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Instant Camping 

by Sheri Boggs

Say you got a late start on your weekend camping trip, it's 9 pm and you've been on the road (half of it gravel) for three hours. Are you in the mood to wrestle your tent into a halfway standing position while simultaneously trying to pop your sleeping bag free from the car in the near darkness?

Cabins, yurts and teepees are the car camper's best friend. You just drive up, bring in your sleeping bag and supplies, and tuck in for the night. Most of these state park accommodations require a significant drive (try private campgrounds for yurts and cabins closer to home) but are well worth the trip. Availability is limited; call first for reservations.

Yurts -- These circular canvas enclosures are inspired by the round tents of Mongolia, and can be found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Most have framed, locking doors, skylights and outside decks; some even come with bunk beds. In Washington, you'll need to head to Cape Disappointment State Park (near Ilwaco), but additional yurt accommodations are in the works for several other Washington state parks. Oregon has at least a dozen coastal state parks with yurts, but inland you'll want to check out the yurts at gorgeous Wallowa Lake. Idaho has yurts at Winchester Lake, Ponderosa and even some backcountry yurts near Idaho City. Designed for snowshoeing and cross country skiing enthusiasts, the yurts are just as much in demand during the summer. Hikes in are fairly mild, averaging about a mile and half. In Montana, the nearest state park yurts are located at Flathead Lake (which is a nice place to take in the Rocky Mountain scenery before heading into Glacier).

Cabins -- Few things are cozier than four log walls, an ancient wood stove and the sound of crickets just outside the windows. Oregon has cabins at Emigrant Springs (near Pendleton), and in Washington, you'll find cabins at Fort Disappointment, as well as cool platform tents at Dosewallips. These canvas tents are old-school all the way and will lend your campout a nicely turn-of-the-century military feel. The Idaho Panhandle has cabin rentals at Heyburn, Priest Lake, Farragut, Dworshak and Hell's Gate state parks. Accommodations range from simple $35 a night affairs to big, eight person rentals at Heyburn (on Lake Chatcolet) for $85.

Teepees/Covered Wagons -- It's time to relive all your Little House on the Prairie fantasies and make like Laura and Mary -- falling asleep under the sweeping white curve of a real covered wagon. Oregon's Farewell Bend state park sits at a real stopping point on the original Oregon Trail and was one last respite of cool, green river before heading across the dry Eastern Oregon plateau. The wagons are stationary, so you won't have to worry about your horse-handling skills, and they come outfitted with two double beds. Farewell Bend is also home to a trio of painted teepees, which are also large enough in diameter for two double beds. Both the covered wagons and the teepees are wired for light and electricity; cooking is not permitted inside but each is supplied with a grated fire pit.

Washington, (888) CAMPOUT

Oregon, (800) 452-5687


Montana, (406) 751-4577

Publication date: 07/15/04

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