Camping in the nearby high country is one of the benefits of living in our neck of the woods. August comes good camping weather. It’s time to pack your gear and get up to the mountains while there’s still time.
The Crystal Basin Recreation Area has more camping opportunities than you may think possible. One of the best for families is Wrights Lake.
It’s a wonderland of mountain and lake. The lake itself isn’t huge, and is a great place to paddle a kayak or canoe. No motors of any kind are allowed on the lake, which makes it a perfect place for you and your children to explore the shore.
Your campsite must be reserved. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to pack. Here are some of the essentials that you’ll need: a tent, with a waterproof ground cloth, all the appropriate clothing, both for hiking, and swimming, hats, all of the food you’ll need, cooking gear and fuel for the camp stove, camp chairs, flashlights and extra batteries, first aide kit, maps, books and camp games, a gallon of bug spray and a bucket of sunscreen.
You’ll need graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate to make s’mores, a requirement of camping. Add whatever else you need to make your stay comfortable.
Your stay can be one of championship relaxation, short or long hikes, bike rides, time on and in the water, ranger talks, and time around the campfire.
On the more active and strenuous order, there are two hikes that are akin to a sports event.
Hiking the Lyons Creek trail to Lake Silvia, at 8,050 feet, is a 10-mile round trip. The trip to Lyons Lake, on the same trail, is about the same, except that you’ll climb to 8,400 feet. Getting to either lake is an uphill experience.
The trail is well-marked and the hike is beautiful. You’ll need to make out a wilderness permit before starting. Once you get to Silvia, you can actually continue on to Pyramid Peak, but you have to know what you’re doing, and have plenty of time, if this is on your agenda. At the end of the day, you’ll know how fit you really are.
Twin Lakes is another great hike, which will also test your muscle tone. This is about 5 miles round-trip. The trail runs over exposed granite, and you’ll need to pay attention to where you are. The trailhead is at the other end of the lake, and you can either drive to it, or walk to it from your campsite.
The hike to Twin Lakes, and Island Lake, is an uphill experience too. The lake is around 8,000 feet, and Wrights, where you’ll start, is around 7,000 feet. You’ll hike through the forest, over granite, across a stream, and climb a few rock gardens.
The time to get there depends on your hiking style. Allow a decent three hours, at least. When you do get there, you’ll be able to dip your tired feet, or your whole body if you can take it, into the cold water of the lake. The granite that surrounds the lake should be warmish, and it’s a good combo.
Remember to look behind you on your way. There are some very wonderful views along the way, especially when you can see down to Wrights.
If you’d rather not put in a full day hiking, or want something much more tame, hike around the lake. Yes, you can walk on the road that goes by the USFS lease cabins, and make it all the way around the lake. The cabins are private, and they have a small amount of space around them that goes with the lease, but it’s not much. It’s actually quite a nice walk if you do it.
Head over to Dark Lake or Beauty Lake for another non-strenuous trek. Or, just take one of the trails and limit how far you go. It’s all beautiful, so remember your camera.
Paddling your kayak or canoe in the lake is just plain fun. You do have to look out for the rocks in the shallow areas. This is especially true if your boat is an inflatable unit.
Make sure that you paddle back into the canals. You’ll get to them by going under Chappell Crossing, the bridge at the other end of the lake. It’s gorgeous back there too.
Wrights isn’t overly deep, and at certain times of the year you may be able to walk quite a ways out before getting in over your head. Swimming here is another great activity. Like hiking, you can turn it into a workout of major proportions. You could also just have a nice swim.
The lake is frequented by a bald eagle, and a peregrine falcon. They will glide over the lake looking for a fish that is not paying attention. Now and again, one of the birds will plunge to the lake and lift off with a trout that the fisher folks wish was theirs. With some bit of luck, you and your children will get to see one of these birds bring home lunch.
Wrights is a great family camping area, either tent or RV. If you have young children with you, you must always be aware of where they are. The lake is wonderful, and children love lakes. Make certain that you are with them anytime they are near the water.
Even if they aren’t near the water, you need to have them in sight. The forest is also a draw for curious youngsters, and it doesn’t take much to get lost, even close to camp.
One of the joys of camping is simply spending some time at your tent site. Sitting around the campfire in the morning or after dinner is just part of the overall experience. This is when the makings for s’mores come out. You can’t go camping without making them. It’s just not allowed.
The campfire is a good time to talk about your day, read, or play a game. Telling stories comes into play too. Look at your maps, trace where you’ve been and where you are going next. Look up and see how many stars you can see, and find some of the constellations. Write in your camp journals, draw a picture or two. In short, family time doesn’t get any better.
The USFS rangers give regular talks throughout the summer. Find out when they are, and make a point of going. There is so much to know about the area, and the talks are full of information about the forest, the lake, and the critters that are out there.
Wrights Lake is just one of the lakes in the Crystal Basin. Ice House, Union Valley, and Loon are great spots too.