You get it. You know that kids today have nature deficit disorder – heck, if you’ve read Richard Louv’s new book, The Nature Principle, we all have nature deficit disorder. Maybe you used to head out to the mountains all the time before kids, but going with the children in tow sounds too difficult. If it rains, you and your partner won’t be the only ones who are wet and miserable; your kids will be, too. And in a tent with no way to dry off, well, you’ve written it off, really. Once they go to college, maybe you’ll break out the hiking boots again.
There is another way. Tucked into the mountains and along the coasts of Washington are many and varied hidden gems. These cabins and yurts are rustic retreats that allow for a true outdoors experience, even in the backcountry, without the need to schlep a pack or pitch a piece of breathable nylon, and with the guarantee of drying your clothes at the end of the day and tucking kids into warm, dry beds.
For those looking for the true backcountry experience, the Methow valley Rendezvous huts are the answer. This five-hut system is arranged along cross country ski trails in the winter (mountain bike trails in summer.). Like most of the rustic accommodations described here, the huts include simple beds and mattresses, basic kitchens including most cookware you’d need, wood stoves, and outhouses.
For those architecturally inclined, the spare but inspired Rolling Huts, designed by Seattle architect Tom Kundig, provide a quiet place to relax. The six huts are arranged in a field in Mazama in what Kundig calls a herd, each with mountain views. Their clean lines and placement toward the end of the winter road make them a true find for a small family. In some ways they are less rustic: wi-fi is included, and a fridge, microwave and coffee pot. A propane grill is shared among the huts, though, and showers and toilets are found in an adjacent barn, so the camping experience remains.
Scottish Lakes High Camp is another solution closer to Seattle. Nestled eight miles back in the mountains on land leased from a logging company, but bordering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, High Camp is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. Cabins range in size, and accommodate two to a dozen, and are sparsely equipped with wood stoves for heat, propane stoves for cooking, jugs of water, and mattresses. Despite plywood walls and rudimentary accoutrements, Scottish Lake cabins encourage outdoor play and inside laughter. And you don’t have to hike in; High Camp will pick up you and your gear in Suburbans, just off of Highway 2, and in the winter transfer to snowmobiles halfway up the road.
U.S. Forest cabins are great options, too. In the Cle Elum, Entiat and Naches Ranger Districts, cabins are available that sleep between two and 10 people. Washington State Parks offers cabins and yurts, platform tents and teepees for rent around the state from Bay View and Deception Pass to Cape Disappointment, Paradise Point and Mount Spokane. A number of private companies offer yurt rental as well. Yurts are round, wood framed, fabric-covered structures varying in size. Originally designed by nomadic peoples as an easily transportable shelter, yurts have become popular structures for those wanting a greater connection with the outdoors, yet more reliable and increased comfort in accommodation.
We took our son to High Camp in February when he was eight weeks old, and snowshoed blissfully through powder all weekend. We came back in October to hike in the golden larch. We do get out and backpack and sleep in a tent, but we’re sometimes happier in a cabin, especially when the forecast doesn’t look good. We are still getting out, still getting away, but keeping it real.