…or what’s left of it. The lake has been draining since the beginning of August to irrigate the farms in the nearby Summit County valleys. We left Washington Lake on Tuesday, September 8, after closing the campground.
That’s right – the campground is closed. This is unusual. Normally Washington Lake is kept open until October 31, weather permitting. This year, the Forest Service decided to bring in a logging contractor to remove the beetle-killed trees. They will close the main road to the Crystal Lake Trailhead on the weekdays through September and open it for weekend hikers. Fishermen can still park outside the campground and walk in, but the campground is closed for the season.
Labor Day weekend was also unusual. We expected to be full by Wednesday, but found ourselves actually having people arrive after dark on Friday and get campsites. Perhaps it was the late Labor Day; perhaps the cold weather forecast scared people away, but Labor Day weekend was relatively quiet. Labor Day itself, a beautiful day, was more work than we had expected. We had to turn dozens of people away so we could lock the gates by 1:00 PM.
Just a couple of weeks before we left, I checked in a camper that looked familiar. A little later he asked me if we had hosted in other places. “Yes,” I said. “Warm River?” he countered. Wow – a camper who remembered us from Warm River. Actually I remember his family group quite well – they were the ones who accused us of being too nice. That was the thing about Warm River – they could have hired Attila the Hun as camp host and people would have still come.
Looking back on our experience at Washington Lake, it has a lot in common with Warm River.
Regular campers who come year after year.
· The shuffle – campers who arrive early in the morning and wait for a particular site to be vacated.
· Transfers from reservation sites to more desirable first-come, first-served sites.
· Lots and lots and lots of people – all the time. With Warm River it was floating the river. With Washington Lake it was hiking the trails.
· No place for fishermen to park – at least, not for free.
· A busy group area – or in the case of Washington Lake – multiple group areas.
· Very few mice – we actually caught only two all summer. At Warm River we attributed this to our co-host’s cat, John Wayne. Not sure why there are so few mice at Washington. Maybe they can’t take the altitude.
· We were busy most of the time. No rest for the wicked – or the good – camp hosts.
We are home now. The trailer is unloaded and packed away in storage, waiting for its next adventure. Where will that be? Keep tuned.