Burton Girls

Burton Girls Ambassador Charley Zheng's Solo Adventure in the Pacific Northwest

by Charley Zheng

Friday, 7pm. 

Normally, I’d be meeting up with friends over dinner and drinks, catching a live show, maybe Netflixing at home. Instead, I’m moving at a snail’s pace alone on Highway 26 towards my weekend destination: Long Beach, Washington.

Embarking on a solo adventure can be a bit daunting, but the solitary experience can connect you to your surroundings in a different way. They let you disconnect from daily rituals and distractions. Every now and then, a solo trip is necessary to have some solid, uninterrupted “me” time, like a spa day for the soul. This is why I’ve decided to forgo my usual Friday night plans to spend some time alone, discovering a new spot along the coast.

My truck and I at the end of a long drive.

Downtown Long Beach comes alive in the summer when visitors from all over the Northwest gather to vacation near the 28-mile stretch of beach. In the winter, it’s dead quiet, but still draws a few visitors. Some of its most popular spots are open all year, like Marsh’s Free Museum — famous for its huge souvenir selection and an eye-opening exhibit of a mummified half-man, half-alligator. If that’s not your thing, you can also find some of the best clam chowder around.

Just a 20-minute drive from town, Cape Disappointment sits on the bottom end of the Long Beach peninsula. It’s named after a failed expedition in 1788, when an English captain missed the passage he was looking for and named the nearby headland to reflect his bummer #feels. The park features two lighthouses, eight miles of hiking trails, plenty of camping space, razor clam digging, and fishing.

Charley Zheng
I always bring my camera on my trips, so the Burton Zoom 26L Pack is one of my most essential travel accessories.
A calm moment by the Cape.

I hike up a short trail to the North Head lighthouse, which overlooks the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” a treacherous body of water that’s claimed thousands of ships. There’s a side trail that wraps around to the other side of the lighthouse that’s a total mud bath, but I forge ahead without question, taking my time.

By the windswept cliffs at the Cape Disappointment lighthouse, the waves are monstrous. I make my way down to get a front row view from the white sand cove of Waikiki Beach. In the summer, this is the only safe place to swim on the peninsula, though it’s hard to believe during these winter storm months. I sit and watch the powerful waves hit the coast, getting lost in my own thoughts for a while.

That’s one reason why I love to explore on my own so much: You get to see a place your own way, at the speed you want, for as long as you want, with no need to compromise with anyone else.

On Sunday morning, I’m up early, though I had planned to sleep in and have a slow breakfast before driving home. But I had received a text on Saturday from my boyfriend, saying that he was getting out for a snowboarding session, and did I want to join? Yes, of course I did — I can’t resist the call of the mountains!

Keeping warm in the Gemmi Jacket on the coast of Cape Disappointment.

So I scrap my plans without a second thought. This is another advantage of solo travel: you can be as spontaneous as you want. I pack up, take out the trash, throw on my boots, and hit the open road.

Crossing the bridge back into Oregon, I feel noticeably lighter. My head is clearer. I look into my rearview mirror. Washington is bathed peacefully in a sunrise glow and I’m thankful to be here, taking it all in. ∆

Charley Zheng has our vote for Best Road Trip Buddy, and lucky for us, she’s a Burton Girls Ambassador. The Burton Girls Ambassadors Program highlights a diverse crew of women from all over. What ties them all together is their love of the mountains, their desire to explore, and their mission to inspire and engage with other women in their communities. With their passion and unapologetic attitudes, they’re leaving their mark on the world and we’re taking note.