Adventures Close to Home

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Last week I threw my tent and 3 sleeping bags into the trunk of our car and headed to Puget Sound for an impromptu camping trip. “Impromptu” and “camping” are words that really shouldn’t go together, unless you’re a seasoned camper who doesn’t have to think twice about what to pack on a camping trip. I am not a seasoned camper. But I AM always up for an adventure, and jumping into the unknown only mildly prepared adds excitement to the short-haul family travel we’ve been doing recently.

Living in Vancouver, BC, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to weekend trips. Squamish, Whistler, Victoria and the Gulf Islands, the Okanagan...our family is familiar with much of the incredible scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities that lie to the north, east and west of us. But we rarely head south; south is the Canada/U.S. border with its potential long waits and occasionally menacing border guards. This time, on the recommendation of a friend, I had decided to chance the border and enjoy a mini-break on unfamiliar turf.

Normally heading into Washington State means a trip down the I5 en route to Bellingham for cross-border shopping, or Seattle for cheap flights. But before last week I’d never left the highly-trafficked north/south route. This time when our car reached Burlington we hopped off the Interstate and headed west towards Deception Pass and Whidbey Island. I wasn't in any rush to set up camp, so we could stop as often as we pleased; this ended up meaning five stops between home and Fort Ebey, just under 200 km away. Eating fresh local berries from one of the u-pick farms on Route 20 was every bit as exciting for the kids as walking across the historic bridge at Deception Pass, although everyone's highlight was the giant scoops of ice cream we devoured on the lawn behind Kapaw's Iskreme in Coupeville.

A few things I learned on this short camping road trip:

• This is something we all know, but sometimes fail to put into practice, especially in summer: pack raingear even if you don’t expect it to rain. Wandering around Port Townsend on Day Two would have been far more pleasant with warmer, dryer clothing!

If you’re new at camping, keep it simple. The kids were excited to eat hotdogs and marshmallows cooked over the fire for dinner, and I warded off scurvy by stuffing them with fresh strawberries and carrots during the day.

Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbours for help! I had enough foresight to pick up firewood for a campfire, but not so much that I remembered to bring matches to light it. Thankfully my more seasoned campsite neighbours not only lent me matches and kindling, but helped me to get my fire going.

The unfamiliar can be just as exciting when it’s 200km from your home as when it’s 2000km away. We discovered a dozen enchanting spots that I can’t wait to return to with my husband. The sandy Bluff Trail just 30 seconds from our campsite was the highlight; before going to bed each night, the kids and I watched the setting sun bathe the grasses and water in a golden glow. We could see forever: the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Range from Mount Rainier to Mount Baker, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the entrance to Puget Sound.
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