Hordes of campers who had piled into North Idaho campgrounds for the Fourth of July weekend packed up soggy clothes and damp spirits Monday to make an early departure.
“We stuck it out until today and finally decided we’ve had it,” said Coeur d’Alene resident Dave Grant.
Grant, his wife and two children were tent-camping at Samowen Campground, about 17 miles east of Sandpoint. They had nabbed one of the last of 81 spaces Saturday near Lake Pend Oreille.
But after two days of overcast skies and a constant drizzle, many of the campers around the Grants pulled up stakes and headed for drier quarters.
“The key to tent-camping is tarps - lots of tarps. I need to get a bigger one next time,” Grant said as he got ready to pack up his truck. “Once things get damp in a tent, you’re done.”
In lieu of RVs or hardtop campers, blue, green and orange tarps were the equipment of choice Monday. Campers had the plastic stretched over tents and tables and between trees. Campers had wet clothes strung out on makeshift clotheslines and stood beside smoking, crackling fires pondering whether to stay or leave.
“Most of the tenters are leaving,” said Don Arthur, another Coeur d’Alene resident camped at Samowen. “We are going to go see how the lake looks before we decide if we want to stick it out.”
About 30 of Samowen’s 81 sites were vacant Monday because of the poor weather. Two people asked for refunds, but park manager Wendy Littler said campground officials can’t be held responsible for the weather.
Round Lake State Park, a popular campground south of Sandpoint, had been full since Thursday. Last year, the campground set a record for being full 63 nights in a row, but Monday, about 28 of the 53 sites were unoccupied.
“I’m amazed that a little rain runs that many people off,” said Round Lake ranger Gary Parker. “We had people standing in line for spots earlier in the week. Then you get a little rain and everyone splits.”
Not Pat and Larry Hook. The Spokane residents were enjoying a quiet morning after most of their neighbors had left.
“We saw a patch of sun a few minutes ago and came running out,” she said. “But we watched one camper after another pull out this morning. It’s tough to camp in this, especially if you have fidgety kids.”
To avoid the wet weather blues, the Hooks, like many other campers, headed into town the last two days. They found a packed movie theater, slim pickings at video stores and waiting lines at many restaurants.
“We are getting a lot of campers in who would otherwise be out boating, hiking and barbecuing. The weather has driven a lot of people indoors,” said Whistle Stop Cafe owner John Klager. “Campers with kids are trying to maintain their sanity, so they say, ‘Let’s go to town and eat.”’
It was so busy at the Panhandler Pies restaurant downtown that the manager didn’t have time to talk. He was in the back helping the cooks.
“Normally, we have a very quiet Fourth of July, but not this time,” said Korner Video Store owner Esther Moore. “The shelves have been kind of bare, but I’m not going to complain.”