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I went on a solo camping trip and here’s how it went
I would not consider myself to be an outdoor enthusiast, but I do enjoy being outside and love what nature does for my physical and mental health.
I think that's why going to state parks makes me so happy. Depending on which park you visit, there is something for every skill level, and I don't have to feel so intimidated for not knowing what something is or not being able to afford the most expensive gear.
I have hiked and camped before, and this year I snowshoed for the first time. But I still do not feel confident in all my skills - especially when it comes to being out there alone.
Like… How do I start a campfire? Am I putting up this tent right? What if I see a wild animal?
Better to just throw myself out there and see what I can accomplish than to let these fears hold me back.
Don't get me wrong – I am a very independent woman, and I can figure things out when I need to, but there is just something about the idea of going camping by myself that kind of left me unsettled. Maybe it was the unknown, or maybe feeling like I don't have the right skills or gear that many hikers I follow on Instagram have.
But I didn't let all that doubt stop me. And technically I wasn't alone. I took my dog Scout with me for protection and comfort (yes, she is a Corgi, and she may be tiny, but she is mighty!).
Anyways, let's stop these intrusive thoughts and get back to how it went!
I set out early morning from central Washington to visit two other parks before my final destination - Fields Spring.
After driving two hours east, I reached the gorgeous official state waterfall, Palouse Falls State Park. I had never been there before, and it was the perfect time to check this park off my must-visit list. It's crazy to think that each part of our state offers such different terrain. The panoramic views of the basalt rock and the falls winding into the Snake River were just *chef's kiss*.
Palouse Falls is a day-use only park, so I took a few pictures, ate my lunch, saw a couple marmots and headed 15 minutes south to Lyons Ferry State Park.
Although Lyons Ferry is not as “popular”, it is still an iconic park. This is the perfect place to bring your boat, have a BBQ, sit back in your lawn chair, cool off in the water and just soak in spring and summer. There are more than 52,000 feet of shoreline at the confluence of the Snake and Palouse rivers - plenty of room to spread out and enjoy. I was only there a little while, since it is also a day-use park, and I wanted to get to Fields Spring. Scout was able to swim, walk around and smell everything in sight.
Now let's drive another two hours southeast to Anatone, WA (a town of only 25 residents – according to the 2020 Census – that I've never heard of before). We finally made it to Fields Spring State Park. I checked in with the park ranger, found my camping spot and started setting up.
This was the real test – would I be able to set this tent up?
I did it! It only took me 10 minutes, a call to my dad and a couple deep breaths. Now I can put that tent up in five minutes - no problem!
Once my camp was set up, I moved my car more in front of my campsite for more privacy and began to make dinner. I brought things I could easily make with no campfire or Jetboil (also because I don't have one of those). I was totally fine without it. The salad, sandwich and fruit were enough for me. I did, however, buy a Charleston Chew candy bar on the way there so I could pretend I had a s'more.
It was still light out after I ate so I decided to explore the park. Scout and I started hiking the Puffer Butte trail, but we ended up turning around halfway through because I was alone and not familiar with the trail. When I got back to the park, I asked the ranger if there have been any large wildlife sightings and they said no, but I didn't have any protection, so I trusted my instincts and turned around. This was already a weekend of firsts, and I didn't feel like adding “cougar encounter” to that list.
I do a lot of local hikes and other hikes at state parks on my own, but this one was unfamiliar to me and a little more remote. I didn't feel comfortable without a map - next time I know - so I turned back. I did, however, take my time on the way back - taking in all the scenery and the stillness of nature.
Once we got back to camp, I was like, “Now what?”
It was nice being alone, to be at peace, but it was also kind of boring. Like Scout can't play cards or talk to me. I would recommend bringing a book or journal with you to keep yourself entertained during downtime. Many of our parks offer interpretive programs as well, such as ranger talks and guided hikes.
I ended up going to bed fairly early, which was fine because I was really tired from the full day I had. Sleeping alone in a tent for the first time is a little scary. I woke up at 3 a.m. because Scout was barking at who knows what. It really freaked me out. Was there anything out there or was Scout just being her Corgi self? I guess I will never know, but eventually, I settled back into sleep. The next morning, I woke up early, packed up my camp, said bye to the park ranger and hit the road. I was really proud of myself for making it through my first solo camping experience with (almost) a whole night's sleep!
On my way back home, I stopped at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park to do a little more exploring. Scout and I did the Nature Loop trail (which was beautiful, 10/10 recommend) and then got back on the road home.
Overall, I think it was a very rewarding experience to go on a solo camping trip. It definitely offered moments of peace, stillness and the connection to nature that I think a lot of people are searching for. I still think it can be a bit daunting to do this by yourself or even just to try camping with others for the first time, but if someone wanted to try new hobbies like camping and hiking, I would recommend starting with a state park.
While I was sitting at my campsite, I was aware of all the gear I had with me to make my night more comfortable - and I wouldn't say I was doing anything fancy either. I know that might be a barrier to some people who are interested in trying it out too. Luckily, there are a lot of great local businesses and online services that offer rentals so you can try it out before you fully commit. I did that when I went snowshoeing for the first time, and now I have been saving up to purchase I pair of my own because I ended up liking it so much.
And for the people that are already avid campers and hikers, state parks can offer you a low-key rest before your next big adventure or a place to test out your gear before you're in the backcountry.
With that being said, those looking to embark on their solo camping, do not delay! Find a park, make a campsite reservation, pack up some gear or schedule your rentals, choose your favorite food items to bring (candy bars or s'mores fixings; it's all good), and let's keep pushing past our comfort zones until we're OK with a few midnight noises outside our tents!