Solo camping is sort of a bizarre thing to do, I’ve been told. Even more so when it’s done on a weekday and the destination is the remote wilderness foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Frankly, to be out on your own in the middle of nowhere can be a serene and grounding experience; the solitude and self-sufficiency of it all is recharging.
Heading west on Umptanum road from Ellensberg, WA, I drove off into the dust; connecting up with Observatory road and then west along Manastash Ridge Road, which is a very easy drive except for two spots. One spot is a steep, rocky descent with a few small ledges one must creep down. The other is an uphill climb not far away on the other side of this saddle between ridge line hills. Minor damage occurred when on the way up as the Xterra bounded off the sharp, baby-head sized rocks and ledges. The fan hit the fan shroud and gouged out a small slice. Alarming flapping sounds emanated from under the hood. Thankfully it was minor damage and easily corrected.
It was mid-afternoon at this point at it was time to find a suitable campsite. Exploring a few overgrown side trails led me to one spot that at one point was obviously a series of well developed camps but for some reason hasn’t seen any activity in what appeared to be a few years, judging from the small trees that were growing in the track. The spot I chose had a decent sized fire-ring, a makeshift commode with seat and cover, and a small stage looking area centered on the wide stump of an old growth tree stump. It was nestled in the trees a bit so it provided shade and afforded a cooling breeze.
After camp was set I hiked the rest of the trail on foot to find a good spot for some photos of the sun setting over Mt. Rainier and maybe some astrophotography. As luck would have it, there was a perfect spot along the edge of the ridge line.
The view from the ridge line location looks from Mt. Rainier in the southwest all the way to the east. As the sun set, it became noticeable that the earths’ penumbra was visible, which is the shadow of the earth itself. The vibrant colors of the cloud free sky were caused by a few wildfires that have been occurring over the past weeks but gorgeously set the penumbra in a higher contrast, great for photography.