Thursday, August 26, 2010

Corral Pass Camp Out

Family and I took time for a little camping adventure this week. We usually schedule one car camping trip every summer, but have skipped the last two years - so we were overdue. Son Ian found this place called "Corral Pass Campground" in a book from the library. After reading up a little on it, decided that's where headed....

The campground is located near Mount Rainier, about a 3 hour drive for us. Access to the campground is via a steep, rocky, rutted, 6 mile long dirt road that tops out at 5000+ feet of elevation. No services, except for a few pit toilets. Only 20 camp sites available, first come/first served, no reservations. Since we're talking mid-week camping, figured we'd score a spot. We loaded up the trusty family '97 Toyota RAV4 and hit the road. The beauty of car camping - you can bring a lot of stuff. The horror of car camping - you can bring a lot of stuff.

After a pleasant cruise towards the area, compete with stop at McDonalds (burp) - mandatory for all kids under 15 (federal law) - and another stop at the ranger station in Enumclaw to pick up the $5 access permit, we hit the base of the dirt road climb and pointed the overloaded RAV4 up towards our destination. The female half of the clan was freaked about this aspect of the trip. Ian and I however were looking forward to it. It's a rough road, not exactly true 4 wheeling, but something I wouldn't take the Ferrari on. Oh yeah, we don't own a Ferrari - so no problem there. I did put the RAV4 in low (auto trans) for the first time ever, while crawling over some of the rockier sections. No big deal though, you could climb this in almost any car, just watch out for the rocks. Rocks punching holes in the oil pan is never a good idea. Fun drive to the summit and added to the adventure of it all.

At the top sits a trailhead dirt parking lot and the campground. We idle the RAV4 through the campground looking for the best site. We have our choice, 'cause all 20 sites are empty - as is the trailhead parking lot. We appear to be the only humans around for miles. Pretty cool and a tad creepy. After selecting a spot, unload and set up camp. Tent, sleeping bags and mats, cooking stove, arrange food, etc. If you've been car camping, you know the drill and remember why one trip a year is enough.

During all this I'm amazed we're the only people here and have the entire campground to ourselves. Eventually, one other couple arrives and set up camp. I have to admit to my relief. This way we have a 50/50 chance of Big Foot getting to them first. Nice couple wandered over later to say hello. Nice or not, I'm still pointing Big Foot over to them.

Official camping festivities followed: Kids ran around, we cooked outside, swatted a few bugs, built a nice fire, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs. It was really special to have no one around, very different from the usual car camping gig. Almost like backpacking with your car. Yes, that would classify as cheating, but no one is keeping score. After the kids collapsed in the tent, we stayed up until 2:00 AM by the fire. Full moon, stars out, no bugs, cool temps. So quiet all I can hear is the ringing in my ears (thanks Ramones). Very nice indeed.

In the morning, egg sandwiches cooked on the certified Coleman stove, rising temps and sunny sky. Collapsed the tent and loaded up the RAV4. Why is cramming all the crap back in the car 10 times harder then the original load? All the junk somehow increases while out in the woods. With everything securely smashed back into the shrinking RAV4 interior, we head out for a family hike on one of the trails off the campsite.

The trail, "The Rainier View Trail", strangely enough offers a killer view of Mount Rainier (posted pic as proof). You need to work a little to earn it however. 1.5 mile hike up to catch the view. Once up there, awesome view of Rainier. A little hot, but no cloud cover - perfect day for this. We packed a lunch and took in the view for awhile. We saw no one on the trail or at the view point, so had all this to ourselves. Incredible. Eventually the same folks that shared the campsite appeared for the view as well. On the return 1.5 mile hike down, saw one other couple and another family. Either this is a very uncrowded spot or we just lucked out.

Drive back down the rocky 6 mile road to head home. The RAV4 brakes got a little mushy on the descent, so steep enough to get the brakes plenty hot. No problems though. Being mountain biker, ex-dirt motorcycle guy, and recovering gear head - got a kick out of the quasi-rally aspect of the access road. Fun stuff.

No bicycles on this adventure, mountain bikes off limits on the singletrack. We did see one woman riding her mountain bike up the dirt road, while we headed down. That would be a tough, fun climb. On the way home, we did revisit a nearby area that offers amazing mountain biking - we've raced there previously. Did a little more RAV4 quasi-off road action while checking that area out once again. I've wanted to camp and mountain bike there for years, this adventure reminded me of that fact - need to do so before winter hits.

All in all, a great trip. It's always good to get out there and do a little livin' outside. I suggest you do the same.

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate the description of Corral Pass Rd. It was a big help in deciding which vehicle to take. Guides just say "Steep winding road," not too helpful. Thanks!