I’m still getting used to it, so I want to use it frequently on short hikes or while car camping before I take it on my week-long hike in September. (I’m using a sleeping bag as an improvised underquilt, so I’m working on the best way to attach it to the hammock.) I’ve been wanting Jim to try sleeping in a hammock, so I brought along the hammock gear I’d put together for last year’s hiking season. Jim was hopeful that he’d snore less if he wasn’t flat on his back, and I was curious to see if he’d like it. (It’s not perfect, but I sleep so much better in a hammock than I do on the ground!)
On Saturday, we mostly explored. We drove to the end of the road. We were looking for places to fish. We found a campground with some lovely sites — one of the sites is adjacent to a deep pool in the river. The Esmeralda trailhead is at the end of the road, as well as the lovely Beverly Falls & a rock that looks like Miss Piggy in profile.
While we found some lovely places, we found no fish. This rock outcropping would have been the perfect place for fish to hang out but still be protected from passing osprey. Still, there were no fish. We moved on to more fertile grounds.
We headed to Lake Cle Elum. Ultimately, we ended up fishing in the Cle Elum River a few hundred yards upstream of the lake. We didn’t see any fish, but we saw spots that should have been fish hangouts. I opted to wander into the current as I figured I’d need to recover my spinner from whatever it snagged on. (I was right — I did.) I caught a smallish (7″-ish) trout. Given its size and that it was the only fish we caught, we released it. Unfortunately, it practically swallowed the treble hook on my spinner. I’ve read that if you cannot remove a hook quickly, it’s better to just cut the line & release the fish: the fish will survive, and the hook will rust out. We were able to cut off one of the barbs. I was impressed with the fight in this fish. We had to hold it upside down to try to get the hook out. I’ve read that putting a shark on its back essentially stuns it, and it seemed to have a similar effect with this fish. I’ve also read that if the fish doesn’t immediately swim away, hold it in the current (or move it through the water if there’s no current). This moves the water past its gills, and it’ll revive quickly. That did the trick with this fish. After a moment, it pretty much vanished from sight — possibly a bit wiser about flashy things in its river.
We went back to the cabin & got the hammocks set up. I showed Jim what I was doing while setting up the gear he’d use. That set up has a separate bug net and a bigger tarp. He used his trekking poles to set up the tarp like a front porch.
I knew I’d need my underquilt, but it was predicted to be in the 50s that night so I opted to use my Zenbivy as a quilt instead of a bag. As I mentioned, I’m still working on the best way to attach the underquilt, but I’ve decided to use Velcro. This will take some work to get it just right, I guess that means more camping. 😉 Because the bag I’m using as an underquilt is down, I have to be sure it doesn’t get wet. Because using a hammock means I can camp anywhere there are appropriate trees, sometimes there’s brush underneath. I don’t want dewy brush getting my bag wet. It occurred to me that I can use the sheet of Tyvec I carry as a rain skirt (to keep the rain off)/ground cloth in case I have to sleep on the ground: I can hang it loosely beneath the underquilt.
That night, we roasted bratwurst over the fire. Rain sprinkled on us lightly. The prediction was a 9% chance of precipitation after 9 p.m., and it arrived right on time, and it sprinkled throughout the night. Both of us stayed cozy & dry in our hammocks.
The downside of the hammock is that you’ll wake with the early twilight. And I did. I wasn’t fully ready to crawl out of my cocoon, though. I continued to lie there, feeling the breeze, listening to the river. Then this image flashed into my head: a man in a red parka standing over me, staring at me lying in my hammock. There was no one there when I opened my eyes, but I AM NOW WIDE AWAKE.
Corned beef hash was on the menu for Saturday’s breakfast. And this is what happened when I tried to open the can. Fortunately, The Hubs has a can opener on his Swiss Army knife — breakfast gluttony was saved!
After breakfast, we headed out for a hike. We opted for the Iron Bear trail. The trail was pleasant, but nothing remarkable stood out about it. We encountered a few winter blow-down trees that had been cut because they’d fallen across the trail. One was at least 200 years old; another, 300. As we were heading back to the trailhead, Jim noted that there were no signs the area had been logged. No stumps. The area was a mature, old-growth forest. There were a wide variety of trees there. A few were damaged by tussock moths, but because the forest was healthy, damage was minimal. At that point, this otherwise remarkable trail became a joy. I’d love to go back & explore more!
Later in the day, we tried fishing a Cooper Lake. Between the wind, the screaming children, and the kayaks & paddleboarders, it was a pretty wasted effort. We headed back to the cabin.
We brought along two gallons of water from home, and I brought my water filter. When we were in the Lake Cle Elum area, we filled the jugs we had at the spring, but I also tried filtering some water from the river near the cabin. Although I’d back-flushed the filter & treated it with bleach water at the end of last fall’s hiking, it was still not flowing well. I could barely squeeze anything through it. It worked as a gravity filter, but it was very slow. I decided to go ahead & back-flush it again, and I’m glad I did it while camping instead of waiting until I got home. Lesson learned: bring the syringe with me while hiking. It’s only an ounce or two, but having an efficient water filter is priceless!
Dinner Saturday night was backpacking beef stew. I’d dehydrated the cooked ground beef & cooked potatoes last summer. I buy freeze dried peas & dried carrots because it’s worth it. I soaked everything during the day Saturday, and then set them to boil that night with a packet of beef stew seasoning. It was delicious, and while we hadn’t been hiking all day it was still the perfect meal: hot & gooey!
It rained a good bit more Saturday night, and I was colder. I finally decided to stop using the hood section of my Zenbivy as a pillow & to use it as a hood instead. Wow – having that down hood around my head & shoulders increased my comfort level tremendously, and I went right back to sleep. Another lesson learned: if you’re cold, fix it!
Sunday was a pretty leisurely day. We packed up our gear. I cleaned out the cabin. We headed back. We decided to drive down the Yakima River Canyon for the scenery. As we approached the town of Yakima, we decided to stop for lunch. Jim had a hankering for a chili dog. I knew I’d eaten at a diner in Yakima relatively recently, and I really liked it. It took a while, but I remembered the place. It was even better than I remembered, and we’ll eat here again.
This was a really good weekend for us. The Hubs thanked me for planning this & putting everything together. It gave us a chance to be together without the usual distractions & the added stress of what’s been going on in our lives. We’ve agreed this cabin is a much better winter retreat: if you own camping gear, why spend $40 a night to sleep in a dark, musty cabin when you can camp nearby for $8? Jim’s planning to come with me the next time I reserve it for a winter weekend. He can see to value of spending a weekend reading books in front of a toasty woodstove.
Time to make that reservation!