Full disclosure here. When I was offered a chance to get away for a kid-free weekend, it probably could have been anywhere and I’d have said yes. I love my kids to pieces and I miss them when I’m away from them, but sometimes it’s nice to have the CHANCE to miss them, especially this time of year when escaping from the wet and cold when their energy is high is more challenging. But getting the chance to see Ilwaco in Washington and stay at a super cute place called The Salt Hotel & Pub certainly appealed to me for different reasons as well. For one, it wasn’t too far from home, so it wasn’t a huge commitment. And for another, it was somewhere I’d never ventured or really knew much about. I’ve had many adventures on the Oregon Coast, but the closest I’d ever gotten to Ilwaco was Astoria.
We featured the Salt Hotel and the surrounding area was in the summer of 2017 and it was a great recount of a fun weekend away. However, I knew that my experience would be much different in November than it was in July. In my opinion, there’s something very appealing about a coastal town in the off-season if you know what you’re in for, but I know that there are many other people who would prefer to stay indoors when the weather gets a bit blustery. I’m not a fair-weather runner, so I was fully prepared to get my sea legs on for the rain and mud that might be waiting outside on the trails. Except I never actually got the rain I’d braced myself for. The weather was chilly enough for a jacket, and a bit overcast and gray, but actually what most Oregonian runners would say was perfect running weather. But even if it had been raining buckets, it would have been an awesome journey well worth the wet and cold.
The first thing I want to say about my adventure is that I met some really amazing and wonderful people. Here in Portland, I love to support my local community as much as I can, and in a place like Ilwaco, it feels even more necessary. The people there work hard and are genuinely good people, and tourism really suffers in the off-season in places that are off the beaten path. Ilwaco is not one of those coastal communities that is well known and though there are many worthy touristy spots all up and down the Oregon and Washington Coastline, places like Ilwaco should be given their moment in the sun to shine. Ilwaco is the real deal – a working class coastal town with salt of the earth people that care about where they live. This time of year, it’s the little things worth noticing, like the crab pot tree (which sadly was not yet lit so early in the season) and the lamp post holiday decorations.
I called the owner of The Salt, Julian, prior to my trip and he was eager to help and full of information about the town and the various activities surrounding his hotel. He got me in touch with fellow Salt employee Jennifer, who was a runner and nice enough to invite me on a group run with her friends for that weekend, and Peggy, the owner of business about 4 doors down called RiversZen. Julian didn’t want to pressure me into a full agenda but he wanted to be sure I was well taken care of.
I arrived at The Salt with my husband on a Friday evening and we settled into a cozy harbor room and felt right at home. We were hungry, so we almost immediately headed upstairs to the pub which was conveniently located onsite. The waiter was attentive, the food was delicious, and the beer was welcome. We retired to our room fairly early that evening, and the king sized bed was very comfortable. The room was small but had everything we needed – a refrigerator, a coffee maker, a TV. It would have been very snug if we’d opted to bring our kids, but it was perfect for a couple. Pets are welcome (except for upstairs king rooms) for an additional $15 fee.
Saturday morning, we grabbed a couple cups of coffee from the lobby and headed down The Discovery Trail for our first Ilwaco journey. I had heard about the trail but was eager to see it in person, as it boasted views of the dunes and the ocean. The trailhead is very close to the hotel and it starts on a steep incline. Lush forest surrounded us, and it was mostly all on paved paths. This is beneficial as the weather turns muddy in the woods this time of year. My husband doesn’t run much, so he opted to ride his bike while I ran and we both had a fabulous time seeing what the trails had to offer. It was hilly but rewarding, as the scenery was very pretty. Eventually we found ourselves in front of a gorgeous lighthouse with ocean waves to our left. It was here that we turned around and headed back with the coastal breezes surrounding us. We got back to our room in time to catch a quick bite to eat and a shower before I headed to my appointment at RiversZen.
RiversZen is a cute studio with big open windows that ensure clients will have a fantastic view of the enormous boats docked harborside. Peggy welcomed me inside and I felt at ease with her right away. I filled out a questionnaire and we talked about many things, like what I did for work, how much water I drank, and what my activity level was. We also talked about breathing properly, balance, and any “problem spots” I might be having. She took a few photos of me from various sides so we could review my posture and she pointed out some things I hadn’t noticed.
Finally we got to the “meat” of the session, which was some resistance stretching. She worked on many different areas of my lower body, though she said there were many other areas she could work on depending on what a client wanted or needed. Each area had some gentle warm-up movement, with the basis being a “push/pull” method where you “go with” her one direction and push against her in the other, but always letting her “win.” I found she was able to pull me further and further and I could see how resistance stretching could be a very viable alternative to massage.
Peggy was very knowledgeable and had some great stories about some amazing things she’d witnessed and helped people with in their fitness journey. She was very humble but she’s been an incredible resource for many people over the years. She also has a great team of trainers, including her husband Dave (who shares a similar passion in a fit life,) and Dave’s daughter, Kimberly Gibbs. Most of RiversZen clients are in their 40’s or 50’s, but I think if more athletes knew about resistance stretching, people like Peggy would be an enormous help in recovery and injury prevention. Peggy and Dave noticed while watching the 2008 Olympics that Dara Torres, the twelve-time Olympic medalist swimmer, employed the use of resistance stretching. She was the oldest swimmer to earn a place on the US Olympic team at 41 years old in 2008 and won 3 silver medals that year. Peggy has employed two trainers that worked with Dara.
In addition to resistance stretching, RiversZen offers several types of both group and private classes, and even online training. Everything is entirely customizable. In addition to the studio in Ilwaco, there’s another studio located in Astoria. I would love to visit them again and it was well worth the 2 hours out of my day to get such a thorough evaluation.
Sunday was my run day with Jennifer and her crew of supportive running friends. They were much like the many groups of friends I have run with here at home in that they all made me feel welcome. There is for sure a certain bond in running that is like no other, no matter what else is going on in your life.
We headed up the Discovery Trail again, but this time I got to venture a bit further. Upon looping back, they treated me to a steep hilly road that the runners in those parts simply call “Agony.” It was a good hill for sure, and it just kept going. Luckily, it was at the end of the run, so I knew I just needed to make it back to the hotel when we finally got to the end. The conversation flowed and I was in great company. There was a mother and daughter running duo and you would have thought they were sisters. The mother had run the Boston Marathon twice, the New York Marathon once, and an Ironman that year. She was amazing. All of them were. We talked about a lot of races and I even got a tip on a race I hadn’t heard about that I’d like to try next year. Overall, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire weekend.
After I got back to the hotel, Julian assured me that we could take any extra time we wanted to load up despite the 11:00AM “suggested” check out time. There was a very relaxed vibe, so I didn’t stress about it. After a shower, I met up with Julian to discuss some ideas he had for the future of the hotel and some possible runner package options. He is currently in the process of remodeling the hotel and moving the pub downstairs, so the upstairs pub can be used for summer overflow and special events. It seems to me that there’s a lot of potential there for a lot of things and it’s a great space.
Before leaving, Julian gave me some suggestions on other places to run. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop anywhere else, but Black Lake and it’s surrounding trails looked like a pretty stunning alternate to the Discovery Trail if you want to try another option, and it’s also one that maybe isn’t given enough lip service. Cape Disappointment State Park is also really beautiful and there are many pockets of gorgeous scenery everywhere. Astoria is very close, and Long Beach is about 7 minutes away by car. There are lots of options for anyone looking to get in a great coastal getaway.
All in all, I felt like everyone went out of their way to help me, which is not the case in most places. Ilwaco, The Salt Hotel & Pub, and RiversZen will definitely be on the agenda again for me sometime. I was thinking it would be a great retreat for one of my running weekends with a group of friends. Again, I feel the possibilities are endless, whether it rains or not. After all, you gotta get wet if you want to explore the Pacific Northwest coast.
The Salt Hotel & Pub Contact Details:
Address: 147 Howerton Ave, Ilwaco, WA 98624
RiversZen (Ilwaco location) Contact Details:
Address: 177 Howerton Ave SE, Ilwaco, WA 98624
Many thanks to the Salt Hotel and RiversZen for allowing us to check out their property! Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.