Saturday morning we headed out bright and early for
Millersylvania Sate Park, about 10 miles south of Olympia. When we left Seattle we were under partly sunny skies. The further south we drove the cloudier and darker it got. As soon as we secured a camp site we set up everything. When you are camping, even car camping, you need to make the most of every opportunity as it arises. Set up everything at one time if at all possible. This is your home for at least one night and it's better to make sure everything is in place before you take off to explore. With the weather threatening to rain, this becomes even more important. Once the tent was up and the canopy covering the picnic table, we scavenged quite a bit of wood from empty sites to supplement what we had brought. Few people were around. When the weather is not optimal it makes for quieter camping simply because fewer people bother. Lucky for us.
Our first stop was to the Mima Mounds, a mysterious assortment of geological earth mounds. They are not man-made and there are a few theories as to their existence. Some say they are the remains of glaciers. Some say prehistoric gopher-like critters constructed them. The mounds used to cover about 20 miles. And this phenomena is not unique to Washington or even this part of Washington. Regardless, the area is home to lots of wildflowers and butterflies. Perhaps it was a little early in the season for a full display of either, but as we walked the trails we found interesting plants, flowers and fungi.
Two things that interfere with a peaceful hike looking for wildflowers and butterflies; remote controlled airplanes and gunfire. I don't like being the tallest thing in an open field with the sound of gunfire cracking a half mile away. But I also don't like the less dangerous but equally annoying buzz of the remote controlled airplane. We hadn't seen a sign for the shooting range so when we first heard the shooting we stayed in the car, ate lunch, and waited for other hikers to return to their cars unharmed. We then determined that it was safe to roam. We had seen the sign for the airplane gathering but didn't know we'd be anywhere near it. I had a not so secret fantasy that the two hobbies would cross paths and cancel out each other; the gun-happy weekend warriors would run out of ammo destroying the incessantly buzzing mini squadron.
Our next stop was the Bob Bammert Grove Trail in Capitol State Forest. This trail was kind of overgrown. With all the rain we had, this left plants very wet. This left us very wet as we hiked through the plants. This trail was similar to the rainforest in appearance. Be careful to avoid the banana slugs. If you lead, you are obliged to alert those following you when there is a slug on the trail. We aren't into killing the critters. Besides, they are huge and they really gush. We ran into some snails we had not seen before. And we were exicted to discover two rough-skinned newts (taricha granulosa). Like the earth in this area, the newts are a dark red in color and theyhave a brigther orange belly. They were not alarmed by us and made no attempt to escape. They were easy to pick up and observe. Our first newts on a trail. Just as exciting as our first bear but it can fit in the palm of your hand. About 2/3 through this trail it began to rain but the thick canopy kept us relatively dry. It rained for the rest of the day and all night. But we returned to a dry picnic table thanks to our woman-made canopy. We enjoyed a bottle of wine, some chevre, crackers and fruit and played rummy. When the rain eased to a light drizzle, we got a fire started and cooked dinner on the camp stove. By the time we went to bed it was pouring again. But we woke on Sunday morning to sun. Took a walk to the lake and hoped the weather would hold for our tentaive plans to rent a canoe and float down the Black River. These hopes were dashed while out on a hunt for coffee. The skies turned dark and the rain returned. But we had a good time and will camp again in the rain any time.