Camping Quotas? Making Time to Sleep Rough

Do you set a goal for the number of nights you’d like to spend under the stars each year?

A lovely dispersed campsite near Stevens Pass.

I find it easy to get swept up in “busy” if I don’t pre-plan my excursions. And if I don’t get out in the wild for some adventuring, I start to feel like a boring person. So I set goals for the number of camping trips I want to take as part of my personal annual review process (usually my goal is 3 trips), and I make reservations. While we prefer dispersed camping, I like the commitment that I make to myself when I pay to reserve a campsite — and the confidence that I’ll have a place to sleep for the night!

foggy day at Cape Disappointment beach

Logs collect at the high tide mark at the beach at Cape Disappointment State Park.

Making reservations also forces me to explore further afield. This past year, reservations got us all the way down to Cape Disappointment, at Washington’s southwestern tip. We had a close call in the North Cascades, where reservations aren’t accepted — all the campgrounds filled up by early afternoon (admittedly on a holiday weekend) — but we found an amazing dispersed camping spot after only an hour or two of panicking. In 2015, we made it to Mount St. Helens for the first time, thanks to reservations made in the dark of winter.

Kanaskat-Palmer State Park waterfall

The river at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park.

Our favorite dispersed site along the Snoqualmie Middle Fork was destroyed by a change in the river’s course, so we’ve had to explore some other nearby options. Close to town, but new to us, Kanaskat-Palmer State Park made for a mellow one night getaway. For a mini-honeymoon, we backpacked up to Island Lake, off the I-90 corridor. Goldmyer Hot Springs is an easy trek (though uninteresting road walk) now that the road’s been repaired.

group camping fire pit

It’s hard to fit 20 people around one fire!

Making plans with other people is another way I’ve made sure to get outside. We organized a group camping trip for 15-20 people each year between 2013-2016, starting locally at Denny Creek, then visiting Mount Rainier, the Mountain Loop Highway, and the Teanaway.

The best view to wake up to: the roof of your tent.

Over the past month, I’ve been poring over my camping guidebook and WTA’s recommendations for backpacking trips, trying to choose places to visit. There are still so many new areas to explore, even within a few hours of home! I haven’t made it to the Okanogan, Lake Chelan, Vancouver Island, Bend, the Oregon coast, Mount Adams… And can I really say that I’ve explored an area when I’ve only visited it once, or ten years ago? And what about the really great places I’ve camped before — when do I get to go back?

How do you make sure you get nights under the stars? 

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About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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