NCW — Sleeping bags, check. Bathing suits, check. Marshmallows, sunscreen, flashlight. Check, check, check.
North Central Washington turned into a camping mecca on Saturday, as people from near and far filled the region’s campgrounds to enjoy what many consider the last weekend of summer.
“It’s kind of our last hoorah for camping,” Shawn Little, of East Wenatchee, said on Saturday. Labor Day Weekend camping has become a tradition for the Little family, who’ve spent this weekend with family and friends at Lake Chelan State Park for the last 14 years.
This year, some 20 adults and kids from the Little, Lamb and Collins families all came from Wenatchee and East Wenatchee to spend time together at their favorite park.
“We love the idea of tradition, and family, and building relationships,” Little said. They do the same thing for Memorial Day Weekend, he said.
Besides swimming in the lake and roasting marshmallows over a campfire, the families enjoy another nightly activity — toad hunting.
“The kids take the flashlights, and we go down to the lake around 8 or 9 at night and you find them hopping around by the water,” Little said. “They find three to six a night. The kids play with them and then we let them go,” he added.
Ranging in age from 8 months to 11 years, some of the kids even miss their first few days of school for the tradition, Little said.
The best part, he said, is that the park is so close. “On Monday, we just pack up and we’re home in an hour,” he said.
It’s not quite as close for the Tremains, who spent half a day in the car to get to Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop on Friday.
Like the Littles, they come with other families — the Hoffmanns and the Andersons — driving over from Seattle and Shoreline. They don’t always come to Pearrygin, but usually to North Central Washington, where they’re more likely to find sunny weather.
Devon Tremain, 13, said he just likes hanging out with his friends all weekend, even if he does have to bring his parents along. But his mom noted he doesn’t seem to mind when dinner’s ready.
Besides swimming, this group likes lawn bowling, soccer and rugby. On Saturday, they were playing a card game called Guillotine at a picnic table near their tents.
Some don’t always come on Labor Day. The Boon family from Oak Harbor — including mom, dad, their kids and grandkids — come whenever they can book enough spots together in July or August. This year they happened to catch Labor Day.
But for state park rangers, the season’s not over yet.
“Not by a long shot,” said Rick Lewis, at Pearrygin. “We’re going to be busy all the way through hunting season.”
Still, he agreed, the season is winding down, and except on weekends, the campground won’t be quite as full as this weekend, when an estimated 600 people filled all 150 sites.
Fewer families come after Labor Day, he said. But they start to see more senior citizens and hunters.
“Labor Day Weekend kind of marks the end of the summer, but we’ll still be full for at least the next two weekends,” agreed Dwight Keegan, ranger at Lake Chelan State Park.
“We’ve been through a summer that has been full pretty much every day, so in many ways, holidays don’t mean a lot to us,” he said, adding, “Once you get to the month of July, it’s all kind of the same.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512