Camping Outside Mount Rainier: La Wis Wis

Mount Rainier is the crown jewel of Washington state, which means that it can get downright packed in the peak summer tourist season. So, if you’re looking to visit but having trouble finding lodging available within the park (or simply want to avoid the thickest crowds), then camping outside Mount Rainier is a great option.

There are multiple options for camping outside Mount Rainier, but today I’m going to share my thoughts on the National Forest Service’s La Wis Wis campground. I’ve written about La Wis Wis before in my Introverts Getaway Series, but that was in autumn, during the off-season.

Now that I’ve had a chance to try La Wis Wis during the busy tourist season, I’ve decided to cover it again. (This happens to be where I was camping, by the way, when I wrote my Pub Beer review.) Same campground, but different vibe, as last time I nearly had the whole place to myself but this time every spot was taken.

Three Easy Hikes at Mount Rainier

My brief summary of La Wis Wis during the busy season is simple: it’s very good. I highly recommend it to all visitors interesting in camping outside Mount Rainier. I stay at Forest Service campgrounds often, and I’d rank this as one of the better in the state of Washington.

The campground was filled to capacity when I visited in July, but my spot was wooded enough that I didn’t feel encroached upon. As you can see in the photo the left, there was a tent spot about 20 feet from the picnic table and fire ring, which is a feature I always enjoy in campgrounds.

With the separate tent spot, you don’t have to worry about stray sparks burning a hole in your tent, or about feeling crowded in when you sleep.

The fire ring has a grill and is excellently ventilated, so you can get a good hot fire going. Most of the spots are at least relatively close to water, which is also nice.

The campground is close enough to the town of Packwood that a short drive can get you to supplies, but the area in general surrounding area is so underdeveloped that it’s still nice and quiet.

The south entrance to Mount Rainier itself is not far from Las Wis Wis, which is also what makes it an ideal location for people who want to visit Rainier but not stay there. One thing that may confuse visitors is that it’s listed as being in Randle, but you drive many miles east of Randle before you get there.

You actually have to go all the way through Packwood and a few more miles east up the spectacular White Pass Scenic Byway before you get to La Wis Wis. You get ample warning that the turn is coming up, but it still kind of sneaks up on you because it’s right next to a bridge.

So, if you’re looking for camping outside Mount Rainier, I don’t believe you can go wrong with La Wis Wis. I’ll review some other sites in upcoming posts.

Pacific Northwest Beer Reviews: 10 Barrel Brewing’s Pub Beer

This isn’t content marketing. I receive no compensation from 10 Barrel Brewing’s Pub Beer or any other product or place that I write about on Northwest Nomad. These are just my real thoughts. 

Pure and simple: 10 Barrel Brewing’s Pub Beer is a GOOD FUCKING lager. I like it so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to make it the subject of my inaugural Pacific Northwest beer review (and by “review” I mean I slammed a sixer of it while camping at Las Wis Wis and then scribbled down my drunken impressions).

First of all, let me establish my lager-drinking credentials. I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania, sucking at the tit of Yuengling. If you haven’t heard of Yuengling, allow me to educate you.

Yuengling is the oldest standing brewery in America. The lager it produces is like Coke Cola for Northeast Pennsylvanians. You get small amounts of it put in your baby bottle (not really). At my brother’s recent wedding, it was Yuengling that we slammed directly after the ceremony (to the horror of the bride’s mother).

Point is: I know lager.

So, as pure-bred lager man, I can say confidently that Pub Beer is my favorite Pacific Northwest lager and possibly my favorite in the nation (though, as a loyal man by nature, I don’t think I could ever betray Yuengling that way by making the declaration official).

Pub Beer is also one of my favorite Pacific Northwest beers, period. We’re not talking just lagers anymore, sunshine. We’re talking motherfucking beers. As is “all of the beer.” Every damn one of them.

The Pub Beer can design says it all. There’s no hoity-toity bullshit about it. It’s what Rocky Balboa would be if you liquefied his body and poured it into an aluminum cylinder.

The design reminds of the beer from the film Repo Man. That’s a high complement, because Repo Man also happens to be the finest American film ever made (RIP Harry Dean Stanton). Some people may disagree with that statement. Then again, some people are also dumb as hell.

Repo Man (finest American film ever made) beer.
10 Barrel Brewing’s Pub Beer.

While so many beers today are racing to see who you can put the weirdest bullshit into their IPA, Pub Beer just does what it does. It doesn’t put on any airs. It’s Neil Young in flannel and blue jeans playing a beat-up acoustic guitar, not Justin Spears shaking his half-naked ass around in multi-million-dollar dance sequences designed to hide the fact that she can’t fucking sing and has nothing interesting to say.

I took Pub Beer to my camp at Las Wis Wis, which is just outside Mount Rainier. For me, bottles have never gone well with camping. For whatever reason, coming up in a country town where weekend fires were a regular thing, we always brought cans. To me, campfires are meant for crushing cans.

Without getting into the sordid details of my trip (mainly composed of me reading Mystic River and books about John Dee), suffice it to say that Pub Beer went deliciously with the mountain air and sound of the Cowlitz River running nearby.

That’s all that needs to be said. I’ve already said too much, I think. Pub Beer would beat me for my verbosity.

The whole damn article could have stopped right at the beginning. Pub Beer is a GOOD FUCKING lager. ‘Nuff said.

Rating: 10 out 10 Mount Rainiers (I’m eventually going to get actual Mount Rainier icons for this rating system and it’ll look really cool. One thing at a time, alright? Get off my damn back).

 

Review of India Garden in Lacey, Washington

This isn’t “content marketing.” I receive no compensation from India Garden or any of the other places I write about. These are just my honest thoughts. 

India Garden is a new restaurant in Lacey, Washington. I’m not exactly sure how long it’s been open because I live in Tacoma, but the “Grand Opening” sign was still up, so I assume it’s not been more than a month.

Being a big fan of Indian cuisine, I decided I had to try it out. I’m glad I did.

I went right for their lamb jalfrezi. It’s my favorite Indian dish, and I’ve eaten it hundreds of times over the course of my life. Every time I try a new Indian place, I try their lamb jalfrezi first.

Well, I can say, unequivocally and without hyperbole, that India Garden made the best lamb jalfrezi I’ve ever had.

The dish was tangier than any other jalfrezi I’ve ever had, and a little heavier on the cilantro. The lamb was succulent and not hardened and overcooked as lamb often gets at other places.

I also tried the India Garden Noodles, which you can see described on their online menu. I’ve never had anything quite like these noodles. They are one of the restaurant’s “savory snacks,” which are “tasty and delicate typical Indian road-side snacks from stalls or courts in India.”

Despite being a “snack,” the portion was large enough that I still had some left over to eat when my main course came out. The taste of the noodles contrasted interestingly with my jalfrezi.

As if all those things weren’t enough, the restaurant also gives complimentary chai tea and coffee with your meals.

Interior of India Garden with several people eating.
This image is borrowed from the India Garden website.

The restaurant is bright and open, with colorful decor and plenty of windows letting in natural light, which was nice for the summer day I visited.

I didn’t get a chance to hang out at the India Garden lounge, but I did peak inside. It, too, is a clean, well-lighted place (high-five to anyone who gets the literary allusion there).

India Garden is my new favorite Indian restaurant in the Tacoma/Olympia area. I look forward to trying more of their dishes and those interesting savory snacks.

If you’re a fan of Indian and looking for a new spot to try, check them out. I think you’ll be glad you did. I’m not the only one raving about this place.

If India Garden had been in Lacey a couple years ago when I made my list of favorite Indian restaurants in the Tacoma/Olympia area, it would have been at the very top. The location is pinned to the interactive Google Map below.

A Stay at the Cascade River House

A couple weeks ago I wrote about my Diablo Lake Trail and Skagit Trail hikes. In the midst of that, I somehow forgot to write about my excellent stay at the Cascade River House. This must be remedied!

The Cascade River House is located just outside Marblemount, which, with its whopping population of roughly 200 people, is one of my favorite little towns in the state. I thought I grew up deep in the country…then I saw Marblemount and realized I didn’t know what a country town was.

The Cascade River House location is pinned to the map below. It’s relatively easy to find and isn’t far from the town’s two gas stations, so worst comes to worst you can ask directions. Those gas stations are also stocked as little grocery stores, by the way, so you can get supplies there.

The Cascade River House has an actual house, and for people with larger parties I recommend checking it out. What I used was the “luxury” camper trailer parked on the grounds. It was a great compromise between camping and staying in a hotel.

The trailer is tucked behind trees, keeping it visually separated from the house. You don’t feel like you’re sharing property with the people in the house. While I was there, a woman and her two daughters stayed at the house. They stopped by briefly to chat, but other than that I never felt like my peace was ruined by their presence.

The trailer’s got a shower, toilet, and three beds. The kitchen’s got all the basics. None of this mattered a great deal to me, to be honest, as I planned on spending the least amount of time as possible indoors.

What mattered most to me was the grounds, and I wasn’t disappointed. The trailer’s yard’s got a great fire pit with good airflow. The owners keep the place fully stocked with firewood, as well. If you head towards the house itself, you’ll see a big garage, and you can find big stacks of wood behind it.

The river is just over the hill from the trailer. You can hear it flow from the trailer, in fact. The views of the mountains in the distance are stunning. You can fish the river, too, though I personally didn’t do that.

My stay at the Cascade River House was very quiet relaxing. I went through a lot of wood, as is my wont while being outdoors. During the days I went hiking and at night I sat by the fire, enjoyed some Sam Adams Summer Ale, and gazed at the stars with the soothing sound of the river nearby.

If you’re not up for camping but don’t want to stay in a hotel or buy your own trailer, I wholeheartedly recommend the Cascade River House luxury trailer. In fact, after staying in multiple places in Marblemount, I’d give it my highest recommendation (though if you have the chance and the inclination I simply must recommend tent camping there at least once).

For the North Cascades National Park area, I rate it as highly as I rate the Quinalt River Inn for the Lake Quinault area.

Skagit River Trail at the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center

The North Cascades are truly an awe-inspiring sight. The rugged landscape is so raw that it can be intimidating for some people, and many of the trails are too difficult physically and mentally for beginner hikers. The smooth, easy 2-mile-long Skagit River Trail, however, proves that the difficulty of a trail doesn’t always correlate with its overall quality.

The Skagit River Trail starts at the parking lot of the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center. I’ve got the location pinned to the map at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to see it. If you just park in front of the center you’ll find an outdoor station with a map showing how to get to the trail head.

I hiked the Skagit River Trail on the same trip during which I did the Diablo Lake Trail, and while the Skagit doesn’t have views anywhere near as grand as Diablo Lake, I have to say I enjoyed it more. Really, I can’t pinpoint why. That little stretch of woods just has a very soothing, relaxing energy about it.

The Skagit River Trail is short, and much of it intertwines with portions of the Newhalem Campground, but the woods are still nice and silent. They have a sort of homey feel about them.

In a couple places, the trail leads out into the Skagit River. The wide tree canopy blots out the sun and, while I’m sure there are periods where the sun hits the spots, I don’t think they’d make realistic sunbathing areas. I could be wrong, though. I went there in the early morning.

Either way, the view from the shore is beautiful, with the Skagit at your feet and the soaring North Cascades in the distance. I definitely plan on hiking this little trail again next time in the area. I’d also like to check out the Newhalem Campground, as my guess is that that spot makes for some terrific sleeping.