We snuck way for some camping a week ago. We made reservations at a new campground we hadn’t tried before- River Meadows in Arlington. The photos and description made it look nice, and I found several good reviews. But omigosh, when we arrived, we were so disappointed. The RV camping area was a dirt patch with big mud puddles, abutting a mowed grass field. Absolutely no privacy between campsites, other than a meager planting of rugosa roses to delineate the boundaries. The place was deserted except for one family with a tent at the end, and a group of twenty-something skinhead punk-looking boys set up with three tents in the space next to ours. They were sitting at their picnic table looking aimless and bored, with what was hopefully a toy semiautomatic rifle. AnnoyedI would have taken a picture of this most pathetic campground ever, but I was too crabby.

Soooo, we decided to abandon that plan and take a gamble we could find a camping spot somewhere up at Verlot. We did, we snagged the last space available at Gold Basin campground at about 6pm on a Friday night! Our trailer barely squeezed in to the right-angle slot, after about a 100-point turn to get it lined up, but we were set. We were just up at Mountain Loop Highway camping last fall, when we hiked to Monte Cristo. But you can never get tired of that area, there are so many campgrounds and hikes to do. It was a good save.

We were interested in hiking Mt. Pilchuck, but at the ranger station, we were warned there was still a lot of snow at the higher elevations, for which we weren’t really prepared. I lamented to the ranger that due to our late start, it looked like the parking lots at Lake 22 and Heather Lake were choked with cars and people. He seemed to eyeball us to assess our capability, then lowered his voice and said, go do Perry Creek, it’s much less crowded.

It was an excellent tip-Perry Creek is much further down the gravelly, full-of-potholes road, so likely less frequented. Sure enough, the parking lot was only a third full, and it also serves another trailhead, for Mt. Dickerman (another good hike which I have done before). We saw very few people on the Perry Creek trail. This is a great hike, a good challenge, with change of scenery from woods to rocky terrain to rivers and meadows.

There are several river crossings where, if you’re careful, you can keep your feet dry. I did not manage, however, slipping on a rock and getting my tennis shoes wet. No matter, it was a hot day, the cold water felt good, and the squishing shoes didn’t bother me much.

That night I put my shoes by the campfire to help them dry, so they’d be comfortable for a new hike on Sunday. At some point, and probably after quite a bit of wine and s’mores, Kirk said, hey, your shoes are smoking.

Are not, I said. I felt them, and they were nice and dry, so I put them away.

When I went to put them on in the morning, however, they had shrunk about one full size, and were not even wearable! In the daylight, I could see that though they’d held their shape, the foam soles were full of pock marks. The material had completely morphed from the heat.

No biggie, we had chosen an easy hike for Sunday so we could check out of the campground by 2pm. I’ll just wear my Romeos, I said. Romeos are slip-on leather work shoes with thick soles and flat bottoms, that hillbilly farmer people wear around here.

Famous last words. We decided to hike Lake 22, which neither of us have ever done before. On paper, it looks pretty gentle- 1500 feet elevation gain over 2.7 miles. But actually, most of the mileage is flat on top; the hike circles all the way around the lake once you arrive at the final elevation.

So I suspect we did more like a 1500 foot climb in 3/4 mile! Which would have been fine, but not in Romeos! Gravel kept getting inside my shoes and I got tired of stopping to get it out, so I just hiked with rocks in my shoes the whole time. And I slipped and tripped a lot, especially in the snow up top. Romeos are terrible in snow! Fortunately, I survived and did not break either leg. I did have visions of getting injured and needing to be assisted down the mountain, and having some Mountaineers snob declare, for God’s sake, why was she wearing slip-on shoes on a rocky, snowy hike? She must not be from around here. Thankfully, nothing of the sort occurred, I was just awful sore the next morning.  

This is a very nice hike as well, and since we started at around 10am, we avoided most of the crowds.

On our way down, we encountered a lot more people on their way up. Many of them were apparently also taken aback by the unrelenting climb of the initial trail. People kept asking us, breathless and pausing, are we almost there?

Yep, we told every one of them, even the ones who were not even close. Winking smileThe view up top is too nice to miss, and worth the effort to get there. It was still a little socked-in since the sun hadn’t been out long enough to burn off the fog. But it was still beautiful.