Our #Vanlife experiment led us to Cape Lookout State Park in a rented VW EuroVan from Road Trip Oregon. From there we explored the other capes in this northern section of the coast: Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda.
It was a fantastic two-day trip. The highlight was a five-mile hike to the tip of Cape Lookout, which juts out into the Pacific, offering great views for miles.
When we weren’t exploring the capes, we shucked fresh oysters from Netarts Bay, hiked along mostly empty beaches and had roaring fires at night. April proved to be a great time to visit.
It was springtime 1792 when Whidbey, a member of the Vancouver Expedition, sailed around the largest island in Puget Sound, rocketing through the currents of Deception Pass. Capt. George Vancouver was ecstatic, naming the island after his intrepid crewman.
Just like old Joe, you should take your own spin around Whidbey Island.
Explore these Whidbey Island parks
Whidbey Island is home to several excellent parks, each offering fine hiking opportunities. Deception Pass State Park at the north end of the island is a must-visit location to see the wild currents and historic bridge arching 180 feet above the water.
Deception Pass sprawls across more than 4,000 acres and offers camping, hiking and seasonal kayak rentals. This is Washington’s most visited state park for a reason: Aside from the recreation opportunities, the beaches offer great views of the pass and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the west.
Two other fantastic state parks are located just south. Fort Casey and Fort Ebey state parks were originally constructed as coastal defense locations on the west coast of the island. Their gun emplacements are still there, an invitation to explore on the bluffs overlooking Admiralty Inlet.
But it’s not all about the armaments. Each park offers camping and excellent hiking opportunities along their headlands and beaches.
One of the best day hikes in Washington state starts at the Prairie Overlook Trailhead in
Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve just west of Coupeville, traveling onto a bluff high above the water. At six miles roundtrip, it offers a lesson in history about the Ebey family, the first white settlers on the island, stunning views of Admiralty Inlet and the opportunity to walk the wildest beaches on Whidbey Island.
Tourism is centered in Coupeville and Langley, both cute-as-a-button historic towns that have restaurants and shopping options for visitors. Coupeville, on Penn Cove, is the mussel capital of Washington state — try them at Toby’s Tavern or the Front Street Grill.
Langley on the southern end of the island is just an hour away from Seattle (including the ferry ride), but it feels much farther, with picturesque waterfront shops and restaurants and a small marina. An excellent seafood restaurant, Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar, is a handsome stop for lunch or dinner.
Whidbey Island is just a short drive and ferry ride (Mukilteo to Clinton) from Seattle, making it equally appealing as a day trip or overnight destination. A lively arts scene, a welcoming hippie vibe and two attractive tourist towns are worthy of your attention.
But the best part of the island is its beauty, best explored from a number of excellent parks.
She says: My family is not going to be happy that I’m sharing our secret camping spot, but it’s so special I can’t keep it to myself.
This beauty is a 1958 Aloha travel trailer that was owned for years by my grandparents, Kate and Guy. They spent a couple summers living in it while they built their dream retirement home near the Icicle River in Leavenworth, Washington, also known as The Bavarian Village.
Decades later, my grandfather sold it to a river guide, and the grandkids were so bummed. My brother, Chris, knew the guide and let him know that if he ever wanted to sell it back to us… well, we own this vintage rig now, and each summer, Chris pulls it up to the super secret spot on the Icicle for a few days of bliss. Steaks on the fire, red wine, the rush of the river and the wind in the trees, hikes up into the mountains. It’s like a soothing balm in this stressful world. A much-needed break from reality.
Time to Start Planning
There’s still snow on the ground, but it’s not too soon to start making plans for that warm weather camping trip, is it? Where’s your favorite place to pitch a tent or park your camper van? The first 10 to reply will unlock the code for the secret camping spot in Leavenworth. Here’s the view. Pretty cool, right?
More Leavenworth Recs
If you’re planning on exploring this region during the winter and are looking for awesome places to stay, here are a few of my faves:
Alpen Rose Inn is super cozy and features one of the best home-style breakfasts I’ve enjoyed at such an affordable accommodation. The cheesy hash brown casserole, pictured below, is hearty enough to get you through a trek up to the gorgeous Colchuck Lake. The talented culinary team also makes excellent desserts like New York-style cheesecake, served nightly. YAAAAS!
Icicle Village Resort is huge, with roomy condos in addition to the comfy suites. There’s lots to do on site, including a spa for that all-important pamper time. It’s also an easy 15-minute walk to downtown.
Sleeping Lady is a splurge, but so worth it. The grounds at this model of environmental sustainability feels like a walk in the woods, but there are plenty of creature comforts, too. Like the creative menu at the two restaurants, filled with produce grown in the resort’s expansive garden, where guests are welcome to wander.
Some ski resorts just feel like home. For the SkiZer, Schweitzer Mountain is one of those places.
Back in another lifetime, SkiZer put in hundreds of days on the slopes of this North Idaho resort. Even after moving away, SkiZer still pined for Schweitzer’s big drops, wide-open bowls and empty slopes.
So it felt very familiar when the SkiZer pulled into the parking lot of Schweitzer. Did it match all the expectations? Yes, and more.
Which got SkiZer thinking: Is Schweitzer the best resort in the Pacific Northwest?
Maybe. If you call the Pacific Northwest Idaho, Washington and Oregon, Schweitzer is certainly in the top two.
The biggest, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor, doesn’t have nearly as good terrain as Schweitzer. Washington’s Crystal Mountain, does have better terrain, but can’t match Schweitzer’s amenities. And in snow quality, Schweitzer beats them both.
SkiZer loves Crystal Mountain on a powder day. But the crowds can be a buzz-kill, and Schweitzer’s remains pretty quiet most of the year.
All good reasons to vote for Schweitzer as the best in the Northwest.
That was the case recently when SkiZer climbed the old ski area we used to call Hyak. It’s now part of the Summit at Snoqualmie complex about an hour’s drive from Seattle on I-90, known today as Summit East. Often during weekdays, it remains closed, so it’s a perfect quick fix for a workout climb.
The skiing was just OK. But the trudge up the hill sparked some memories from SkiZer’s childhood when he spent many a night doing some cheap skiing on the same slopes.
Back in SkiZer’s long-ago childhood, Hyak had some bargain prices. Seattle’s old Ernst Hardware stores had Hyak coupons for $1.50, and if you could find a semi-responsible cousin to drive you, it was an amazingly fun night.
There were some memorable times. During one stormy night, lightning hit the chairlift. Nobody seemed too worried — the chairlift kept spinning and the seventh-grade SkiZer happily rode up into the tempest along with everyone else. It was a powder night, afterall.
Here’s to appreciating the old days at ski areas like Hyak, when skiing was for the masses — not just the rich.
Crater Lake is one of those places that makes your jaw drop at any time of year. But visiting in winter makes it even more special to the SkiZer.
The hordes of camera-totin’ tourists are long gone, and in their place, a gorgeous coat of snow makes this spectacular place even more beautiful. Heavy snow closes the Rim Road and it becomes a trail for Nordic skiers and snowshoers.
In other words this wild place just gets wilder, and you know how much SkiZer likes it when that happens.
SkiZer spent the day skiing eight miles along the Rim Road, taking in the ever-present views of the lake. It was warm — temps were in the upper 40s — and the skiing was fantastic.