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Open Flavor Friday: Get away, but stay away

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Let’s take a hike... just not together.

Travel destinations Photo by: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

We made it through the first full week of social isolation together, congratulations! The novelty is starting to wear off, and you’re probably getting a bit stir-crazy. As we continue to settle into our new reality for the next few weeks (or more likely, a few months), things are going to get more difficult in subtle ways. Today is the first full day of spring, and after a week of beautiful weather in Seattle we’re all itching to get outside and feel less trapped.

For this week’s OFF, we’re going to focus on ideas and activities to get some fresh air and exercise while maintaining social distancing. One benefit of living in the Northwest is that we have an abundance of nature in our backyard, and enough options in almost every direction that we don’t all need to flock to the one bit of greenspace or the lone beach in town.

I realize there is some potential irony in discussing our secret, uncrowded places and sharing them with the world. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, we don’t want to make them so crowded that nobody goes there anymore. With that in mind, let’s share some of our favorite ways to get outside for some Vitamin D and fresh air while avoiding crowds. I’ll open the discussion by suggesting you take a hike.

Even within the city itself, there are an abundance of trails that can get you into nature quickly and easily. Seattle Parks maintains a webpage with most trails listed, but there are some hidden gems not featured on their site such as the lightly used paths through the West Duwamish Greenbelt. I would steer clear of the really popular places, like Green Lake Park’s loop and the Burke-Gilman Trail, but there are numerous great, less-used trails within the city at places like Llandover Woods, Carkeek Park, Thornton Creek Natural Area, the upper portion of Golden Gardens Park, Discovery Park, Ravenna Park, Washington Park Arboretum, Interlaken Park, Colman Park, Seward Park, Schmitz Park, and Westcrest Park, among others.

If you’re feeling more adventurous or live outside the city itself, there are long stretches of paved regional trails, often following old rail grades, which are great for hiking or biking. Beyond that, there are more rigorous hiking opportunities available in over 25 parks, including the immense Cougar Mountain and Tiger Mountain trail systems. As the weather continues to warm up and snow melts, more and more trails in the mountains will also become accessible, further expanding the options available to get away while maintaining avoidance.

If you really want to get away from the crowds, all National Parks have waived their entrance fees until further notice. The Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier might not be an option for a few more months, but Olympic National Park has some beautiful trails into the rainforest, along the rugged coast, and into the numerous river basins that drain all that rainfall away to the ocean, Strait and Hood Canal.

If just taking a walk isn’t stimulating enough for you (or your kids), there are ways to make it more interesting. When my daughter was young we started geocaching (basically looking for little hidden treasure boxes), which gave me something to do and a destination point on our journeys, as well as being an easy way to mark off places we’d visited. There are tens of thousands of geocaches hidden throughout the region, both in urban areas and in the woods, and many of them lead you to interesting and out-of-the way spots such as surprise vistas. Another easy way to do something good while getting exercise is to take a trash bag along with you and clean up the path you’re on. Make it a contest with kids to see who can find the most garbage!

What are some places and activities you enjoy that keep you away from crowds but still give an opportunity to get some exercise and fresh air?