I've got to be honest, it's a little tricky to enjoy swimming in the Pacific Northwest. There's water everywhere here in Western Washington, but it's chilly. When summer comes around again this year I'll finally be ready…because I finally found a lake…a warm lake!
To get there…wait for summer, then catch a ferry out of Anacortes…to Orcas Island in the San Juans!
Stop at some island viewpoints and shops along the way. Above: the road up tos Mt. Constitution. Below: views of Volcano Baker and shopping at Crow Valley Pottery.
We've arrived! A little lakeside campground in Moran State Park called…Mountain Lake!
We took a few laps around the lake in our 2 person Innova kayak and had a blast. The water was surprisingly warm - much warmer than Lake Washington in Seattle (where we usually swim in the summer).
The campground has only about 10 spots with parking spaces, and a lot more for groups (not to mention sites in other parts of the park). We made a reservation online here. We didn't have that much trouble getting a reservation on a week day in the summer. There aren't showers onsite - that could be part of it (there are bathrooms & water though).
More than one trail leaves Mountain Lake for lookouts, other lakes, and waterfalls (we've been to one). Canoe & kayak rentals are also available.
So, if you're looking for a warm summer lake to swim in, even in the chilly Pacific Northwest, be sure to book a night or two at Mountain Lake on Orcas Island!
~Paul, Amber, Mom, Sis
Anacortes Lady of the Sea Sculpture (& a great kayak launch at the Cap Sante Marina - Seafarers Memorial Park)
We recently spent some time in Anacortes reviewing an Inn for an upcoming 'Inns you can paddle and sail to' post and got a few good looks at the gorgeous Lady of the Sea sculpture. Located in Seafarers' Memorial Park (map), the lady and child await the safe return of their seafaring loved ones. Deborah Copenhaver sculpted the statue in 1994.
The sculpture also happens to sit adjacent to a great small boat launch - perfect for kayaks. With lots of parking close by this is a great place admire the sculpture, pay your respects to the sea and those who have lost their lives to it, and get out [safely] on the water yourself!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Looking for a great place in Seattle to take the family when they're visiting? A place to chill, take pictures, paint, all while taking in some really cool art? Check out the downtown Olympic Sculpture Park. Admission is free, they have paid-yet-affordable parking on the property. The park is 9 acres and runs into the waterfront via a pedestrian overpass. From there you can head into Myrtle Edwards Park and beyond. You get art, views of the city and space needle, and a great look and walk along the water…not bad…even in the winter!!!
~Paul, Shelly, Jon ETC
Does the gloomy winter Pacific Northwest weather already have you planning for summer? A tradition for Captain Wifey and I is to drive the 3-4 hours from Seattle to the Washington coast and do a little backcountry camping near Rialto Beach.
The drive out there from Seattle takes you on a ferry ride (take the Edmonds ferry in the morning and Bainbridge on your return to beat the rush), through the town of Port Angeles where you need to stop and get your backcountry pass (more on this later), past lovely Lake Crescent (pictured above), right by the town of Forks (vampires anyone?), and finally to the Olympic National Park Rialto Beach parking lot.
Rialto Beach is gorgeous. If you're staying overnight you'll park in a different parking lot since you're leaving your car. The pass you picked up at the Ranger Station in Port Angeles will go both on your dash and with you on your pack. They give you a giant bear canister (to store scented things and food overnight), that goes with you too (and is a suggested $3 donation). Off you go!
Heading north, you'll hike a fairly short distance and reach Ellen Creek. Camping is allowed anywhere north of here, but we always keep walking past the Hole-in-the-Wall to find a secluded spot. The tides greatly affect the route and time you'll need to get places on the coast…make sure to get a tide-table book (or app, however, cell coverage can by spotty…some apps work offline, some don't) and plan accordingly.
Two-hours of hiking at high tide can become only 20 minutes at low tide! Sea-stacks block the way at higher tides forcing you to take the occasional steep jungle route (picture below!). At high tide, normally easy to walk on hard sand becomes deep gravel. The lower the tide the better.
One of the greatest things about backcountry camping, besides being only $11 per night, is you don't have to take the risk of camping next to some loud, rude dudes. You pick the spot. We like to find a bay or inlet that becomes hard to get to when the tide comes in. Look toward the tree-line for camping spots others have used (and fire-pits). The panorama below is a view from our elevated campsite. The sea-stacks in the distance to the left are from the town of La Push - far enough, but not too far.
Another perk is campfires on the beach. Little rain in the summer often causes the inland parks to initiate burn-bans although the coast is rarely affected.
Sometimes you have to get creative. We were truly roughing it, trying to chill our sake that we brought along…We decided to use the cool waters of the Pacific! It kinda worked.
Another benefit of hiking/exploring at low tide is the abundant sea life in tide pools. It's nature's aquarium out here.
Hopefully we've sold you on the breathtaking Washington coast. Let's review:
1. The tides make or break this trip, plan accordingly.
2. Edmonds ferry there, Bainbridge ferry back.
3. Pit stop in Port Angeles at the ranger station (it's at the beginning of the road leading to Hurricane Ridge) to get your passes - $11 a day.
4. Bring your own water (which is heavy), or, what we do - bring a fancy filter to purify before drinking (or boil)…iodine tablets are not enough out here.
5. Wear supportive hiking boots, not sandals…there's lots of rock.
6. Leave room on your pack for the giant bear canister.
7. Check the weather - windstorms bring high surf. Layer…it's cold, even in the summer.
8. Check here for more info from the National Parks!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Follow us on Twitter and receive updates when we post (click the birdie).