A Perfect Escape into Quietude
If you’re a Washington state introvert looking for a quick weekend escape into relative solitude (as much as you can get without actually going into the back country), then I’ve got a place for you.
Near the southern entrance into Mount Rainier National Park, there’s a little town named Packwood. A few miles beyond that, a National Forest Service campground named Las Wis Wis.
Packwood, as you can see above, isn’t Las Vegas. It’s a mellow place, even by Washington mountain-town standards—especially in the fall and winter off season, which is precisely the time I recommend people go.
There’s nothing intrusive about the town. Packwood takes your money for the basics and then leaves you alone, asking and tempting you with nothing more. The town just sits there meditating amidst the mountains, as ready for you to be driving away as driving in.
For folks who are looking for a silent escape from the rat race but not in the mood to head into the back country or leave civilization entirely, it’s a great town to visit.
Like the Interstate 90 route through Snoqualmie Pass and the 101 Olympic Peninsula Loop, the White Pass drive is a spectacular scenic excursion. Packwood, which is just off this route, is an ideal base camp for those looking to explore the road’s full length.
La Wis Wis Campground—A Gem of Silence
About 8 miles north of Packwood, located just off US 12 as you’re heading into that White Pass Scenic Byway, is the U.S. Forest Service’s La Wis Wis campground. It’s located on the shore of the Cowlitz River.
Some of the sites are located right alongside the water, while others are tucked inland amidst Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar. The pic below is an example of the latter.
La Wis Wis campground is nice any time of year, but for the quiet introvert getaway I’m recommending here, the ideal time is late in the tourist season when it’s already begun to get a little colder at night. The campground closes on Labor Day, so the window I’m recommending is late August into early September.
Last time I went, on Labor Day weekend 2016, I was the only camper within earshot. There were a few other visitors alongside the river, but I felt like I had the run of the place. At night, it felt as silent and remote as actually being deep in the woods.
Up the Cowlitz Lies the Blue Hole
At the end of a very short La Wis Wis hiking trail is the Blue Hole, a swimming hole with pristine blue water.
It was too cold for swimming in early September, but I had a great view of a few salmon making their fall run. The water was so clear that every detail of the fish and the river floor was visible. I sat on the rocks for a solid hour watching the fish go about their business.
On the beach, which is rocky but sandy enough to walk comfortably barefoot, someone left the heart shown above. It was rather beautiful, and its artists nowhere to be found. Beauty in solitude—exactly what I’d gone in looking for. If that sounds appealing to you, as well, then I highly recommend La Wis Wis in early fall.
P.S. Even in the peak season, this area isn’t as highly trafficked as many other Washington destinations and is good to ditch the crowds to some extent, but I’ll be writing a more general post about that this summer.