Kidical Mass Bike Overnight to Washington State's Illahee State Park

From Seattle to Illahee State Park in Bremerton via an hour-long ferry ride with 16 kids, 19 adults, and one dog!

Bicycle Adventurers: Friends old and new from the Seattle family biking community.

When: Bike Travel Weekend, June 3–4, 2017

Accommodations: We spread out over four campsites in Illahee State Park.

Distance: Less than 10 miles each way, but this is Seattle so they're hilly miles! We rode 4.6 miles from our meeting spot at a grocery store in the Fremont neighborhood to the Seattle Ferry Terminal and 3.8 miles from the Bremerton Ferry Terminal to Illahee State Park.

Bonus tip for this adventure? The half-mile hike down to the beach from the campsite is terrific for little campers! Explore the shell-strewn sand, have a snack at a picnic table, and walk on the small public pier for an amazing view.

Day One

Eighteen bikes, carrying 17 adults, 16 kids, and one dog, set out from PCC Natural Market in the Fremont neighborhood of North Seattle for a 4.6-mile trip to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. We had four kids on their own bikes, including my own 10- and seven-year olds, riding solo on a big group trip for the first time! Given our large group, we moved slowly and regrouped after getting separated by stop lights several times. We were joined by one additional family at the ferry and two more adults later at the campground. 

Big ferries are terrific for transporting big bikes — we don't have to unload any gear, most of us have heavy duty kickstands that hold our bikes upright without even having to tie up to the rails, and it affords us a way to get out of town. The ferry ride to Bremerton is about 60 minutes, so we left our bikes at the front of the car deck, bikes get to board and offboard first (!), and snacked and hung out inside the comfortable M/V Kaleetan. 

The 3.8-mile ride from the Bremerton Ferry Terminal to Illahee State Park is mostly uphill and I was worried it would be tough on many of us, but it was great! A lot of took small rest breaks along the way, and some even walked a bit. My Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike weighs 80 pounds, and while I didn't carry my kids this time, yay (!), I carried gear for three and our 10-pound dog, Pixie.

We had one last regroup at Mountain View Middle School at the top of the longest hill, and I shared detailed directions with any families with toddlers who needed to keep the momentum going so they could push on ahead. I always worry about different travel speeds making for unhappy little passengers, but I think it worked just fine. 

We arrived before check-in time, so the kids hit the playground for a bit and we all hiked down to the beach before setting up camp. I had reserved three big sites ahead of time and we added a fourth site on the spot and we all fit fine! This was our first time as a group using multiple sites and it worked even better than I expected.

Day Two

Over breakfast, we decided on departure times. We tend to have an early group and a later group. Several amazingly organized families made the 9:45 ferry while the rest of us headed for the 11:10 ferry. 

While we made it just in time for the 11:10 ferry, I was part of a subgroup of 11 that stopped for lunch and caught the 12:20 ferry. Foods stops are big motivators for kids and parents alike! 

The ride home after camping is nice when broken up with a fun stop, so we led our group of 11 to the Seattle Center and played in the Artists at Play playground in the shadow of the Space Needle while an e-bike battery recharged.

Your favorite local bike shop? Many of the bikes and kid bike seats on our trip came from G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle. With a kid play area, tons of knowledge, and numerous family biking options, it's a favorite shop for many Seattle families.

Bike overnight tips and tricks? Bike camping trips with friends are so much easier than alone! My kids love biking with a group and it allows my strong seven-year old to charge ahead with the faster pack while my workhorse 10-year old and I can putter along near the back at a comfortable pace. Lots of the kids knew each other from before and they all played together nicely. I was able to set up camp in complete peace and quiet while my kids were at the beach with friends.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

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