Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ike Kinswa State Park

For those of you who don't live in Seattle, I'll let you in on a little secret - many cities in the US get more average rainfall including Houston, Miami and New York.  But, Seattle has many more actual days of precipitation!  Seemingly endless days of 45-50 degrees f , clouds and drizzle from October through April broken only by an occasional snowfall and rare sunny afternoon are enough to send even the most resilient moss-back into a blue funk.

Typical fall/winter/spring day in Seattle - drizzle and uniformly gray
About half way through the dark season, many find it becomes imperative to get out. Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean could be good choices if you have the time and money.  For me, just a change of scenery does the trick.  Hanging out in a rain-saturated forest rather than my rain-saturated back yard is a wonderful morale booster.  And if walking on a cold beach where you don't dare approach the near frozen water, with blowing sand stinging your face and lodging in your lacrimal sacs doesn't make you feel alive, then I'm at a loss to know what would.

One fine weekend in January, Van Kid and I decided we needed to get out and do some camping  so we boarded Westly and departed ever-gray Seattle.  Our destination was Mayfield Lake.  One could drive on Interstate 5 south to Centralia, then US 12 east to Mossyrock to get there, but Westly urged us to keep to the blue highways.  So it was that we followed Hwy 167 through the contiguous suburbs south of the city, merged to 512 at Puyallup (in the Puyallup Tribe tongue - "the generous people"), then headed south/east on Hwy 7 at Parkland.  Hwy 7 leaves the valley, making a slow climb into the foothills alongside Alder Lake, a reservoir of the Nisqually River Project providing hydro-electric power to Tacoma.  There are several camp grounds along here, but we continued on to Elbe (you can stay overnight here in a caboose), where 7 jogs south again (continuing east will put you on State Route 706 to Longmire at Mt. Rainier National Park - that's another trip for later this year).  Hwy 7 winds along to terminate at the old mill town of Morton which once boasted the worlds longest railroad tie dock.  From there, US 12 west leads to Mossyrock, named after a big mossy rock (go figure).  Just west of downtown, Harmony Road (Hwy 122) brought us to...

Ike Kinswa State Park

It was originally called Mayfield State Park when 2,250 acre Mayfield reservoir was established by the construction of Mayfield Dam in 1963 (supervised by Boss Mayfield?).  It was re-named Ike Kinswa in 1971 to honor a leader of the Cowlitz Tribe.  The tribe lived in the area, and had their sacred burial ground in the valley that is now flooded by the reservoir.  The campground is located on a wooded point with some 46,000 feet of shoreline.  But all the lake-side camp sites were closed due to trees and branches that had fallen during a heavy wind the week before.  We selected a site away from the lake and were the only campers there, except for 5th wheel rig of  the campground host who was away when we arrived.

View Larger Map

The sky was clearing when Van Kid and I hiked around the area for a couple of hours, then skipped rocks on the lake while watching the sunset.  I forgot to bring the camera, so took only a few crummy cell-phone pictures of which we sent a couple to Van Spouse (who prefers to stay at home with hot coffee watching chick-flicks rather than camping in January - can you believe it??).

Van Kid gets some rock skipping practice in
The campground host returned at dusk and came by to inform us we were required to pay the leviathan motor-home full hook up rate because of the site we occupied.  I explained that we were in that site because all the "primitive" sites were blocked off.  And, that we were not even making use of the water/sewer/electricity/cable/central vacuum/steam heat utilities that came with the site.  It was to no avail, we paid the full rate.  I really don't mind supporting the State Parks, feeling that those who are using them should be the first to do so.  The state of California is closing 70 state parks this year due to budget cuts.  Blogger Lucy and her companion Roxy are on a quest to visit all 70 before they close.  She always remembers her camera and gets some great pictures.

We made a small camp fire, ate some tortellini, looked at the stars, played some music, then read The Hobbit by kerosene lantern light before retiring for the night in sleeping bags buried under piles of blankets.

Night falls softly at Ike Kinswa State Park
Van Kid took the top bunk, but I lifted him down and closed the pop-top around 4 a.m. when wind and rain returned uninvited.  By daybreak the storm had moved on but the temperature didn't get the message and hovered around 30 degrees f.  We warmed up with oatmeal, eggs and veggie sausage, then set out on another hike in the bracing morning air.

What did the girl mushroom say to the boy mushroom?
I like you, you're a real fungi.
(yeah, I know "fungi" is the plural, it fits the picture though)
After a lunch of quesadillas, we broke camp and decided that as long as we were we should head west again on Hwy 12 (about 25 miles) to Randle, situated in picturesque Big Bottom Valley.  From "downtown" Randle (gas station, groceries, diner), Hwy 131 runs south for about 5 miles before it splits into a number of forest service roads.  These roads, with some paving, but mostly gravel and dirt, cover a large area bordered on the north by Hwy 12, south by the Columbia River, west by Interstate 5 and east by the Cascade range.  I've spent many happy hours exploring here in the past and am looking forward to introducing Van Kid to it's wonders which include an ice cave, Native American cave art, lava tubes, unparalleled views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier and acres of wild huckleberries in season.  But not this time - as the elevation increased the amount of snow did as well.

The yellow sign says something about a one lane road ahead
Not the best situation for turning around when the snow gets deep
We reluctantly headed home keeping to the blue highways as much as possible and began planning our next trip.



    1. lol Anonymous! Now please consider:

      1) You don't have to yell
      2) There is a difference (many differences actually) between the Bus and the Vanagon. The Vanagon is not a bus. Otherwise, I suppose it would have been called the Busagon and that just sounds dorky.
      3) If you don't believe me, take a Vanagon to any Volkswagen gathering, try presenting it as a Bus and see what reaction you get.

      Peace out!