We took advantage of the long weekend to load up our bikes and head out to Fay Bainbridge Park. It was our first time camping with both kids, and the first time our tent had seen the world beyond our backyard.
Friday afternoon, Martin and I made a trip to Fred Meyer to gather food and camping supplies. Saturday morning, Shawn took the kids to soccer by bus while I got packed. We headed out from our place around 12:30 pm.
Seattle to Bainbridge
From the Seattle Ferry Terminal, where we caught a ferry boat to Bainbridge Island. We’d been on the ferry as walk-on passengers, but we’d never seen the lower level, where the cars and bicycles live. The 35 minute ride gave us just enough time to load up on energy bars, refill our water bottles, and give everyone a chance to use the boat potty, which amused the two-year-old to no end.
Once on Bainbridge, we had two route options. The first involved a state highway, but was (relatively) flat. The second was on quiet roads and stayed closer to the coast, but looked like it had some fairly serious hills. I don’t normally like big roads, but my load was big enough that I was worried I wouldn’t make it up the hills. It turns out that Bainbridge is pretty bike-friendly. There are lots of “share the road” signs, and the wide shoulder of WA-305 is used by lots of bikes. There were even dedicated bike lanes at major intersections, so it didn’t feel like we were in a place we didn’t belong. We cruised along, enjoying the sun and the occasional downhills, until we were finally able to turn off onto quieter roads. I made the mistake of getting overly confident, and about half a mile from the park we finally hit a hill that I couldn’t handle. Martin had to get out and help push from behind while I walked our loaded-down bike up the hill.
We cruised into the park about 3.5 hours after we left home, found the walk-in sites, and set about putting our site together. We’d been torn between staying for one or two nights on this first adventure, but decided to commit to two nights after Shawn make the ~5 mile round-trip excursion to a convenience store to get cash ($30) to pay for the site at the pay box.
A great thing about our massive bike is that we were basically able to get away with the bike camping equivalent of loading down an SUV. We brought our tent, sleeping bags for everyone, Martin’s camping chair, a propane grill, food for two days, fresh coffee, clothes for all of us, and a couple of toys (frisbee, ball) to boot. We’re working on paring down our packing list for our next time out, but it was nice bring everything we thought we might need.
Staying two nights gave the kids a full day to run around, explore, and play. James loved the playground, and Martin had a lot of fun building a “spaceship” out of driftwood on the beach and playing an epic, beach-long game of “don’t touch the ground.” They explored the tide pools, gathered kindling, and chased the frisbee. And the second night, all of the other walk-in campers left and we got the area to ourselves.
One advantage to bringing the grill in our massive collection of stuff was that we didn’t have to worry about being able to start a fire on this trip — we figured we had enough things we were doing for the first time for one weekend! When the sun decided not to come out for most of the day on Sunday, though, we broke down and bought a bundle of wood. James and I set to work while Shawn and Martin played on the beach, and soon we had a fire to keep us warm (and to heat up our second pot of coffee for the day!) while we waited for the afternoon sun to arrive.
All in all, we weren’t too far from home (Martin is pointing the way below!) but Bainbridge felt like another world. Martin thought it was so cool that we were “in the woods!” We saw a deer wander into the park, and caught a glimpse of what we think was an otter running off the beach into the bushes with a fish in its mouth. We were also awakened by a crowing rooster each morning, and James was intrigued by the “hidden choochoo” beyond the bushes, which we later discovered was in the yard of a neighboring house.
Monday we planned to start home after breakfast. As it turned out, the only rain of our trip appeared out of nowhere as we were finishing our food, so we hid out in the tent for a bit until it died down. James laughed his head off and declared that it was “awesome!” that the rain was falling on the tent but we were staying dry. We ended up heading out around 11:30, just as the sky was turning blue again. The ride back still had a lot of hills, but was decidedly more down-hill than up. We just missed a ferry, and took the long, winding, flat route back along trails on the Seattle side. We made a quick pit stop to fill one more bag with groceries so that we would have dinner when we got home, and the return trip took us closer to 4 hours. Upon arriving home, we all unpacked and enjoyed a hot shower/bath, then started thinking about our next adventure!
Packing: No extra clothes for kids; they can wear swim suits if it’s warm enough for shorts. Sweats are better than footed pajamas, since they work for sleeping and early morning playground-ing.
Food: What we brought (tofu scramble and toast for breakfast; bean burritos for dinner on Friday; parboiled brown rice and packets of Indian curries for dinner on Saturday; chocolate peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch; pouches of babyfood fruit/veggie mixes for snacks for the kids) all worked out well, but Martin thought that instant oatmeal packs would have been a nice breakfast treat.
Bike: My front rack will, in fact, make the bike feel squirrelly if it is too heavy and not bungeed down tightly enough, so I need to be careful on the trip out when we’re loaded down with food on top of everything else.
Campground: The walk-in sites are the “upper” campground at Fay Bainbridge. We could have saved ourselves a trip back up hill pushing our giant bike.
Bainbridge Routing: On the way there, we took the route on 305, which was flat, and which had a walking bridge over a ravine at the scariest part of the road. On the way back, though, google routed us through town on much quieter roads for the southern-most part of the trip, and I’d be inclined to try that on the way north as well. The nasty hill on Lafayette Ave. would be really nice to avoid going up, but I’m not sure there’s a better option.