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June 1, 2016

Waiting to Exhale – Long Beach’s long bike path

Discovering Long Beach along its peaceful (and restorative) Discovery Trail bike path

Story by Kellie Ann Benz, Photos by Wendy Murry and Damian Mulinix
DAMIAN MULINIX The Discovery Trail winds through the dunes heading south. The trail travels more than five miles from its northern most point in Long Beach, through Seaview and down to Ilwaco.

DAMIAN MULINIX
The Discovery Trail winds through the dunes heading south. The trail travels more than five miles from its northern most point in Long Beach, through Seaview and down to Ilwaco.

First tip, summertime is for tourists. Let them have it. Let the taco shops and ice cream shacks be their memories of one of Washington’s little gems.

I’ll keep the springtime. Better yet, I’ll keep the springtime along the Discovery Trail bike path which is truly a refreshing getaway on our coast. You see, spring is when the little winter-drenched town unbuttons from the coldish season and prepares for the upcoming dazzle of summer.

I first heard about the bike path while visiting Breakers Long Beach.

WendyJMurry

Breakers Long Beach has been a part of area since its founding, and the historical photos and well-placed markers illuminate the storied past that this hotel and city still celebrate together. Perhaps one of the cozy, inviting hotel’s most endearing traits is its encouragement to guests to get outside.

Breakers Long Beach offers free bikes for all guests, along with helmets and maps to discover the bike trail.

I believe my host had only made it halfway through his offer of a complimentary bike when I was already wheeling it out the door. Snapping on my helmet mid-spin, I was immediately taken by the solitude of the beckoning path.

Echoes of the hotel’s reminder that the bike had a four-hour time limit — before it turned into a pumpkin, I presumed — faded into the wind.

The complimentary bikes are of the low-riding, fat-tired variety, making the effort minimal and the joy maximized. The Discovery Trail is bump-free, hill-free and paved. I almost felt like I could be side-saddling this two-wheeled steed, the exertion was so low.

The Discovery Trail begins its eight miles at Breakers Long Beach, winding around Clark’s Tree. It’s there that you receive your first gift of ocean air. No one would blame a soul for stopping at this juncture and inhaling. In fact, meditating on this corner is so welcome they’ve added a bench.

Once you’ve acclimated to the dream you’re currently in, you can’t help but notice the inviting path that encourages you on.

Like all great secrets, you’ll likely be alone on this path, but wishing you could share every refreshing moment with anyone who will listen.

The nicest things about Long Beach’s Discovery Trail is that it dips and interrupts along some of the main attractions of the seaside town.

DAMIAN MULINIX A bicyclist on the Discovery Trail passes under the Long Beach Boardwalk.

DAMIAN MULINIX
A bicyclist on the Discovery Trail passes under the Long Beach Boardwalk.

The trail’s first intersection is at Bolstad Street, forcing you to stop and look both ways for pedestrians and traffic. But take this moment to look to your left here, toward the city of Long Beach and you’ll see the famous Bolstad Arch sign that reads “World’s Longest Beach” just as it looked right out of family home movies circa 1967. It’s kind of fun to cycle under the arch imagining the day when the city founders truly believed this statement to be factual. In reality, Brazil’s Praia do Cassino Beach wins the real title of World’s Longest Beach at more than 150 miles long compared to Long Beach’s 30 miles — but when you’re biking along the calming ocean, who’s counting?

If you’re so inclined, at Bolstad Street you’re close enough to Marsh’s Free Museum (409 Pacific Ave.) to lock the bikes and take a wander around. It’s full of kitschy attractions like the half-man-half-gator.

Back on the Discovery Trail, the only test of biking skills comes in one little obstacle, the low-hanging pedestrian bridge. This is probably the only part of the trail where you’ll experience some small hills as the trail snakes along the pedestrian path the city built for walkers and photographers. It’s past this point that you’ll also begin to see some interesting art displays, like the Grey Whale Skeleton worth stopping and marveling at.

Another intersection awaits you near the Adrift Hotel, where you can stop and see the more modern developments in the area.

Once you’re past the new Adrift Hotel you’ve reached the smoothest part of the ride. Here, the trail lets you sail peacefully beside the ocean, with tall grass on either side.

And this is the part where the desire to keep this a secret truly kicks in. Biking along the path with the tall grass, the calming surf and the fresh Pacific Ocean air carries you away. Truly. In fact, I dare you not to lift your legs and let out a gleeful “whee” as you roll along this part of the path. It’s just you, the path and the sky. Embrace it.

The Discovery Trail takes you into the neighboring towns of Seaview and Ilwaco, and as far as Cape Disappointment.

The trail will take you far, but not too far as to not make it back. Ideally, give yourself half a day to really enjoy it, but an hour will also give you just enough to restore your senses.

I cursed the time-limit I had on my bike, but like all good guests who hope to be invited back, was sure to honor it.

While you can go either way along the eight-mile trail, there’s also a benefit to heading one way along the path, and taking the longer route back through town. If you choose to cycle back through town, I recommend gliding back one block off the main street, on Ocean Beach Boulevard. There, you can slow-roll beside old Victorian homes and newer developments, that appear to live in harmony with each other.

Along that way, here’s a few don’t-miss spots.

The Sou-Wester Lodge and Cabins (3728 J Place, Seaview) is about as West Coast hippie as you can get. In fact, its evolution feels somewhat like a utopian world, just without the cult part. What was once a local grand ballroom built in 1872 to appeal to the wealthy settlers flocking to Washington state, is now a retro, eco-friendly, artist commune and self-sufficient economy all-in-one. In the ’50s, the then-empty lodge was remodeled, turning the ballroom into four suites and adding some stand-alone cottages on the property. The lodge’s contemporary owners began attracting RVs to the land surrounding the lodge, turning the entire location into an homage to the gypsy lifestyle. Eventually, they added their own grocery store and market and now have a robust events calendar and artists’ residency all while still catering to visitors for short or long stays. You can rent a room in the lodge, a cabin or an entire RV for prices that start as low as $80 and only go as high as $178. Check out their website at www.souwesterlodge.com for all of the details.

Even if you just visit the Sou-Wester to marvel in its alluringly welcoming decor, you’ll be happy to know that you can indulge further in your Victorian home renovation fantasies with a step inside the North Coast Antique Mall (1206 47 Place, Seaview). This converted warehouse is like a museum that sells its exhibits, offering everything from vintage kitchen kitsch to local refurbishing artist wares. Give yourself a healthy full hour to wander aimlessly in the labyrinth-like mall.

The World’s Largest Frying Pan, a 500-pound clam pan homage to the town’s long held Razor Clam Festival (see pg. 40), and the World’s Largest Chopsticks are fun monuments within walking distance of Bolstad’s Arch, definitely worthy of a selfie gallery to post or a photo to brag to your friends that you were there.

If the day’s excursion has left you a little chilled, hop into the Breakers hot tub and pool to re-acclimate for the evening. Once warmed, you can enjoy some hot cider and a barbecue from the covered fire pits that allow you to listen to the pounding surf in the distance while you watch the sun dip into the horizon.

No matter how you enjoy it, Long Beach’s restorative bike path, The Discovery Trail, offers a tranquility that invites every visitor to exhale. Just don’t tell anyone about it.

Visit www.funbeach.com for more details about the Long Beach Peninsula.

WendyJMurry - bike

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Exercise, Features, Health, Places