The Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Named after the first chief of the US Forest Service, it covers 1.37 million acres, roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island smooshed together. It has one active volcano, Mt. St. Helens, and another snow-capped peak, 12,200-ft. Mt. Adams.
Home away from home (with Corgi).
We'd done some camping years ago at one of the several lakes on the flanks of that mountain, and decided to explore some new territory this time. Unfortunately we neglected to make reservations until a few days ahead of time and, it being the height of summer camping season, we didn't get our first choice of Paradise Creek but did wangle three mid-week days at a smaller campground, Moss Creek.
Rustic yet sophisticated.
An easy drive up I-84 to the Hood River bridge and just north of the town of Willard, the campground sits on a small tributary of the Little White Salmon River. The dozen or so campsites are mostly for tent and smaller trailers, with none of the niceties like flush toilets and showers that attract the plusher rigs.
Dinner first night: Lamburgers with onion chutney.
The creek itself is smallish and not swift, perfect for wading by older kids, pets and adults. If you want creek access, go for site #10 which is private and has a short trail through the trees down to the water. If you have need for a group site, definitely go for the two sites directly on the creek (I think they're #13 and #14) that have a dedicated vault toilet and are on their own loop at one end.
Breakfast: Griddle-fried potatoes and onions on the fire.
Having gone camping just a few weeks ago, there were a couple of items that needed to come along this time. One was pillows. (I know, how could we?) The other was the appropriate glassware for martinis, both of which made the whole experience so much more pleasant.
Posole rojo to inaugurate the cast iron Dutch oven.
Dinner our second night gave us the chance to try out Dave's new Lodge cast iron Dutch oven, my anniversary present to him. We decided on a posole rojo, since it was easy to make up the sauce and cook the posole ahead of time, then freeze them and the pork shoulder for transport (they also helped keep the freezer chest cold…brilliant!). All we had to do was build up a bed of coals, whack the pork into pieces and assemble on the spot. Two hours later, dinner!
Who says roughing it has to be…well…rough?
Details: Moss Creek Campground. Directions: Take I-84 to Hood River, cross the Hood River bridge (toll $.75), go left to the town of Underwood and immediately after crossing the bridge over the Little White Salmon River, take a right on Cook Underwood Road. Follow it up the ridge and take a right on Willard Road (if you come to the fish hatchery, you've gone too far). Take Willard Road to the stop sign, then take a right on Oklahoma Road through Willard. Moss Creek Campground is on the right a couple of miles past the town. More info (though ignore the awful directions) on the website.