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Summer never damp when you know how to camp

Part IV of Summer Pleasures series

Few true Northwesterners can deny the allure of the Great Outdoors. We work there, play there, relax there and even live there.

Most everyone in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana has an inborn connection with nature. But, for those who haven’t made the jump to becoming full-time backcountry dwellers, there are still ample opportunities to pretend for a few days.

Campgrounds galore grace the landscapes of the four Northwestern states, and if you can outduel the weekend warriors for a money spot, campin’ out is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a summer weekend.

Whether you’re into backpacking, kayaking, canoeing or plain-old car camping, the playgrounds of the Great Northwest ensure that you are never bored.

Scenic variety is abundant, as all four states house vastly variant forests, landscapes and bodies of water. Rock composition and plant life vary as much from place to place as bear danger and insect infestations.

A camping trip in northern Oregon has a much different feel than a camping trip in northern Montana, just as an overnight kayak in the San Juans feels drastically different than a multi-day raft trip on the Deschutes.

Each has its own appeal and each brings with it a unique outdoor experience. Some people prefer one over the other, but until you’ve run the gamut for all the camping opportunities in the Northwest, it’s impossible to say which is superior.

For instance, the national parks such as Crater Lake and Glacier have a leg up in scenic wonder, but campgrounds in the Mt. Hood, Olympic or Cascade national forests may offer equally inspiring natural vistas without the tourist traps or added costs.

But, regardless of where you camp in the Northwest, you’re in for a treat. Lucky for us that Mother Nature paid particularly close attention to detail when dreaming up the landscapes of this region.

Some of the most awe-inspiring natural beauty in the Northwest, if not the nation, can be found in the North and Central Cascades in Washington. Leavenworth, Marblemount and the Wenatchee River area are almost without equal, but all equally glorious.

If you can secure a spot alongside a stunning glacial lake off Icicle Creek Road near Leavenworth, you won’t want to leave. If you have seen some of the vistas — the 360-degree view of the mountains and pristine pools of water — from atop Lookout Mountain, you may never want for more.

But, as much as people love camping and backpacking for bringing them closer to the splendor of the outdoors, most of them realize that it’s all about the experience.

What makes camping such a time-honored summer activity is the memories. “Remember the time that raccoon got inside our tent? Remember soaking our feet in the lake after a five-mile uphill scorcher? Remember when you sat too close to the fire and singed the soles of your shoes?

These are the experiences that make camping so fulfilling. It’s not always dry, it’s not always clean, things don’t always go as planned. But, in the end, it’s always fun.

The excitement of finding the perfect spot. The joys of sitting around a campfire for hours, talking (or singing) about whatever comes up. The adventure of cooking with no light, lots of wind and a book of Safeway matches. The invigorating feeling of sleeping outside under the stars, breathing the freshest of fresh air, and knowing that you don’t have any set plans the next day.

One of the best things about camping is making it up as you go. “We’ll go for a hike ... if we feel like it. We’ll go fishing ... if time allows. We’ll stay two nights ... if it doesn’t rain.”

Organizing the perfect camping trip is all about perspective. Everyone has their own idea of how to maximize the outdoor experience. For some, it’s about the gear; for others, it’s about the beer.

But, no matter how you look at it, the pleasures of camping are universal. Living in nature for a few days is therapeutic. Just don’t forget the extra tarp.

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