Bike Camping – Manchester and Vashon

I’m writing this with one hand, while the other is scratching my growing number of mosquito bites that are appearing by the hour. We had such amazing weather in Seattle this weekend, and I’m so glad we took advantage and spent the entire time outside. We packed up our bikes on Friday morning, left work around 3pm to catch the ferry, and didn’t get home until Sunday afternoon. All in all, we rode about 75 miles, rode 3 ferries, and climbed a little over 3200 feet (although it felt closer to 10000 feet). It was about 84 degrees on Sunday, with a beautiful breeze off of the sound the entire time. The map is hard to read since we covered a lot of distance with the ferries, but it shows where we rode in relation to home. Each of the lines is round trip, and show the mileage.
6-15 to 6-17 camping map

Right out of the gate, we were behind schedule (my fault) and were pushing it to make it on time to the last direct West Seattle Ferry to Southworth. I didn’t have time to stop at the library to grab a book like I wanted, but I figured I’d just lay out and get tan while Brian read his 🙂  The ferry was a short 30 minute ride, and we rode right off and were on our way.
It’s weird how we’ve gotten so used to some of the coolest quirks of living in the PNW, like seeing little free libraries all over the place! There’s probably an average of one every other block in Seattle, but even on this little island that feels like the middle of nowhere, we rode right past a fully stocked little free library! It was perfect timing, so I stopped to grab one. The options were sparse, so it was a matter of the best of the worst. I went for one that was written “By a New York Times Bestselling Author” with the hopes that if they wrote one good book, they could write another. Turns out, that’s not necessarily the case. I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture of the back cover, and I’ve spent an embarrassingly long time googling the quote, but the author’s foreword started out something like “Dear reader, as you know I write a lot of legal crime thrillers with plot twists, cliffhangers, and surprise endings…” Sure enough, within the first two pages, the main character tried to ford a river along the Oregon Trail, his pregnant wife died tragically when her wagon tipped over, and then he woke up in a cold sweat because… it was all a dream! Of course it was. So I used the book to smash a giant mosquito in the first page and decided that was enough of that.
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We also passed a llama! Unfortunately in my excitement to take photos with it, I neglected to notice the Trump signs all over their yard…. so my apologies. I won’t be back. No llama or exotic animal is worth that.

In general, most campsites in Washington offer hiker/biker campsites which have fewer amenities, can’t be reserved, and are relatively cheap. These are intended for people who arrive on foot or on bike, and are a way of making sure backpackers or people on bike tours always have a place to stay on their route. People in cars can at least drive to another site if the first one is full, but walking or biking can take 4+ hours to get to the next campsite, and if it’s dark and 10pm, that’s not ideal. These hiker/biker sites are our favorite way to camp, but since both campsites this weekend were new to us, we didn’t want to risk the hiker/biker sites being full, so we paid for full reservations. (technically state parks aren’t allowed to turn away hiker/biker, but we’ve heard of some park rangers who aren’t the most receptive to bikers…) It gave us some peace of mind, but since the reserved sites include power hookups, we were one of the only tents in a sea of massive campers at our first campsite at Manchester state park. It wasn’t great.
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The mosquitoes were GIANT (and biting, even though Brian was convinced they weren’t), we had an obnoxious family parked at the campsite across from us with 3 screaming children, and all we wanted to do was climb into the tent to escape the bugs and get out of that park! We made coffee down by the water the next morning and then we were packed up and gone by 9am. I didn’t even take a single photo of the campsite! The ride back to the ferry was great, we saw deer, lots of horses, a very sad looking camel, and met a very generous woman who runs an awesome little cat-centric coffee shop right on the water. She made us iced coffees with coffee ice cubes, and even offered to let us borrow her kayaks so we could camp on Blake Island one night. We’ll probably take her up on that one day when there’s no wind or rain and the water is clear and still…. maybe. We’ve never kayaked before…
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Dana, this is for you! She had a bunch of really funny comics clipped out, and this one made us crack up! I’m picturing Webster at home knocking your plant off the windowsill haha.

The ferry from Southworth to Vashon was so short, I barely had time to run into the bathroom to change into a tank top and get back out to our bikes! I probably wouldn’t have survived that first hill off the ferry if I hadn’t changed, and my only regret is that I didn’t put on shorts too. We’ve been told that Vashon is hilly…. but that is a massive understatement. The first hill felt like it went on FOREVER and I was dying. I sucked down my entire waterbottle in the first 20 minutes of climbing, figuring we had to be close to the top. We weren’t. Brian was way up ahead of me, so I reverted to my little hill chant that I fall into whenever I’m exhausted.

inhale – exhale ‘this is so hard’
inhale – exhale ‘omg I’m so hot’
inhale – exhale ‘I think im dying’
inhale – exhale ‘I need water’
inhale – exhale ‘such a big hill’
inhale – exhale ‘this sucks so hard’
inhale – exhale ‘lots of swear words’
inhale – exhale ‘my legs are gonna look so good’
inhale – exhale ‘I hope I’m getting tan’
inhale – exhale ‘I wish I had shorts’
inhale – exhale ‘those look like blackberries’
inhale – exhale ‘I want a blackberry’
inhale – exhale ‘I want some water’
inhale – exhale ‘where’s the top’
inhale – exhale ‘I’m so hot’
inhale – exhale ‘holy crap’
inhale – exhale ‘so sweaty’
…. and so on til I get to the top. It really does help.

The top wasn’t actually the top, it was just the bottom of another hill. (Vashon in a nutshell)

Eventually we rolled into the tiny little downtown strip of Vashon, and locked up to walk around the farmers market and cool off for a bit. We had a delish vegan tamale, icey horchata, and strawberry sorbet, and Brian got his knife sharpened by a cute little old guy whose oxygen was hanging off the back of his tent. Ohhhh island life. We refilled our water bottles at the grocery store, and set off for our last stretch to the campsite. It was super hilly, that’s all there is to it. It was hot and long and steep and definitive proof that 11 miles on flat ground is WAY different than 11 miles of hills. We finally turned into the little park where we were staying, and found ourselves at the top of one of the steepest gravel hills I’ve seen. The ocean was way out in front of us, and wayyyyyy far down. So down we went, very aware that every hill you go down, you have to come back up. BARF.
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That campsite was lucky it was so beautiful or I probably would’ve just laid down in a shady spot and had a meltdown. But it was gorgeous, just a few flat spots on a little bluff that dropped straight down to the beach with a wall of forest behind us. It was primitive camping, and we loved it. The view was so incredible that we kept the rainfly off the tent so we could lay in our sleeping bags and look out at the sun setting on the sound. We hung out on the beach looking for whales (none), and made our freeze dried rice and beans for dinner. This site didn’t provide any water, so we were ultra conscious about saving enough to make our dinner and coffee the next morning and still having enough to drink for the hot walk back up that godforsaken hill. There was a quick little rain shower while we were making dinner that was actually very refreshing and short lived. A beautiful full rainbow opened up right across the water from us, ending right at Mt. Rainier! It was almost too perfect.
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We had great intentions of staying up to look at the stars through our tent, but it was still very light out when we tucked in, and we were both asleep within like 2 minutes of laying down.
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Based on our route to the campsite, we knew we had at least the one giant hill to get up to the road, and then we were hopeful for mostly downhill the rest of the way back to the ferry. We were mostly correct, but we tried a different route home and ran into one massive hill that was a real killer, especially since we only had a few sips of water left til we got into town. We stopped to refill our bottles at a weird little coffee shop (again, typical island life), and then took our time getting to the ferry. The whole island was really really beautiful, even if we were focused on getting up the hills most of the time instead of looking around. There was tons of country farm land with beautiful rolling hills and tall grasses, and it smelled so fresh. This is one place where I think we’d really enjoy having a car and being able to explore more of the island without worrying about the hills. The campsite itself was so so worth it, and we’ll definitely be back (but with more water!) The views were incredible, and there have been plenty of whale sightings from this park where we stayed (!!!!). I’m adding binoculars to my list of must-haves for future trips. Also added are shower wipes (3 sweaty days was REALLLLLLY pushing it), a new inflatable pillow for Brian, and travel toothbrushes.
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It was a hotty totty weekend, and we were both really disgusting by the time we got home. Showers all around! It was super fun though, and it felt so nice and relaxing to be outside for 2 days straight. I took a bunch of videos, so eventually I’ll put those into one big video and update the post.

 

 

Yay I did it! Two posts in a row! WHOOOOOOO!

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