#BryanandBrianAdventure: A BIKE CAMPING DRY RUN

It all started innocently enough. About eighteen months ago, I found myself becoming more interested in pursuing a different type of riding rather than just commuting, fitness rides on the weekend, and the occasional cyclocross race. I had started noticing more images and stories of bikepacking, ultralight touring, etc. in my feeds and my interest was piqued. One night, while searching for the end of the internet, I placed my cursor in the search box and started searching for "bike camping" and "bikepacking." That little detour cost me at least a couple of hours of sleep that night. I got lost in countless images of bikes (and sometimes bikes and tents) set against backdrops of mountains, trees, and water. I read trip report after trip report and then made my way into equipment and gear reviews. "This is exactly the thing I'm craving," I thought to myself. And so it began.

I spent the preceding fall and winter ticking items off the bike camping gear list I compiled. It was a long list. I didn't even own a sleeping bag when I started this journey. By April of 2016, I had everything on my list but there was one last obstacle - it was spring in the Pacific Northwest (AKA, it was wet!). But the rain gave me time to plan my first bike camping adventure. With help from my always up for anything partner in crime, Bryan, we targeted mid-June for a bike camping "dry run" of sorts where we'd test out our gear and packing setups. For our dry run, we picked Manchester State Park. It was close enough to services if anything went wrong but far enough that it didn't feel like we were camping in the backyard (not that there is anything wrong with backyard camping!). Inspired by the concept of sub-24 hour overnight trips (S24O), we decided to leave for our adventure on a Friday after work and return home that next morning. The #BryanandBrianAdventure was born (yep, we hashtagged our trip.)

As the big day approached, our focus on what to pack shifted to the weather forecast. What started off looking like a dry forecast shifted to a chance of rain and ultimately, likely rain as the week counted down to Friday. On the big day, Bryan and I texted regularly, neither of us wanting to cancel the trip due to the weather but neither of us were really excited about the idea of a soggy "dry run" either (we would laugh later at the fact that both of us forgot to bring a rain jacket). Finally, we decided to just kit up and start riding and we'd make a final call at the ferry terminal. 

We met up after work and each of us sported a huge grin despite some drizzle. We stopped to grab a burrito on the way out of downtown Seattle before making our way to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. We arrived at the ferry terminal just in time -- there was a ferry at the terminal headed to our destination (Southworth) and it had nearly finished loading. We hurriedly bought tickets and rushed aboard. By the time we realized we had just committed to our trip, we were relaxing inside the ferry halfway across the Puget Sound. So much for making that final call; there was no turning back now but deep down, I think we would have continued regardless of the weather. 

We arrived at the terminus of the ferry trip and as luck would have it, the rain stopped. We made one last check of our equipment and began the final leg to our destination. We hugged the coastline, riding new-to-us roads while taking in a view of the downtown Seattle skyline I had never seen before. There were few cars and Bryan and I appreciated the change of pace after navigating rush hour traffic just an hour before. In no time we arrived at Manchester State Park and we checked into our campsite.  

Setting up our tents was done in no time. Despite the rain earlier in the day and on the way over, the ground at our particular site was dry thanks to a thick canopy of tall trees. With camp set up, we set out to get some firewood the gate attendant told us about but there was just one minor problem -- neither of us brought matches. I'll be the first to admit not bringing something to start a fire was not a smart move, but in our defense, neither of us even considered making a fire to begin with. A quick check with our neighbors (who also biked in) yielded matches and Bryan got the fire going in no time and then it was time to relax and enjoy our surroundings. As the sun went down and our headlamps came out, a light drizzle resumed as we stood around the campfire waxing about life, careers, cycling, parenting, and more until we ran out of firewood. We retired to our respective tents satisfied with how this first trip was going.

The next morning, I was woken from my slumber by an owl hooting. A quick check-in with Bryan when he woke up confirmed we both had slept well and had stayed warm and dry. We broke down camp and by 7.00a, we were turning the pedals in an attempt to beat the forecasted rain. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was spot on and by the time we reached Capital Hill, we were both hungry and wet. Bryan spotted a Mighty-O Donuts and we ducked inside for a quick pick-me-up to power us the final few miles. By 10.00a, I walked into my house and heard, "Daddy!" I had a huge smile on my face -- our camping "dry run" had been a success and hearing the girl welcome me home never gets old.

 

Overall, the trip was an overwhelming success. The rackless setup was perfect for an overnight trip. If I wasn't hauling my tent, i could have saved a lot of room, but it performed solidly, so it's a tradeoff I am willing to make in the future. The only thing I'd have done differently would be to bring a rain jacket and matches. Other than that, I'm quite pleased and don't anticipate making changes to my setup unless I'm going somewhere where hammocks are allowed, in which case I'd swap my tent for the hammock. More on that below. 

In planning this trip, I learned hammocks are not allowed in Washington State Parks. When I called the Washington State Parks office, I was informed that you cannot attach anything to trees in Washington State parks -- temporary or permanent. BUT, I was then told to call the specific park and talk to the Ranger as some parks/Rangers enforce the rules differently. In speaking with the Ranger at Manchester State Park, I was told hammocks are allowed, but if a Ranger came by and determined the tree wasn't healthy enough to support a hammock, you would have to take down your hammock. Ultimately, I didn't want to chance it and it's pretty much impossible from the campsite images shown on the Washington State Parks Reservation website to tell if 1) the tree is healthy enough and 2) if the trees are spaced adequately apart for a hammock. 

 

If you're interested in learning more about the gear I used (which I HIGHLY recommend), here are links: