Thomas J. Story

Editor-in-Chief Matt Bean reveals his favorite camp spot and tells us what he loves about camping in his May/June 2019 editor’s letter

Matt Bean  – October 15, 2019

My favorite campsite isn’t easy to get to, and it’s even harder to book. Each year, only around 3,000 in-season permits to the Enchantments are released, guaranteeing lottery winners early solitary access to a massive and glorious swath of glaciated rock and forest. The ragged range, 115 miles east of Seattle, is strewn with alpine lakes and defended by curious mountain goats. “We got here first,” they seem to say. And they’re right. 

For years, access to this alpine Valhalla had evaded me. But one day my buddy Ryan texted, offering salvation: “My friend’s got extra spots on his permit. Let’s do this.” Weeks later, there we were, blasting past the Bavarian throwback town of Leavenworth, packs pregnant with gear, frothing to reach the trailhead.

The hike into our first camp was anything but easy. For me anyway: My lanky friend Wes marches like he’s trying to prove something, and Martin, an elite trail runner, once completed the three-day route we had planned in a day. As we reached elevation, the teeth of the Cascades revealed themselves, serrated crags attacking the sky.

We pressed on: up a scree of rubble and over the cusp to an otherworldly cerulean lake surrounded by hardened snowpack. Here, we spread out, aware of the encroaching goats. “They drink your pee,” someone pointed out.  “They like the salt.” I eyed them warily. Weird goats aside, this was a lifetime site, a world so different and raw that it reminded us of our small place in the big picture. Martin and Ryan stripped to their shorts and slid like kids down a sheet of ice into one of the lakes. Wes actually relaxed. I forgot about the Internet. We were in thrall to the world around us—not chained to a desk, and definitely not confined to an Astroturfed “campsite” with a 68-footer belching fumes into our airspace. 

This is why I camp. That release, that reminder. And I know I’m not alone. How about you? I’d love to hear about your favorite site—and why it moves you. We’ve put a collection of the best spots on Sunset.com.