Back in May, a friend posted this on her Facebook wall:
Who could resist this photo? Beautiful wilderness, friends lounging about, enjoying a beer in the warmth of summer sun? I clicked thru to find a list of the Best Lake Camping in Washington. Number 5 on the list was a beautiful shot of Mt Adams as seen from a tranquil lake – Takhlakh Lake. Touted as one of the more scenic lakes, I was hooked. I immediately started my quest to find the ideal site within the campground to book for the 4th of July weekend.
When I book a camping trip, I just don’t book any old site, I do my research. I search blogs, study the campground map and make an educated guess on where would be the most ideal spot to pitch a tent. I chose site #49 on the tent-only loop, and boy am I happy I did. Here’s my synopsis of the campground:
If you are tent camping, you have a few options. Opt for the tent-only loop to ensure peaceful quiet throughout the day (i.e. no RV motors humming away as someone cooks their omelet with a generator while you’re chomping down granola) or head to the RV / tent loop. Lake-side sites are obviously ideal, but some are better than others. I lucked out with site #49 for a few reasons: it was the closest to the lake, the best view thru the trees of Mt Adams, had a short walk to access the only campground “beach”, and wasn’t too bad for privacy. For sites 48-54, you park your car in a lot and carry your gear a short walk to your site. All other sites have drive-up slots. The tent-only loop directly faces Mt Adams, whereas the sites on the larger loop face the lake, but Mt Adams is lost to the right. No sites have a direct beach to the lake and while our access path was windy thru underbush, some other lakeside sites on the bigger loop have nice large pathways down to the water, especially useful for boat toting.
Site #49 is golden. #50 runs a very close second. Other than that, the view of Mt Adams is negligible anyways, so you might as well try to nab on of the other lakeside sites with better boating access, namely #38-#44. All of these sites have great water access and plenty of space. All other sites on the inner side of the loop resemble Robin Hood’s campground of merry men – just be forewarned that there’s not a lot of vegetation to segment sites off from each other and this is very much a family destination (read: kids). Definitely bring some sort of floating contraption – kayak, boat, inflatable anything. It’s well worth getting out onto the cool water under the warmth of the sun and away from the mosquitos.
That brings me to a very important piece of information. The mosquitos are TERRIBLE. You can tell who just pulled up as they panic in the back of their cars searching for where they stowed the bug spray, spraying each other aimlessly in an attempt to curb the attack and the ceaseless clapping of people killing the little vamps throughout the day. Essential items include: BUG SPRAY (and lots of it, seriously), citronella candles, a fire (the smoke dramatically reduces their #’s), mosquito netting, and a floating contraption to get out on the lake. The pros donned hats and table-tents with netting. I walked my dog by them thick with jealousy.
Water is cold, but bearable if you just go for it. Having a floaty will increase your pleasure of the lake, pique your sense of adventure and help you enjoy the stunning view of Mt Adams in the background. There is on beach access just past the boat access parking lot with a picnic table. Bring a coffee in the morning to watch the mist roll over the lake or a glass of wine in the evening to see the sunset reflected on it’s snowy peaks.
The campground is staffed with a friendly couple who stock firewood ($6 a bundle) and bug spray (if they haven’t run out). Dogs are permitted, but as a National Park, they are required to be on a leash. No one seemed to find when dogs were in the water fetching balls.
As for the weekend we took at Takhlakh, it was a great adventure. The 7-mile stretch of gravel roads in and out of the campground provided amusement in the Jeep, the lake gave us serene views, the campfire much needed relief from mosquitos. No fireworks allowed (and understandably so with all the dry kindling around), so we made do taking fun photos with glow sticks. We ate too much, drank too much wine and too little water, slept until dawn and got incredibly dirty. I’d call that a successful weekend.
Details: 62 sites. $16 a night. Small RVs ok. Vault toilets, but bring your own drinking water or a filter. Ten walk-in only sites. Elevation is 4,500 feet. Reserve here for summer camping or call 1-877-444-6777.
Lake activities: No motors are permitted here, just canoes and kayaks and tranquility. A 1.5-mile hiking trail runs around the lake.
What to bring: Mosquito repellent (crucial in early summer), your trout fishing pole, and a car that can handle a few miles of washboard road.