December 31, 2021
I intended to write this post by the end of September, then the end of October, and then the end of November. Well… here we are now at the very end of the year and I am finally sitting down to record the last of our summer travels and a bit about what (or rather what is not) next for us.
We left off with a fabulous week-long adventure exploring Mt. Rainier. Smoke from nearby wildfires started rolling in the last day of our stay and with no desire to stick around to see if it got worse, we made a beeline back toward the coast. Our first stop was Millersylvania State Park just outside Olympia, WA. Overall this campground was nice but not great. We’ve certainly been to better WA state parks. The biggest downside is that most of the sites are very close together and the main RV sites are situated in an undesirable parking lot style layout.
The setting of the campground is really nice though with lots of very tall trees, a scenic lake, and a few walking/hiking trails. Our site was one of the bigger ones situated in an outer loop with a large front yard.
What we liked best about this campground was its proximity to Olympia. Capital cities are always fun to visit and this was a new one for us. Despite the heat (it was in the high 90s for much of the week) we took ourselves on a walking tour of the city one afternoon starting at the capitol and winding down through the city to the waterfront. Because of Covid, we limited our inside time to just a quick stop for gelato, but from what we saw it looked like a really lively small city with lots of restaurants and cool shops. We’ll have to come back someday.
In addition to hanging out at the campground and walking around the city, we also enjoyed a visit to Matchless Brewing only a few minutes from the campground and an afternoon of blueberry picking at two different farms.
From Olympia, we traveled northwest to Port Townsend where we stayed at Fort Worden State Park for a little over a week. We’ve been to Port Townsend a few times and it continues to be the same small waterside town oozing with history, charm, and a bit of quirkiness.
For the first two nights of our stay, we lucked out with one of the coveted beachside sites.
For the rest of our stay, we moved to the forest loop where we had a site tucked back in the trees. With no neighbors on either side for most of the week, it was a great spot.
Activities in Port Townsend included daily walks around town or the campground. Fort Worden is a former military base that was actively used by the US army until 1953. Now owned by the park service, the base is a fascinating mix of crumbling relics from the past alongside restored buildings that are still in use today. You could spend hours wandering around looking at the old buildings and various structures.
We also took advantage of the boat launch at the state park to put our kayaks in the water one day. From the park, we paddled around the point, past town, and found a small public beach area to land and hang out for a bit.
Fort Worden was our last reservation of the summer. After that, we had a few ideas for where to go next, but no concrete plans. Which is why when friends invited us to join them at their family home on San Juan Island, we quickly said yes! Hasty plans were made to spend the next week at an RV Park on Whidbey Island and then leave the Airstream in Anacortes while we took the ferry to San Juan.
To get to Whidbey we had to take the ferry from Port Townsend to Fort Casey. It’s a short ferry ride but with the truck and Airstream, we had to shell out around $80 to make the crossing. We’ve actually been on this ferry before going in the opposite direction. Sadly, this time, it was so foggy you couldn’t see a thing for the entire ride.
We lucked out with a last-minute reservation at Whidbey Island RV Park. Despite the normal downsides that most private parks possess – small sites, no privacy, direct view of the neighbor’s sewer hose from your picnic table – we really liked this park. It was clean, well-maintained, good laundry room, working utilities, and had a very nice manager. Pretty much all the things we look for in a private RV park. While we prefer to park in a more nature-like setting, I have to say that after a summer of state parks filled with screaming kids and off-leash barking dogs, the respite of a quiet RV park was a welcome change.
Perhaps the best part of Whidbey Island RV Park is that it’s located directly across the street from Deception Pass SP. From the RV park, we were able to enjoy the trails and beach access at the state park by simply walking across the road.
We were also close to the public boat launch at Cornet Bay. Early one afternoon we put the kayaks in and did a short kayak around the moored boats and along the shore. It was windy and the current in the section of water is very strong so we stuck close to shore. No one wants to get swept out to sea!
From Whidbey, it was only a 20-minute drive to the Cap Sante Marina where we planned to leave the Airstream for the week. At the time of our stay, Cap Sante offered dry RV parking in their lot for $22 a night. It was first-come-first-serve with a 14-day max. There were no hook-ups but you could use the nearby marina bathroom and laundry room. While there, we learned that the marina is planning to turn the lot into a full-blown RV park with utility hook-ups and a bathhouse separate from the marina. Kind of a shame. I really liked the informal nature of the RV lot, not to mention the cheap price. Not everyone wants or needs hook-ups, but that seems to be the direction things are going for RVing in general.
We arrived on a Thursday to find plenty of open spots. After securing everything the best we could (parking the truck directly in front of the Airstream door is always a good way to deter anyone trying to break in – from that side at least), we took an Uber across town to the ferry and started our journey to San Juan.
San Juan Island is the second-largest and most populous of the 172 islands that make up an archipelago located between the coast of Washington and Vancouver Island, Canada. The nearly two-hour-long ferry trip took us past islands dotted with tree-covered rolling hills and tiny marinas. The boat stopped once on the way so we could watch a pod of orcas playing in the waves. Not bad for a $4 ferry ticket.
We arrived in Friday Harbor where our friend Shannon was waiting to drive us across the island to Roche Harbor. Half an hour later, we pulled into the tree-lined drive where her family home is perched on a tip of land jutting out over the water.
The week there was marvelous. We ate, drank, laughed, walked around the island, boated to a shorefront seafood restaurant, peered into tide pools, gaped at the luxury boats in the harbor, visited the local “haunted” mausoleum, picked and ate too many blackberries, and just generally enjoyed island life with good friends.
We also loved our guest room with a king-size bed and fancy shower boasting a window overlooking the water below. A full kitchen with a giant fridge and dishwasher added to our delight as we relished in the opportunity to live like “sticks n’ bricks” people, if only for a short time.
During our week on San Juan, we made plans for September. A few more days at the marina would be followed by a long drive to an RV park on the Columbia River. Then we would join our friends in Bend, OR for Labor Day weekend while parked in their driveway. From there, we would make a repeat visit to the Lava Lakes National Forest Campground outside of Bend. Two weeks of lake living would be followed by a week and a half at an RV park in town where we would get the Airstream ready to store for the winter. At the beginning of October, we would fly back east and visit family for a month, then return to Bend where we planned to move into an apartment above our friend’s garage for the winter.
Phew…that’s a lot of planning. The October trip and the apartment rental had been planned for a long time, but the rest was all a worked our last-minute. As tends to happen, things didn’t quite go as anticipated.
We made it back to the marina in Anacortes where the Airstream was waiting just as we had left it. Since it was a Thursday and we couldn’t get a site anywhere that weekend, we stuck around until Sunday. It really is a great location. We walked around town a few times, and then drove over to a trail system where we hiked for miles in the forest and alongside a lake. Of course, the marina itself was enjoyable and we spent a few hours one evening walking up and down all the docks.
Come Sunday, we made the long traffic-filled drive down to the Columbia Riverfront RV Park in Woodland, WA (not to be confused with the Columbia River RV Park just outside Portland). This was another really nice private RV park with direct views of the Columbia River from about half the sites. Our site was on the side of the park, and while it wasn’t considered a “waterfront” site, we did have a small view of the river from our front window. Because the sites here are extremely close together I wouldn’t stay longer than a week at a time, but for a short visit, it was a great choice.
We arrived in Bend at the same time as the wildfire smoke. It was bad. The air quality app on my phone was in the purple (don’t go outside or you might die) range for days. Our Airstream is very drafty. Air comes in from the windows, the door, the vents, and behind the fridge, making it a really sucky place to be when the outside is filled with wildfire smoke. Fortunately, we were able to spend time inside our friend’s house where they have central AC and an air filter. Such luxuries do not exist in our 23-year-old aluminum tube.
The air got better in town and by the time we were scheduled to move out to Lava Lake, it was looking pretty good. It’s only a 45-minute drive from Bend to Lava Lake. About 20 minutes into the drive, conditions deteriorated rapidly. As we climbed up in elevation on the Cascade Lakes Highway the smoke engulfed us until we were driving through what looked like the center of a campfire. At the campground, there were only two RVs and a camp host. We pulled into our spot and looked at each other knowing that this wasn’t going to work. I immediately called Shannon and asked if we could come back to their driveway.
An hour later we were back in town parked in the driveway again. Two days later we moved into their apartment. A few days after that we put the Airstream in storage for the winter.
Our RVing days were done. For now, for good? We don’t know. As of right now, we don’t plan to sell the Airstream anytime soon. But that could change. We also don’t plan on traveling full-time next summer. That won’t change as we are already on our way to committing to renting a full-size house starting this spring for a year. We do hope to take some trips with the Airstream this summer, maybe even a 2-4 week trip. But we need a break from full-time RVing, especially during the increasingly busy summer season.
When we started this journey back in June of 2012 we had no plans other than to explore the country. We’ve accomplished that and so much more. We still have new places we want to go and so many places we want to return to, but there’s no rush. For now, we need some stability and more space. We need time away from crowded campgrounds and the constant need to secure a reservation/find a suitable boondocking spot.
I don’t plan to write any more posts here for the time being. If we take a trip or two next summer, I might share a quick recap along with some photos because we enjoy having a record of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. But for now, this is it. We’re wrapping it up.
Thanks to all of you who have read, followed along, commented, emailed, and inspired us over the years. What an amazing journey it has been.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!