Our Northwest

Plan now for summer camping restrictions

Friday, May 20, 2016by  Jon Osterberg
Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial kickoff of camping season in the Northwest.
     For many of us, that typically means blue-tarp camping under soggy skies.
     But we relish that, because we're hearty outdoorsy Northwest people who don’t mind getting wet, right? Whether you camp on the coast, in the Puget Sound or Willamette Valley lowlands, or east of the Cascades, we expect Memorial Day camping to be an exercise in staying dry.
     We also can count on the most-charming-of-all camping rituals: the campfire. Ember-roasted marshmallows. Sizzling weenies on a stick. Swapping stories and sharing laughs around the flickering flames.
     Enjoy your campfire now, and don’t take it for granted. If this summer pans out like recent ones, parched forests and parks will see campfire bans come July or August. That includes fires in established fire pits.
     For my family, camping without a campfire is a hollow occasion. The fire not only roasts food, exudes warmth, and wards off bugs, it’s a social magnet and mesmerizing entertainment.
     We camped one Labor Day at Salmon la Sac during a campfire ban, and we mimicked a fire by lighting my Coleman lantern and setting it in the fire pit. We gathered around the glow and made the most of it until the evening chill drove us to our sleeping bags. Not so fun.
     When campfires are banned, that usually includes briquettes. So if you’re planning a late-summer trip, you might need a pressured gas or propane stove to prepare meals. I see there’s one on sale right now at REI.
     If you’re like me and camping isn’t camping without a fire, consider choosing alternate locations now for late-summer trips. National Forest campgrounds are often the first to ban campfires, but I rarely see bans at campgrounds near ocean beaches and inland waters.
     And whether you plan to camp Memorial Day or late in the season, don’t forget your blue tarp. Even if the forecast calls for constant showers, if you’re stubborn like us, you can hang one 30’x20’ that covers much of your campsite, then hunker under it all weekend.
     Happy camping!

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