Gold Bar, Startup, Money Creek…our capitalism embedded in town names where contemporary poverty comes up to Route 2 like lapping waves.
After Skykomish, we enter Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. Low clouds cover mountaintops where vegetation is sparse. Sage brush and pine trees blanket the lower elevations. Rocky faces and swathes of logged land expose the vertiginous earth like a shaved cat after surgery.
I read that the Columbia Glacier located in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness has been receding for decades. In the future, these protected mountains will be safe refuge from the rising oceans. Then the rural towns along Route 2 will be gentrified, the coasts barnacled clapboard and rust.
We drive east on Route 2 towards Stevens Pass. The pass is named after John Frank Stevens who was the first non-indigenous person to discover it’s viability for a railroad route over the North Cascades. Plenty of native people traversed the pass before him, but it’s a white man who is memorialized.
I notice tan lines in the mountains that look like an amusement park track of some kind. This is the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.
Our campsite on Lake Wenatchee opens at 2:30pm. We are an hour early so we continue on Route 2 to Leavenworth, a fabricated Bavarian town conceived by town leaders in the sixties to increase tourism. Today, it’s a lucrative business that reminds me of Disneyland - the Bavarian Quarter.
Beers, brats, ticky tacky shops selling t-shirts, taffy and MAGA baseball caps. A religious man holds a bible over his head and states that Jesus spoke English. Tourists lick ice cream cones and snap selfies.
We reach the North Campsite at Lake Wenatchee State Park about 3:30pm. I am able to set up the tent in about 20 minutes, not bad for a beginner.
The kids explore the campgrounds by wandering through human-made walking paths that move towards the center like spokes on a wheel. In the center, restrooms, showers and a playground with wood chips. An outer access road circles the campgrounds.
Our spot has a designated pad for our tent and a fire pit. We are told to put food away to deter bears. I used to live in the Catskills where black bears roamed. Typically, if you made a lot of noise bears steered clear unless you got in the way of their cubs.
We have an emergency bear spray that contains capsaicin, a natural component of cayenne peppers and found in pepper spray. If all else fails…
The campground is a cacophony of vacation behavior; kids biking, dogs, food prep, toddler screams an acoustic guitar mangling Dylan(who mangles Dylan). Apparently, when you go camping you should pack as many domestic comforts into your vehicle as possible to recreate you comfy home in a designated area replete with showers, bathrooms and park rangers delivering firewood. That’s if you have a comfy home?
We pioneer with privilege because that’s what we’ve always done. Let’s pretend and play tent to tap an ancient impulse of human bondage and annihilation.
I enjoy a glass of camper-friendly boxed wine by the fire I started with the assistance of a fluorescent Bic lighter, fire starters and dried and split firewood.
The bears will be sure to avoid this worn patch of woods.