Bike camping Team Mama Bear: Lopez Island, WA
Every since we moved to Seattle I have always wanted to go to the San Juan Islands and camp. My husband has a classmate from Denmark who married an American and lives in Seattle. His family has a place on one of the island we can actually go to. I beg to ask but nothing ever happens. So Mama Bears to the rescue!
This year the Mama Bears set out to take a bike camping trip to Lopez Island. The planning required that we get there differently as their is no real way to transport all our cargo bikes at the same time unless we bike all the way and ferry hop.
With little kids that is really hard and a long so here is what was planned
-Drive a car loaded with camping gear, bikes and kids and park at Anacortes ferry dock and bike on to the ferry.
-Take the Victoria Clipper, the one going to Friday Harbor, take the WA State ferry to Lopez
-Take the Victoria Clipper one day ahead of everyone, I'll get to that, camp on San Juan Island and then meet everyone the next day at Lopez.
-One of the Mama Bears is biking home with 2 little kids and another Mama Bear is on the journey for support. I can't wait to hear how things are going.
Alternative reality plans
-Take the Victoria Clipper, yes the one to Victoria, bike up to Sidney and take the WA State Ferry to Friday Harbor.
-Somehow magically get to Port Angeles, take the ferry across to Victoria, bike to Sidney and then take a WA State Ferry to Friday Harbor.
-Again, magically start at Port Angeles, ferry across to Coupleville, camp, bike up to Anacortes to cat the WA State Ferry.
As you can see, I thought about this a lot. Our family did the easy way. We biked down to the pier and took the clipper to Friday Harbor. We like boat and train journeys but this was long and hard. I am seriously considering the last option next time but I don't know what the ferry situation looks like at either Port Angeles or Coupleville so I will need to try this out ahead of time. Also, biking on Whidby Island doesn't seem fantastic.
Here's our journey:
|Cue the anxiety! A crane!|
Got up at the most insane time to make sure we arrive at the Clipper dock because they wanted to load my bike. Toddler was not impressed I was getting him up in a bike but he was pleased when I put the down blanket over him after strapping in.
|There is my bike on the Clipper all cozy.|
We arrive. Due to placement of bike I was required to take all the camping gear off the bike and I stuffed them all into IKEA bags. DO THIS! Get those bags because they will save your life one day.
|There is the teen's bike. Not a lot of room up there.|
After everything was neatly packed the staff loaded my bags and then took the bike. It happened fast and the picture was so blurry because the toddler wanted to bolt away from me so I was holding a phone and grabbing a kid.
The ferry ride was nice. It was kinda of like being on the water taxi for 3 hours. The San Juan Clipper has a snack bar with lots of pretzels which my toddler insisted we buy him. Mr. Peyos, yes he joined us partially for this, drank his many cups of coffee refills. He was so wired by the time we go to San Juan Islands.
|We spent 3 hours looking out the window.|
Next, the next cement ramp and to the WA State Ferry. Anny happened to be there with her kids and we got to get on the ferry with our friends. My toddler decided it was nap time so he passed out as soon as he told his father to, "go bye bye". That was Mr. Peyos's cue to scram.
I am going to now break this up into categories so you can skip or read what you want.
|Beautiful view and abundant kosher pastries on the WA State Ferry|
On all our trips we have been required to bring our own cooking gear and food. Our biggest mistake was thinking we could bike to a grocery store on Lopez Island, not anticipating mechanical bike failure. Friday Harbor has a normal grocery store with normal prices so we should have stopped first to pick up the remaining items we needed, BIG MISTAKE. When we biked to Manchester I had zero expectation of finding food so I packed like we were going into the wilderness. I should have done the same. The Melech Shuk, I mean King Market had lots of veggies and items that surprised us like, kosher hummus. I think what bothers me most about travel guides is that this component is missing and it's always full of food eateries we will not go to. Even getting a cup of coffee ends up being an ordeal. So, we had our food but the toddler ate so many food items it left us slightly hungry. Eventually we caught up to food at the store on the way home. The WA State ferry has the food kiosk with Schwartz's Brother pastries, but I never counted on that being available. My toddler devoured the fruit that another Mama Bear brought for us and then left us with not much the next day, whee.
|WA State Ferry: Nobody was going to Lopez Island, except us.|
Cargo Bikes On Boats:
The loading of the bike with a crane caught me off guard. This trip was planed for a month. I had talked in person with the Clipper staff and emailed with them as well. Bikes and luggage are stored in a teeny tiny area on the 2nd deck. Their is no ramp or other place to put these items. So, plan ahead. You will need to remove all items because it's going on a crane and they don't want things to fall into the water or on the staff people's heads. Okay. IKEA bags now have zippers and you can stuff so much in them. In one I managed to put 2 sleeping bags, 2 camp chairs, 3 person tent and 2 sleeping mats. In the other ones I put our panniers and then our misc items.
You are allowed 2 check in bags per person. We were well under the limit due to our super blue bags to put our gear in.
WA State Ferries didn't charge us for inter-island travel. Ferry staff are so varied on what they will charge you when they see a huge bike so just be prepared to maybe pay stowage. It's weird and not clear.
Coming off the ferry you will be faced with a really nice hill on Lopez Island GEAR down before getting on the ferry so you can climb. You can also just walk your bike up the hill a bit toward the port-a-potties and starting is not too bad from there.
Odlin State Park:
The park is basically a fart away from the ferry. I mean, it's nothing. You blink and suddenly you're there. I would say it's less than 2 miles. You could walk.
Bathrooms: This is important. The potty is an outhouse pit toilet. Okay, when I first heard this I thought we would have to squat over some hole in the ground. The scents of the toilets vary on how easy they are to find. Luckily, our camp site was far away from the beach and other people to be used to acquire aroma. The most fragrant one was near the day use. I tested the smell for you. Overall, they are clean. Park staff is constantly cleaning. It is probably the nicest outhouse I have ever seen in my life. Inside you get a toilet over well, you know. Pretty good toilet paper, not scratchy stuff or little napkin TP. A little hand sanitizer dispenser, good! Your kid could fall in so bring them some other thing to go on top of that toilet and go with them because it can be a scary experience. Save yourself gagging factor and DON'T LOOK IN THE TOLIET. Just do your business.
|Pedal kids had this area to explore.|
I learn so much from the Mama Bears and how to camp. Beth made the reservations and did the most brillant thing. We had one site for all the tents and then a secondary site for the campfire and food prep. With babies and toddlers running around this was the best thing ever!! At night pedal families could sit by the campfire and still be within range to hear children, like it or not, LOL. Our site even had a fence barrier which meant little kids were free to roam and stay in one secure space. Other campsites had views of the beach hanging off a cliff but we didn't stay there. Kids and camping and other kids is exciting and dangerous. I call no sleeping dangerous! Other antics included the communal food. Once my toddler saw the 3 six packs of beer he proceeded to hide them in our tent. He knows, I like beer. I love his face but we did give them back. Kids! Also, do yourself a favor and go during the week. I know, it's hard but so much nicer than weekend camping.
|Table with water bins was a convenient play area|
Water: The camp had faucets a small table, washing bins and dish soap. You were suppose to wash your sandy feet away from the drain in order to not clog it. The bins were used to wash your dishes and then throw the water into some plant. For us we used our collapsible bin to wash dishes but the bins worked well for other things too!
The beach was beautiful. Silky sandy beaches with fresh seaweed. The beach was my toddlers dream. We spent a lot of time hanging out. Bring a hat. You don't have a lot of places to stand or sit in the shade.
A lot of books are missing the information about wildlife. I never looked it up beforehand but we saw the following: eagles, dragonflies and one morning when I went to the potty I saw deer. I'm sure the park had other wildlife but I didn't see it. So, if you are asking if their are bears or wild boars I didn't see them. I guess rabbits hang out on Lopez.
|Teen thoughts, "We came all this way for your spoke to break?"|
It's so beautiful, biking is easy and drivers wave at you. It's something called the Lopez wave. We did have one guy frantically waved at us. Front loading cargo bikes are a rare sight so we looked interesting. People in cars stopped to talk to us and give very thoughtful directions to places we wanted to go.
|Of course the only way to keep it from dangling was the ziptie it.|
BUT....of course I had a bike mechanical failure I wasn't able to fix myself. My spoke broke and after frantically texting my bike doctor, Alex at Electric Lady, I figured we bike back to the campsite and not cause further damage because we had to get home. I heard the clinking noise a week earlier but I didn't realize it was the spoke so, my bad. This was the big bummer because I couldn't leave the toddler with the teen and go shopping but other Mama Bears helped me out and brought me fruit.
I suppose I could have finished our ride into Lopez Village but it was a risky move to see if the bike shop would want to fix the spoke with the assit on the back. It's a big deal to wrestle that wheel off. At least the park had a beautiful beach so that's where we spent our time.
|Sticks, rocks, dead crabs, sand. That's all you need.|
We also happened to be there as indigenous canoes were rowed in for a pretty epic potlach. I knew about the canoes but didn't realize it was going to be a full blown potlach. That night we all had the best sleep ever because the banging drums and singing made the required noise we needed to sleep. Quiet doesn't work when your used to the sounds of Rainier Ave.
Note to self:
Next time extend this out into a longer trip and make sure your bike isn't making clanging noises okay. You could probably do this on a smaller bike and just tow a trailer just in case of mechanical issues.
Goodbye!! We had a great time.
Both the kids got sick on the way back. It was unexpected but the ride was choppy. The staff can give you motion sickness drugs on the ferry but it really works best if you take them ahead of time. The best place to sit is on the lower deck near the snack bar.
On another note, sitting here gives you a power outlet!! While walking the toddler around I saw some sick people on the upper deck.
|Look at that horizon!|
Dramatic Loading and Unloading of Bike
Loading the Metrofiets at Friday Harbor on to the San Juan Clipper
Unloading of the bike back in Seattle.
Mr. Peyos met us getting off the ferry and took the teen and toddler home. I actually managed to win the race home loaded with all the gear and a broken spoke.
Lopez Island is not easy to get to but so worth it. So spread out the time you spend and enjoy it! Being there with bike friends even makes the adventure even more epic! We laughed, cried, yelled at our kids, so much fun! The best part, we did it together. <insert cheese factor>