Forest Service roads and boondocking.
Pretty much every day I drove a few of the Forest Service roads around Lake Wynoochee. Even so, I didn’t begin to drive them all. Here are a few photos from those explorations.
Further down this post (don’t skip ahead now!) I’m including a couple of photographs of one of the boondocking sites I found (I’ll tell you which photos they are when you get to them). I found lots of boondocking sites! [I wrote a brief description of what “boondocking” is in a reply to a reader’s question at the end of this previous post.]
About half of the boondocking sites I found this week would have been either too small for my truck and trailer, or they had a very long road into them and no place to turn around if meeting a car/truck coming out, or the roads into them were simply too narrow and rutted to take the trailer on them, or the sites were too close to the road for privacy (visual and dust/dirt from passing vehicles), or other stuff like that. But in spite of that, I’d guess about 50% of the ones I found would have been perfect spots for me … and almost every one of them was empty during this week.
This was the Forest Service “main” road on the west side of Lake Wynoochee. It quickly got narrower and less well maintained but went on up into the mountains for many miles. I followed it and several side roads for about two hours. The magnificence of the trees and the mountains was stunning.
There were a few signs along the main road, though I was so turned around by the time I arrived as these signs that they didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I did have a Forest Service map book of the area and knew from that exactly where I was. And yes indeed I did have a compass and all of the other suggested emergency equipment with me.
Sometimes the Lake Shore Trail was to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes both directions. Sometimes Maiden Hair Falls was in front of me, sometimes behind me, though I never did see it. The signs were a bit confusing, compounded by the fact that the posted road numbers did not always match the road numbers on the official Forest Service map. But, for the most part, there was one main road with smaller side roads leading off to either side for short bits, so I wasn’t lost. In truth, I didn’t pay much attention to the signs, but took these photos just for fun and interest. I did keep the map book close at hand, however.
Road maintenance was obviously an ongoing chore for Forest Service personnel. But sometimes the road was almost impassable because of downed trees that they hadn’t cleared yet; sometimes water had eroded the road so much that the ruts were large enough that it required using 4-wheel-drive even on the “main” road. And yet this roughness was so naturally beautiful and the forest smelled so delicious.
This was one of the side roads (above) that I thought really did lead to Maiden Hair Falls. For reference, the photo above was taken probably an hour and a half after leaving Lake Wynoochee so it was quite a ways into the forest. At one point a bit further along this road, the vegetation got so dense that it slammed both of my side mirrors against the truck. There was no way I could have taken the trailer in here, although I did find boondocking spots further along this same road.
An aside: Boondocking in the Pacific Northwest is not done much by people with large trailers or motorhomes since there just isn’t much room on these forest roads for those rigs. People here do boondock with the proper size rig though, and some folks even boondock in small cars … anything you can sleep in to get out of the rain. 🙂 The southwest USA, however, is a boondocking paradise for larger rigs.
An interesting thing happened on the road above. Eventually, I came to a bit of a wide spot, then a little short steep hill down. The map said the road turned about 90-degrees to the left at the bottom of the little hill and continued on. But when I got about half way down the short hill, I saw a VERY unkempt travel trailer and a VERY rough, rusty, beat up pickup truck, and two tents pitched, and lots of garbage strewn around … right in the road, blocking the road, at the bottom of the hill. I stopped and looked for only a second or two before putting the big white truck in reverse and backing up the hill and getting out of there. I reported it to a Park Ranger back at Coho Campground who said they were having trouble getting the guy to leave. Makes me think I might check in with a local Ranger in the future before heading out into the woods on those extremely remote back roads.
A real live boondocking site coming up!
I was in a different area now (actually a different day too), a little south of and further west of Lake Wynoochee than the area above. I had passed a number of narrow dirt tracks during the past hour or so on another “main” road when one dirt track in particular called to me. I pulled off to the left and carefully followed the dirt track, keeping an eye out for the possibility that someone might already be in there such that I would need to back out.
It turned out to be a very short road with no one at the end … and the end was this really pretty creek (Donkey Creek) … with one boondocking site!
There was lots of space behind where I was standing while taking these photos … space to pull in with the trailer and then back and fill the trailer around until the trailer windows looked out over the river, and the door of the trailer opened that direction as well, so my view would not include the bridge and the door would be private. There would have been some noise from the very occasional vehicle crossing the bridge, but otherwise it was perfectly peaceful, with nothing else in view. This spot got put on the top of my list of boondocking sites!
Here’s a screenshot (below) of the GoogleEarth view of this boondocking site. I added the red line for the small dirt track, and the red block/arrow for the boondocking site. It’s just about impossible to find boondocking sites using GoogleEarth; you’d never see this one. Notice the white dirt track on the opposite side of the road from the red one. It had three or four boondocking sites in amongst the trees at the end of that track, but they were all up on a hill above the river with not even a view of the river, much less with the creek right outside their front doors. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone about this Donkey Creek site; let’s keep it our secret.
My last adventure on the last full day here.
My last trip out on a Forest Service Road this week was on a relatively wide road. Keep that word “relatively” in mind on all of these roads. On the road I took this day, two standard vehicles could, with care, pass each other going in opposite directions. But I soon found out that large, fully-loaded, logging trucks plied this particular road as well … and those drivers knew this road so well that they didn’t much slow down at any time for any reason for NO-body. Thankfully, there weren’t many of them out and about the day I was there, but still … going around a tight curve and not knowing whether I would need to bolt for the bushes off the road to the right was always a breath-taking experience. Here’s a video of the big white truck on this road … nope, no log trucks in this video.
Just before I turned around to head back to Coho Campground, I saw this side road (below) off of the main road. It was a logging road that was in active use by big huge logging trucks zooming up and down that road at a fast rate of speed, hence the gate to keep us looky-loos out of their way and to keep us from getting squashed like bugs by those trucks. You will see a photo below of a sign that lists the CB channel for them to call when they want to come in the gate, to make sure the road is clear up ahead.
Then on the road back home to my little trailer in Coho Campground, I passed this somewhat recently logged area that was starting to grow back with small plants.
Chamaenerion angustifolium, commonly known in most of North America as fireweed, is known as willowherb in some parts of Canada.
The next post coming soon will be the last post of this camping excursion. It will describe heading home through Montesano (another adventure!) and some thoughts about the trailer’s electrical system (battery, charger, etc). Stay tuned.