Where is your favorite gateway town outside of America’s public lands and what makes it so great? Any memorable experiences?
Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t know much about gateway towns. I know some people rely on them, as frequent visitors to these glorious parks, but I’m such a “travel far and wide” to get the park that I rarely have time to stop and see anything but my destination. That being said, I do have a few small towns through some of the various public lands I love that do stand out. I’m going to approach this topic a little differently by highlighting a few of them here in the next hour of writing and creating. I am also creating this essay outside of the normal time frame of the challenge due to a busy March. I wanted to participate, so I figured they’d be good writing prompts later on and they are. Enjoy!
I know, this town probably isn’t TECHNICALLY a gateway town, it was a home base for me on one of my trips to the Olympic Peninsula to see both Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest as well as meeting a friend in a neighboring suburb to head out to Mount Rainier. Olympia was everything I needed. The town felt small, yet had all the good stuff to make any trip better. When I fly in to the airport, I want to head south and get as close as I can to where I need to be. Usually, I don’t even stay anywhere but my rental car but I had some time on this trip and needed to visit both areas so a middle ground was best. I got a decent hotel, for a good price in downtown Olympia, found a brewery, and was able to meet up with a local outdoor writer/runner/all around cool dude who may or may not have created this writing challenge. It was the perfect distance for a quick morning drive up to the peninsula or over/down to Rainier or St. Helens.
Crescent City and Arcata, California
The Redwoods will forever be something I think about almost daily. As much as I love the desert or other forests, these babies are the original real deal. Two cities that really welcome you to the area are Crescent City and Arcata. I have stayed in both, found delicious meals in both, and consumed good beer too. If you stay in or visit Crescent City, head out of town and take the Howland Hill Road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. You’ll get spit out on CA-199 and that drive through the mountains is worth it, so take that route. We did, and followed the BEAUTIFUL wild and scenic Smith River to Oregon and subsequently spent the better part of the day exploring Oregon Caves National Monument. Talk about a Gateway town!
Arcata was a little more chill, it’s not a mainstream place, with plenty of unique flavor. If you’re there you have to check out the various breweries and restaurants in the heart of town. Arcata is positioned perfectly between the various areas of the Redwood National and State Parks. It’s a great base for exploring north or south, or venturing to the Lost Coast, one of my personal favorite places ever.
Honorable mentions is Ferndale, CA. This is a cute little town that is well kept and seems mysterious. The houses are gorgeous, the cemetery is really cool, and it’s on the way to the Lost Coast.
There are a ton of great gateway towns, I’m sure, but these are a few that stand out in my mind. I hope to explore more as my time opens up. Maybe I’ll find some great towns outside of some public lands this summer.