Touring - US (H.I.) Youth Hostels
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12-19-04, 03:23 PM
I'm planning to cycle the West Coast next August.
Anyone had experience of the Youth Hostels?? On the website, they look really good; often in lovely wild areas and very inexpensive.
Are they as good as they look, in Washington, Oregon, California? (eg Port Townsend, Elma, Seaside, Klamath, Pt Reyes, Sausalito, San Francisco (x3), Point Montara, Pescadero (Pigeon Point Lighthouse), Santa Cruz)
Are there any organisations for staying in people's homes (ie more personal that B&B's). I've seen there are Homestays but these seem to be 1 week + and mainly aimed at students. We really want to meet American people; main purpose of visit really - even more than San Juan Islands, Olympic Peninsula, Columbia River, Redwoods and Big Sur!
12-19-04, 05:13 PM
My sense is that AYH hostelling is a dying organization.
Private hostels are O.K. - but are often more like flop houses - pretty funky.
AYH still has some nice places in major cities - but these have been purpose built and have supplanted the YMCA boarding houses. (Remember "It's fun to stay in the YMCA?") One exception is a beautiful new hostel in Crested Butte, CO - but then the one in Glenwood Springs, CO is super funky.
In outlying areas AYH used to have far more hostels - often in state and even national parks - there was a communitarian aspect to them - i.e. shared meals and shared clean-up. Seems that more and more people just want to pay as little as possible and then go - so you end up with flop houses.
I've stayed at:
Port Townsend - military barracks - drafty - but nice - a little ways out from town
Ft. Canby - Fabulous, but closed now - right where the Columbia meets the Pacific
Bandon - seems like the private hostel is the same one that was AYH - very nice
Hostels -both AYH and private tend to come and go - so make sure the ones you are planning to stay at are still there before you head out. The majority take reservations - but then that means you have to be here or there by a certain date - something I hate when bike touring. There are not quite enough hostels to do a complete hostel to hostel tour - so if you were light touring, you'd have to do a few motels - which can be pricey in the summer months on the coast.
Best - J
PS - The hostel at Pigeon Point is truly spectacular - where else can you stay under a lighthouse right above the Pacific breakers with nothing else for miles around for less than $20? But reservations are a must - well in advance.
I've been to the hostels in Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and San Diego. They are ok. The one in San Diego is a bit far out there, but nice and quiet.
I think some of them have requirements where you have to be out of the hostel during business hours. It just sucks if you're wanting to sleep in or if you are sick and can't go out, or if the weather is really bad.
You can find people there who will specify how long they can take people in. Sometimes, it's just a few days, sometimes it's longer. Don't intrude... if they say max three days, don't ask for 5. I belong to that list, and if someone asks for longer stay times, I usually refuse to take them at all. I give the number of days and tell them I can't deviate. I can only stand having strangers in my house for so long. It's not a large space I've got!
Also, try www.servas.org. That is a paid organization, and they are all about promoting cultural exhanges and stuff. You pay to belong to that organization, then you go through a short interview process with someone on their list who's not very far from you. Then the next step is a $25 refundable deposit for a listing of everyone from the country you're going to visit. When you return the list, you get your money back.
I've been a host for the hospitalityclub.com, and I've been hosted at servas.org. Both are good organizations. Both of them are for people of any age, but people who are not college students seem to be the norm for the hosts and the travellers.
Try these organizations first. If they don't work, get your membership for Hostelling International BEFORE you leave your country (some places give preference to people with memberships). You get the member discount for the hostels that are affiliated with Hostelling International.
If you're traveling during the high season of travel, make your reservations in advance.
Check ahead of time with hostels. Some don't allow sleeping bags, and some do. With hosts, they will specify if you need to bring bedding, blankets, etc.
Good luck and have fun!
Another option for you may be Roger Gravels warm showers list for cyclists (http://www.rogergravel.com/wsl/vh_wwwsws.html) . I have no direct experience with it, but he lists 900+ hosts in the US, 100+ in California.
12-19-04, 10:46 PM
As Jamawani mentioned above, the Port Townsend hostel is a converted barracks, but nice and cozy with a small friendly staff. It is actually a cool spot to spend some time. The hostel is a part of old military installation that is now a state/local park that offers artist events and summer artist reteats. Does not look like a military post anymore, the houses are old but with character. The park sits on the bluffs high above port townsend, with grassy/treed park like atmosphere and a short ride "down" to the town. If you go, take the time to walk atop the hill, above the hostel, at the edge of the bluffs and walk thru the endless maze of concrete fortifications that were built prior to WW1, there is also a memorial to those whose were stationed there, a pretty lonely existance at the time(they were preparing for a war that never came). The concrete bunkers were actually artfully constructed and you can climb thru and atop them and see the shore below and the ocean beyond. The town of port townsend has some groceries, shops, restuarants, a bike shop maybe still and the boat docks if your a boat buff and Pygmy kayaks(build your own) has their shop there and you could probably rent a kayak and hit the beach(there is beach below the bluffs to walk on and is great but water is COLD!
You can also, if you want to take a day or two off and visit downtown Seattle, take the bus(or ride) from port Townsend to the ferry at Winslow via Port Gamble and stay at the downtown Seatle hostel. The route from Port townsend is 50-60 miles, is cyclable(a regular route for Seatle Hostel rides) and is scenic and nothing too difficult. The buses however are fabulous througout the Seattle region. They are biker friendly with front racks for bikes and last time I was there the Bus (one-way) From Port Townsend to ferry terminal at Winslow(50 miles) was $1.00, that was 6 yrs ago, so it may have gone up. The ferry was $3.00 with the bike. The hostel in downtown Seattle, within 3 blocks of ferry terminal, was busy, and not the best place in the world, but safe enough. No worse than Trafalgar Square in London. The folks there stored the bike in a locked storage overnight and they lead bike tours, so biker friendly. This is the spring/early summer wait and see hang out for younger kids trying to get summer jobs on fishing boats out of Alaska, trying to get someone else to take (their) required drug test for them! The fresh market and the fish tossing is worth the trip!
Best hostels for North America are along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, if you go up there. They are all different, from 4 star in Lake Louise, to rustic cabins at Rampart creek but are run clean and cozy! Vancouver has two hostels, I've heard the one right downtown is rowdy neighborhood.
There is a hostel on San Jauns, Orcas Island, by advance reservaitions due to heavy tourist area, they also have tent sites as well. I was going to stay there, but my trip took a different turn out of Port Townsend and I gave the spot to a Seattle friend. If I run across the name of the place, I'll post back. If you take Route 20 south frm there across the bridge at Deception Pass (camping) and then South of Coupville is a back road to the Port Townsend ferry.
I did not run across many hostels on Oregon, Northern Calif coasts, but the hiker/biker campgrounds for Oregon and California are special places, not to be missed. Dirt cheap and most with grassy/treed tenting areas, well away from the noise of the motorhome crowd. Oregon was $3.00 with free showers and Calif was $1 or $2 and extra quarter for showers; or maybe vice versa. Most are near the beaches. Both states publish a list of hiker/biker campgrounds, most are along the coast. Not all CG's in Calif are hiker/biker priced. The great news is, they will not turn you away if the CG is full! Too bad more states do not adopt these policies for HPV travellers.
When you get to Calif make sure to spend time camping in the Redwoods! The parks are great and you are surrounded by GIANTS! The brain goes on overload and the neck gets sore!
San Diego(if your'e going that far) has two hostels that are both great. One near the beach and other in town but good area. They also conduct bike tours, so very biker friendly.
In additon to orgainzations listed above, there is also WWOOF, which is worldwide but each country has own membership program, some of the farms can be fun, other a drudgery!
Good Luck, Happy Holidays
12-20-04, 02:01 AM
All the above is really helpful! More please. This camping decision is a tough one!
12-20-04, 10:31 AM
Camping or not to camp?
Hostels are not as convenient here in U.S. as in England and Scotland, not by a long shot. Most states have none and do not know the meaning of the word. Last time is was in Uk, we walked, for three weeks, hostel door to hostel door (Lakes District and Scotland to SKye). Nothing here, in U.S. to remotely resemble that, except in Alberta. You will be subjected to motels more often than not if camping is not an option. Motels along coast route tend to be expensive.
A small tent(2-3 lb), light/medium weight sleeping bag(1-2 lb) and a 3/4 thermo-rest pad (1 3/4) lb, is all you really need and if you shop around you can acquire all that and stay within 6-7 pounds of extra weight.
A little bit of camping gear = a lot more freedom of choice each and every day.
12-20-04, 11:18 AM
Please do consider camping. The first few mornings may be god awful trying to get into an upright position, but the early morning smells, sounds and sights are WELL worth it
12-20-04, 11:27 AM
How old are you Phillip?
The Youth hostels are a good way to do things, and they really are as good as they say. I have stayed in most of the ones you mention on the west coast, i really like the Fisherman's Wharf hostel in SanFran.
Also, the Seattle Hostel is nice. I mostly camp when I am up in the San Juans.
If you are between the ages of 13-18, check out www.biketrips.com. It is a company I guide tours for in the summer, and we run a trip from Seattle to San Fransisco, staying in a few hostels and camping. I will be leading it again this year, it is July 1-28 I believe.
If you are 19 or older, and have at least one year of college and some touring experience, consider working for us and getting paid to guide these tours. Check the same website for that information.
HI has a great website, I would search for it, and become a member, it really does help a lot.
12-20-04, 05:20 PM
How old are you Phillip?
Ho-hum; I'm 57, my companions on the tour will be age 52 and 14. In the UK most folk staying in Youth Hostels (I use them a lot for walking and cycling trips in UK) are I reckon either over 50, or foreign, or both! Young people in the UK just don't seem to want to use the Youth Hostels. At 57 I reckoned I wouldn't feel out of place in US hostels - or am I wrong?
chieftwonuneez: I hear what you're saying but I need my cup of tea in the morning to get me going; so that's a stove, a pan, cups, extra water...... and then a bit of breakfast before starting to ride..... I guess some of the better sites are fairly remote, with everyone eating in their RV's - and me starving! Still not convinced about the camping; the three of us are having some planning meets over the Christmas break. Decisions will need to be made!
12-20-04, 06:48 PM
My experiences in all the hostels are mixed age groups from 9 to 90. I believe it enhances the trips when the opportunity to stay in one arises. Staying with folks, always your own age group does not get you outside the "envelope" very much and I believe you can learn from folks, and share good times, with all age groups and nationalities. It is why I go to hostels! Really, how often can you claim to have spent all night playing "pictionary" in the middle of the mountains of Alberta with a group of Chinese students who do not speak English, but could draw like Michelangelo!
The coffee pot and stove are extra. I always carry a small stove and 1 pot cooking but admit I use them not often enough. I am prone to ride two miles before breakfast and stop at the first place that excites the nostrils, same with 2nd breakfast and lunches and dinner. But, these things you can divide among your group which I can not.
The easiest fuel to access here, in regular stores, is the green coleman propane fuel bottles(about a quart in size)(the half sizes are harder to find). There is a standard screw on burner for these that does not take up much room. One of you can carry the bottle the other the burner top($15-20)(about 3" dia by 1 1/2") and the other the pot!
Most of the "convenience stores/petrol stations in the little towns with have these bottles and all the Wal-Marts(good or bad, they are everywhere) will have them. I have tried all types of fuel stoves but the propane, for bike camping, for me, seems the least fussy, no priming and clean burning. One bottle will probably last you two weeks.
Also, consider a jungle hammock instead of the tent and sleeping pad. You save weight, space and sleep off the ground. You will have no trouble finding two trees anywhere you camp on the west coast! The Hennessey Hammock and the Clark Jungle Hammock are both online, I like the Clark myself. You probably have a better selection in UK and Euro (mosquito screen very important).. I was always amazed at the quality of outdoor gear avail in Euro that I can't seem to find here.
The Washington/Oregon Coastlineand Northern California, is one of the most scenic rides in the U.S. and still pretty much unspoiled. The lack of development(condo after condo) along Washington coast is impressive. It is still pretty much forests on the left and small towns huging the shore line, long lonely pristine beaches, cranberry bog farms and an abundant supply of salmon,dungeness crabs and large razor clams to munch on. The Oregon Coast is wholly state owned and state campgrounds are numerous and command the best views of the ocean. Some nights you sleep right next the water, next night you could be on a bluff 700 feet above the ocean with the wind whiping up the cliff sides chiling you to the bone! (Geez sounds like Skye), and regardless of the hills(which are numerous), traffic or weather, you are thankful you chose to be there!
I have to stop talking about this now, cause I may have to join you!
Food for thought!
01-19-05, 05:20 PM
I've stayed in the Northwest Portland, Point Reyes, Montara, Pescadero, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara hostels on various coastal tours.
They were all nice, mellow, warm and dry, with lots of resources, like cheap laundry, kitchens, free maps, and in the case of San Luis Obispo, you get $5 off when you show up on a bike. It is $15 a night in the dorm and pancakes are free, so throw in $2 for laundry, and 50 cents for coffee and you had an awesome pit stop / reboot for $17.50. Or you can get a private room for more.
They are smaller than many of the European ones I've visited, and it is not customary to serve coffee or toast in the AM (except for Hostel Obispo), but are essentially the same outfit (Hosteling International http://www.hiayh.org/).
The lighthouses at Montara and Pescadro, and the Point Reyes Hostel are in locations with few other resources.
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