Tag Archive: Washington State

A Samish Island Fourth of July

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The celebration actually started yesterday.  There were the beach fireworks Duff and I saw while paddling, usually involving ordnance  obtained from the reservation and NOT approved by Washington State law.  Also, the neighbors a couple of doors down had hired a band.  Duff and I had heard them while paddling, and back home they were really loud.

After dark Laura and I walked out front and watched (and listened to) fireworks both on the reservation across Padilla Bay and on the San Juan Islands.  For some of them, if these weren’t official shows, then someone was REALLY in violation of the “safe and sane” fireworks laws.

Monday, July the Fourth was one of the best Independence Days we’ve ever had.  It started quietly enough like every other morning on the island so far.  I even skipped another paddling opportunity in order to sleep in a bit.  Mid-morning we decided to head down to the Samish Island Parade on North Beach. (more…)

Paddling Around Samish Bay

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It looked like I wasn’t going to get to go paddling this trip.  I had thought about just buying a kayak and leaving it up here for future trips, but couldn’t find anything reasonable.  I thought about booking another tour, but by that time most had filled up with holiday  travelers.

Fortunately, the neighbor Duff came to my rescue.  He had several homemade Fiberglas boats that we had used before, but they weren’t easy to reach.  They were at the bottom of the cliff on the south side of the island.  We managed to haul them up the cliff, but by that time it was late in the evening, and we were a bit tired from the haul to go paddling.

After discussing options we decided to take the boats up the Valley and run a section of the Skagit River.  This was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, so I was psyched.  We loaded the boats onto our rental, since it had roof racks.

The next morning Duff and I headed out in two vehicles.  We had barely gotten off the island when one of the boats came loose and slid off of my car.    Fortunately there was no damage to car or boat, and we were able to get it loaded back on an limp home.  However, we needed to regroup. (more…)

A Day on Samish Island

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Samish Morning View

The view from Mrs. Wright’s living room is constantly changing. The lighting changes with the rising and setting of the sun, clouds and weather roll in, and there is the constant shifting of the tides. Throw in a couple of eagles, herons, and humming birds, along with some boat traffic, and you’ve got a constant spectacle.

I wanted to try to capture a bit of that, and it seemed like a time-lapse video was the best way to do it. I first tried with a little application on my netbook that uses its webcam. The results were OK, but it didn’t have the resolution I wanted, and I couldn’t find a good safe place to set it up for a long series of shots.

I decided to see what was available for the iPad. I downloaded the iMotion app, which let’s you do time-lapse with exposures at various intervals. It looked like it would do the trick.

The next step was to figure out some way to mount the iPad safely. In the workshop I found a clamp with a place to attach the head of my tripod. Perfect. I found the right sized screw and used a was cloth to cushion the device, and I was in business.

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Since it wasn’t supposed to rain, and since we were going to be out in the yard working most of the day, I set up the iPod under some trees on thick grass. That way, if it did fall over at least there would be some cushion. I set the interval to 30 seconds and let it go while we did our chores.

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Here’s the result of that first test…

While this was able to catch the tide change and the late evening, I really wanted an entire day from dark to dark. for that I needed a more secure location. I found that the front window of the master bedroom had a great view albeit obscured a bit by overgrown shrubbery. It would have to do.

I set up the tripod so that it was ready to go. I got up early at 4:00 am and started it running. Sixteen hours and 2851 images later I shut it down at 10:00 pm I finished the process. Here’s how that video turned out…

I like the view from the first video better, and I wish I could have figured out how to keep the iPad secure. As it turns out, the day with the long exposure started with rain, so it was a good thing I brought it inside.

A couple of the older Nikon cameras I’ve used had and interval mode. A smaller camera like that would work better than something as bulky as the iPad. Even so, I like the results. Someday I’ll find another point-and-shoot that that has interval mode, and I’ll try this again

Padilla Bay Preserve

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Padilla Bay Reserve

Mrs. Wright’s house looks out over Padilla Bay, a section of the Puget Sound bounded by Samish Island to the north, the flat farmlands of Skagit Valley to the east and south, and Fidalgo Island south and west. The Swinomish Channel runs between Fidalgo Island and the mainland, connecting Padilla Bay to Skagit Bay.

On the east side of the bay, near the little community of Bayview, is the Padilla Bay Preserve. As many times as I’ve driven past here over the past 20 years, I had never stopped in. I decided that had to change on this trip. It was sunny one afternoon this past week, so I headed on over.

The Padilla Bay Preserve actually encompasses the east side of the bay. Just south of Bayview is a paved walkway that provides great views of the bay and the surrounding wetlands and farmlands. North of Bayview is the Brezeale Interpretive Center – a research and meeting center with displays for the general public. I had walked along the pathway, but had never been to the visitors center. (more…)

Exploring Deception Pass

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Deception Pass Bridge

Wednesday I left Laura and her mom to get settled into the house a bit more, and I headed out to explore. I kind of had a couple of destinations in mind, but I wasn’t really sure where I would wind up. as it turns out, I did a ton of hiking in several locations.

My first stop was at a wildlife observation area just about a mile from the island. You have to have a permit to park there, so I park out on the road and walked out anyway.

I followed a trail along cultivated fields, heading toward the dike that keeps Padilla Bay from flooding the farmlands.

IrrigationCrop's Eye ViewSamish Barn (more…)

Fireworks, Swinomish Style

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Our first morning after arriving on the island, Duff the neighbor came over and asked if we had seen the fireworks across the bay. Of course, we were still on East Coast time then, so we hadn’t. The next evening I managed to stay up late enough so that I could watch them. At this distance they looked like tiny little sparkles and puffs of light. Apparently this is a nightly event on the Swinomish Reservation.

The Swinomish have several business endeavors on the reservation, located on the eastern side of Fidalgo Island. There’s a large salmon and crab fishing operation on the other side of the channel from La Conner, and the Swinomish Casino is just over the channel bridge. In addition to these, this time of year right next to the casino one can find the Salish Fireworks Stands.

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Washington State’s fireworks laws are much, much stricter than those in South Carolina. You won’t find much of the fun stuff like bottle rockets and mortar shells. However, those laws don’t apply on the reservation. You can get just about anything you want. The only catch? You can only legally possess those fireworks on the reservation, so if you buy it, you’ve got to light it.

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The result is that there are lots of fireworks launched from the reservation, and a few illegally from the islands.

With all of these stands concentrated in such a small area, there’s lots of competition between the stands. When I popped by to grab these shots as soon as I drove onto the lot there were shouts from just about every stand for me to come by and visit their stands. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy with me just stopping by to take photos, so I snapped a few and kept going without getting out of the car.

Being an out-of-stater, I don’t think I’ll challenge the fireworks laws. However, it will seem weird not launching our own this year.

Coffee Shops vs Churches

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Every time one of Laura’s family visits from the West Coast we get the inevitable comment about there being a church on every corner. The comment is valid. Even as a native I’m surprised when I turn a corner to find a large Greek Revival structure I’d not spotted before – and that doesn’t even include the store-front churches that pop-up just about everywhere.

So, I guess my friends here in the Pacific Northwest have the same reaction when I comment about there being a coffee shop on every corner. I’m stating the obvious. After all, this is the home of Starbucks.

I’m accustomed to seeing the larger walk-in shops such as Starbucks. What strikes me here are the tiny drive-up espresso shops that seem to be on every corner. If they are mostly independent, they tend to be tiny, such as this one…

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Those with a bit more corporate backing tend to be a little more elaborate…

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…and of course, there’s Starbucks. At one intersection in Burlington I could see no less than four different Starbucks places – three separate shops and one in a supermarket. Going back to our church analogy, I guess they would be the equivalent of the Baptist church, in terms of density and distribution.

I wanted to do a Google Fusion Table density map to compare the number of coffee shops at home with the number here. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get an accurate data list, and I couldn’t get Fusion Tables to display the data like I wanted. However, I was able to use from data National Coffee Guide. It has some major gaps and is woefully incomplete, but it’s adequate for a comparison. Here’s Upstate South Carolina…

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…and here’s roughly the same geographic area around the Puget Sound…

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Of course, there’s a greater population density around a major city such as Seattle. (more…)

Whale Watching on a Semi-Anniversary

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Breaching Whale

December is a hectic time of year. In addition to all the Christmas rush there is my birthday and our anniversary. Last December 27 was crazy with family and travel, so we decided to celebrate our anniversary six months later. Little did we know that June 27 would be crazy with family and travel, too, but we decided to go ahead with our plans for a special day.

Neither of us had ever been on a whale watching trip, so we decided that would be our big adventure for the day. This being a week before a major holiday, it was tricky finding reservations. Fortunately, Island Adventures in Anacortes had space, so we booked our trip.

It turns out that this is the same company that I used for my kayaking tour last August when I was here. They followed the same procedures, too. We checked in at their main store, then reported over to the marina where we would board. (more…)

Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks

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Two Sisters Mountain

It was one of those days that the State of Washington would prefer that no one knows about. I think they would prefer that the rest of the US think that it’s all rainy and gloomy. Otherwise, everyone would rush to move up here.

Granted, it was cold when I first got up – in the 40’s. However, I knew it was going to be a good day when I could see the Olympic Mountains over Anacortes to the southwest and Mount Rainier to the southeast.

Anacortes and the Olympics

We had a lazy morning with a few more chores around the house, then I headed out to do some photography and exploration. I drove to the north end of the island and walked down to the beach on Samish Bay. Mount Baker was starting to peak through the clouds, and the skies were spectacular over Lummi Peak. (more…)

Whiskey, Yard Sales, and Herons

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Samish Herons-4

It doesn’t matter how good the flight is, the trip from Greenville to Samish Island is always long and tiring. We awoke at 5:00 am EasternTime to head to the airport for our flight, and eventually got to bed at 9:00 Pacific, which would have been midnight Eastern. And because we are so far north, this time of year it stays light until nearly 10:00, then the sun comes back up at 5:00. When I awoke Saturday morning I was feeling the effects of both latitude and longitude.

Saturday was spent getting Laura’s mom settled back into her house. Her place overlooks the water, and the scenery is always spectacular. It’s tempting to keep taking photos of everything. It didn’t help that her yard was a riot of flowers.

Samish Morning ViewCalifornia PoppiesDaisies

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