Mom Nature sabotaged our vacation! Now what?
August 4, 2017 1:14 AM   Subscribe

[Coastal PNW filter] Lesson learned: Never plan for 10 days of camping, hiking and mountain biking in August. Vacation starts tomorrow. Wildfires, unhealthy air quality and high temps have foiled plans for the Cascade Loop. Fleeing toward the coast and south—except Oregon's on fire too!—where to?

We thought of bailing by airplane on some last-minute cheap fare, but there really aren't any to be had. We'd hoped for an active van-based vacation, but the air quality and some sensitivity to that means low exertion is the rule. So, considering this, how should we reimagine our trip?

We're revising frequently based on weather reports. The most recent version has us in the vicinity of Lake Quinault, maybe doing a low-effort hike, then Ocean Shores area and south along the coast, Seaview, Astoria, anywhere, possibly as far as the vicinity of Lincoln City, OR. We want to move our bodies, be in nature (swimmin holes?), camp in relative peace, eat tasty food (we'll cook most of the time, but love a good cafe) and, if we're lucky, maybe meet some nice people.

We could (and may) swoop in to Portland but it's hotter there and we want to avoid I-5. Not opposed to a hotel night or two for compelling reasons, but it is summer so availability is unlikely anyway. Forest road or hippie commune camping recommendations? Favorite beach walks? We expect most campgrounds to be full anyway, but will not hesitate to ask if we're passing by something that comes highly recommended. Stealth swimming? Mellow singletrack? Best road shower, ice cream shop, breakfast patio? We will probably wend our way down and back over the next 10 days from the Olympic Peninsula. Thanks!
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could you go east towards Yellowstone? I mean it would be a trip, but do able.
Is a great time of year for there as well.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:08 AM on August 4, 2017

Do you have passports? Air quality looks a lot better on Vancouver Island. You could take the ferry from either Anacortes or Port Angeles over to Victoria and drive north from there.

One caveat: Canada will often bar people with any sort of criminal record from entering. (This includes DUIs, which is often what US citizens will complain about in this regard.) So if you've never been to Canada before and you've got a checkered past, it might not be the best option.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:08 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

With 10 days you can drive to basically anywhere in the US. Pull up Google Maps and zoom in on some green park area, and see if there's neat stuff to do in that park.

Yellowstone is a good suggestion.
posted by gregr at 6:09 AM on August 4, 2017

Personally, for the activities you mention, I'd choose Glacier over Yellowstone. Less likely to be as crowded and truly beautiful. And the air quality should be better at higher elevations. Haven't checked its fire status this month, though.
posted by peakcomm at 6:35 AM on August 4, 2017

The advisory says if you're healthy and not too old or young it's fine. The worst that'll happen in most cases should be things like a slightly irritated eyes, nose and throat. Which they say will clear up when the sky does.

We was outside all day yesterday in Portland - literally, we're camping, and then I biked across the city, the long way. For us, the tradeoff was worth it, so I thought I'd put that out there as an option in case it's available to you. I can only speak to Portland air quality.

Alternative vacation: offer last-minute live-in housesitting where you live and walk someone else's dog for 10 days.
posted by aniola at 6:48 AM on August 4, 2017

Your vacay starts tomorrow and it's for 10 days? I can't imagine this smoky nightmare will last past Sunday. They are saying it will linger a bit into next week, but yesterday was supposed to be the worst of it. I don't know your trail plan (was it backpacking or car camping?), but if I were you I'd find a comfy camping spot, or if the air really is too much for you, a local inn, wait it out until Monday am, then pick up on your hike where you had planned to be.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:14 AM on August 4, 2017

Sorry, I came back to add This link which has some great ideas. The boeing factory is all indoors and takes a whole day, and it's incredible. I know it sounds boring, but it is great. And I've heard great things about how fun Leavenworth is.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2017

Thanks so far! Travels are based from our 35-year-old van, which is far more fun to drive when we avoid interstates. We have a 4-hour, 200-mile policy! (The goal is to spend more time out of the van than in it). No interest in driving east through more smoke and heat. Anywhere in WA and OR is on the table. I should have mentioned that passport renewals are pending, so Vancouver Island is out for now! We are watching the weather and smoke maps and still hoping to get in some real heart-pumping fun.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 8:23 AM on August 4, 2017

Two spots I've been recently:

Last month I camped at the Forest Service's Klahanie Campground northeast of Forks with no advance reservation on a Saturday. It was surprisingly quiet and cool!

Skokomish Park on Lake Cushman, near Hoodsport, is a privately-run campground with fun lake swimming/kayaks/paddleboards (including rentals), and a network of trails. I'm sure if you plan ahead you can find more trails and quieter lake entrances nearby--I just forgot to look in advance and then had no phone service. But loved the campground and swimming in the lake. You can check and see if they still have availability, and there are lots of non-I-5 routes to get there.
posted by pril at 8:38 AM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you wind up going as far south as Lincoln City, you can hit one of my favorite Oregon hikes, Drift Creek Falls. A few miles inland from Lincoln City in the coastal range, you hike about a mile and a half down forested ravines, then all of a sudden it opens up and you're at a suspension bridge over a canyon next to a waterfall. You can then go down to the base of the falls for some additional cooling off.
posted by bassooner at 9:26 AM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, and something on the northern coast I've wanted to try but not yet got around to doing is the Oregon Coast railriders. They took an inactive section of railroad tracks from Bay City to Tillamook and installed some four-wheeled pedal-powered cars.
posted by bassooner at 9:29 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Collins Campground on the Duckabush near Hood Canal is lovely. It's a US Forest Service campground so it's first come/first served and you shouldn't have trouble finding a spot if you show up in the afternoon. Hama Hama Oyster Co. down 101 a little way is a great spot for lunch.
posted by otio at 9:40 AM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm in Newport, OR right now and can vouch for the fact that it's cool (actually it's pretty overcast at the moment!) and smells nice, not smoky. We spent much of yesterday at Agate Beach, and also drove up Highway 101 to a little past Depoe Bay; the summer traffic was steady but not terrible, the views are spectacular, and a drive down 101 is pretty gorgeous all down the Oregon coast. Even if you only spend a few days to a week doing that and then headed back for some of your original plan once the weather cleared up, I think it could be a good way to spend some time.

(and bassooner, I hadn't heard of those railriders before - so excited to try them!)
posted by DingoMutt at 9:51 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

FYI I just got back from a trip along the 101 from Astoria to Port Townsend and found very little smoke and heat. The ocean breezes kept the air fresh and cool(ish). Go inland 10 miles and a different story. The stretch of 101 from Aberdeen to Olympia WA was HOT!
posted by Zedcaster at 10:56 AM on August 4, 2017

Air quality looks a lot better on Vancouver Island.

I'm looking at Vancouver Island right now. Courtenay-Comox area. Air quality is about as bad as I've ever seen it.
posted by philip-random at 1:10 PM on August 4, 2017

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