Saturday, March 23, 2013

Anacortes and the North Cascades

Anacortes MapWe’re in an area of Washington that’s new to us, and are enjoying Anacortes and the Fildago Bay RV Resort.  Anacortes has to be the yacht capital of Washington; this close to the San Juan Islands, the marinas are crammed with large cruisers and sailboats, and although quiet this time of year, we can only imagine how busy the town must be during the summer.  Anacortes ViewThe town works hard to retain it’s seaside charm – no box stores or chain restaurants, but some pretty good pubs and a nice variety of mid to high-end restaurants.   We’ve been impressed with the beauty of the water, islands, and snow-covered mountains – that is, on the rare days that the clouds lift and the rain stops.  But we’ve had a few nice days, and when the skies clear, this is one of the prettiest places we’ve been.  Waking up to clear skies one morning, we loaded up the car with a lunch of cheese, salami, and crusty bread and headed up the North Cascades Highway.  The highway is closed at the highest elevation this time of year because of snow, but we were able to spend much of the day exploring.  Approaching the town of Concrete, we turned onto the road to Baker Lake, a paved road surrounded by towering pines and mountains.  Although clouds were beginning to form on the mountains, we caught a glimpse through the trees of Mount Baker, a magnificently chiseled, snow-covered peak that towers over the landscape at nearly 11,000 feet.
Mt Baker Through Trees
Mountains thruTrees 
Each break in the trees allowed us another view of very cold-looking, snow-covered mountains.   Eventually we came to Baker Lake and parked at the dam where we had lunch while enjoying this vista:

Baker LakeHeading back to Concrete, we continued along the Skagit River to the small town of Rockport where we took a drive through Rockport State Park, another great Washington park with day-use, camping, and nice mountain views along the river.Cascade Mtn ViewCascades Thru Trees Passing through Rockport, the heavy forest kept us from seeing much of the surrounding area, but every now and then the trees would part a bit and tease us with a view.  Continuing on the highway, we finally entered the mountains and began climbing, passing Ross Lake and the brilliant-blue Diablo Lake.  Finally we came to the barriers closing the road (there was only 6-8 feet of snow on the road), pulled into the turnaround, and just sat for a while to enjoy the view.Cascade Mtn View5
Cascade Mtn View2
Returning to the RV Park, we couldn’t wait for the next nice day to explore the other (north) end of the North Cascades Loop, and a few days later hit the highway again.  This time we decided to have a late breakfast in Sedrow-Wooley, and driving through the small downtown area came upon Joy’s Bakery and CafĂ©.  Once in a while in our travels we come across a special place, and this was one of them.  Cheerful interior, friendly servers, great menu, and………CRUNCY COCONUT PANCAKES! Imagine a hubcap sized pancake of crunchy, sweet coconut, slathered in butter, topped with whipped cream – and it’s healthy!  Crunchy Coconut PancakeAfter all it has a generous amount of grain (pancake), fruit (coconut – hey, it grows on trees!), dairy (butter and whipped cream), and of course, a side of protein (bacon).  And as a bonus, a half-slice of fresh orange!  The sweetness of the coconut combined with the salty bacon creates a vortex of flavor – who knew?  We drove the 30 miles back the next week for another!
Happily full with our healthy breakfasts (Brenda had the blueberry pancakes – they were also wonderful), we started up Highway 9 to intersect the Mount Baker Highway.  Along the way, we pulled into a viewpoint to see this postcard picture:Cascade Mtn View4
Cascade Mtn View3
We turned onto the Mount Baker Highway and entered a world of forest , curves, and climbs.  It wasn’t long before the landscape began to change and the snow on each side of the road grew higher…..and higher.  By the time we pulled into the parking lot of the ski area, the snow level was waaay above the car level.Road to Mt Baker Ski Area
Snow in Parking Lot
Sometimes we get lucky and hit one of those special days of incredibly blue skies and bright sunshine, and this was one of them.  The weather combined with the mountains to give us one of those special days that we’ll always remember. Mt Baker from Ski Area
Mt Baker

Backside of Mt Baker
The sun was warm, the air clear and crisp, and the scenery stunning – we couldn’t have asked for a more memorable day!  If you’re ever in this area, don’t pass up the chance to see these magnificent mountains!
Driving back to Anacortes, we made a stop at the quaint little town of La Conner, known locally for their spring daffodil and tulip festivals.  La Conner WaterfrontIt sits on the Swinomish Channel, and has an active waterfront, and lots of shops offering interesting clothing and the usual $45 souvenir sweatshirts.  It’s a nice place to stroll and take in the scenery, and worth a drive through the residential area to view the restored older homes.  We enjoyed our visit and will return some day during warmer times.
We’ll be leaving the area soon but will take the memories of this great area with us.  We’re heading over the mountains to the East, so check back and see what we’re up to!

Monday, March 11, 2013

One Last Trip Along the North Coast

As we drew near our departure from Sequim, we decided to take one last trip along the Straits of Juan de Fuca and head out to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the contiguous U.S.  We’d made this trip before (Oct 2009), and enjoyed the water views, although this time we decided that the weather was too cold to make the hike out to the Cape itself.  Neah Bay CoastAs we approached Neah Bay, the small town at the end of the Olympic Peninsula, the waves started to pick up and the “sea stacks”, or offshore rocks, became more numerous.  It was another dreary day, but it gave the rocks a ghostly appearance.  We stopped to look at one of the offshore rocks, unusual because of the perfectly flat base beneath the towering formation – it looked like some sort of rock submarine rising out of the sea.
Neah Bay is a small town of less than 900 people on the Makah Indian Reservation.  It’s not very scenic, especially at this time of year, when most of the tourist and fisherman oriented businesses are shut down. Neah Bay The port is a popular fishing area during the summer, and is known for the best Halibut fishing in the lower U.S.  It has an excellent museum that we visited on our last trip but it was closed during this visit.  It provides an interesting history of the Makah culture, one completely different than native Americans in the rest of the country. 
Tundra SwanOur drive took us through coastal woodlands and meadows, and we saw ducks in all the ponds, and many Tundra Swans in the fields and near streams. Neah Bay Elk They’re beautiful, but not nearly so graceful as they waddle around in the grass.  There were elk on some of the meadows, and we were impressed that they all looked very healthy.

But the real treat for us is that this is Bald Eagle country.  All along the coast, we saw eagles in the trees and on the beach looking for food.  One that flew overhead made an interesting picture – the drab sky blended perfectly to give it a surreal look:
Eagles on Beach

Flying Eagle Neah Bay

Leaving Sequim for our next stop, Anacortes, left us with a choice between driving almost 200 miles around Puget Sound or taking the ferry across the sound to Whidbey Island, a driving distance of 64 miles.  Not much of a choice, and off we went to the ferry dock at Port Townsend which was unfortunately, under construction.   This meant that instead of boarding the ferry via a two-lane ramp, I’d get to do it on what looked like a lane for riding lawn mowers.  But after paying our fare ($62.50 for the motorhome, car, Entering the Ferryand two “seniors”) we were ready to board.  It was a bit unnerving, especially when the ferry attendant kept motioning me to get closer to the second-deck overhang (which was lower than the motorhome), but we made it, and settled in for the six-mile, 30 minute ride.  Getting off was much easier, and we had a nice drive through Whidbey Island to our current home at Fildago Bay Resort

We’ve seen a lot of Great Blue Herons during our travels, and never tire of looking at them.  While we waited for the ferry this guy was just too beautiful to pass up:
Port Townsend Blue Heron Closeup 2
We’ve got a whole new area to explore, so c’mon back and check on our travels!