Labor Day — summer's last hurrah. Time to take some time off from the daily drudgery. No more cubicles, no more meetings, no more tapping on Blackberries, no more chattering on cell phones. It's time to unplug. It's time to get your family in the car, packed with gear and tents and a cooler of treats. It's time for camping.
And where will you break out of your daily living and into the warm laze of summer? Where will you sit in front of a crackling fire at twilight, the kids roasting marshmallows as the crickets begin their singing? Whether it's a tent or RV, the following are three great campgrounds that you might have overlooked.
Great, you've decided on a campground. The next question becomes - what to bring? Here are some new-fangled, or simply swell items, that you might want to take along.
LITTLE RED CAMPFIRE
With burn bans in effect more and more often these days, campgrounds sometimes don't allow in-ground campfires in their sites. Disappointing, you're thinking. How am I going to make s'mores? How can we sing campfire songs without the requisite campfire? Fear not, Coleman's Little Red Campfire is a compact, portable campfire you can take anywhere. Complete with realistic log pieces and a full ring burner - toast those marshmallows, and sing those songs. Sells for around $130.
CAMPER'S DREAM MEGA ICE CREAM MAKER
Who doesn't like a big bowl of ice cream? Sadly, that proves challenging when you're camping in the wilds of the northwest. Enter the Camper's Dream Mega Ice Cream Maker. About the size of a basketball it can make a quart of ice cream. Simply load ice and rock salt in one end and ice cream ingredients in the other and, voila, homemade ice cream that'll make your camping neighbors jealous. Quite the deal for $35.
COLEMAN INSTASTART CAMP OVEN
What'll also make them jealous, their mouths salivating? The fresh-baked cookies you made at your picnic table. The Coleman Instastart Camp Oven can bake cookies, cakes, pies and breads with ease. It's large enough to hold a 9"x13"baking pan and runs on propane. No need to plug it in. And what do you get out of it? Ooey gooey freshly baked cookies, pies and other sweet treats. How about a pie with your homemade ice cream? Camping heaven for only about $100.
MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
Standing amidst towering Douglas firs, western red cedars and western hemlocks can be a humbling experience. There they have been for hundreds of years — before the Civil War, before American Independence, before Plymouth Rock — and yet they still stand, taller and growing. Humbling, exciting, enchanting, delightful, these are the sorts of terms that could be used to describe Ohanapecosh, a campground in the southeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park.
With a visitor center, picnic areas and oodles of trails nearby, Ohanapecosh is a nice option away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular (crowded) areas of Longmire and Paradise. The eastside of the park is drier and sunnier than those more popular spots as well. Instead of crowded trails and packed campgrounds where the drizzle falls, Ohanapecosh is that warm woodsy haven you're looking for.
FORT STEVENS STATE PARK
If the mountains don't suit you, Oregon's beachside campgrounds are plentiful. Take, for instance, one of the best at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria. It has everything a family might want to do to relax or for adventure. The 3,700-acre park offers beachcombing, a freshwater lake ready to be rippled with the oars of a canoe, historical exhibits and a shipwreck, the Peter Iredale, that you can walk up to if the tide is out.
WALLOWA LAKE STATE PARK
Birdwatching and more can be found in Oregon's Wallowa Lake State Park. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and nestled near a morainal lake formed 9 million years ago (talk about history), the park, near the artsy community of Joseph, famed for its bronze works, is a place of solitude where the beauty of Eastern Oregon can find its way into any visitor.