Post by Jen Melland
This was it!!
After years of planning and dreaming, we were headed camping for the first time with our travel trailer, and the first time with our daughter. Because the day hadn’t gone as planned, we scrapped our original campsite, which would have been too far of a drive, and headed towards North Skookum Lake. Skookum is a small, primitive lake and privately owned campground near both the Kanisku and Colville National Forests in the hills of the Selkirk Mountains. At about 20 miles north of Newport, WA., North Skookum is far enough away from civilization that you lose cell phone service, but close enough that you can easily drive back to a convenience store if you forgot something.
Now, you’ve been forewarned: this is where my post gets sappy.
My grandma passed away three years ago this month. I was very close to her, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of and miss her. This is exactly why I absolutely, positively did not want to go to Skookum. I’d spent my childhood camping there every summer with my grandparents, together and separately, and I wasn’t sure I could handle the grief and memories.
The previous concierges of the campground, Ed and Jill, retired a few years ago, and I was scared that the lake wouldn’t be the same as I remembered. And, in a way, I was scared it would be exactly as I remembered. But, as soon as we made the decision to go, I felt a peace come over me. It was meant to be, I think, that our first big step towards our dreams would occur at the place that held so many memories for me.
As we drove along the gravel road, bumping along the washboards, a wave of emotion hit me. I hadn’t been camping here in a long time—seven, eight years at least—but that wasn’t the last time I’d been here.
It had been the day my grandma had died.
The trees were taller than I remembered. Such a silly thought, since obviously trees grow, right? Long ago, before I remember coming here, there had been a fire. The meadow, which was now a full-fledged forest, had been full of grass, baby trees speckled throughout burnt stumps. You could see far and wide across it, the hints of shimmering blue a reminder that you were surrounded by lakes. The meadow had looked like that for as long as I could remember—the trees slowly growing through adolescence until one day, there was nowhere left to grow but up.
Fed by streams of mountain water, Skookum is too cold to really swim in, although that never stopped me as a teenager. Motorized boats aren’t allowed, and ATVs are now banned in the campground as well, so it was quiet. Unfortunately, it was a little too windy to go out on the lake in a rowboat (trust me, I tried), but we were able to hike on the path that goes around the lake.
From the docks, you can see the ranger station sitting atop South Baldy, the side of the mountain still littered with the debris from a wildfire back in 2015.
The campsites are little clearings, the trees around them limbed so you can see through them, but close enough together as to give you a semblance of privacy. It was perfect for my three-year-old daughter: she could play among the forest floor, always in my eyesight as she dodged logs and twigs while I made lunch and tended the campfire, not worrying about where she was or what she was doing.
It was the simple life, really. All I could think is that I needed more time: three days was not enough. A week wouldn’t be enough. This is where I wanted to be.
Head over to YouTube to check out our Little Wanderers Channel and watch our video on our North Skookum Trail hike!