Updated: Mar 11
In 2021, I challenged myself to try a few campgrounds that I haven't tried before. I was looking for accessibility in less than 4 hours drive from Seattle, so if I like it, I could potentially head out midday on a Friday for a weekend's camp another time. Rainbow Falls State Campground off the I-5 corridor fit the bill.
Pictured: Rainbow Falls itself is best seen from across the river from the campground
Rainbow Falls State Park found me in site #23. Which already had a truck occupying it. The very large family camp on my left had spilled over during arrival, but were quite nice about moving upon my arrival. That's a disconcerting neighbor set-up, for a solo camper... I'm craving quiet, nature sounds, etc. With 2 RV's 3 tents, two dogs, kids and infants and all the adults that come with, there were always folks talking around their campfire, laughter, etc. These are not disturbing sounds - not like a generator or a loud music system... they just don't contribute to the sounds of solitude, quietude. They are having their camping-in-community experience; I am having my communing with camping one. It's something as a solo camper you need to hone your skills for - creating your bubble, tuning out things as best possible, and tuning your ears to focus on crackling fire, chattering squirrels, frogs. My neighbors to the left were a very quiet couple. Across the way, another couple the enjoyed card games by lantern-light and strumming a guitar - a sound I love, and would produce, if I could. Maybe in the future...
Pictured: Site 23 all set up! Time to start dinner!
I arrived a bit later in the afternoon, and I had unfamiliar gear, so I went straight into camp set-up. My new tent was on its maiden voyage (see my gear review of the Kelty Wireless 4, a gift from my adventurous also-solo-camping mom) and it set up like a breeze. Also on its first use was a twin-size inflatable bed. Usually I sleep on a little nest of a foam rolling pad and down topper, plus blankets, in my blanket sandwich~ and I was curious as to how this addition would affect my camp sleep. Camp set up, I'd missed lunch, so was really ready to get out the stove and get dinner on. Sloppy Joes GoSoloCamp (check it out in the recipes) came together fast, with Beyond Beef subbing for ground beef and the sauce in one pan, corn on the cob in a pot on the other burner.
Pictured: Add watermelon and an Elysian Salt & Seed brew, and I had a feast before me!
Pictured: Sunlight through the trees as evening comes looks magical
Pictured: My shearling booties, my book, my evening fire... I savor my solo camp night
Pictured: Dessert tonight was fresh cherries, fireside.
I found my mattress got a little jello-y throughout the night, from what I suspect was a slow leak - it was not an expensive piece of equipment, and had been borrowed a few times before I got a chance to use it, so not wildly surprising. My butt stayed above the ground, that's the main thing. Just amusing trying to land the dismount.
In the morning, after a leisurely cup of coffee and fire, I thought I'd try something fancy for breakfast~ Eggs Benedict. I'd brought a packet of hollendaise sauce mix, and had eggs, Canadian bacon, and English muffins. The English muffins went on the fire grill over the coals, while I warmed the Canadian bacon in the skillet, foil-packeted it and gave poaching the eggs a shot, while mixing up the hollendaise sauce in a small saucepan on the other burner. I threw some spinach on the buttered English muffins just before the eggs went on, adding a little healthy in there. Next time I'd add fresh lemon juice to the sauce, but it's definitely going in the camp breakfast rotation!
Pictured: Sitting down to breakfast! Need more coffeeeeee...
After breakfast, I thought I'd try to find the falls. It's across the day-use area, and a little trail that goes along the river and then back behind some of the campsites. The falls are small, so don't expect towering heights, etc. The riverbank was slippery and muddy, and I didn't get the view I was craving. The path was a nice walk, meandering back to the campground, and I thought the campsites over on that side, toward the west, were ones I'd try next time, despite being farther from the single set of restrooms.
Ironically, with one exception, all the lovely little flowers I saw along the trail at Rainbow Falls were white. It became fun to chronicle all the varieties of tiny white blooms.
A fun activity when solo camping by car is to take off and check out the surrounding area. I thought I'd take a little excursion along the road past the state park entrance, and see what was there. I found a twisty little road, leading to the tiny town of Pe Ell, and THE best ice cream I have ever had, anywhere, in the world. The Tin Snug in Pe Ell serves excellent espresso, what looked like a delicious menu sandwich, soup and salads, and with hand-dipped ice cream that rivals (no, surpasses) any I've tasted. A MUST-go when you come to Rainbow Falls State Park. Great, vibes little place to wanderdrive to.
Pictured: The world's best ice cream - Olympic Mountain Ice Cream's Lemon Cheesecake with Blackberry Swirl. I was doing that Meg Ryan When-Harry-Met-Sally scene with each spoonful.
Coming back out of town toward the campground, I saw a sandwich board sign for Jones Creek Brewing, and took the turn. I found a delightful microbrewery with outdoor seating and some great brews on tap. I was looking for their canned offering, as I was taking mine back to camp... Pour Me S'more Stout was an obvious camping choice.
On my way back, I caught a glimpse of the river and the falls that caused me to pull back around, park, and take a steep little trail-let to a big rocky outpatch that gave the best view of the falls. The sound was lovely, and I just sat, and viewed, and listened, for some time. Peaceful. Contemplative.
Pictured: Down river from the falls
Back at camp, I'd worked up an appetite, but not for what I'd brought. I'd planned on a chicken burger with some of those sloppy joe buns, chips, fruit... but I really felt like Stovetop Stuffing. It's one of my favorite camping sides - so easy, just boil water, add butter and the stuffing mix, stir, let sit, and fork-fluff. That's a perk of solo camping - I have only me to please. So I panfried the chicken breasts with butter, herbs, a little broth in one pan, and made stuffing in the other. Added a salad and I dug in!
Pictured: Herbed Chicken- it's unexpectedly what's for dinner. Everything tastes better outside.
Pictured: It's almost not camping without s'more's...
The next morning was pack-it-up day, so I don't cook as much, in order to keep clean-up at a minimum and maximize my coffee and fireside time before the take-down begins. Oatmeal is always a favorite, with whatever fresh or dried fruits I might have to choose from. Today, bananas and brown sugar were a winning combo.
Pictured: Easy last-morning yum
Disaster struck as I made my morning coffee, my French press decided to abandon ship.
Pictured: Ohhhh noooooo....
Pictured: After trying to fix it, or make do, I hunted through my camp pantry for an alternative. This looked like a tasty alternative...
... and it was!
I stopped with my hustle and bustle to check out this little guy and take a last few deep breaths, eyes closed, just soaking it in.
Pictured: I picked up a hitchhiker for a few minutes
And then it was time to head home... as always, feeling like I'd had a week off, instead of a few days. Nothing restores like a little bit of woodsmoke, birdsong, and lantern light.
Pictured: Me with my Resting Camp Face