How a Washington Landowner Turned a Weedy Lot into a Popular Hipcamp

Rachael has both an entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit. That’s what led her to Hipcamp in 2017. The Host of Willow Creek Retreat has created a convenient, natural escape just minutes away from an international airport, and the site was one of Hipcamp’s Best of 2018 Washington Finalists. Rachael, however, is just getting started. We sat down with the Hipcamp Host to learn more about this Spokane standout, and about how she’s taking baby steps to achieve her long-term vision for her property.

Hipcamp: Tell us about your land.

Rachael: We own a total of 20 acres, with a year-round creek running through the center. The creek gives our property a parklike setting with sub-irrigated grass, trees for shade and an abundance of wildlife and birds that make the creek their home. We purchased our property we call Willow Creek Retreat, which is on a separate parcel across the creek from our home, in 2017.

Hipcamp: What makes your land special?

Rachael: What makes us most unique is we are close to Fairchild Air Force Base, so campers are serenaded at a distance with “Reveille” every morning and “Taps” at dusk. We do experience the occasional jet, but it is not an ongoing noise and it’s rare at night. Being near the base gives Willow Creek Retreat front row seats in a comfortable, shaded environment for the semi-annual Sky Fest Air Show, which is held on June 22 this year.  Watching the Thunderbirds perform from the comfort of our property is a real treat, and we host a party for it when they come to town.

Hipcamp: How the land has changed since you first bought it?

Rachael: When we bought this property from our elderly neighbor two years ago, it was infested with knapweed and a variety of thistles and other noxious weeds, and the beautiful olive trees resembled bushes. Not a week after we purchased the land did we get a letter from the county warning us about the fines for growing noxious weeds. We went to work with a brush hog, weed sprayer, and livestock to eradicate the problem. It’s an ongoing process, but it’s getting better every year.

We spent all winter and spring in 2018 pruning the trees and making them flourish. There was an old abandoned pit mine on the property that was never returned to its original state. The neighborhood used it as a landfill for biodegradable trash and yard waste, so we had a friend bring his mini dozer out to fill the deepest part of the pit. After filling, leveling, and spraying, we also planted additional trees, wildflowers, native and forage grass species to grow where the weeds once populated. Every year the property looks more and more like a park.

Hipcamp: Why did you decide to join Hipcamp and to allow campers on your land?

Rachael: We have always had entrepreneurial and adventurous spirits, and my husband and I have been self-employed for over a decade. I am always on the lookout for new business ventures, and our property is just too beautiful and park-like to keep it to ourselves. I really enjoy keeping the land beautiful and improving it each year. It’s a labor of love.

Hipcamp: How would you describe your experience so far?

Rachael: So far, it’s been a great experience. All of our guests have been gracious and well mannered.

Hipcamp: What do you tell campers about your land?

Rachael: Willow Creek Retreat is a private country retreat situated on a 20-acre farmstead on the West Plains of Spokane County, conveniently located 5 minutes from the Spokane International Airport and I-90 or SR-2. Willow Creek Retreat features plenty of trees and a year-round creek, boasting shaded campsites near a babbling creek. Bird songs and bird watching opportunities include blue heron, hawks, great horned owl, quail, ducks, turkeys, and pheasants, and the creek is chock full of frogs for the kids to catch. There are also friendly horses to pet and feed treats. Each evening, guests can listen to the coyotes howl, the owls hoot, crickets chirp, and, in spring and early summer, the frogs croak.

Hipcamp: How would you describe your land in three words?

Rachael: Convenient, private, peaceful

Hipcamp: What kind of activities do campers participate in at your Hipcamp or near your Hipcamp?

Rachael: Based on our convenient location close to Interstate-90, most of our guests are traveling through. We are just a day’s drive from the Seattle area, so many guests are traveling to or from that region on their way east. We are the perfect layover for some rest and relaxation on a long drive.

Other guests are visiting Spokane for conferences and events in town and are seeking non-traditional lodging options. Willow Creek Retreat is a 15-minute drive to downtown Spokane, which is home to major events such as Bloomsday and Hoopfest, as well as regional conferences. Lastly, we did have a group last year that stayed at our Hipcamp location to visit Riverside State Park, which is also a 15-minute drive from us. Riverside State Park is a spectacular well-known location for hiking, horse riding, and biking, but their campsites are often booked out long before summer arrives. Willow Creek retreat is a wonderful convenient location both for travelers passing through the area and for those seeking Spokane as a destination.

Hipcamp: Why is sharing your land important to you?

Rachael: With more people living in cities and people living busy lives, many lack the opportunity to enjoy a private country setting and the time for the labor intensive upkeep. Public campgrounds are often booked and crowded, and RV parks lack the natural appeal of raw land. We hope to fill a niche for those seeking solitude, privacy, and natural landscapes with available camping opportunities. Our property is an idyllic setting, reminiscent of simpler times away from the bustle of city life.

“We hope to fill a niche for those seeking solitude, privacy, and natural landscapes with available camping opportunities.”

Hipcamp: What is your favorite part about listing your land on Hipcamp?

Rachael: It’s a super-easy platform to book and navigate, and the insurance coverage is huge. I would not do this without that peace of mind. Buying my own insurance is cost prohibitive with the current scale of my operation, and it allows us to stay small and not cram folks in just to cover our overhead.

Hipcamp: When is the best time to camp at your property? Why?

Rachael: For the best weather and tent camping, probably July and August. But May and June are beautiful. The creek is full of frogs in April and May, and their croaking at night is one of the most relaxing and memorable sounds. Wildflowers are blooming in abundance May through early July and everything is so green. If you have an RV, May and June are spectacular.

Hipcamp: Are you planning to make any improvements or additions to your Hipcamp?

Rachael: Yes — we added power last fall and are installing three, 30-amp RV hookups and we have one 50 amp hook-up already. This year, we added a horse/pony groom and ride as an extra for those who would like to get up close and even on top of one of my horses. Lastly, I’m looking into purchasing a portable cabin for those looking for accommodations beyond tent and RV camping, and we are planning to build a community barn with showers, flush toilets, and a kitchen facility. Baby steps, but that is our long-term dream.

Hipcamp: What else do you envision for your property?

Rachael: In the future, we would love to host events and retreats. We have started our own called Farmstead FINDS. Our event is a vintage trailer rally and show combined with a vintage and handmade vendor market. We feature live music, food, and community fun in a festive farm environment. This year, it’s held the same weekend as Skyfest and our property is front row to all the aerial action (June 21-22). We are exploring hosting music nights and small music festivals as well.

It’s a super-easy platform to book and navigate and the insurance coverage is huge.

Inspired by Rachael’s story? Open your land to responsible campers:

Shane Downing

Shane is an award-winning journalist based in Oakland. As a freelance writer, he’s passionate about covering the LGBTQ+ community, at-risk youth and local news. He's a former Hoodline editor, and his work regularly appears in Oakland Magazine and The San Francisco Business Times. When he's not writing, Shane is an avid baker, gardener and tennis player.

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