Car(rick) camping

Carrick drops the truth on a disappointing camp site.

43 Places Entry of the Day

0 people want to go to Belfair State Park

Disappointment, an entry by
Carrick Mundell:

“A stunner. Among the best. Bring lots of film and site-finding patience.” I don’t know what Ron Judd was smoking when he wrote this about Belfair State Park in his book Camping! Washington but it must have been pretty mind-altering. My family and I just returned from spending two nights in Belfair S.P. and I’m here to tell you it is a dump. The sites for tents and small R.V.s are tiny, packed together, and poorly engineered. Drainage would have been a real problem had it rained. Sunlight had a difficult time piercing the thick canopy of firs and pines. And anything that was left out under the trees was covered with dust and tree debris within a few hours.

Oh, and there’s a highway within spitting distance. With logging trucks going back and forth day and night. Hello Mr. Judd?!

It is steps away from Hood Canal and a “beach” of sorts. Too bad the water literally disappears at low tide. Belfair S.P. is at the crook of Hood Canal and, apparently, experiences extreme tides. So much for spontaneous dips in the water.

I will try to refrain from being too judgmental of our neighbors, some of whom looked to be making a summer of it on their little patches of the forest floor. I’m sure they were all decent, well-meaning, hard-working folks who were just having a good time letting down. Even the ones who left their four children unattended while the camp fire smoldered, blue tarps hanging from tree to tree, garbage strewn about like pine cones. And the guy who let his diesel pickup run for an hour while we ate our dinner? I’m sure he was a real nice guy. And the guy who cussed at his five-year-old boy, who’s face was covered in mud, when he found him playing in the creek? He was probably just a little tired and not at all drunk.

Yeah, if you ever hear yourself saying, “Let’s just pull into Belfair S.P. for the night,” give yourself a dope-slap and keep on trucking down Highway 106 to Twanoh, or even further around Hood Canal to Lake Cushman.

4 Responses to “Car(rick) camping”

  1. ron judd Says:

    A comment on my review of Belfair State Park: Anyone who’s ever used my book would know that the words quoted in the poster’s description (”stunner,” etc.) are general descriptions of campgrounds rated the equivalent of “four stars” in the guide. They never were written about that campground in particular. In the “ratings” section of the guide’s intro (maybe this camper was too busy judging his camping neighbors to read that part), I also go out of my way to impress upon readers that “like any ratings, (campground) ratings are highly subjective…they have no underlying mathematical equation that takes into account distance from home, number of spaces, weather, or the likelihood that a garage band…will set up camp in the space next door.”

    My description of the park itself, which this poster ignores completely, notes the small size of many sites, the darkness of sites in one campground loop, and the fact that the park is on shoreline of “shallow, tepid Hood Canal.” Any delusions this camper had of bracing dips in cold saltwater were clearly the makings of his own imagination. And most people with even basic knowledge of the area know that the south end of Hood Canal is prone to significant tidal swings. If every saltwater campground description came with its own “Warning: Tides Happen” section, the book would run a bit long.

    In spite of all this (or perhaps because of it) I am surprised in retrospect that I gave Belfair a four-star rating. I’ll revisit it again before any future editions. It’s possible the place has gone downhill since I last visited. This happens (something also noted clearly in the guide.)

    Like any guidebook author, all I can ask is that people judge campground descriptions by their factual information, rather than placing all their stock in a ratings system the author himself calls highly subjective. Everyone’s taste in quality campgrounds differ, and no guidebook author can control logging-truck traffic, or where and when someone camps.

    - Ron Judd

  2. Carrick Says:

    Ron, thanks for the lengthy clarification. You really should revisit Belfair for I think you would find it pretty awful.

    If your rating system is so utterly devoid of significance to others, then why use it at all? You gave Belfair four stars, which according to the back cover of your book translates to, “A stunner. Among the best. Bring lots of film and site-finding patience.” It’s misleading.

    I’ll be checking out Twin Harbors State Park, which you rated three stars, in about a week. I’ll be sure to report back.

  3. ron judd Says:

    I never said the rating system was “utterly devoid of significance.” Please re-read what I wrote. I simply suggested that people go beyond the simplistic rating system to make their own judgments about what they might like or dislike about a campgground. You can quibble with the ratings all you like. That’s expected. They are subjective, and advertised as such. Why use them? Because people like guides with an opinion. The fact that you might not agree with it in one case doesn’t render the entire structure irrelevant. Happy camping.

  4. Carrick Says:

    True, those were my words regarding the rating system. I agree with you that the system should be down-played, but apparently the publishers have a different opinion. The back cover of the book plays up the rating system big time.

    Moving on, you wrote above, “And most people with even basic knowledge of the area know that the south end of Hood Canal is prone to significant tidal swings.” Pardon me for my lack of basic knowledge of the area, for my lack of knowledge of the area is what induced me to read this section of your book. I’m familiar with the tides in some parts of Puget Sound, but not here. The difference between low tide and high tide here at the end of Hood Canal is simply astounding. Standing on the “shoreline” at Belfair during low tide, it looked like I could walk across the canal and barely get my feet wet. Take a look at the picture above. I took that at low tide and the lens is even pointing up the canal, which is why you see water at all in the picture.

    I appreciate the effort it takes to put together a book like this. I hope the 3rd edition will be the definitive one.

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