Sedro-Woolley to San Juan Island

We drove to Anacortes to catch the 9:05 a.m. Ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Instead of driving the truck onto the ferry, we decided to go as foot passengers so we wouldn’t need reservations (very hard to get on a busy summer weekend, and expensive anyway). We left the truck in a parking lot up the hill from the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Quite a hike! It was overflow parking since the other public parking lots were full. The first half of the hour-long sail we were totally shrouded in fog — low lying cloud banks — and we couldn’t see anything at all or even tell that we were moving, except for the sound of the engines. But the second half of the trip, the fog lifted to reveal incredible views of Mt. Baker back to the east and Orcas Island and Lopez Island which we passed on the way to Friday Harbor.20170730_135004_resized

As soon as we landed in Friday Harbor we walked up the street to the bus stop for San Juan Transit. They run buses on a schedule to various places of interest making a loop around the island and you can ride all day for $15 and get off and on at the sites of your choice. Our first stop was Lime Kiln State Park, where we walked down to the Orca viewing site and had a snack at a beautifully situated picnic table overlooking the rocky beach where we could see Vancouver Island in the distance and where my AT&T cellular service informed me that I had entered Canada (but saw no orcas). Then we took the short trail to the lighthouse, and continued on to the old lime kiln that gave the park its name.

Our next stop was English Camp, part of San Juan Island National Historical Park. This area is the site of the British garrison established here for 12 years during the mid 19th century during a territorial dispute between Britain and the US over ownership of San Juan Island. I guess AT&T never got the memo that the dispute was settled by arbitration in 1872. Kaiser Wilhelm was the arbitrator. Anyway it’s located on beautiful Garrison Bay. There were historical re-enactors set up in the meadow by the bay going about their 19th century business — blacksmithing, doing laundry, washing dishes, cooking, playing croquet, etc.

Our next stop was back to the town of Friday Harbor where we asked at the Visitor Information Center where to find a vegetarian friendly restaurant. They recommended Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar, which is vegan. It’s a pretty place a couple of blocks from the ferry terminal. We got there at 2:30 and were seated immediately, but sat and sat and finally Scott had to go find someone to take our order. We ordered sweet potato tacos and a seitan BLT with avocado. Good enough… but then we sat and sat some more… a total of about 30 minutes, and no one was around, although there were lots of people eating outside on the patio. Again, we had to ask someone to check on our food, and they finally brought it, lukewarm, so it had probably been prepared and then sat there because no one could be bothered to bring it to us. That said, the food was really delicious. My TripAdvisor review will give them four stars for food, one star for service!20170730_143834_resized

By the time we finished it was 3:30 so we walked down the hill to catch the 3:35 bus to American Camp, the US installation during the territorial dispute AKA the Pig War because it was precipitated by an American shooting an Englishman’s boar because it was digging in his potato patch. Scott said it should have been called the Boar War. (He can’t help himself. It’s a gift.)

At American Camp, we spent a few minutes in the very good Interpretive Center, and then took a short hike down a trail to the beach at Grandma’s Cove. More awesome views in all directions. We learned that a unique ecosystem called North Puget Sound Prairie has been reduced to about 2% of its original extent, and one last remaining tiny patch of it is here at the southern tip of San Juan Island at American Camp.

Our final stop of the day was back at Friday Harbor. We had about 90 minutes before the 6:35 ferry back to Anacortes, so we wandered around this picturesque little tourist town, admiring the harbor, sidestepping throngs of people with strollers and bicycles, and finally spending about 1/2 hour at the Whale Museum. We had been chatting with our bus driver who told us that his wife was offered her dream job as curator of this Whale Museum, so they moved from Everett, WA where he had been a park ranger doing interpretation and education for the city of Everett parks department. His wife moved to San Juan Island to start her job, while it took him seven years to sell their house and find another job in Friday Harbor, which turned out to be buying the bus company from the previous owner who retired to Mexico.

Back on the ferry, back to Anacortes, back in the truck, and back at camp by 9:00 p.m. What a whirlwind of a day! Lots of fun!

Sedro-Woolley to Camano Island

Saturday, July 29. Went on an excursion to Camano (pronounced kah-MAIN-oh, we now know, thanks to our local expert Mr. Charles Angell) Island, accessible by bridge from the little town of Stanwood. Like Marrowstone, although much more developed, this island has a magical quality about it. There are arresting views of Mt. Baker and the North Cascades from the east side of the island, and of the Olympics from the west. We went first to Camano Island State Park and drove down to the beach near the public boat launch. Took a beautiful walk in cool, sunny weather along the pebbled beach. The public beach isn’t very long, and there was no sign designating the boundary; although we wandered into private territory, the residents we encountered were very nice about it and said they didn’t mind… the beaches in Washington are not public by default like they are in Florida. We were excited to spot a brilliant male American Goldfinch in breeding plumage.

Then we drove through the campground, admiring the lovely wooded sites, mostly for tents but some pull-throughs with room for RVs. Dry camping, no utilities. But gorgeous, and so close to the beach! We have to remember this place! A little further up the road is the trailhead to the Al Emerson Nature Trail, a 1/2 mile walk through some of the last remaining old growth forest on Camano Island.

We stopped in Stanwood for lunch at Polska Kuchnia (cold beet soup for H, cabbage pierogies for S — something different and unexpected!). Then drove through the outskirts of Mt. Vernon and via backroads to Sedro-Woolley. This is a funky little town that bills itself as The Gateway to the Cascades. Pleasant, unpretentious. We like it!


Friday, July 28. We took our time getting packed up this morning, such that the RV park manager came by at 11:30 to find out why we were still there after the official checkout time of 11:00 a.m. We are such scofflaws!

After a short drive down the interstate we arrived in Sedro-Woolley and found the Riverfront Community RV park and the affable camp host Willis, originally from Ruskin, Florida. After getting set up, we drove into the nearby sprawl and congestion of Burlington, with a high concentration of big box stores and national chains. Luckily for us, one of them is Planet Fitness so we happily used their wifi, then worked out for an hour and took long, hot showers!

Our campground is right on the Skagit River; at dusk we took a walk around the park and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings.

Bellingham, day 4

Thursday, July 27. Busy day! First we drove south to look at various neighborhoods south of Bellingham, starting with a couple of lots along Chuckanut Drive. Gorgeous views out to the water, but very steep lots along a narrow, winding, heavily trafficked road. Back to Fairhaven, our favorite from last year, good for taking a break from the car. We walked around, had a snack at Mount Bakery (get it? Mt. Baker-y!) where the waitress said she is renting a house out toward Mt. Baker around Noon Road — just the area we explored yesterday. She said the commute is long but she can see Mt. Baker when she wakes up in the morning and is happy. We strolled over to the Haagen supermarket for a few things, then to the public library (closed until 2pm), and then to the wonderful independent Village Bookstore. Drove to the town Marine Park where we saw the following:IMG_0990.JPG

Then we met a woman walking a German Shepherd. Maybe it was her truck? 20170727_122811_resizedShe offered to take a photo of us, and I noticed she was wearing a Hike Mt. Timpanogos tshirt which I remarked upon. We starting chatting about hikes and we asked for her recommendations. She suggested Lake Padden…
Then we drove to the Boulevard Park entrance to the South Bay interurban trail that goes along the waterfront linking Fairhaven and Bellingham. Beautiful, popular, pleasant walk.

Then we went on to the next set of properties on our Zillow list, clustered above Fairhaven. Some very nice neighborhoods but this is apparently an overheated sellers market… prices are very high! There was a tiny (624 square ft), dilapidated old cottage on a tiny lot, listed for $300K!
Next, several pieces of land about 10 miles south of Bellingham. The nicest so far is a 9.23 acre lot just south of Lake Samish with mountain views on Appaloosa Road. IMG_0992Very tempting!! Checked out a few others, then drove back north towards Bellingham on back roads. Passed Lake Padden and stopped to take a walk about 1/2 way around the Lake. Unexpectedly beautiful, heavily forested trail around a pretty lake.20170727_155443_resized
Finally, stopped at Costco for gas in preparation for tomorrow’s move to Sedro Woolley. We noticed that about 40% of the cars in the parking lot had British Columbia license plates. I guess taxes are lower and the exchange rate is favorable enough to justify the fifty mile drive!

Yesterday, our on-demand hot water heater gave up the ghost, which was not unexpected based on reports from other Winnie owners. Last night we heated water on the stove for sponge baths, just like the pioneers (but notably without the starvation, disease and other trials). Scott tinkered with it this afternoon and we have hot water again! 👍😊🎉

Bellingham, day 3

Wednesday, July 26.
Drove up towards Mt. Baker on WA 542 with stunning views of the mountain around every bend. Threaded in and out of back country roads, just getting a feel for the different neighborhoods. There are some beautiful areas between Squalicum Lake and Agate Bay to the south of 542 and around the intersection of Everson Goshen and E. Smith Roads to the north of 542. Drove back to the campground for lunch, and then back out again for a quick hike on the “Bay to Baker” trail along Bellingham Bay.

We met a transplanted Floridian named Tim on his recumbent bike. He lived in Fernandina Beach and Tallahassee, and also retired from state employment. He moved to Bellingham in 2005 and loves it. He lives in “The Leopold,” an independent living apartment complex for seniors where they clean his apartment once a week and provide 3 meals a day.
Then we drove downtown to 3 Oms Yoga. We took an “Iyengar” class which was actually half an ashtanga class followed by half a restorative class. But then we took a Yin Yoga class which was excellent! A woman named “Fishy” struck up a conversation with us after class. She is originally from Northern California but when her children moved to Bellingham, she followed and loves it, especially this yoga studio! Drove around downtown Bellingham and some of the nearby neighborhoods which reminded us of the East-of-Olive older residential blocks just south of West Palm Beach. Stopped at Fred Meyer for a couple of items, then home for dinner.

Bellingham, day 2

Our first Bellingham yoga class was 9 o’clock this morning at 3 Oms Yoga in a beautiful downtown studio. They offer an introductory package of unlimited classes for one week for $20. We took the “Intuitive Flow” class today, and have signed up for an Iyengar class and a Yin Yoga class tomorrow. Others to follow. Terrific deal!

The young woman at the desk is a 3rd generation Bellingham-ite (Bellinghammer?) and when I told her we were planning to visit Hovander Homestead Park and the demonstration gardens there, maintained by local Master Gardeners, she said she is also a Master Gardener!!

So we drove the 10 miles or so north from downtown Bellingham to Ferndale and the Hovander Homestead Park. First, we visited the Fragrance Garden near the Interpretive Center (closed), climbed up the observation tower, then took the one-mile boardwalk trail through a marshy area.20170725_114048_resized Then we drove around to the Demonstration Gardens and barn.20170725_121840_resized They have herb and vegetable gardens (produce donated to a food bank in Ferndale), pollinator garden, weed garden, children’s story book garden (veggies, herbs and flowers in raised beds based on themes in children’s books), etc. But no dedicated butterfly garden and no dedicated native plant garden. Room for improvement!! Still, a wonderful spot. Beautiful signage! Scarecrows with personality!

Then we drove around the Ferndale area, parked downtown and walked around a little.20170725_132326_resized Drove further north to the town of Lynden, almost at the Canadian border. This is the town where our Bellingham Airbnb host last year (Dixie) said she had trouble making friends because she was not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. It is a predominantly agricultural area, distinguished by the massive shape of snowy Mt. Baker looming over all. 20170725_112327_resizedWe pulled into Second Chance thrift shop and found a shirt for Scott, to replace the ragged one I threw away. 20170725_141115_resizedDuring our visit to Birch Bay with the Angells about 8 years ago, we found a very good fruit stand near Lynden selling locally grown produce, so I asked the thrift shop lady about it. She thought it might be the Green Barn. It wasn’t, but we did stop at the Green Barn farm store where Scott had a really good grilled veggie sandwich and a local berry smoothie. Tim, the sandwich maker, kindly offered us a little bowl of freshly picked sugar snap peas. Scott said “What a nice guy!” And Tim said “I AM a nice guy… but no one wants to marry me!” I felt it was my duty to support local farmers, so I bought a pound of dry roasted hazelnuts. Sublime!IMG_0973

We also bought organic sweet cherries grown in Wenatchee, WA and blueberries grown in Lynden. Doing our part to support the local economy! Since we also bought a bag of blue tortilla chips, Scott made a delicious snack of guacamole with red onion and jalapeño. We had some of the cherries for dessert.


Bellingham, day 1

Monday, July 24. It was sad to say goodbye to the Angells this morning… 😢

We were able to get on the 11:55 Kingston-Edmonds ferry, and like the tourists we are, were delighted with the efficient loading of the ferry for the 30 minute crossing, and thrilled at the brilliant views of the Olympic Mountains falling away to the west.IMG_3082

It was a relatively easy drive east on 104 to the exit for I-5N, and then pretty light traffic for the 80 mile drive to the Bellingham RV Park, an un-scenic gravel parking lot that will serve as our home base for the next 4 days in Bellingham.

After an easy set-up, we caught up on wifi chores, and then drove out to get gas and groceries at the Fred Meyer store 5 minutes away. Also, Scott finally got his haircut, a $14 Senior special!IMG_3090

Our last days in Paradise (Bay)

Tuesday, July 18. Did some projects in the Angells yard, chopping wood, carrying water, planting grapevines, planting posts for the vines to grow on… Scott started work on fixing our grey water pipe leak under the trailer. After lunch we did some errands: dropped off recyclables, IMG_0961looked at some land for sale off Oak Bay Road between Port Ludlow and Port Hadlock, went to the library to use the wifi, to Hadlock Building supply to get wire for the grapevines to climb on, to the grocery store… It’s apparently social time in the library with free cookies and juice!

Looked at a house for sale on Tala Shore Road on 1/2 acre with water views for $299K. Called the listing agent to learn that they already had a full price offer. Hot market! IMG_3048

Drove to the end of the road to turn around and met a very articulate and entrepreneurial young saleswoman named Pearl. Bought her last cup of lemonade and took a photo. IMG_3049

Wednesday, July 19. This afternoon, we drove into Silverdale so Charles could pick up something at Kaiser Permanente. Drove back through Port Gamble and stopped to take a short walk on the new Port Gamble Heritage trail — down to the shore of Port Gamble Bay.

Thursday, July 20. Yoga class in Port Townsend. Port Townsend Public Library. Made reservations for a campground after Bellingham at Sedro Wooley county RV park.
Walked around town to Chetzemoka Park. Back through downtown to Leilani’s Deli where we had lunch of bean burrito and lentil yam soup. Walked back through uptown PT to library where truck was parked, stopped at QFC in Port Hadlock, and then drove home… stopped and looked at a few properties with For Sale signs.

Friday, July 21. Puttered around, went with Ini to walk the dog, made lunch. Then Scott and I drove west on 104 after marveling at the line up of cars waiting in a stationary line of traffic for the bridge to open. The illuminated sign on the road said Bridge Opening in Progress, but when we drove back an hour later, the traffic was still backed up. We drove down Thorndyke Road to look at a couple of lots for sale. IMG_0953Beautiful views to the Olympics in the west. We had planned to drive into Poulsbo to get some digital storage devices so Scott can back up his photos but since the traffic was backed up at least a couple of miles to the bridge, we decided to go in the opposite direction and went again to QFC in Port Hadlock. Ini had requested cake.

Saturday, July 22. Walked Lucy, puttered in the garden: H shoveled wood chips to fill holes dug by Lucy, Scott split the remains of a huge hemlock? stump. After lunch Scott helped Charles reassemble porch railing. Neighbors’ daughter Kari and her 14 y/o son Milan came for a visit and stayed for a chat. She is caregiver to her parents, and was diagnosed with MS herself 9 years ago; trying to avoid burnout by focusing on self care including yoga, so we shared links to the Purna yoga center in Bellevue and Port Townsend Yoga where we took class earlier in the week. The Angells took us out to dinner at Punjabi restaurant in Poulsbo. Had Daal Makhani, Tofu Vindaloo, garlic naan. Mmmmmm!IMG_3069

Sunday, July 23. Helen and Ini made a recyclables run and stopped at a couple of yard sales on the way home. Scott and Charles did some fine tuning of the TV antenna. A female black-headed grosbeak visited the bird feeding station for the first time and Charles got some good pictures of her. There was much chatting, political discourse, relaxing, eating wonderful food, and generally enjoying the fine weather and excellent company. Charles set up his camera for a group photo to commemorate the occasion.IMG_0080


Olympic Dreams…

Saturday, July 15. The Angells went back to Seattle and we drove into Port Townsend through the green fields of Chimacum. We got the oil and air filter changed at a Jiffy Lube on the outskirts of town, then drove through the historic town center and admired the old Victorian buildings on the harbor. Then meandered through neighborhoods of older houses with lots of trees and beautiful views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, near Fort Worden State Park. We like Port Townsend! But so do lots of others, for good reason, so it’s a bit congested and housing & land prices are relatively high. Ini informed us that Al Gore is a frequent visitor. We continued around the top of the peninsula that Port Townsend sits on and down the west side with mind blowing views of Discovery Bay and the Olympic mountains beyond. We continued west and north up the east shore of Discovery Bay, exploring the Diamond Point area — interesting, but more suburban and not as beautiful as the Port Townsend side. IMG_0942Continued into Sequim. Stopped in the center of town at a coffee shop for some refreshment… cappuccino, marionberry sorbet, biscotti. Walked around a bit, then drove south up towards the national park, into a rural area off Taylor Cutoff Road, looking for a property near the base of Lost Mountain Road that was listed on Zillow. Never found it but saw lots of beautiful little Farms and homesteads as the road climbed into the mountains and entered Olympic National Park. Scan_Pic0529Took 101 back east, connecting to 104 that took us directly to the turnoff to Paradise Bay Road before the Hood Canal Bridge. There were signs on 104 advising travelers that the wait time for the Bainbridge Island ferry to Seattle would be 2 HOURS!

Sunday, July 16. We wanted to check out the community of Hansville at the end of the Peninsula to the east of Port Gamble Bay. Some pretty views to the west and north. Drove around the whole north end of the Peninsula making a loop that included Point No Point Lighthouse beachIMG_0945 and the Buck Lake county park where there was a vintage car show. Stopped at the Albertsons supermarket on the way home… always a mistake to go grocery shopping when hungry! Had a large lunch at home… microwaved Amy’s veggie burritos, artisan bread and sliced avocado. Then we scrubbed the porch railings and balusters with TSP, rinsed them and left them to dry while we went to Hadlock True Value to get some keys duplicated. On the way home we drove to Marrowstone Island, stopping at Mystery Bay State Park, admission free thanks to the Angells’ Discovery Pass. 20170716_161229_resizedThen we drove to Fort Flagler State Park at the end of Marrowstone Island, site of an old military installation with restored bunkers and guns emplacements, one with a gun originally from a US base in the Philippines. This is because the original cannons are gone, but when first installed in the early 20th century, they had a range of 7 miles! Interesting to see this now on Marrowstone Island because Marrowstone is connected to Indian Island by a causeway, and Indian Island is now the site of Indian Island Naval Reserve, an active US Naval munitions handling facility — the US military’s largest ordnance storage site on the West Coast — it covers the entire island. We walked down the beach all the way to the end at Marrowstone Point, marveling at the incredible views of the Cascades across the water to the east.

Made pea & potato curry for dinner.

Monday, July 17. After breakfast Scott fired up the chainsaw and lopped off some low hanging branches from a fir tree behind the Angell’s cabin. Then we drove into Port Ludlow and recycled a few things at the town recycling center. Continued on to Marrowstone Island because we wanted to look at a property that had been listed for $65K on Zillow: 1/2 acre with electric and water hookups for parking an RV — 809 Schwartz Road. This is a beautiful area, secluded country backroad, but there were some rough looking lots — one with a shack and construction trucks parked there, and the lot directly across the way had started being cleared so there was no way of knowing how the area was going to be developed. IMG_3041.JPGBut Marrowstone Island is a magical place. Today the air was so clear that we could see the snow covered Olympic Mountain peaks to the west from the east side of the island as we drove across the causeway and back to the mainland. Proceeded two more minutes to Port Hadlock and the laundromat and then the library where we used the wifi to post this blog entry.