Category Archives: Bigger Adventures

Bigger adventures needing more than a weekend away from Portland

The San Juan Islands: mellow, car-free adventure from Portland

I may have finally killed off my camera on this trip (it can handle being dropped, but apparently can’t handle getting too wet), but James’ phone came to the rescue to catch us having fun in the San Juan Islands, albeit in somewhat grainy fashion:)

Moran State Park bike camping

I’ve gotta say, the San Juans are kind of the shit. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get up there, especially considering how easy it is to do from Portland and how awesome the payoff.

Aside from the healthy mosquito population on Lopez Island and the flesh-eating bug that flew down my shirt and stung me a bunch of times on the ribs and stomach before delivering one last death sting to my finger when I finally succeeded in slapping it out of there (all while maintaining my biking composure, I might add), there were no large predators on any of the islands. Which is kind of nice when you’re camping. The most obnoxious thing was the raccoons, who have clearly been trained to sniff out things like energy bars you’ve forgotten to remove from your panniers and then, under the guise of night, sneak into your campsite, drag your pannier into the woods, and happily dispose of all of them (punks!).

But the super awesome, for-us-exotic animals vastly outnumbered the annoying raccoons, stinging insects, and mosquitoes. We woke up one morning to orcas playing in Haro Straight: the whoosh as they came up for air, the splash as they dove back down, dorsal fin followed by tail flop. In the early-morning quiet, it was almost the only sound, and the only movement in the glass-smooth water: so amazing.

San Juan County Park orca-spotting(oatmeal with the orcas, binoculars in hand. San Juan County Park hiker/biker)

Later, as we kayaked across Griffin Bay, harbor seals popped up behind our kayaks, porpoises leapt far to our east. Eagles wheeled and called above us. (Have you ever heard a bald eagle call? It’s one of my favorite things.) This hodgepodge of frolicking animals may sound like some straight-from-Pocahontas bullshit, but I kid you not. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the barred owls we heard nearly every night, the great blue herons hunting in the shallows and the twenty million other kinds of waterfowl, the candlefish throwing themselves from the water as though their sole purpose was to leap exuberantly, haphazardly through the air.

Again. It was awesome.

Griffin Bay kayak trip(staging ground for a kayak adventure:)

And that doesn’t even begin to talk about the facts of travel, of camping, of bike adventure itself.

The San Juan Islands is such an easy car-free trip from Portland. James and I just put our bikes on the Amtrak Cascades, no boxing required: bike to the train station in Portland, wheel your bike to the baggage car, pick it up in Mt Vernon, and pedal off. The timing of the train vs. the timing of the ferries in Anacortes, about 20 miles away from Mt Vernon, is a little awkward, so we opted to stay in Mt Vernon for the night–though you could also camp in Anacortes.

ferry to shaw island(ready to board the ferry!:)

 washington ferry bikes(bikes on the ferry– a fairly typical number)

Ferries, I think, are my new favorite form of public transit. It was so rad to get to Anacortes, buy a ticket, and then, just like Amtrak, wheel our bikes onto the ferry no big deal. Cyclists and pedestrians board first, actually, then people with cars, so not only do you get first dibs on seating in the ferry but you also don’t have to worry about showing up early to make sure you get a spot (like people in cars do). Plus, interisland travel is free, so once you buy your initial ticket, you can island-hop to your heart’s content:)

Since we had a week and wanted to see all the ferry-serviced islands, we spent two nights each on Lopez, San Juan, and Orcas islands, in that order, and took a day trip to Shaw Island on the way back to Anacortes at the end of our trip. Each island has at least one spot with hiker/biker sites, so even though we’d been warned that finding places to stay in the midst of high tourist season would be a challenge, it was no problem. In fact, the rangers and county officials in charge of camping at each park we went to were so super friendly and helpful that it was kind of hard to imagine we’d worried about it–but then again, that’s often the case when you’re traveling by bike.

Spencer Spit hiker-biker (one of the many hiker/biker sites at Spencer Spit State Park, Lopez Island)

As always, I could spew for hours about how amazing our trip was, how many rad things we got to do and see, how fricken lovely it was to travel with James too instead of by myself, but for that I will direct you to my pictures (here), where you can pick and choose what you want to hear about:) (Though if you go through them in order, it makes a handy little travelogue, if I do say so myself:)

Some teasers?

Coleville Point State Park(Coleville Point State Park, Lopez Island)

Lime Kiln Point lighthouse(Lime Kiln Point State Park, San Juan Island)

Moran State Park(Moran State Park, Orcas Island)

shaw island(my are-you-serious-that-basically-100%-of-this-island-is-privately-owned? incredulous face, Shaw Island:)

More here:) Enjoy. But better yet, go have your own adventure:)

Summertime Adventuring

I’m sure I say this every year, but summer is a busy, busy time for me. What with getting kiddos acquainted with the outdoors via overnight and sometimes 2-night camping trips, I’m often away from home. And often working many, many, (did I say many?) hours.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s awesome. Mostly. I love it and I’m often overwhelmed by how crazy cool it is that I get to spend my time teaching teens and kiddos to love (or appreciate–or at least notice?:) nature. But among other things it does mean that when everyone’s out and about and planning fun summer trips and staying out late on patios drinking beer and having barbeques, when everyone takes impromptu forays to a Mt Tabor sunset or a hike in the Gorge–heck, when people invite me to dinner and we have to plan it for 6 weeks out–that sometimes starts to make me feel like I’m missing out on the most glorious part of the year.

Sometimes, though, if the stars align and if I play my cards right, I can get a week free in there somewhere. And so it is that tomorrow, James and I plus bicycles leave for the San Juan Islands. Seven days of bike adventure, right before my birthday: a double treat :)

All that to say, have fun in Portland, y’all! Catch you in a week or so:)

When transit is part of the adventure

Leucanthemum vulgare

What does an oxeye daisy–Leucanthemum vulgare, which (by the way) is edible–have to do with biking or car-free transportation? In this case, everything!

Last weekend, I took part in a super awesome 3-day workshop called the Ginger Root Rendezvous. It’s a few days of camping at the Silverton Grange under the direction of John Kallas, botanist/nutritionist extraordinaire who teaches a shit-ton about wild, edible plants–that is, plants that most people consider weeds, or plants that you just never knew you could actually eat. Even though I went last year too, I still came home this time chock full of new knowledge about plants and their variable edibilities, which always makes me happy: a learning stasia is a happy stasia.

Anyway, this workshop is held in Silverton, OR, about 50 miles away. Last year, I caught a ride with a woman coming down from the Seattle area; this year I opted to pack up all my gear and bike.

It was so much nicer to have biked.

First of all, as people trickled in to the rendezvous on Friday evening grumpy about the heinous Friday traffic, I was secretly pretty smug (I hope I didn’t actually come off as too smug;) about having wholeheartedly enjoyed my four hours of active transit down to Silverton on lovely (and, for me, not-impacted-by-traffic) country roads.

Also, once we were there, I was so happy to have my bike and be in control of my own transit. I know, people who were there with their cars were also in control their own transit, but since I would have carpooled, I would not have been. And my bike had the added benefit that after a day without too much physical activity (other than picking plants, of course;), it was really nice to be able to stretch my legs out as I ran an errand or two. Not to mention be able to explore Silverton at a human pace.

And lastly, for the whole weekend I had another super lovely ride back up to Portland to look forward to.

wild food dinner(fueled by an amazing weekend’s worth of wild food cuisine:)

It all reminded me how lovely it is when the journey to and from my destination is a whole other wonderful part of the adventure. In a strictly time sense, I probably spent about 6 more hours traveling for the weekend than I would have had I carpooled with someone. But those were hours spent doing exactly what I always want to do: ride my bike through the world. It’s so nice when transit is an adventure, not something to be endured.

Women’s Touring Workshop! Tomorrow!

Are you curious about bike touring? Are you a woman or someone who identifies as a woman? Are you free tomorrow evening? Come join me and Erinne Goodell at VeloCult for a women’s specific bike touring workshop!

We’ll be there to talk about our experiences, show off our loaded bikes, and answer (or at least give our best shot to:) all of your questions. You’ll learn about gear options, how to carry things, tips for the road, thoughts about safety, ideas of nearby places to travel, and so much more!

Last year it was a super rockin’ good time with some super rockin’ ladies, and this year is sure to be even better:) Come join us! And bring all your awesome lady friends!

  • 6:30 pm tomorrow, Tuesday (the 10th)
  • Basement of VeloCult (1969 NE 42nd Ave)
  • We’ll for realz start the chatting around 6:45, so feel free to grab a beer or some water if you want before you head downstairs.

I realize this doesn’t give you much notice. My fault. Ironically enough, I didn’t really think about the fact that I could mention anything here.

BUT! See you then, right??  :)