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Islands and Ferries in the Pacific Northwest

Everett, Whidbey Island, Orcas Island

sunny 24 °C
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We had made it all the way to Ellensburg an hour east of Seattle and Sam and I had to do some decision making: what would we like to see and do in the next couple of days and in which order. Mt Rainier vs. Seattle vs. San Juan Islands were the candidates. And after going through several options, we were clear on the base plan and I was able to go ahead and make reservations for accommodation and the ferry for the San Juan Islands.
So the next morning we passed the tempting looking Mt Rainier and drove towards Seattle and then north towards Anacortes to be well positioned for our ferry reservation the next morning. Instead of just taking the interstate north from Seattle, I figured we might as well take a scenic detour via Whidbey Island.
What I had not taken into account is that on the way to the ferry in Mutkileo, we passed directly by the Boeing factories. And it was simply way too tempting to stop at their ‘Future of Flight’ facility. While the museum did not tempt us too much – after all it seemed hard to top the experience we’ve had at the PIMA air and space museum in Tucson – we were very tempted to go on the tour of the production facilities. Unfortunately, Max did not meet the height requirement, so only Sam got to take the tour. Fortunately enough, the museum turned out to be very kids friendly and consequently Max and I did not have any trouble at all to fill the two hours until Sam was back.

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Even though it was much later than the original plan had anticipated, we still took the ferry over towards Clinton on Whidbey Island. We had to wait a bit to get onto one of the ferries and then enjoyed a short transit over.
Sticking to the main road along the island proved to provide us with lots of forest views and little else. So we took the turnoff towards Fort Casey and were rewarded with nice sights of Puget Sound from there. Walking along the battery with it's large canons, we could not resist to wonder how much energy was put into the defense of a place that in the end never got attacked at any stage.

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Our destination for the night was State Park at Deception Pass, which is famed as one of the nicest state parks in Washington. While for Sam the stay there was the ultimate experience and probably the best place we stayed at so far overall, I felt a bit deceived in fact.

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As we soon realized, the State Park is located less than two miles north of the airfield of a naval base. There were probably three F18 fighter jets which started their flight training at around 8pm turning in circles attempting to land at the base and then starting through again. And with every round we got treated in 1 minute intervals to about 20 seconds of unbelievable noise. We were able to see exactly the exhaust of the planes pointed in our direction in a distance of maybe 500 yards / meters. And just from the noise level it felt like they were running in afterburner mode.
With every round they made, Sam looked even more excited and soon got the binoculars out to watch even closer. Max was frustrated by the noise and was protecting his ears with his hands on every turn. And after realizing the noise did not seem to eventually stop with darkness setting in, I got quite frustrated. By the time I went to bed a bit after 10pm, they continued to make their rounds. And even when Sam went to sleep an hour later they had not stopped yet.
At least all three of us tend to sleep very well despite noise around us, so I guess we can call ourselves lucky in that respect. We were well rested when the alarm went off the next morning, had breakfast and headed to the Ferry.
We had made reservations to go to the San Juan islands. Given that it’s high season and all campgrounds I checked seemed to be full, I had booked a camping spot for us via Airbnb on Orcas Island.

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Once the ferry landed, we directly went to ‘The Lodge on Orcas’ where the owner David was waiting for us. We were thrilled – what a gem we had found: a nice secluded place. A couple of rooms and really nice spaces to be shared by all guests: a big and clean kitchen, nice sitting areas, several terraces and balconies and a large outside garden with an orchard featuring ripe Asian pears and a couple of hammocks. Wow!
It was an easy decision to just spend the day in the lodge without going anywhere else. Barbecue, hammocks, afternoon tea, a short walk to the beach and back, nice talks with other guests – what a great day!

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The next day we did explore the island a bit. Moran State Park is not far away and we did a bit of hiking to the Cascades and Hidden Falls before heading up to Mount Constitution. Up there we had an excellent view of the Puget Sound with the islands surrounding us, to Vancouver Islands, the Cascades Range with Mt. Baker and into the Vancouver area in Canada.

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Before heading back towards our lodge, we could not resist the temptation to stop at the shellfish farm in Bark Bay. We had lots of fun picking a dozen oysters, opening them and trying to distinguish the tastes of the three different kinds of oysters we had selected. In retrospect we should probably have skipped the fun – at least I would have felt much better the following day. Well, what should I say: no risk, no fun…

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That evening we enjoyed another barbecue before taking advantage of the large variety of games in the lodge to play some board games.
It was really hard to leave the lodge again and stayed pretty much as long as we could. Before heading off, we got to take a lot of food which Tom, Lina, Lilly and Chloe had left over before leaving the day before – thanks guys! But eventually it was time to say good-bye to David and to head into Eastsound – the nice little town on Orcas Island. It is very laid back, offers a nice variety of shopping opportunities and we enjoyed our time there very much. Still, we limited our shopping to ice cream (6$ for a single scoop) and ‘real’ bread (9$ for a small loaf), even though there would have been much else that that would have been nice to have.

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We had originally been considering to also visit some of the other islands of the San Juan archipelago, but taking into account the ferry waiting times and transfers, eventually had rather wanted to take it easy just on Orcas. Still, to get back, we did spend another hour waiting at the ferry terminal waiting for our turn to get onto the ferry back to Anacortes.

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This time we even played a bit of puzzle – what a nice idea of the ferry company to keep the passengers entertained – before heading off onto Fidalgo Island and eventually the mainland. We all agreed: It had been a fun trip to Orcas Island!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:07 Archived in USA Tagged island plane ferry driftwood jets boeing orcas battery production Comments (0)

Some last days in the US before heading to Canada

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After a quiet night - without any vampire sightings - in Forks we headed for the Mora beach. We planned to have a hike along the beach and as it was raining by far more than just a mere drizzle, for the first time since early May we had to wear our rain jackets.
The so-called sea stacks and the significant amounts of gigantic driftwood along the stony beach created a somewhat mysterious atmosphere. And even though we’re usually preferring bright sunshine and heat vs. rain and cold, the weather somehow matched the landscape. As Janis rightfully said: this is the classical Pacific Northwest how one imagines it.

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After lots of stone collecting, stone skipping, stone stacking and stone castle building we longed for a hot tea and cake in our cozy van.

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A bit later we had found a nice spot at the Bear Creek Campground. The only challenge was the fact that while it was in principle free of charge, it required every vehicle to have a Discovery Pass. We had one, but Janis did not. After lots of research, we eventually found out that the online system was down and that there was no place close-by to buy one. So after a bit of thinking, we pitched Janis’ tent and parked her car outside the campground in front of the Bear Creek Café – a somewhat classical place to eat and drink in the middle of nowhere.
In exchange for the parking spot, Janis and I planned to get some French Fries to take away. After sitting at the counter and seeing the pies in the fridge, we ordered two bumbleberry pies as well, which as we learned consist of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. And to give Sam a chance to see the place as well, Janis offered to join him for a beer there while Max and I got to play Lego and eat the French Fries in the van.
As we passed Lake Crescent the next day, Sam came up with the great idea to rent kayaks. We enjoyed our trip on the lake very much. Max did an excellent job in helping Sam move their kayak while Janis and I trailed them and tried to keep up.

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As we took a break on a quiet beach along the shore, Sam discovered a large swing. It just did not seem to reach far enough out such that it would have been safe to swing into the lake. Still: it was lots of fun just to swing there. Both Sam and Max enjoyed that portion of the trip almost as much as the kayaking itself.

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After a dip into the lake and picnic, we continued towards Fort Townsend. After setting up camp, we explored a bit of the town and the Fort Worden state park. We liked the town a lot. With its hilly setting on the coast, old Victorian buildings and grazing deer, it was a very pleasant place to be. And the state park with the lighthouse and it's beach was very pleasant as well.

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So after exploring until it got dark, we ended up having a very late dinner back at our place and some final rounds of playing our new and favourite dice game with Janis – which she once again won. What a pity that it will take a couple of weeks before we’ll be able to ask for another round to finally manage to beat her.
The next morning, Janis was treated by Sam to Kaiserschmarrn (Austrian ‘scrambled pancakes’) before she had to head off towards the ferry and ultimately to her flight back to Chicago.
We took it easy and left a bit later to reach the Port Townsend ferry just before departure. The ferry ride was smooth and short and we had a déjà vu – after all we had been at the Coupeville ferry terminal and Fort Casey just two weeks ago already.

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This time we arrived there around noon and consequently had a bit more time to spend at Whidbey Island. Thus this time stops at Fort Ebey and later at Deception Pass Bridge were easily possible. Once again Sam and Max were happy about the F18s circling above the Naval Air Base and Deception Pass State Park.

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I guess both of them would have loved to stay there again. But I gave a clear enough veto such that eventually we continued our journey towards Canada - the next destination of our journey.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:27 Archived in USA Tagged rain beach kayak lighthouse wet ferry driftwood swing Comments (0)

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