Whale Watching on a Semi-Anniversary

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. Continue reading “Whale Watching on a Semi-Anniversary”

Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks

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. Continue reading “Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks”

Whiskey, Yard Sales, and Herons

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

Continue reading “Whiskey, Yard Sales, and Herons”

Washington Wrap-Up

Mt. Ranier

We’re back home, after an arduous trek across the country. Our flight across country was uneventful – that is, until we got to Atlanta. Our plane apparently had finicky landing gear, which is something you DON’T want to mess around with. We finally got home at 1:00 am, and I had to get up at 5:30 to be back at work. So much for vacation.

The last several days in Washington were spent pretty much around the island, without the long treks we had done earlier in the trip. Thursday was down time. We stayed around the house, did laundry, and managed several other chores. That evening we took Laura’s mom out for dinner.

Friday Laura and I headed over to the Anacortes Arts Festival. We figured that since we had started the trip with an arts festival we should end with one. The festival was huge, covering several blocks of the town. It was also quite crowded, even though it should have been a work day. The quality of the art offerings was impressive, as well as expensive. We only bought one small print to take home with us. There were also musicians playing on several stages. Our favorite was the Incan pan pipe players. Continue reading “Washington Wrap-Up”

Anacortes Ferry, Butchart Garden, and Victoria

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Laura and I got up early this morning. We had reservations for the ferry from Anacortes to Sydney, BC, and knew we had to get there early to board. We drove off of the island while the sun tried to break through the ubiquitous fog.

The Ferry

The ferry wasn’t very crowded this time. Only the lower car deck had vehicles, and the seating area was largely empty. We took our usual positions at the front of the boat, despite the chilly, damp wind.

Pretty soon, though, it got too foggy, and they even closed off the outer decks for safety. Visibility was nil, and the ship slowed and blew its horn regularly. Continue reading “Anacortes Ferry, Butchart Garden, and Victoria”

Kayaking around Burrows Bay

Monday, August 2, 2010

One thing I love about this is the abundance of paddling opportunities. There are flatwater lakes, swift moving rivers, and challenging open water courses. I never get to do as much kayaking as I would like when I’m up here, so this time I decided to make sure I got to paddle at least a little bit. I booked a five-hour tour with Anacortes Kayak Tours before we left South Carolina.

I set out early, planning to catch breakfast in one of my favorite joints in Anacortes before starting the tour. The bay between Samish and Fidalgo Islands was completely fogged in, but it looked like skies would be clearing. When I drove onto Fidalgo, the fog really set in. I found my way to my restaurant and had a fantastic breakfast while also putting out fires at work over the phone. So much for vacation.

I headed on over to the kayak place. I had been another another tour around Hat Island several years ago, but it turns out that it was a different group. This place not only had kayak tours, but also offered whale watching tours.

I was early, and got my instructions to meet the rest of the group on the other side of Fidalgo. Since I had some time, I stopped by Washington Park, which is just past the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. This early the road around the park was closed to auto traffic, so I walked around and took a few shots.

Pretty soon it was time to meet my group, so I headed to the Skyline Marina on Burrows Bay. In addition to myself and the guide, Ken, there were three others – Robbie from Tasmania, and sisters Sue and Carolyn. Robbie and I got single 17 foot Necky Looksha sea kayaks, and the two sisters got a tandem kayak. All of us were experienced kayakers, so Ken gave us some obligatory brief instructions, and we set out across the foggy water.

Our route would take us out around Burrows Island, with a stop at the lighthouse there. We would paddle on around Allan Island, then out to Williamson Rocks if we had time. Continue reading “Kayaking around Burrows Bay”

Upriver on the Skagit

Diablo Lake Panorama

NOTE: Just catching up with blogging after traveling around the islands. Things are a bit post-dated right now.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yesterday we followed the Skagit River through Mount Vernon and out to its confluence with the bay. Today we decided to head the opposite direction and follow the river upstream. Our route would takes up into the North Cascades National Park.

Old Skagit Railroad Trestle

We started on the Skagit River Road along the south side of the river, away from the more crowded Highway 20. The road twists through farms, runs through large stands of trees, and crosses many tributary streams. The last time we were up this way we found several access points that let us get down to the river for a better view. This time we couldn’t find the same access points, so we kept driving.

Near the town of Concrete we crossed the river and picked up Highway 20. The road crossed the Baker River, where we found a nice dirt road leading down to where The Baker and Skagit Meet. Continue reading “Upriver on the Skagit”

Skagit Ideal

Samish Island View

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.

Samish Island Panorama from Chuckanut

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.

Skagit Barn Continue reading “Skagit Ideal”