As a sometimes-travel writer, I am sadly still shut out from most of the beloved world until it is safer to move about the Earth. My passport is ensconced in a safe place while I dream and plan for farther-afield adventures in 2022 (Maldives? Cost Rica?).
In the meantime, we have spent a year exploring local treats that are arguably fun day excursions and worthy vacations. There is so much to do and explore in our very own backyards. The options are actually exhaustive, but I’ve put together a good start for in-town activities as well as easy-to-reach out-of-town adventures.
Gift Card Saturday — I don’t know about your families, but we have an enormous stash of random gift cards to businesses that are OPEN. So, one Saturday, we gathered all of them together and put the kids in the car and drove all around Yakima getting free burgers, free ice cream, a movie at Best Buy, and even some books at Inklings. The best thing is that we almost always spent a little extra at our local businesses and discovered new things to love like the great toy section at Inklings.
Whitewater rafting — Last summer our family had a thrilling (and safe) day rafting with Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys. Located on the White Salmon River, the trip was easily a day trip, about two hours from Yakima. A unique entry point down steep stairs in a stunning rock canyon, exhilarating whitewater rapids, cliff jumping and contemplative slow spans of the river make for a perfect day, even in the spring with colder temps. The experience was good for all ages — our hesitant 7-year-old was just as happy in the end as our thrill-seeking 12-year-old. Zoller’s will outfit you with wetsuits and great guides. Ask for Casey if you want a safe and spiritual journey from someone who really gets the river. On your way, don’t forget to stop by St. John’s Bakery, Coffee and Gifts on Highway 97. St. John’s is a Greek Orthodox monastery with the most delicious treats. Anytime we head over this pass, we stop for coffee and baklava.
Coins — Similar to Gift Card Saturday, gather up all the coins in your house and help replenish the coin supply for our local businesses. It’s also a great exercise for kids to learn about money and math. The challenge is to use exact change, and to spend all of your money. While this recommendation is clearly aimed at families, why not make it a fun adult date night and gather together several couples for a timed challenge?
Hiking! — Our family is setting some hiking goals for this upcoming season including 10 waterfall hikes and five summits. Last summer we did plenty of interesting local hikes and even some overnight backpacking. Our favorite waterfall hike last summer was Stafford Falls, which is a gorgeous punchbowl near Mount Rainer. For a twist, consider some sunset hikes with headlamps. After a long workday this can be especially fun. We summited Round Mountain at dusk last summer and came down with headlamps—thrilling for all of us! If you go up White or Chinook Pass midweek, you are likely to see only one or other people on the trails. (Avoid hiking anywhere near Seattle on the weekends). Facebook has plenty of local hiking groups where you can get tips and even find hiking partners. Also, Washington Trails Association and All Trails have searchable hikes to narrow down your options (kids, dogs, elevation, waterfalls, you name it, you can search it!). Please pack out ALL of your waste.
Unique camping and glamping — As we roll toward warmer months, lots of us yearn for the outdoors and camping fits that bill. With the dramatic increase of outdoor enthusiasts though, traditional campgrounds are often full. Look to new camping options like Tentrr, HipCamp and Harvest Hosts. I took my daughter for a Tentrr stay at an alpaca farm in Carnation last spring and we glamped in a canvas tent with a wood floor and a queen bed, outfitted with great linens and a warm duvet. We loved the alpacas and their funny, unique personalities and slept like royalty in our tent. Check out new camping options at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort — Crystal Sky Camp — including unbelievable views of Mount Rainier, gourmet food and sophisticated glamping sites similar to what you might experience in the Serengeti on an African safari.
Backpacking! — As I’ve mentioned, campsites are hard to come by now, but backpacking can be so much fun. I bet you have friends who would loan you gear! You can hike 2-3 miles and have an alpine lake all to yourself like Twin Sisters or Kramer Lake.
Horseback riding — Opening Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, Chinook Pass Outfitters offers a variety of trail riding through the woods near Chinook Pass. And if yours is a more adventurous family, have them pack you in and drop you off in the wilderness with all of your heavy gear for a week (or less) of solitude, fishing, hiking, stargazing. (I’m still trying to talk my family into that level of epic, off-the-grid-fun)!
Stargazing — Last summer, Neowise was such a treat in our night skies. Head out to Rocky Top off of Summitview Avenue for some fun stargazing any time the night sky is clear. For best dark night skies, avoid full moon nights. Also, keep your eyes peeled on the weather and Northern Lights forecasts and you might get lucky with some brilliant bright greens in the northern sky. Several apps on your smart phone help you identify satellites, constellations and aurora forecasts.
Water, water, water — Kayaking, floating the Yakima River, stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Grab your life jackets, water and sunscreen and hit the abundant lakes and rivers near us. Search for lakes you can drive to on unpaved forest service roads for remarkably uncrowded spaces. New to paddle boarding? Locals Shannon and Andy Mahre offer SUP clinics and lessons on local rivers and lakes.
When the world reopens and we’re all jet-setting to South Africa, the Maldives and Florida, remember the beauty and abundance of our own backyards. I feel so blessed to live here and have all of these adventures at my fingertips — and so many more that I haven’t experienced.
Be adventurous! Be safe!
Chinook Pass Outfitters
Crystal Sky Camp
Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys
St. John’s Monastery