I love summer camping trips. Im not sure if it’s the smell of a camp fire 24 hours a day, river hair, dusty sandal-tanned feet, never changing out of your swim suit, hammock swinging, reading books, kayaking lakes, endless starry nights, or just the feeling like everything is perfect. But all that never even happens if you can’t reserve a spot at your favorite coveted lake, or mountain state park. With outdoor recreation activites hitting an all time high, with campgrounds all around the PNW booked out before summer even arrives, it’s hard to visit the local favorites on a whim. I’ve had my fair share of winging it and riding on the hope of a feather that there would be a spot left for me, and more times than not, there just wasn’t. So I bring you the never again failing option: Off grid camping! Often times remote, dispersed camping is my favorite way to camp. No noisy neighbors, camp ground rules, or paved roads and best of all you usually find a spot to call your own. sign me up!
One hot August weekend we packed up the gear and a few friends and headed to the mountains to find a cool reprieve from the over heated city concrete. We drove a short 2 hours up to the base of Mount Jefferson where there is quite the collection of dispersed camping down several forest service roads. We drove up and down one road trying to pick out the perfect camp site for 4 people and a dog. We stopped at several of the spots walked in to check them out, looked for the necessities: camp fire ring, large enough ground space for two tents, the sound of a river near by, Check, check, check!
The spot we ended up settling for was a small hike in spot. It seemed pretty short but after making trek after trek carrying ice chests and tents and bags through the brush, over a stream, through tree branches and around the bend the “short” trail felt anything but. We were totally fine with it though because that’s the price you pay for seclusion, right?! We got everything to the site just as dusk settled in on us and it started to cool off so we did get a little hurried to set up the tents and get dinner going, as we were 4 very hungry people by 9pm.
First things first we made an amazing fire, and grilled up some steaks to kick off our first evening at camp. We spent the rest of the night, chatting over delicious food, roasting marshmallows, watching the stars shoot across the sky and some of us toasting some local brews. We awoke bright and early for some classic camp breakfast dishes and took our time getting ready for the day.
We headed out for a hike to a waterfall in the area. Another ten mins down a dirt road and we were already pulling over to check out some other cool dispersed camp spots for the next time we were in the area. Only a few more minutes down the road and we pulled off to hike the rest of the way.
We started up and old road and were soon on a lightly beaten trail. It’s good our friends knew the way this definitely wasn’t in any guide books or on any websites pin pointing the exact location or written specifics on how to get here. only maybe 5 mins in we arrived at the top of this massive off grid waterfall, I was happy just overlooking this giant, however everyone had other plans for this beast. We made our way around to an area where we could make our way down to the bottom. We tied some climbing rope around a tree and one by one made our way down a very steep grade, clinging onto the rope for dear life I made my way down the loose dirt hill, around some trees that had grown off the side of the mountain and finally arrived down at the bottom after some precarious foot action.
It was amazing, I’d never been to an off-grid waterfall, nor have I had the pleasure of writing about a place I cannot really name. But for the sake of keeping the wild, well, wild I will keep this one nameless. We sat on a large rock taking in the sun, cooling off in the pools and enjoying some snacks. One of us even decided to make our way to the base of the falls trekking through the rapidly flowing current. At least he looked very majestic with his long beard and staff in hand. It was pretty perfect.
After the waterfall we headed back to camp, made lunch and headed down a little trail to the near by river I mentioned earlier. It was pretty cold but in comparison to the sun that was roasting us, it felt great. Ryan and I stayed down by the river till dinner time, I was sun bathing, wading through to the other side to investigate around and eventually just sitting in the water cooling off. Ryan on the other hand stayed in one area to build a little dam, after a while there was a pool perfect for soaking in. No matter where we camp we always venture off through some brush, or low hanging trees to find something no one has explored yet. Its always an adventure for sure.
After another evening around the camp fire and great conversations we weren’t able to wake up for our early morning hike to a different waterfall. Instead we opted to sleep in and enjoy our last morning in the woods the way I prefer it: slow and slow. HA! We made a delicious breakfast from all our combined food ingredients and it was a terrific last meal in the woods before we packed up to head back to the city.
So if you ever feel like an impromptu camping trip, or taking a road trip on a whim like I usually do, don’t fret, head to the mountains or a river there are always hidden places to be found. Drive down a few dirt roads your unsure of, drop a pin on a map and find your way into an area you’ve never explored. Just remember not every amazing place is written out in a guide book or on advertised on a camping Instagram feed. Go find yourself a little piece of seclusion. happy trails.