Monthly Archives: July 2013

Camping on the Lewis River near Woodland, WA

Getting Away From It All . . . Close to Woodland

By Pat Nelson



With so much nearby beauty to explore, my husband, Bob, and I decided to save gas and take a camping trip close to home. My first stop, a couple of days in advance, was the Woodland Tourist Information Center located on the corner of Goerig Street and Lakeshore Drive, just west of I-5’s southbound on ramp. There, Virginia Wilkerson provided me with maps and brochures, as well as her personal knowledge of the area.

We left our Woodland home on a sunny Sunday and drove east on Lewis River Road, State Route 503. Two miles down the road, we made a short stop at Come to Life Espresso. As my husband drove east on Lewis River Road, my job as I sipped a steaming-hot mocha was to watch for RV parks so we could decide on one for our night’s stay. Our first stop was the Lewis River Country Store and RV Park. When our grandchildren were young, we used to rent a campsite there just so that we could swim in the pool. Now, according to the clerk, swimming passes are available at either monthly or daily rates.

Our next stop was the Merwin Day Use Park on Lake Merwin, a 4040-acre impoundment created by the Merwin Dam. The park is ADA friendly and has two covered picnic shelters, a kids’ playground and a trail to a waterfall.

At Ariel, we followed the Lewis River, curving through forests with an occasional splash of Scotch Broom, daisies, foxgloves, rhododendrons and salmonberries.

Speelyai Bay, also on Lake Merwin, offers a recreation area with an RV park and a day- use area, plus a boat launch. We saw a pen in the water that holds fish to be planted in area lakes.

We soon came to Yale Park, with a day use area and boat launch, and we then stopped at the Cougar Bar and Grill for lunch. I was happy to find a book-and-movie-lending library there, where I picked up a book for the trip.

After lunch, we visited Beaver Bay Campground on Yale Lake. Then, at the Pine Creek Ranger Station, we stopped for a map of nearby waterfalls to visit another day. Soon, we crossed a bridge where we had a great view of Mount St. Helens. Next, we drove to the Ape Caves, the third-longest lava tube in North America, where I took pictures for a couple who wanted to be photographed at the cave entrance. You can go either of two directions to explore the cave, one more difficult than the other. I went back to the motor home and woke my husband from his nap, and then drove to the Trail of Two Forests where we walked through a 2000-year-old basalt lava flow from Mount St. Helens. Here, we saw casts of old-growth trees devoured by hot lava, leaving tree-shaped holes, even one through which visitors can crawl.

Back on the road again, we explored Swift Reservoir, where I fished as a child, and then we headed back the way we had come, turning left onto 503 South toward Amboy. Three miles farther, we stopped at the Cresap Bay campground, where we chose a beautiful campsite with a water view. As I sat at the picnic table reading my borrowed book, a Jet Ski slapped the water. Someone chopped firewood. Birds called to each other. Ferns waved in a gentle breeze. The sun released sweet forest fragrances.

The next morning, we continued toward Amboy. At the Chelatchie Prairie General Store, we turned left and drove past the old International Paper mill site. We continued on, not knowing what we would find ahead. About four and a half miles from the store, we came to a bridge over beautiful Canyon Creek. Looking to our right, we saw fast-flowing water and beautiful cliffs. To our left, beyond Canyon Creek, we saw Mount Tumtum, a 70,000-year-old cinder cone. The view was well worth the short side trip.

We turned around and headed for Amboy where we had a delicious hamburger at Nick’s Bar and Grill before continuing on, back to Woodland. We had taken a camping trip close to home and had experienced the beauty of nature, in our own backyard.



Copyright 2013 Pat Nelson. Reprinted with permission: The Valley Bugler, Longview, WA and Pat Nelson, Woodland, WA


Bio:Pat Nelson, writer and editor, is co-creator of three humorous and sometimes edgy anthologies: Not Your Mother’s Books: On Parenting (publication date September 10, 2013), On Grandparenting and On Working for a Living (both still accepting stories at Nelson blogs at and her stories appear at See her at the NW Book Festival, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland July 27, 2013. Nelson will speak at 11:30 and will be on hand all day selling the Not Your Mother’s Books.



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Planters’ Days Woodland, WA 6/2013

Fun for all once the rides have been set up!

Fun for all once the rides have been set up!

Worker setting up ride for Planters' Days

Worker setting up ride for Planters’ Days

Window on Woodland
Planters’ Days 2013
by Pat Nelson
Woodland will burst with excitement when it kicks off its 91st Planters’ Days celebration June 13. The carnival on Horseshoe Lake opens Thursday, June 13 at 3P.M., and soon after, kids with chalk in hand will decorate downtown sidewalks while they wait for the beginning of the 5P.M.children’s parade. Many years ago, I proudly marched in the parade alongside my grandchildren Max and Chelsea. Max, in a green-feathered bird suit, pulled his little sister through town in a wagon. Now, they are both teenagers, and more interested in the 10P.M. fireworks that shoot high in the sky and reflect beautifully off Horseshoe Lake.
Most who look forward to Planters’ Days weekend each year have probably forgotten . . . or never knew . . . the meaning of the celebration. Over 90 years ago, Woodland’s farmers worried about their crops every year because of the threat of flooding from the nearby Lewis and Columbia rivers. Once dikes were constructed, the farmers and the community celebrated, and 91 years later, the party continues.
This year Planters’ Days will host a new carnival, Davis Amusement Cascadia, with some different rides and an advance-sale wristband that will be available for purchase at Woodland’s Burgerville. The wristband, on sale for $23 prior to the beginning of Planters’ Days, appears to be a better value than wristbands in previous years because it will be good for a full day, both daytime and evening hours.
For me, watching the carnival set up can be as thrilling as riding the rides. One year, I took photos of a carnival worker as he assembled a large circular ride. Watching him climb the high structure to complete the assembly took my breath away.
Back in the 1930’s, the fire department started serving food on Planters’ Days weekend. Now, with the generous support of Walt’s Meats supplying the beef and Burgerville supplying the buns, the fire department continues the tradition by serving barbecued-beef sandwiches on the Saturday of Planters’ Days weekend. Long lines will stretch through Horseshoe Lake Park Saturday, June 15 as people await the annual treat.
On March 1, 2013, Woodland’s firefighters joined with Clark County Fire and Rescue, and this year Captain Mike Jackson is happy to say about the Firefighters’ Barbecue, “there will be a few more hands to make it happen.” According to Jackson, the firemen start getting ready for the event months in advance by gathering firewood. On Thursday of Planters’ Days weekend, they will get the pit ready, with the help of the Public Works department. Early Friday morning, they will start the fire that will cook the beef to perfection. By the time Saturday’s parade draws to a close, there will already be a long line in Horseshoe Lake Park at the Firefighters’ Barbecue. I admitted to Captain Jackson that one year when I saw flames shooting above the roofline of Horseshoe Lake’s outdoor kitchen, I called the fire department . . . and learned that it was their fire I had called to report!
The Saturday parade starts at 11A.M. but I always try to get there early to set out some chairs and to enjoy the excitement of the little kids waiting to see the horses, fire trucks and clowns. If you don’t take in the breakfast buffet at the Moose Lodge or the pancake breakfast at the VFW hall, there’s still plenty to eat along the parade route, from Woodland’s local family-owned restaurants to fundraiser stands offering baked potatoes, kielbasa and corn on the cob to many weekend-market food stands and, of course, the carnival food wagons.
With activities in downtown Woodland and on Horseshoe Lake all day Saturday, there’s no reason to head home after the parade. The hard decision will be deciding which events to see: the antique farm equipment display, the weekend market, the carnival, the firemen’s barbecue, the military vehicle show, the frog jump, the penny scramble, the firemen’s muster, the bed races, the RC boat show, the duck-boat rides, or the cruise-in. If it’s a hot day, you’ll find me playing in the lake, where I’ll have a good view of the carnival and many of the activities.
June 16, Father’s Day, is sure to be lots of fun, starting with a breakfast buffet at the Moose Lodge or a biscuits and gravy breakfast at the VFW Hall, the 4×4 Show and Shine, and a car show featuring hundreds of shiny classic cars lining downtown streets, plus a talent show.
Planters’ Days weekend has helped my family create memories for the past 15 years. Take in the events and let Planters’ Days weekend create memories for your family!
Copyright 2013 Pat Nelson. Reprinted with permission: The Valley Bugler, Longview, WA and Pat Nelson, Woodland, WA

What: Planters’ Days Weekend Celebration
When: Thursday – Sunday June 13– 16
Where: Horseshoe Lake Park and Davidson Street, Downtown Woodland
Event Schedule:

Bio:Pat Nelson, writer and editor, is co-creator of three humorous and sometimes edgy anthologies: Not Your Mother’s Books: On Parenting (publication date September 10, 2013), On Grandparenting and On Working for a Living (both still accepting stories at Nelson blogs at and her stories appear at

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