Sylvia Lake State Park was a completely new one to me ~ and the site I chose had a "P" in front of the number, which I came to learn meant "Primitive"... ALSO a new experience. And my first fully rainy weekend camping trip.
So... did I have any fun at all? OH yeah!
Pictured: Sylvia Lake in quiet repose at a break in the rain
When I was making my reservation, I saw that one of the few spots available, a small but sweet-looking spot, had a P in front of the number. I read that that meant "Primitive," which means that parking for that spot is at a distance from the spot; not a backpacking situation, just that the car is not RIGHT THERE, and the distance to restrooms might be a bit longer walk than typical. I decided to challenge myself; the distance wasn't long, I'm a pretty game gal, and I figured hey, I can do this. Might need to unpack some of my heavier tubs into small carries, but not a problem.
It had rained the whole week prior, but the forecast for the weekend was partial clouds. I am a fair weather camper, I have to confess. But partial clouds did not deter, so I kept my date with Lake Sylvia State Park.
Pictured: Site P3 as viewed on the hill approach from the car park area
I was surprised when I encountered the short road to Sylvia Lake RIGHT outside the town of Montesano, and at first, a bit disappointed... I like to be kind of "away" when I camp, and this park seemed so *proximate* to civilization proper. I thought, oh my, the day use area will be crowded. Especially with the weekend I'd chosen - Father's Day.
But the drive was lovely, with glimpses of the lake, and the check-in at the park office was friendly and enthusiastic. "OH, that's my *favorite* site!" exclaimed the park staffer. "That's where I camp here!" Great! I thought... and asked how far the car park area was from the campsite, so I could gauge how the transport of gear would go. I'm not sure where I got the impression, where I read it, but I was thinking it was about 50-100 feet away. When she said, "oh, it's about 300 feet," I kind of blanched. Gulped. The 50-100 must've been YARDS. Oh, how much difference a word makes. Well, it would be a straight shot, at least. "It's downhill," she continued cheerily, dashing that last hopeful thought. But of course... downhill one way means uphill going the other way. And, as site P3 is in the middle of a hill overlooking the lake through the tall evergreen trees, no matter where you are approaching it from, you've got some ups and downs. Repeat many times. Many times.
Pictured: My skateboard-and-bungee solution to a muddy hill between camp and the car
I gave it a good try carrying the gear, but I quickly realized the mud from the week of rain, thick slippery pine needles, and a pretty steepish hill, and impending sprinkles, were making for a very slow transport of gear. Something had to give. So; I'd thrown in an old skateboard of Sam's at home as an afterthought, after loading the two very heavy tubs of kitchen gear and food, and the firewood, in the car. I figured I could put things on it, and the surely paved and even path from the car to the camp would be conquered. I got my always-in-the-gear bungee cords out and rigged up a way to hold gear onto the skateboard, and a leash. Though it was the tail wagging the dog on the way down the hill, and the mud and needles impeded, it was WAY better than trying to carry, and reduced the number of trips needed... well worth it.
Pictured: Ahhhh finally set up and a fire going. So worth it!
This site is small and sweet with peekaboo view of the Lake - it has an overlook to the side of the playground, which was closed for Covid restrictions, as were the nearby restrooms and showers. Honey huts were the available option in the day-use parking.
My options for dinner were a steak, or smoked salmon pasta... with evening descending, and being a bit tuckered, I decided on the easiest ~ the pasta and some bagged mixed green salad came together quickly, and tasted so good.
Pictured: Two burners and the ice chest produced a hearty camp dinner
Pictured: Love an evening fire during and after dinner, and hope for later s'mores embers.
I bundled up by the fire after doing the dishes, and took a tiny stroll down to the lake... the crickets and some frogs singing drew me down to watch twilight cover the lake. No picture can really capture the blues and purples and velvety blacks that created nightfall.
Back up in camp, the rain began to sprinkle, so no traditional s'mores... the chocolate covered graham crackers came to bed with me, and I read myself to sleep with the sweet sound of raindrops on the rainfly.
Pictured: The peaceful lake as night falls.
Next morning it was clear, and uncharacteristically, I decided against pancakes. I had the ingredients for a breakfast sandwich, and I decided with my second cup of coffee that sounded like just the ticket. You gotta watch the English muffins... first, because they can burn easily over the fire while you are doing the eggs and ham. Secondly, because an enterprising chipmunk can drag an entire half off the table in the blink of an eye. Lesson - be sure you have extras.
Pictured: A McCamp breakfast sandwich totally beats that other kind
Right on cue after breakfast the rain started to pitter pat. I didn't want to hang in the tent, so I locked up and headed out to explore the area in my car. Unfamiliar with it, I went back through Montesano and east on the freeway until a sign for falls and a dam caught my eye. Off I went down a winding road in the rain to see what I could see.
Pictured: Seen on my adventure drive doodling around the area in the rain
One thing with driving around - also got to charge my phone, which is my camera when I am camping. I needed a bit more charge, so actually partook of the nearby McDonald's drive through (couldn't remember the last time I got McDonald's!) and got a filet-o-fish and fries, which tasted surprisingly good. Then back to camp for a little nap, with the rain still sprinkling.
After my nap, I decided I wasn't going to let the rain keep me down. I put on my rain jacket and headed out along the trail around the west edge of the lower part of the lake, and into the woods along the river at the end. Truly here lies the magic of Sylvia Lake, and I'd have missed it ALL if I had decided to let the rain win. Magical paths skirting gullies populated with ferns so large, and trees so large, I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland and had shrunk to lilliputian size. Tiny wildflowers along the trail... a glimpse of an extraordinary place where the roaring river just *disappears* into a large hole in a rock, only to resurface several yards away. Beauty at virtually every turn.
Pictured: A meander hike south of the lake was delightful, a must-do at this campground
Back in camp, the sky had cleared, just in time for dinner. I got that steak out, sliced up my mushrooms, a small Yukon gold potato, and a little garlic, and sautéed that in a pan; added some fruit, mindful of the ever-stealthy chipmunk who was quite partial to green grapes, and sat down to a feast at the camp table by the fire.
Pictured: Steak and potatoes, a camp classic, comes together easily during a rain break
Tonight, I'd eaten early enough that I could hang out a bit after dinner by the fire. The rain started again right after the dishes (I counted it fortunate, ever a bright-side girl, although I missed an evening sit by the fire) so I cuddled into my blanket nest in the tent and read myself to sleep with the frogs and crickets singing down at the lake still audible over the soft rain.
Embers that were perfect for s'mores... but got rained out before utilized.
The next day was Father's Day, and the sun was weak but out, so the day use area below was in full play, with picnics and father-kid fishing, even with Covid restrictions. I got up earlier than usual, because I knew packing up and getting all the gear back up or down a hill was going to take more time. My traditional pack-up breakfast, old fashioned oatmeal with some add-ins, tasted good by the morning fire. And a final cup of coffee before getting going on leaving. I lingered... I was kind of dreading the "leaving chores."
I can't resist extra campfire coffee in the morning... worth the lingering.
I decided to try the downhill as the loaded direction, so I moved my car down to the busy day-use parking lot, and try my skateboard/bungee method again. Helpful, but still arduous, and packup was RIGHT down to the wire of check-out time, almost 2 hours. GOOD exercise. More than I typically like :).
I am not deterred completely in the future by rain or a primitive spot. I was fortunate, in that the rain was not a big deal, since set-up and take down were both dry - I do think had it been raining during either of those active days, resulting in muddy gear everywhere, I'd have had a far less satisfying time... and that's just luck of the draw. I would likely not stay at P3 again, myself. In busy times, it is close to the day-use playground below and north and I tend to like more quiet and less traffic than that area typically supports. But I'd stay at another "P" site elsewhere again - just making sure it's LEVEL on approach, and maybe not QUITE so far away.
Lake Sylvia State Park is a close-to-town hidden gem with really lovely and accessible walking/hiking. I'd definitely stay there again, just realizing people will be a bit more proximate in the camping in the regular sites and the robust day-use area.