We spent the past week dispersed camping in the Ponderosa pine forests of the North Cascades outside of Winthrop, so instead of publishing Friday’s Frugal Five, it’s out on Monday this time. It was our first real trip to the Methow Valley, and we fell in love. We returned home Saturday afternoon sweaty, dirty, and utterly happy.

The week’s vacation was our first since we returned from Iceland back at the beginning of January, which feels like a lifetime ago at this point. We very much needed some time away, and heading to an area with very little cell service was in order. Surprisingly, we had some – but it was regularly just enough for text messages and not enough to check the news.

The first part of the week, we didn’t see a single other person up on the mountain, as we were miles down dusty forest service roads, and even when we did see someone, they were just passing by in a vehicle or on a bicycle on their own backwoods adventure. The very best part of the trip though was that I actually found myself forgetting about COVID from time to time, a first since Kirkland became the first United States epicenter of the outbreak.

View toward our campsite

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The Frugal Five

1. Our neighbors had their grandchildren return home after a months-long visit and had extra kid snacks from their trip, so we got a box of individual mac and cheese cups and some juices from them for the kiddo. They were perfect camping foods, so we packed them up in for our trip.

We also took some older Mountain House meals with us that are part of our preparedness supplies at home, rotating out what gets kept at our house. It was the first time the kiddo had eaten those backpacking meals, and he thought they were pretty great (and really, they are very tasty, if high salt).

Otherwise, I still mostly stuck to vegetarian/vegan meals even while camping, which is easier to do when we have the truck with us versus a backpacking trip, but still a mindset shift for me compared to past trips.

Mountain House excitement

2. Our roommate decided to stay home and enjoy having the house all to himself while we camped, so he watched the animals and watered the garden while we were gone for the week. We clearly enjoy having him come with us on vacations (he came with us to Iceland this past winter), but having him stay home means we don’t have to worry about the house or the pets – and we don’t have to pay for it either.

Part of his very low rent that hasn’t changed much since he moved in almost eight years ago is that he’s a bigger part of our household than “just” a renter, so he sees the animals and the house as partially his responsibility as well. We have certainly been lucky to have him live with us all these years.

3. We bought a new annual Northwest Forest Pass for $30 at the beginning of our trip. In order to camp up forest roads in public forest lands in this area, a pass is required. Compared to the cost of a campground, the pass costs less for an entire year than most campsites for a single night.

Backwoods camping generally means no toilets, showers, or running water of any kind, but it also means you can spread out and find a spot completely removed from everyone else – an extra big perk in the time of COVID. Those areas tend to have the very best views as well, as long as your vehicle can make it up the often rough forest roads. And it doesn’t hurt that the cost is almost nothing.

Of course, dispersed camping means the idea of “leave no trace” is extra important, as there are no trash cans up on the mountain in which to leave your trash. We make sure to leave campsites cleaner than we arrived, and the husband took the kiddo on a walk around the area as we packed up to help instill that stewardship in him as well.

Cleaning up camp

4. The kiddo lost his very first tooth on the trip! We weren’t sure what the going rate for baby teeth was at this point, so we looked it up. Apparently, the average is now about $4, significant inflation since we were children and losing our own teeth. We decided on $5, but with a caveat: $2 is for him to spend as he pleases, $2 goes directly to his online savings account, and $1 is for giving. He decided he wanted to send his money to plant trees in our local parks, and I found a program that will plant them for $87 each, so I told the kiddo I’d chip in the rest so we could send enough for a whole tree.

We then “planted” the lost tooth under one of the towering Ponderosa pines in camp to create a “tooth tree,” a new tradition that sprung up out of this camping trip. Just like the kiddo knows that Santa isn’t real, he isn’t under any delusions about the tooth fairy (after hearing a story of how my father – his Papa – was my tooth fairy many years ago, he decided Daddy would be his – and that he needed to dress up the same, ball cap with pipe cleaners and all).

Lost tooth!

5. This camping trip saw another new tradition spring up as well: read alouds while sitting around in camp during the hottest part of the day. I’ve been re-reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I’m loving it at least as much as the last time I read it, and reading it aloud made it that much better. Camping means we have time to slow down and savor our days, and reading stories together seems like a natural.

We’ve also introduced the kiddo to the beginnings of the Redwall series, and we got a good ways through Mossflower on the trip as well, on a tattered old copy from the husband’s childhood. We might read quite a few e-books and library books these days, but there is something special about re-reading the same copies we had when we were young.

Exercise Update

We went on daily hikes on the mountain while camping, and I hit approximately 20,000 steps or more each day. The best part of that was that my heel didn’t hurt through the whole trip. Hiking may not be the same impact as running, but putting in the miles without pain felt really, really good.

Have you been on a vacation since COVID began? 

20 thoughts on “Monday’s Frugal Five (North Cascades Camping Edition)

  1. Happy Monday, and welcome home from vaca! My kids always seem to lose teeth while on vacation. So we would like to officially welcome your son to that club. 🙂

    1. $1 is what ours get for teeth! Glad you got to have an outdoor camping getaway; all that hiking sounds incredible! We are definitely ready for a change of scenery, but will probably wait until fall to maybe visit the Smokies. Hoping it’ll be cooler then, and since the kids aren’t going back for on-site school for a while, we’ll be able to go during the week! Nature is so good for the soul and for your mental/emotional health.

      1. Apparently $1 isn’t as uncommon as Google would lead me to believe!

  2. now i can leave for the weekend. my dad used to be in the national guard when i was a kid. he would bring us those army green canned military meals and we loved them. the cookies were great even from a can and we learned to open them with a p-38 can opener. ever heard of one?

    i’m glad you got away. a week in nature keeps a person from cracking up. we’re headed to the wilderness in a couple of weeks for smidlap-con.

  3. Love the split between saving, spending and giving for the tooth fairy money. What a great habit to form early!

  4. That’s one expensive tooth, but for excellent cause! I love that kiddo wanted to plant a tree – a boy after my own heart!

    I’m dying to get away and am jealous of your trip, but so glad you escaped from both home and thoughts of Covid for awhile.

    Btw, I think the most I ever got for a tooth was $1! Lol

    1. Ha! Yeah definitely gets expensive when I decide to up the giving part, but I couldn’t help myself.

  5. I’m on my first vacation since COVID started, in the Blue Ridge Mountains! My dad & brother and I drove down from PA and my grandparents drove up from FL. Today was our first day here, and we went hiking and swimming in a lake and I’ve spent the afternoon reading. I really needed a break – I’m one of those whose workload increased during COVID. So happy to be around trees. But the trails are way too narrow for proper social distancing, and we were the only people with masks :/ fortunately we only had to pass 1 person on our 2 hour hike, but that was a nerve-wracking moment. I just have to tell myself that a 10 second pass by someone is unlikely to result in infection and keep going, I suppose. It really sucks that so many people aren’t masking up – especially since people have been really good about it where I live, so journeying into a different part of the country and seeing people not take it seriously has been jarring. It was so frustrating to see that rest stops/gas stations etc had “Masks required” signs on the door but inside at least half the patrons were unmasked.

    I LOVE that your son wanted to plant a tree with his tooth fairy money. You’re clearly raising him right! Your family is definitely an inspiration for whenever I have kids. And lol, I agree about the inflation – I’m 24, so not that old, and I also never got more than $1 per tooth!

    1. It’s so frustrating when other people limit your movement due to lack of mask wearing. Why we went so far out into the woods.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. We went camping out by Winthrop a couple years back. Fantastic trip, and we totally enjoyed the Methow valley!

  7. Glad you had a good trip. We did a week road trip at the end of June to a few state parks. They were in generally secluded areas so we didn’t see many people (one was in a town with population of 400). We stayed in Airbnbs and cooked almost all of our meals. And whenever we went hiking we made sure to have our masks with us. We were there only ones with masks on the hiking trails, though. We were a little nervous being out because cases had started to spike in our state, but we were happy we took the trip as we realized we really needed it. We are now already starting to talk about our next road trip.

    1. Yeah, being out in the woods is so healing. At least, when you don’t have to worry about other people.

  8. We went camping this week, too (although at a state park, so not quite as isolated, but still our numbers in MD are not very high). Glad you are enjoying your summer!

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