This recent trip to Washington State was mostly taken up by the funeral for Laura’s mother, Merline Wright. However, we were able to do some things not related to funeral services. These included some shopping expeditions, meals out, and one trip up into the mountains.
Flight to Seattle
The trip out was one of the best we’ve had in a long time. We flew Delta from GSP to Atlanta, then on to SeaTac. Due to the nature of the trip we had planned to fly First Class, but there were no seats available for this quick trip. Comfort Class was our next-best option, and it was more comfortable than Economy.
The 737 had the seat-back video monitors, which meant a full range of distracting entertainment. The thing I liked most was that it had a map to monitor progress across country. Being a map geek this fascinated me more than any movie or TV re-run. What’s more, the plane had free WiFi. I could pull up Google Maps on my iPad and find our location. For the first time ever I was able to look out the window of the plane and find a matching view in Google Maps in real time.
OK, so I’m easily amused. I still watched a couple of movies. It was a long flight.
I had already mentioned that the weather was spectacular on the island. It rained on us in Seattle, but cleared as we approached Mount Vernon. The next day after our arrival, Wednesday, was the Summer Solstice. This far north the days were VERY long.
With the clear air we could see the Olympic Mountains to the southwest, Mount Rainer to the southeast, the Canadian Rockies to the north, and Mount Baker to the northeast. We took several walks with Duff and Linda McDaniel, just enjoying the views across the bay.
OK, so quite a bit of this was funeral-related. We had to get food for the various family gatherings and had to restock the house for our visit. One of our usual stops is Fred Meyers, which we don’t have back east. This time it struck me as overcrowded and overpriced, although you can find almost anything you want there. We tried to buy a deli platter from another regional grocery, Haggen. They would only let us order online. Forget that. Finally we found what we needed at Safeway. They were also the first place we found that carried Lindsay Queen Olives, my preferred olive for martinis.
We also shopped for other miscellaneous items – a new fire pit for the house from Home Depot, flowers and plants for around the house, and a sport coat for me for the funeral.
After Saturday’s funeral Amy, Laura, and I needed to get out and do something different. Amy had found a place that sold kites in Mount Vernon, so we decided to check it out. Tri-Dee Arts in Mount Vernon mostly sells art supplies, but they have an eclectic collection of weird side items. It reminded me of the now closed Junkman’s Other Daughter in Athens. There were some similar items.
In addition to the Anti-Gravity Mints (which did not work as advertised) I bought a stunt kite to leave on the island and Amy found a regular kite. We tried flying them but the wind was too inconsistent.
Mrs. Wright loved music, and I was disappointed that I could find a way to bring either my banjo or guitar out for the funeral. I guess I could have – folks travel with instruments all the time, and we saw quite a few in the airport. However, I had felt the need to travel light this time. Even so, this trip turned out to be full of musical encounters, and not just the stuff we put together for the funeral.
I managed to make a trek to the premier music store in the area – Hugo Helmer Music. Hugo Helmer, the man, deserves his own blog post, and I’ll mention more about him in a bit, but for this trip I was just trying to get a general feel for what they had.
I played a few acoustic guitars. They had an electric classical guitar by Yamaha which really caught my eye. I spotted a small tenor banjo and played it a bit (poorly), and next to it was a standard-sized Gibson banjo. I picked it up to play and discovered a problem – no 5th string. It was actually a six-stringed banjo tuned like a guitar. While I was able to play it with no problem, it just didn’t sound…right.
I enquired about amps and keyboards, looked around a bit more, then headed on back to the house without adding to my growing collection of instruments.
That’s not to say that I DIDN’T add to my collection…
While looking for a vacuum cleaner in the house I discovered an old violin. This had belonged to Laura’s grandmother. It has the name “Stradivarius” on the inside, and her grandmother thought she had a real treasure. Of course, it wasn’t. It was/is a student violin with the Strad label. My grandmother had one and it’s now in our storage unit, missing strings, bow, and a bridge.
This one had a case, strings (including some extras) and two bows. The bows were in bad shape, but it looked like this one could be brought back to a playable condition without too much expense. I think I will do that while we’re out here.
I’ve not tried to play the violin, but, then again, I’d never played a banjo until a a couple of years ago.
Saturday morning was the day of the big island-wide garage sale. I had a bit of time before the service, so I walked to some of the closest sales. My goal wasn’t so much to shop as it was to meet the neighbors before we move out this way. A couple of houses down I met Jackie Stegner, who had been a friend of Mrs. Wright’s. Turns out that we had a lot in common. She had also been a middle school choral elementary music teacher.
Jackie had lots of music in her sale items, but the thing that caught my eye was a rosewood soprano recorder. I had to have it. I probably could have gotten it for less than I offered, but I considered it an investment in making friends with the neighbors. It was worth it to me, and it is a fine instrument.
And I still wasn’t done with musical instruments…
Linda McDaniel had taken accordion lessons with Hugo Helmer himself. According to Linda, Helmer had founded the first (and only?) marching accordion band. That must have been a sight to behold. Linda had just come across her old accordion and brought it over for me to play.
Since it’s basically a keyboard instrument I could do OK with that side, but getting the hang of the buttons took a bit more effort. I understand the general principal, but just had a hard time coordinating everything. Playing a tune was pretty much like playing my melodica, and I could do OK as long as I didn’t have to play chords. Linda left this at our house on loan so that I could play it some more when we get back out here.
Now that I have a banjo and access to an accordion, I just need a set of bagpipes to complete my Axis of Evil.
The Old Edison Inn is quickly becoming one of our favorite stops. It’s the closest eatery to the island, and the food is good and not too expensive. Amy, Laura, and I joined Duff and Linda for an evening meal. Duff and I split an order of oyster shooters, while the others had something less adventurous.
As we ate we watched a couple of regular barflies play shuffleboard. According to Linda, Long board shuffleboard is quite the thing here in the Pacific Northwest, and people take it seriously. I made a note to explore it as another possible blog topic.
We didn’t have many other dining experiences this trip. Most of our meals were spent consuming funeral food and visiting with relatives. We did make one trip to a Mexican restaurant and Laura and I tried a Panda Express, which turned out to be quite tasty.
Every time I’ve been up here I’ve been impressed with how laid back everything feels. I think that’s one of the reasons why we want to spend more time on the island. The last time we were here with Mrs. Wright we went to the Fourth of July parade on the island, and it was a delight. There really seems to be a close sense of community.
I’ve already mentioned that the Saturday of the funeral was also the day of the island-wide yard sale. We noticed that the next-door neighbor had festooned her house and yard with pink flamingoes. We had found a couple in our storage shed, and decided to do likewise. That Friday evening as we sat with family in the yard folks started to gather next door. At first we thought it was just a party, but then folks started to leave with flyers and a flamingo. I quickly told Laura that we needed to hide our flamingoes. Apparently these were the street markers in indicate that a residence was participating in the yard sale. We certainly didn’t want random folks showing up in the yard on the day of the funeral!
In addition to meeting Jackie and getting a very nice recorder, I stopped by a couple more homes and met a few more neighbors. Duff joined me for a couple of them. He has lived on the island his entire life and served as an introduction to the folks. I’m looking forward to spending more time with them.
Amy wanted to get away once all the funeral stuff was done. We decided to pack a picnic and head up the Skagit River Valley toward the Cascades. After a brief stop by the cemetery, we headed on upriver along Highway 20.
Often Laura and I take 20 on up through Marblemont and beyond into Cascades National Park, turning around once we get to the Diablo Lake area. Since we all had a long drive and travel on Monday, we decided for a shorter trip. Before we got to the town of Concrete we turned toward Baker Lake.
The first time I visited this area in 1988 Laura’s father brought us up here with his small motor boat. I remember running all over the lake with Laura, then looking at the glaciers on Mount Baker through her father’s telescope. We were hoping to find that same spot for our picnic.
Sadly, it seemed everyone in the valley had the same idea. This being the first really nice weekend of summer, the place was crowded. We couldn’t find parking anywhere. I did pause at Panorama Point to take photos of the boat ramp and lake for future reference. I do plan to bring my kayak up here.
Eventually the pavement ended but we kept going. Every campground and access point had the same story – all full. There were even RVs pulled over where there probably shouldn’t have been camping. Eventually we found a wide spot in the road and pulled over. There was a nice view of the lake and foxglove and other flowers lined the banks.
At one end of the lake was a huge log jam. Many logs had drifted free and were floating in the lake. As we watched boats and jet skis zip around I had to wonder about the navigation hazards these might pose. As a kayaker they wouldn’t be a problem for me, but I’d hate to hit one at speed.
We finished our sandwiches, but the dust from the road traffic and the heat started to outweigh the spectacular view. We packed up and headed on back down the road.
When Baker Lake Road crosses Bear Creek there are great views back toward Mount Baker. We paused for a few more shots.
I really had packed light for this trip. Apart from my iPhone, the only other camera I had was my Panasonic Lumix. I hadn’t brought any of my other cameras or lenses, and at times I wished that I had them. The weather and scenery couldn’t have been better.
On the way in we had passed by an area in the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest known as “The Shadow of the Sentinels.” This is a stand of old growth Douglas fir trees. A half-mile boardwalk and pave trail leads through the tall trees. As we were headed back out we decided to stop and hike the short trail.
Amy was on the hunt for signs of Sasquatch. We came to a bridge-like area on the boardwalk and she did her best imitation of the Patterson film of Bigfoot.
We had the place to ourselves when we first arrived, but even here, while we were on the short trail, crowds had started to gather. We headed back to the car, then continued on our way.
Our plan had been to drive back along the south side of the Skagit River. That road is a bit less crowded than Highway 20. When we got back to 20 there was a bad accident right at the intersection with Baker Lake Road, so we were forced to detour. Eventually we did find our way across to the south side of the river.
There are several pull-outs along this stretch. During fishing season these spots can get quite crowded, and I was surprised no one was here on this lovely day. We pulled into one and walked down to the water. As it turns out, the river was running VERY high. The little beaches we normally see along this stretch were under water, which might explain why there was no one here.
From there we headed back to the island for one last night. Monday we both had flights back east. Amy would be leaving very early, and Laura and I would be flying out about noon. The flight home wasn’t quite as pleasant as the flight out, but it wasn’t too bad.
Overall I think it was a good trip. The funeral turned into a good gathering and celebration of Merline Wright’s life. It was sad, but brought some closure for Amy and Laura. Being out here for this short stint reinforced our decision to move out this way this fall. Now I’m really looking forward to it.