You see those mountains out there? They aren’t just mountains, those are islands!
So said my soon-too-be father-in-law, Jim Wright, as we drove across The Flats for my first visit to Samish Island in 1988. The reclaimed farmland that connected the mainland to the island created the illusion that we weren’t close to water at all. It wasn’t until we gained a bit of elevation that I saw that we were, in fact, surrounded by it.
From that moment on, I was hooked. There was so much to see and do, and it was all so different from where I lived. Over the years, and with subsequent visits I’ve built up an ideal of life in Skagit Valley County. It’s an ideal of a slower pace of life, filled with cool weather, incredible scenery, wonderful coffee and fresh baked goods, produce from the local farms, and fantastic seafood. Each quaint little town is filled with curious characters and Victorian architecture. Travel up the Skagit River, and you enter the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, with soaring trees and volcanic mountains and lakes filled with glacial waters. Head two hours north or south, and you have the cultural vibrancy of Seattle or Vancouver. If I were to move from South Carolina, I think this would be where I’d want to settle.
Of course, that’s the ideal. The reality is that the weather can be downright dreary. This far north the days get very short in winter. Then there is the exponential growth of the area. Traffic in Mount Vernon, Burlington, and Anacortes has become nightmarish. Even on remote Samish Island there is now a constant parade of cars. Real estate prices have gone through the roof as people move from the crowded cities out to the countryside. Even the iconic farms have been threatened by development. My idyllic paradise is threatened, as others like me are making good on their dreams and moving out this way, and loving the place to death.
Laura and I arrived on Samish Island on Friday for our annual trip to visit her mom. The flight in was through clouds and fog, but as we drove north the skies cleared and we could clearly see the glaciers of Mount Baker. Saturday morning turned out to be foggy and cloudy. Laura and I visited the Samish Island Arts Festival, a small set of booths at the community center on one end of the island. Later in the afternoon all three of us took a drive across the farmlands, roughly following the Skagit River toward its delta.
We rounded out our first day on the island with a dinner of fresh Dungeness crab, caught by one of the neighbors in the waters nearby.
So, there is still quite a bit of my ideal left. This week I hope to relish as much of it as I can before it disappears.