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Packwood, WA: Cabin Heaven & Hiker’s Oasis

Packwood, WA: Cabin Heaven & Hiker’s Oasis

THGJ Skyo - 0009-Edit


Guillaume and I contemplate our “luck” often, but hardly ever do we shout it from the rooftops. It’s true that we TRAVEL full time and only WORK part time. We thought we’d be eating ramen noodles to survive and burning our clothes to keep warm, but we’re eight months into our travels and doing just fine. A lot of that has to do with luck and the kindness of others.

In Portland we met dozens of interesting and passionate people at the Tiny House Conference. Russ Prior, the owner and builder of the exquisite green gypsy caravan showcased at the event, was one of those people.

Russ's Gypsy Wagon
Russ’s Gypsy Wagon

“Where are you guys headed next?” Russ asked one afternoon after hundreds of attendees toured our tiny abodes.

“Washington… we think,” I replied. “We haven’t really figured it out.”

With a smile on his face, Russ casually mentioned that he owns property near Mount Rainier National Park“You could park there for a little while, if you want.” And simple as that, we had our next destination.

It was like we were on vacation from our vacation. WE ARE SO LUCKY, I thought as we rolled onto Russ’s property. Not only were we parking near Mt. Rainier, but Russ offered to let us stay in his charming 400 square foot cabin. Compared to our tiny house, this one bedroom cabin was a mansion! How could we resist? 

THGJ Skyo - 0001
400 Square feet and 125 Square feet

For the next seven days, we were in cabin heaven. We woke to the sound of woodpeckers and gazed at elk grazing in the field. We watched bald eagles and stellar jays sore overhead. We tiptoed around the property, identifying mushrooms and wildflowers. We read books by the fireplace. We fished the river. We barbecued. We slept eight hours a night. We enjoyed the solitude.

Can you identify any of these mushrooms (above)?? We couldn’t.

Packwood sits in between three active volcanos (Mt. Rainier, Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Adams), a National Park and a National Forest. So, of course, there’s hiking galore! Below are a few of the hikes we explored.


Angel Falls Hike - 0009

Area: Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: >1,000 feet

Length: 4 – 5 miles round trip (loop)

The best thing about National Forests is that our dog can join the hike! Angel Falls Loop was a complete surprise. After a short walk through a lush forest and crossing a babbling brook, the trail led us to a shockingly beautiful waterfall. We crossed behind the waterfall and continued uphill for a few miles before looping back through the forest. Really beautiful trail and we had it all to ourselves! This is the most surprising hike we’ve been on since the Hirtle’s Beach hike in Nova Scotia. 


Grove of the Patriarchs - 0004

Area: Mount Rainier National Park

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: None

Length: 1.5 miles roundtrip (loop)

On our arrival, in late April, most of Mount Rainier National Park was not accessible due to snowfall. Grove of the Patriarchs was one of the only hikes available in the south eastern part of the park. After our visit to the Avenue of the Giants and Redwood National Park, the gigantic trees at the G of the P weren’t too impressive. We’re spoiled I suppose. The best part of this hike was the suspension bridge that allowed us to cross a crystal clear creek.


Narada Falls

Area: Mount Rainier National Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: Steep Staircase

Length: N/A

To be fair, this isn’t really a hike. The actual hike is 3.2 miles and available from June – October from Paradise Inn. As I mentioned, many trails in the National Park were not accessible in late April. Guillaume and I simply parked at the top of the Narada Falls and hiked down to the overlook. It’s took ten minutes, but the view was amazing and worth mentioning here. Of course, this hike was no where near as cool as the Navada Falls hike we did in Yosemite.


Guillaume conquering the ridge!

Area: Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation Gain: 2300 feet

Length: 9 miles round trip (out & back)

This hike is really best in mid-late summer, but Guillaume and I decided to give it a try. About half way up the mountain we completely lost the trail because it was covered in snow. We spent the next hour trudging through knee deep snow and heading in the direction we assumed the trail went: UP! The views of Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams were spectacular from the top of the ridge. We sunbathed and dried out our socks next to a patch of young huckleberries. When it was time to go back down, we followed our tracks and eventually found the trail. We slid down most of the mountain, which made the hike dangerously fun!


Glacier View Trail - 0010

Area: Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1052 feet

Length: 4.5 miles round trip (out & back)

This hike promises scenic views of Mount Rainier, but as we were driving the bumpy road to the trailhead, it started to snow! We figured the view would be obstructed but decided to hike to the summit regardless. The partially snow covered trail twisted through a dense forest until finally opening up to reveal…. cloud covered disappointment. On a clear day, I’m sure this peak would offer a spectacular panorama. But not for us! I guess our luck had run out!

After a week of bliss, it came time for us to leave Packwood and its beautiful scenery. I waved goodbye to Russ’s cozy cabin, already feeling a twinge of nostalgia for our time spent in the woods. WE’RE SO LUCKY, I reminded myself. And the journey continues…

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”   

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden




  1. June 14, 2015 / 7:57 am

    I don’t know why, but I didn’t realize you were coming to Canada. I suppose I have missed you but I live on a boat (tiny living of a little bit different nature but tiny living none the less) we have quite a little community here, just south of Vancouver and would have loved to meet you. My dog Stella would have loved to make new friends also. I am on the Fraser River, very close to the ocean, about 20 minutes out of Richmond, 20 minutes out of New Westminster and half an hour from the ferry terminal. and airport. If you are down around this area come by for coffee!
    I have a website
    Love to hear from you!

  2. Simon Roberts
    June 9, 2015 / 6:52 pm

    I love your photograpy. It’s rare for a photographer to capture the feeling of places of natural beauty. Yours are good, they remind me of those old National Geographics where they used to do photo spreads of natural wonders.

    Have you ever considered loading some 1080p pictures so that people can use them as desktop wallpaper? Maybe put your logo on them? Some of those pictures from Gifford Pinchot would make great wallpaper.

    • June 10, 2015 / 8:23 am

      Thank you! That’s very nice of you to say. We’ve considered creating a calendar actually, we’re still looking into it.

  3. Ken
    May 23, 2015 / 12:02 pm

    I’m so glad you decided to visit Washington. You got a small glimpse of what us locals have known forever… It’s a great place to get out and enjoy.

  4. Beverly (Prior) Smaby (Russ's big sister)
    May 17, 2015 / 10:41 am

    We are so glad you enjoyed your stay at our cabin near Packwood. And I’m so glad my brother Russ invited you to stay there! I loved your descriptions of all the hikes. I’m going to print them out as a personal hiking guide for our cabin. I’ve never been to Angel Falls, but will plan to do that hike with our kids and grand kids when we stay there this summer.

  5. mitzithedog
    May 15, 2015 / 5:12 pm

    What beautiful Pictures! My human said you guys should write a book and title it ” What makes a marriage work ” Thanks for sharing your adventures. PS Hi Salies! love M.J.

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