Adventures and photos by Greg Balkin
Welcome to Seattle. I’m proud to call this city my recent home and Stoked (with a capital “S”) to represent it for Backyard to Backcountry. The winter has brought shorter days full of rain and snow, but when the sun comes out, oh man this place is perfect. The Olympics, the rocky coastline, Mountain Loop Highway, North Cascades, Mount Rainier... the list goes on and on. Each of these places represent a new opportunity for my friends and me to get outside together, explore what’s in our backyards, and be thankful for what we have. It’s where we have our best conversations, our wildest laughs and memories, dream bigger than ever, and play like kids again. From my backyard to the more distant backcountry, these are some places that I’ve had the chance to explore.
Green Lake | Seattle, WA
I’ve ran plenty of laps around this lake as it’s about .25 miles from my house, but I’ve yet to get out and paddle. I’ve slowly learned to adapt more to the rain, so there was no way that was going to stop us from an afternoon out on the water. We bundled up, packed the cars, and shot over to the parking lot real quick. The water was calm and not many people were running around, so the place felt like ours. I never really realized it until we were out towards the center of the lake but this place is huge (and super easy to launch into). On quieter days I tend to see lots of people out here fishing so I figured we should give it a go. Definitely learned fly fishing from a kayak in the rain is oddly one of the most relaxing things you can do. We didn’t catch anything (I’m sure the rain didn’t help), but that’s okay. We were stoked to just be out here laughing and floating around together. If you’re in the area and you’ve got a kayak or just want to go for a short run, this is the place to do it.
Lake Twenty Two | Mountain Loop Highway
Oddly enough we wanted to visit Heather Lake this day but the previous rainstorms had been so strong we figured we’d be walking up a river the whole time. Probably could have guessed it but things were about the same for the trail to Lake Twenty Two. Now I still haven’t explored too much of the Mountain Loop Highway but this place is full of trails and peaks and lakes and rivers to explore. It’s gotta be one of the most densely packed areas for this sort of thing in Washington and it’s just over an hour outside of Seattle. That’s nuts. The trail up to the lake isn’t terrible, a moderate climb, just under 7 miles RT, stellar forests and waterfalls along the way, plus a gorgeous alpine lake at the top. The snow wasn’t too bad going up but once we reached the harder packed stuff, you’d step straight to your knee if you swung too wide. Once you reach the lake, the views are unbelievable. Rain sprinkles on the lake, small avalanches cascade down the far slopes, and the quietness sets in. The lake has slightly thawed from the previous storms but most of it is still frozen over. I’ve heard this place can be a zoo in the summertime so I highly encourage you get out while there’s still some snow on the trail.
Shi Shi Beach | Olympic National Park
I don’t think Olympic National Park gets as much love as it deserves, so I wanted to make sure I had some time to make it over there. The park is split into two sections, one making up the peninsula and the other stretching down the coast. Now, I’m used to the California coastline with perfect beaches so the rugged Washington coast still blows me away. As you make your way along the windy roads heading west, make sure you stop in the Makah Reservation to grab your permit (it’s required for all of the NP along the northern coast area). We stopped in Neah Bay to grab one for only $10. Once you’re out there, you can find trails leading from the trailhead all the way through the forest and down to the beaches. There were huge puddles and mud that’d swallow up your boot, but most of the trail is easy to navigate. It’s a flat two miles to the edge of the forest, then another two miles down to the more well known section the beach. We opted to explore the area just north, which lead to a more private cove and a rope leading up the steep hill to get safely back to the trail. It was the perfect spot to relax on a lazy Sunday afternoon, eat some warm oatmeal, and listen to the waves crash. If you have the opportunity to come out here, I’d suggest checking out Cape Flattery or camping down on the beach near La Push. You could easily spend a few days exploring this area and never get tired of it.
Editor's note: This piece was created as part of a multi-brand campaign celebrating Backyard to Backcountry adventuring (#BY2BC). For more inspiration, check out #BY2BC on Instagram.