For all we have in common Theresa and I couldn’t have more different backgrounds. She was riding a horse long before she had a drivers license where I was soloing sailboats offshore. Our first multi-day paddle together she complained that her, “utter wasn’t working”; our first horseback ride I complained I needed a ‘mainsheet and rudder’ to control this beast.


So, considering my lack of comfort around horses how did we find ourselves camping with our trailer on a horse ranch? Hipcamp.

I stumbled on Hipcamp purely by mistake, but I’m certainly glad we did. Basically, it works like VRBO. Host register their property with the service and offer a variety of camping options. This is a great alternative to State and Federal campsites during the summer season.

I really can’t speak to the rest of the country but here in the Pacific Northwest and especially Washington State once they went to a online reservation system site are almost impossible to reserve during the summer. It’s a blessing and a curse! I suspect that many campers just book all the weeks in advance. If you have to cancel at the last minute you’re only out $8. Makes it impossible for spontaneous getaways unless you’re willing to boondock in a National Forest.

HIpcamp to the rescue. Most sites (remember this is private property) have a cap on how many can camp at any one time. From what I can see most are around 5 but we only had one other family and with such a small group it didn’t take long to make new friends.

Lucia Falls

Horse Lovers Paradise

So back to my first question. It was Theresa’s birthday and I was looking for something unique to surprise her with. When I saw the listing for Horse Lovers Paradise I knew I had a winner in hand. The hard part was going to keep from spilling the beans, but I wanted this to completely out of the blue.

Theresa was a good sport and not demanding to know where we were going to be camping for the weekend but I could see her expression getting more and more puzzled as we traveled deep into farming country. I even caught her looking at her phone trying to guess what park we were headed to.

When I pulled into a private drive I thought she might have an aneurysm. Moreso  when the pastures and barn came into view and our host, Michelle Ruff, wave to us. I’ll consider this surprise a ‘mission complete’.

When Michelle isn’t tending to our Hipcamp guest she’s busy running Summit Equine Assisted Therapy. We couldn’t have been made to feel more at home and by weekends end we had made a new friend that we’ll see again just as soon as we can.

The facilities were warm and inviting. We had a group bonfire the first night and had the chance to meet our fellow campers from Portland. Theresa felt right at home; even getting up early and helped haul hay out to the various pastures for the horses. While Theresa help Michelle tend the animals and go on a trail ride, I spent my time exploring the area and photographing the local waterfalls and pastures.


Cedar Creek Grist Mill

One local jewel I found was the Cedar Creek Grist Mill. Now I can’t say I’m an expert on grist mills but this one was postcard perfect including a covered bridge crossing the creek.

Judging by the number of people there it’s quite a popular place and no wonder given it’s Norman Rockwell appeal. However, on our second day I got up early and ran over to find I had the place to myself for photos.

The Mill was built in 1876 by George Woodham. It’s currently on the National Historic Register and also has a Friends Of  The Cedar Creek Grist Mill organization that maintains and provides information to visitors. If I lived closer I’d be very tempted to join.

Steve Weileman

I've been lucky enough to have some of my work featured on CNN, Outside TV and, National Geographic. Join me as I continue to both learn the art of film-making and document the exciting new modern world of citizen-science. His work has been featured on CNN, National Geographic, and OutsideTV, as well as numerous local outlets.

This Post Has 4 Comments

    1. I think the thanks goes to you for making our stay so memorable! 🙂

  1. This sounds and looks like a wonderful trip, as well as a fantastic birthday gift! We may look into something like this in the future.

    And you’re so right, trying to make reservations at Washington state parks is absolutely insane nowadays! To get anything decent, you have to plan months in advance. Hipcamp sounds like a great alternative to this.

    1. Yea, I’m not sure what the answer is, I wish they’d leave a good chunk on a “first come, first server” bases so had an option to get outdoors when the opportunity presented itself. Kills some of the spontaneity when you have to plan a weekend outing 5 months in advance!

      Try Hipcamp, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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