After spending the summer searching for the perfect tent trailer, I finally found a used Coachman Clipper light enough to pull behind our Subaru Outback and my family set off for an adventure.
Did glamping live up to my dreams? You bet it did.
Our first trip was to Alder Lake Park, a Tacoma Power park that partners with the Washington State Park System. Alder Lake is in Eatonville, about an hour away from Mount Rainier.
When we arrived, my husband and I struggled to crank up the top and level the trailer. It was a blazing hot weekend in August. But once the air conditioning was turned on, the Clipper was like our own mini hotel on wheels. My husband and kids blew up inflatable rafts for swimming, while I made the beds with brand new duvets from IKEA. Then we headed down to the water.
Alder Lake was warm enough for all of us to enjoy — even wimpy me. We spent a lazy afternoon paddling around and building sand castles. I knew from pictures online that we should have been able to see stunning views of Mount Rainier looming behind the lake, but unfortunately, smoke from the British Columbia wildfires completely hid the mountain.
That night the campground livened up with music, socializing and the aroma of grilled steak. “The boating crowd appears to be different than the quiet nature-loving crowd,” my husband commented, as we tried to fall asleep to the sound of Shania Twain blaring from a nearby campsite. “Let’s bring earplugs next time.”
“Earplugs for the kids,” I said, “and a bottle of wine for us.” The boating crowd seemed like they were having a blast.
We had fun, too, especially after waking up the next morning from a solid night’s sleep. The difference between a hotel room and our tent trailer is that in a hotel my husband shares a bed with our son (the kicker), and I share a bed with our daughter (the burrowing squirrel). But the tent trailer has three beds, so my husband and I could sleep together.
What our kids loved about the Clipper were the electrical outlets. We brought two cords so their devices could be charged and an instant hot water heater for making hot cocoa and coffee.
“So much for going off the grid,” my husband said when our son laughed about something on Reddit.
“Mmm.” I sipped my coffee. “Starbucks Via is delicious.”
The best part of owning a tent trailer is that since we live in a place with an amazing state park system, our next vacation is only $35 away. It’s not like shelling out $175 on a hotel room and feeling enormous pressure to have fun. The food costs are the same as at home, and if someone throws up or had a grumpy moment, the vacation isn’t ruined.
Lakes, beaches, rivers and mountains — Washington state has it all. As soon as we came home from Alder Lake, I logged on to washington.goingtocamp.com and booked our next adventure.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.