My first ever camping experience happened when I was six years old. It was during my two-month stint of attempting to be a Girl Scout. To achieve my camping badge, I was required to spend 24 hours at the campsite – setting up tents, helping with food, and pitching in. After my mom drove me the hour and a half to the lakeside campsite to drop me off, I had an unfortunate realization – I’d left my entire bag of things at home.
I had no sleeping bag, change of clothes, swimsuit. Just the clothes on my back. I vividly recall swimming in the lake anyway (for some reason? Peer pressure???) and sitting for several hours with wet underwear. There are few things more unpleasant in life than wet, cold underwear. So, suffice to say, my first camping experience was a less than stellar one.
Fast forward 19 years, and I finally had my second ever camping experience. And this time, it was much more enjoyable.
I packed in a car with four of my new Portland girlfriends for a weekend of outdoor things, and we drove north on I-5 for our first destination: New Moon Farm Goat Rescue’s Goatalympics. This fundraiser is held at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, Washington, about 45 minutes northeast of Seattle. The event features goat costume contests, obstacle courses, and attendee participation – like voting for the goat with the best beard or most spots.
It’s a fun little event that supports a great cause. New Moon Farm rescues and rehabilitates goats from cruelty and injury cases, provides them with a safe space to recover, and matches them with new homes when they’re ready.
After a sweaty afternoon of petting goats, it was time to continue the drive east toward our campsite, which was located near the town of Index, Washington. I found our lovely campsite on Hipcamp, which is essentially an Airbnb for campsites. You can search through public and private campsites to see availability, browse by amenities and location, and pay for your campsite through the site.
Since I was new to camping, and a little scarred by my first experience, I chose The Landing campsite near Index, Washington. It’s waterfront along the South Fork Skykomish River, secluded by 16 acres of private forest, situated in the sharp and stunning Cascade Mountains, and best of all has a lovely outhouse.
We didn’t see another human during our overnight camp. But we did have a few other early morning visitors.
I was also very fortunate to have a model friend who tagged along for the journey.
There isn’t much happening in the town of Index, except the roaring of trains passing through. There’s a small necessities store in town, with your basic emergency camping needs and a few food options. If you’re planning on picking up your food on the way to camp, I’d recommend stopping at a larger grocery store a few towns over.
I was there in late summer, but I definitely plan on returning in late spring next year. The rivers near Index are prime for whitewater rafting, which I’d love to check off my bucket list. I even found a company that serves you a riverside steak dinner at the end of your trip, which has my name written all over it.
Our quiet campsite at The Landing was the perfect reintroduction to camping for me. I gathered wood for our fire, sharpened hot dog sticks with a pocketknife, and of course, drank a lot of boxed wine from a coffee mug.
A few years ago when I was still living in Oklahoma, I couldn’t be bothered to spend much time outside. My idea of enjoying the great outdoors included drinking wine on a patio. But when you come to Oregon, it’s impossible to not become a little more outdoorsy. After a few months here, I was hiking, kayaking, trail running, and I even made the leap and purchased my first tent! Spending time away from the buzz of city life and off your phone can clear out some headspace and leave you rejuvenated and feeling like your best self.
If you’re looking for a private, quiet, comfortable camping spot in the Pacific Northwest, I can’t recommend this spot at The Landing enough. It’s great for amateur campers, surrounded by an absolutely stunning landscape, and private enough for a romantic getaway. You won’t regret the trip.