Seattle to Deception Pass
A long Solstice Swift Campout Journey
I believe in the harmonious relationship of boats and bikes as the highest-tier of experiential forms of transportation. Throw in a train trip, and you have a recipe for a near-perfect adventure. Phil and I celebrated Solstice weekend by taking advantage of the extra hours of sunlight and attempting a monster 91-mile, single-day journey allllll the way from the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle to Deception Pass State Park on the north tip of Whidbey Island. After a restful night at the park, our plan was to venture on to Anacortes, where we would hitch a ride on a friend’s boat to be dumped Alone-style on the shores of Cypress Island. After two nights on Cypress, we’d hop on the boat back to Anacortes and ride through the Skagit Valley to the Amtrak station. There we’d hop a train back to Seattle, proving once and for all that you don’t need a car to go see awesome things.
Where Seattle to Deception Pass Campground
When June 21, 2018
There 87.33 miles (check out our route on Ride with GPS)
How No reservations necessary. The park has 5 hiker/biker spots available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Firewood Available for purchase from the camp information enter at the entrance to the park.
Water Potable water available throughout the campsite.
A little backstory from Phil…
For the last couple of years a buddy and I had been loosely planning a backpack trip on Cypress Island in the San Juan Islands here in Washington. He was fortunate enough that his family had owned a cabin on the island that was part of a small community on the island at Strawberry Bay. Over the years we had gone up to visit and stayed at his family’s cabin. When his parents decided to sell the cabin before we had a chance to really explore it, we’d often toss the idea of returning for a backpacking trip. The island has a number of low-impact recreation sites that would provide the perfect basecamp to facilitate further exploration of the magical island.
So, how did we finally make this particular dream a reality after years of procrastion?
Earlier this year in April, a pub in our neighborhood, the Latona Pub, hosted an event to celebrate Earth Day. The event’s goal was to raise awareness of the environment, and for that weekend the Latona poured nothing but people-powered brews. Every keg tapped that weekend had been transported to the Latona by foot, pedals, or boats. The Swift Industries instagram story feed tipped me off to the event and it was a blast to watch the updates come in as the kegs were pedaled through the wet and foggy PNW winter weather. Knowing that I had to make it over to Latona to celebrate, I invited my friend and his girlfriend out to meet Jenn and I for a people-powered pint. While knocking back a couple of beers the dream of Cypress Island during the summer months was brought up and this year we decided to pick a weekend late in June and commit. That was the magic moment that our dream crossed the tipping point and the rest of the plan came together like a wildfire.
Jenn and I decided to extend the trip by a day and plotted a route that would take us from Seattle to Anacortes. From Anacortes we would meet up with my buddy and his girlfriend at his parents home in Anacortes. In Anacortes, my friends awesome parents would give us a lift on their boat over to Cypress Island where we would be dropped off at Pelican Beach.
Jenn was itching to learn route planning and put together a great route for us to follow. The route would take us up to Deception Pass to camp for a night before finishing the last 10 or so miles of the journey. We left our home base in Fremont and headed toward the Seattle ferry terminal to catch a boat over to Bainbridge Island.
Once we landed in Bainbridge we took our usual route as if we were heading for a quick overnight at Fay Bainbridge working our way north along the east side of the Island staying off the busy State HW 305 until we had cross the Agate Passage bridge over to the Kitsap Peninsula. Once we crossed the bridge we headed North East toward Suquamish making sure to leave busy roads and meander down side streets until we stopped at Port Gamble for a lunch break. We took some to time explore Port Gamble and grabbed some grub at Scratch Kitchen so we could enjoy the view of the Sound while we eat.
After lunch we embarked on what I was sure was going to be the most difficult leg of the trip. The difficulty ratched up immediately as we crossed the Hood Canal Floating Bridge. There isn’t much of a shoulder and State Route 104 can be pretty busy at times.
Fortunately the timing worked out that we crossed the bridge after lunch and well before rush hour on a Thursday afternoon. I think we both exhaled a sigh of relief with that major obstacle out of the way and from there Jenns awesome route planning took us over some 30 miles of now some of my favorite roads. Shine Road, which parallels SR 104 to the South, was so worth the short climb to pedal right along the water’s edge and take in some beautiful views.
From there we got back onto SR 104 for about a mile until we took a right off the highway toward the Shine Quarry which was another gem of a road. There is something seriously magical about being on gravel logging and rock quarry roads out on the Olympic Peninsula. We didn’t see a single motorist while on that road. Once the gravel road dumped us out onto Beaver Valley Road we made our way toward the two major climbs of our day. Larson Lake Road took us up and over our first climb and right onto the next ascent up and over Eaglemount Road. Feeling pretty worn out but confident after tackling the hardest section of the ride we turned onto State Route 20 and started what ended up being the most nerve-racking descent due to heavy traffic, some large trucks, and virtually no shoulder. As we headed into Port Townsend we were able to get off SR 20 and take side roads over to the Larry Scott Memorial Trail which took us right along the water and through the Port Townsend Boat Haven which was absolutely stunning.
We saw a ferry out making its way to the ferry terminal so we picked up the pace to try and make the boat. Once we pulled into the ferry terminal we learned that particular boat was done for the day and we had about an hour until the next ferry. A bit bummed about the setback we settled our anxieties about making it far enough north before sunset at Pourhouse where we grabbed a quick pint. This setback was a blessing in disguise and allowed us to rest our legs before tackling the next 30 or so miles across Whidbey Island. We sipped on sour beer on the patio at Pourhouse and took a look at the rest of our route. After charging up some of our gear and a chat with the awesome bar staff we made our way over to the ferry 15 minutes or so early to make sure we would make the boat.
We made the boat! I had never taken the ferry to Whidbey Island before so this was a new Salish Sea ferry-experience for me. The ramble we took around Whidbey Island right after getting off of the ferry was my absolute favorite part of the ride. Ft. Casey to Coupeville is a beautiful stretch of rolling hill road with beautiful views of the sound. We stopped at Fort Casey, the remnants of a military fort built in the 1890s, to climb up some old concrete staircases to be rewarded with a beautiful view of the sound.
At some point during the ride we even spotted a peacock wandering around. It was seriously magical.
The ride on Whidbey gets slightly more stressful the more north you head. Near Oak Harbor the island gets to be a little more suburban feeling, and you are traveling down slightly more trafficked highways near the very active military base. The last twenty miles seemed like the longest part of the journey, and seeing the sign for the Deception Pass Campgrounds in the fading sunlight felt like such a gift. The campgrounds themselves are beautiful and incredibly comfortable. Deception Pass Campground has five hiker-biker sites that are very cozy and situated right near the bathrooms and nestled comfortably away from the car camping spots.
We spread our tent and nestled in for an early and very cozy night. About two hours later we were jolted awake by the sounds of F18’s flying so low they looked like they were grazing the tree tops. It felt like I was inside the engine of the plane itself and had to stuff my fingers in my ears to muffle the volume. It was incredibly terrifying. Phil, a self-professed war-nerd and military history-fan was fascinated. After a few passes over the forest the sounds drifted into the distance, and we were able to sleep again.
After a quick breakfast of Cliff bars, we headed on the road again. At this point we were relying on Google maps to take us the rest of the way, which gave us some pretty terrible bike directions down a hiking path.
After finding the right course out of the park, we headed across the Deception Pass bridge and back onto SR 20, where the shoulder continued to get narrower. Pretty winded and looking at some pretty harrowing rides embedded in truck and RV traffic, we called our friend/lifeline who came to get us in his truck. We wanted to make low tide so after a quick ride we said goodbye to our bikes, and loaded up the boat to begin the second part of our adventure.