Zen On Dirt

Create your own adventure – PNW-style


We had no plan for our trip. When we came upstairs from Janet’s basement on Tuesday morning, her partner Ed asked us, ‘So what are you guys up to today?’

‘Ummm…I think we’re going to head up to the Mt Baker area and maybe go for a run. And then camp. And from there, anything can happen.’

This form of travel has many advantages. No itinerary means that you can spend as long or as little time as you want in any specific spot. You can take advice from people who you meet on the side of the road about places to go, things to see, and diners to try. If you’re tired, you can spend the day lounging. If you’re energetic, you can go ride and run in a single outing.  Being happy camping anywhere on public land also adds to the overall flexibility.

And then there are downsides. Many people believe that the more choices a person has in their life, the more unhappy they are. In my opinion, at least in terms of trip planning, this can be contributed to FOMO (fear of missing out). If you have no set plan, you have the option of running Trail A, B, or C, or maybe riding Trail D, E, or F, would be better, or maybe you should run Trail E and ride Trail B. If you spend your time constantly second-guessing whatever you chose to do with your day, it’s going to be a frustrating experience.


Maximizers want to make the absolute most of their vacation. Satisfiers are pretty happy if they do some cool things and don’t really worry about the best way to pack the most experiences into a given amount of time. Scott and I are pretty laid back satisfiers with most aspects of our lives, including this two week vacation to the PNW. Our stated goal was: Do some cool things. Spend time together. Pretty simple.


We drove through endless trees to the Mt Baker ski resort. Everything was covered in clouds. It seems that much of the time, everything is covered in clouds. Didn’t matter, we waved our fingers at a map at a trail head and chose a running route, a loop that we knew we’d get turned around on because of snow, but was worth a try.


We ended up climbing up some snow to gain the first pass to look into the next snow covered basin. It made it easy to turn back around after a snack on a rock.


We camped by a beautiful waterfall, the roar of the water drowning out the noise of the exactly zero cars that passed on the road. It didn’t rain, but the clouds didn’t lift either.

We rolled back into Bellingham in the morning to have breakfast with Jenny and Josh at the hippy-dippy breakfast place in downtown Bellingham before rolling south out of town for good. I love me a good hippy diner.


Road trip essentials: Reading materials, National Parks pass, Sriracha. The sunglasses weren’t really needed for much of the trip. 

The destination of the day was a small state park on Widbey Island where there seemed to be promise of some sort of trails. Upon closer examination, it didn’t really seem to have much, so we walked down to the beach instead, watching a scuba fisherman pull a giant cod out the water.


I asked if I could take his picture, he asked if we were mountain bikers.


‘Go ride Ebee State Park,’ he told us. It’s just down the road.

And so we did.


I’m now convinced that not all fisherman lie. The trails were incredibly fun, swoopy, flowy, and moderately effortless.

Our end destination for the day was the Olympic Peninsula and a ride that a FaceBook friend had recommended to Scott just outside of the National Park. So we put the van on a boat! Van on a boat! The only downside was losing my hat to the wind while acting out Titanic on the front bow. It’s okay…the hat needed to go. Scott called it ratty. But it was my favorite hat.


We did a fair bit of gravel grinding in the van to finally find our trailhead. A combination of a closed road and a faulty navigator (me) led to several off-course miles, but in the end, we set up the trusty tent just feet from a trail that looked promising to bikes. Talk about no approach to a ride…

The plan was to ride up Dungeness Creek, west on some forest service road, and then descend Gold Creek, which we were told was ‘pure gold’.


There was some hike-a-bike on the way up. Enough that I got a little bit grumpy. It really was one of my first sustained hike-a-bikes in a while and I questioned the sanity of the ride.

But the trail was beautiful. Just slightly too steep for my flagging motivation.

And then there was the part where the trail was washed out. But by that time, I’d undergone an attitude adjustment, because really, who can be annoyed when surrounded by giant trees. Hike-a-bike, whatevs, I do it all the time.


The Gold Creek descent really was pure gold. I’ve never seen a trail use its elevation quite as well. And then there’s the thing that you couldn’t find a rock on it if you tried. That can be fun too.

We headed back to Port Angeles for lunch at the Little Devils Lunchbox, which newly qualifies as the best Yelp! find ever. Burritos that rivaled Seis and BBQ that was pretty out of this world.

Then off to the Elwa River, one of the subjects of Patagonia’s film Damnation about the history and present impacts of dams around the country. (If you haven’t watched it yet, do it, I’m pretty sure you can stream it on Netflix.) The goals were three-fold: See Nature trying to reclaim the area after the two dams were taken out, find a camping spot, and visit the hot springs.


All three goals were achieved highly successfully. We spent some time watching birds at the dam, standing in awe at the destruction caused by the harnessing of hydro-power. Then we jogged the 2.5 miles up to the hot springs for a lovely evening soak.


And then we joined the whopping 3 other campers in the National Park campground. The rest of the evening  was spent in fine fashion – with a map and a bottle of wine. There were adventures to be planned.



4 thoughts on “Create your own adventure – PNW-style

  1. Enjoying your PNW reports. I’ve never been up that way but am about to head to oregon and the olympic peninsula. Pretty excited to see the sights!

  2. If you guys are heading to Vancouver Island for a pit stop let us know. We are freinds of Dave & Bev and , yes, even Lucy.

  3. If you have time to hit up Oakridge, Moon Point is a blast and there are amazing views from the fire lookout! Thank goodness for mountains, deserts and forests to ride through…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s