After making reservations for my camping bucket list in December, I was so excited to finally take Julia to Moran State Park on Orcas Island over Memorial Day weekend.
I typically have to work on actual Memorial Day, but it means I take a comp day on the previous Friday when I can. This meant that while I still made reservations for the campground and the ferry ASAP, the ferry rides didn’t feel too crowded. The ferry ride is about an hour and ours was delayed about 30 minutes in either direction due to a disabled propeller, but both sides have nice things to do while you wait (like explore a rocky beach area in Anacortes and sip cider at Boathouse Ciderworks on the island).
It’s a relatively short 20-30 minute drive to the park from the ferry and check-in was really easy. It was helpful that I had printed out our confirmation ahead of time since it sped things up and meant less talking while Julia was sleeping in the backseat. We were in site 79 of the North Campground and loved our space. It was near the walkway between the campground and the road, but didn’t get a lot of foot traffic, was a short walk to the restrooms, and had lots of space for Julia to climb and play safely. We set up the hammock immediately and it became her favorite thing – she was constantly asking to go “swing.”
We hiked the 3ish mile loop around Cascade Lake (we put Julia in our Lillébaby carrier on my back) and the spent the afternoon exploring the playground and fishing dock area on the lake. For dinner, we made foil packets with salmon and veggies that were delicious, and Julia made her first s’more.
The next morning, we made oatmeal for breakfast (topped with maple syrup, mascarpone cheese and blueberries) before heading towards Mount Constitution for our hike. We didn’t feel quite up to doing the full hike with Julia (she’s wiggly when in a carrier for more than a couple of hours), so we started at Little Summit and hiked to the top. Julia hadn’t slept great (she kept rolling off the Big Agnes sleeping pad that she insisted on using), so she took an early nap and was asleep for most of the hike up.
It was still too cloudy to see very far from the observation tower, but we climbed to the top anyway, just to make sure.
We hiked back down and of course it cleared up right when we got to the car. Luckily, the road we were on leads right to the top of Mt. Constitution, so we drove back and ate lunch at the viewpoint and caught a few more glimpses of the beautiful island from its highest point.
My back was KILLING me after carrying Julia on 2 hikes while she napped (dead weight), so Peter took her to the playground for awhile while I rested. It was a perfectly sunny day, so we decided to rent a canoe from Orcas Adventures to paddle around Cascade Lake. It was about $25/hour and that was plenty of time for us to paddle across the lake, under a bridge and around the other side. The water lilies were blooming and we saw some fish jumping around, as well as a heron and a little family of goslings with their parents.
After our canoeing adventure, we stopped for ice cream from the Lopez Island Creamery location right on the lake and gave Julia a little beach time while Peter started dinner (grilled ribeye with pea risotto – yum!).
The next morning we ate breakfast and then drove a little ways up the Mt. Constitution road to some waterfall trails that were only 1/4 mile or so each way – Julia was able to do a lot of hiking on her own, even though we didn’t hike very much mileage-wise.
We drove through the little town of Eastsound and stopped for pastries at Brown Bear Baking before stopping for another short walk and a picnic at Turtleback Mountain Preserve.
Our ferry back was delayed 30 minutes, but we just snagged a patio table at Boathouse Ciderworksand sampled their cider in the sunshine until it was time to hop on the boat home.
The long weekend was really paradise and we’re already scheming about how to convince our families to do a big group reunion camping trip.
We’ve lived in Seattle for over 4 years now and have been admittedly really terrible at taking advantage of the rich camping resources in the Pacific Northwest. I love being organized, but most of my organizational skills (read: energy) go into planning our one major international vacation per year, which has historically left little advance planning time for camping. Combine that with the fact that campgrounds in our area usually book up 6 months in advance and we usually end up sticking around town or taking day trips rather than staying overnight. I also found it overwhelming to think about camping with a baby when Julia was little (all the extra stuff, the distance from a large store to acquire anything we’d missed, etc). We finally made it out with her late summer/early fall last year and she had so much fun. I resolved to do better this year – making myself a list in October/November, setting a calendar reminder, and then booking a few extra spots as they opened. All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.
All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.
We’ve only been to the San Juans once while we’ve lived here. I kept reading about how beautiful the campgrounds are, but it seemed like a waste to just do 1 night after all the effort to get there, so I booked a 3 day weekend and set yet another calendar reminder to pre-book our ferry reservations. We’re tentatively planning to bring our kayak on this trip, since our last San Juan visit included a beautiful short kayak trip.
Peter’s family had a reunion here several years ago and everyone raved about staying near Port Townsend. We have loved our day trips to the area and I’m looking forward to staying near the beach (we’re in the Upper Forest Campground, though, because I desperately need shade when possible), checking out the fort and the lighthouse, and probably skipping the camp stove in favor of eating out with the money we’ll be saving by camping instead of staying in a hotel. Maybe we’ll check out the Marine Science Center, too.
A couple of summers ago, we were lucky enough to have friends who rented a house a block from the beach in Sequim and invited us to join them for a night. We loved the area and I’m really looking forward to going back for a camping trip. This will be another opportunity to strap the kayak to the Subaru since there’s supposed to be a great calm bay. I would also love to check out the lavender fields nearby.
I read about the tidepools at this spot on the Peninsula and got so excited about taking Julia, especially since she’ll be big enough to actually pet the anenomes gently (I’m thinking of the Finding Dory scene with the touch pool with the crazy kids hands grabbing the poor animals, so we’ll be practicing our gentle touching). I accidentally booked us at Saltwater State Park instead, so I ended up cancelling and rebooking, but was a little late in the game and there weren’t many spots left. I looked up AirBnBs in the area, but even though our relatively last minute (because 4 months out is last minute here) campsite will basically be a square of grass next to a bunch of RVs, it will still be less significantly less expensive than staying indoors and we’ll be close to the tidepools. For one night, I think I’ll be able to live without the giant outdoors that I love about camping.
A friend on Facebook posted about these amazing looking Ape Caves in the Mt. St. Helens area and when I kept looking in the vicinity, there’s also a swinging bridge and a boardwalk on the Trail of Two Forests nearby (Julia loves running down a good boardwalk). That sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I found a campground about a 15 minute drive away and booked two nights. We’ve never been to Mt. St. Helens because a 3 hour drive each way seems like too much for a day trip, so it will be great to finally get to explore a bit.
We did a (long) day trip down to Mt. Rainier National park last year with my parents to hike the Bench and Snow Lake trail and it was so beautiful with all the wildflowers and mix of open and shady trail areas. I can’t wait to go back in late August to try some new trails and be able to stay overnight so we can get in some extra hiking through the meadows.
We stayed here in late August last year with family (we were in site 75) and had a great time. We brought our kayak and went out in the very calm water where we could actually reach down and touch the sand dollars from the boat. The campsite was a good size and flat so Julia and the cousins could chase each other while the adults enjoyed a beer. We also loved stopping in Gig Harbor on our way home to kayak, where we saw starfish and several harbor seals.
We came in mid-October and were lucky enough to be here on one of the few sunny weekends that month (we also stopped in Port Gamble on our way over for lunch and loved exploring the town). We stayed in a cabin and were very grateful for the heat and the fact that we didn’t have to bring and pitch a tent, particularly because this area is very popular with the local elk who love to leave their droppings everywhere (no joke, I had to bring a flashlight everywhere at night to avoid stepping in them). It was a really magical weekend – we saw the end of the salmon life cycle in the Dosewallips River and walked out to the shoreline at the end of the afternoon to play in the dirt and on the cool lookout tower. While Julia fell asleep, Peter and I checked out the stars in the meadow, which were particularly bright that night. Julia was up early the next morning, so we walked back to the shore while Peter slept in. We were fortunate to see a herd of elk grazing and paused to take each other in before continuing on and enjoying the cold, crisp morning. It was just one of those moments where you hug your baby close and are so grateful for time with them, especially if it’s outdoors. Our cabin, C6, was a reasonably short walk to the bathroom and was pretty close to the trail towards the shore, so it was a good spot for us.
We stayed in a cabin here in 2015 when I was pregnant with Julia and loved the area. It’s pretty residential, so it feels like you’re escaping the city without abandoning all the city comforts (there are power lines over the first part of the trail to the Falls, which was a little surprising when we first visited). The cabins are really nice and have a private little “yard-like” area around them, as well as a really clean restroom and showers. We stayed in cabin C1 on our first trip, and in C2 recently. On our return trip last fall, it was nice to have a space where Julia could run around while we made dinner without worrying that she was going to dart into the road. There was a also a group next to us that seemed to be a fun girls’ trip. In our experience, the groups are really polite and keep the noise to a minimum, so it wasn’t a problem to have them next door with Julia sleeping. Our most favorite part of the whole stay is always eating at Wallace Falls Cafe. The Mi Quang Pho is literally the best comfort food ever – the broth is so flavorful and the pork rib just melts in your mouth. On our last visit, they were unexpectedly closed at night, so we went to the La Hacienda, the Mexican restaurant up the street (also delicious, but just not the same as steaming pho). When we drove by in the morning just to check, they were open and even let us order pho for breakfast since we’d missed out the night before. Julia devoured the broth and the noodles and I might have to order her a bowl of her own next time.
Here are some of the websites I consulted when doing my research last year: