Washington has been a surprisingly difficult place to find camping. Just about all of the state parks have been full, our bus is too big to fit in many of the national park campgrounds, and it has been too hot to boondock comfortably without A/C. We needed somewhere to stay for about a week before our little side-trip to Victoria, Canada and genuinely struggled figuring out where to go. We wanted to stay in western Washington, preferably near the Olympic Peninsula. We called various RV parks in the Seattle area (we’ve never been to Seattle and hear it’s awesome) but everyone was booked solid due to some local festival/trade show/competition. I got different explanations depending on who I was calling but the answer was always “no”. We ended up finding a privately owned campground on Lake Cushman just outside of Hoodsport, Washington. We knew nothing about the area but were pleasantly surprised.
Lake Cushman is a dam lake just south of the Olympic National Park, west of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. It is also just off of Highway 101, which would make our drive north to catch the ferry to Canada super simple.
We stayed at Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman, a private campground that felt a lot like a state park. Much of the land surrounding the park was tribal land and I suspect the park was also Native-American owned but I never actually confirmed that. Like the Thousand Trails park in Leavenworth, Skokomish Park had plenty of trails to explore and our spot had plenty of privacy.
The only downside was the complete lack of cell service.
We deal with poor cell reception all the time but this was a complete dead zone. We generally use our cell booster to increase or reception when service is bad, but for the booster to work there at least needs to be something to boost and we had nothing. Also, we broke our booster antenna a week ago and patched it up with some metal tape so it probably wouldn’t have done much anyhow.
We always have conflicting feelings when we end up somewhere with no cell service. Like most people, we spend more time staring at screens than we should. On the other hand, our lives are very much dependent on the internet. We need cell service to work on this blog, to search for and book campsites, to check our bank account balances, and more generally to keep in touch with friends and family. A week without connectivity is not normally a problem. It can actually be quite refreshing. But in this case we were planning a side-trip to Victoria, Canada immediately after our stay at Lake Cushman and we had yet to book any of it. We needed to find a park near the ferry where we could leave the rig safely for a week, book an airbnb or hotel to stay at in Victoria, and book our ferry tickets.
We found the answer to all of our troubles at the Hoodsport Coffee Company, a local coffee shop with excellent wifi and 30+ flavors of locally made ice cream.
We spent hours upon hours at this little shop. It was such a comfortable place to hang out and the staff didn’t seem to mind that we never left. We did, however, make sure to at buy something once an hour or so. By the end of the week I had tried nearly every flavor of hot tea they had. Brandon stuck to the coconut almond chocolate chunk ice cream.
But we didn’t spend our entire stay at Lake Cushman sitting around a coffee shop. We also built campfires, went hiking, rode our bikes, rented a kayak and stand-up paddle board (SUP), and ate surprisingly good Mexican food.
The surprisingly good Mexican food was just down the street from the coffee shop. There aren’t many restaurants in Hoodsport but El Puerto de Angeles had the best waterfront patio. If it hadn’t been for the view we might not have bothered giving Mexican food a try this far north of the border.
This body of water is the Hood Canal, which isn’t a canal at all, at least in the sense of being man-made. It is a natural waterway, an off-shoot on the western side of Puget Sound. And the people you see on the dock are fishing for crab!
Another double rainbow! Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention before or maybe I was just never in the right place at the right time.
The campfires were only possible because this campground had installed “approved” fire rings. The whole area hasn’t seen rain in quite a while and is under a burn ban.
The hiking, biking, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding were actually all in one day, back to back. We are usually so dependant on the power of motors, either in the Jeep or the RV, but that day we didn’t do a single thing that wasn’t human-powered. It was basically a really low-key triathlon.
What made our entirely human-powered day possible was our close proximity to the lake and lots of hiking trails. I wanted to hike the Elk Loop, a trail that led to the “Sleeping Giant Tree” just past “Grandmother Tree” and “Grandfather Tree”. I knew nothing about the trail other than that these were probably really big trees. Sounded awesome to me!
The campground is divided into two separate areas along the edge of the lake with a hiking trail connecting the two. The trailhead was located at the second section of the campground, about a mile away. We couldn’t take our bikes on the hiking trail so we took the main road instead.
We rode through the campground until we found a sign for the Elk Loop Trail and locked our bikes to the vehicle barrier in front of the trail head. The trail was classic Pacific Northwest, full of tall trees, moss, and ferns. However, it didn’t take us long to realize we were on the wrong trail. On our way to the trailhead we had briefly taken our bikes down a side trail near the road. On the map it looked the trail would meet up near the trailhead to the Elk Loop. We quickly decided the trail was rougher than we wanted to ride on our bikes and turned back. After analyzing our map we decided we had ended up on that same trail at the other entrance. Somewhere along the way we completely missed our left turn.
We never found the Sleeping Giant Tree or the trail we had been looking for but we had a wonderful hike anyway. Our trail map was clearly awful so I’m not sure I trust the distances listed, but we think we probably hiked three miles total.
On our way back to our bikes, we hiked along the edge of the lake and watched kayakers and paddle boarders cruising up and down the cove. You could tell they were rentals because they all looked exactly alike. The rental company actually operated from the private beach at the day use area of our campground, only a short bike ride from the RV.
After picking up our bikes at the trailhead and riding back to camp we took a break to eat lunch and change into our swimsuits. The final event in our camping triathlon was going to be the best!
We had really enjoyed our kayaking adventure in Leavenworth but I was really curious about standup paddle boards. We saw a couple of them on the Wenachee River and they looked like a lot of fun. It’s basically a very thick surfboard, stable enough for you to standup and paddle. Or stand up and do yoga or hula hoop or do archery. People have gotten seriously creative with these things. I had to see what all this was all about. Brandon stuck with kayaking, which was probably best because I surely would have deep-sixed our cooler on the paddle board.
You can also sit on the board and paddle. I did a little of both.
As a newbie, I found that sitting down helped me to keep my balance while trying to do something else, like take a drink or adjust my sandals.
I quickly found that paddle boarding was much easier barefoot and just strapped my sandals to the board.
I also discovered that kayaks are much more maneuverable than paddle boards. I kept trying to bump into Brandon with my board but I just couldn’t catch him.
Because “Bumper Spouse” is an awesome game. It’s even more fun (though frowned up) when played with grocery carts!
This here is Harrison. He’s only seven years old but he’s a badass. He really wanted a turn on the rope swing after seeing his uncle do it. He then climbed all the way up to the jump point (not very high up at all, but he’s seven) before deciding it didn’t look like such a good idea. It then took 15 minutes of encouragement, pleading, tears, and one example jump by dad, before Harrison finally leaped away from the tree. We don’t know these people at all but after watching the whole ordeal while waiting for our turn on the swing we were totally rooting for little Harrison.
Brandon convinced me to do this by saying, “If you don’t, I’ll never be able to say ‘Hey, remember that time Jenny totally crushed the rope swing at Lake Cushman.” I think he overestimates my abilities.
Needless to say, we were exhausted after our camping triathlon but it was a ton of fun. The best part was that we didn’t even plan it in advance. We just woke up and said, “What sounds like fun today?”. Brandon said biking, I said hiking, and we both agreed that the lake looked damn refreshing.
For being a totally unexpected destination, Lake Cushman (and the Hoodsport Coffee Co.) were very good to us. From here we’re heading just an hour or so north to Port Angeles to catch the Blackball Ferry to Victoria, British Columbia!