Friday, May 16, 2008

Whidbey Island

When I was first reading through travel books and websites on the Pacific Northwest and planning our itinerary, I had planned to go from Seattle straight to Vancouver. Fortunately, my T@Bber friend from Seattle, Terry, gave me some expert advice and strongly suggested a stop at Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island.

The picture above doesn't do justice to the tall iron bridge that link Fidalgo and Whidbey islands together, or the jaw-dropping scenery surrounding the area. It was clear and sunny the days we were there, and our campsite was large and surrounded by old growth trees. The park itself was also terrific with hiking through forests, beaches along the Sound and underneath the bridge, and a large lake for kayaking and fishing.

The only thing the websites didn't mention was that the park is a few miles north of an active Naval Air Station! On Thursday, when we first got there, our peaceful, serene evening was postponed a few minutes for all the super-loud fighter jets to take off (shook the trailer even!). Fortunately, they stopped flying on Friday when all the weekend visitors began arriving.

Whidbey Island is the second longest island in the U.S. (following Long Island, NY) at about 50 miles long or so. On Friday, we decided to drive and see as much of it as we could. Since we were there in mid-May (prime rhododendron blooming time), we made a stop to Meerkirk Rhododendron Garden, which claims to have more variety of rhodies than any other garden in the U.S. Here is the delightful English stone welcome center along with some of the beautiful plants we saw.

We stopped for lunch in the delightful town of Coupeville, which sits on the south bank of Penn Cove and has a number of little shops and galleries filling the historic fishing village buildings along it's main drag. We had lunch at a restaurant that had big picture windows overlooking the harbor, and were greeted by a pair of sea gulls posing for us on the perch outside the windows.

On Saturday, we made one final stop as we left the islands and returned to the mainland-- the delightful little town of La Conner with it's arts and crafts shops and riverfront. It was unusually warm the day we were there (90 degrees), so we didn't stay long as Millie had to stay in the car while we walked the town.

I laughed when I first read the "Severe Weather Advisory" for the Seattle area that weekend-- it said "Severe Weather Alert. Weekend temperatures will be in the upper 80's and sunny". That's a typical nice summer day in Chicago, but in Seattle it was considered severe weather because not that many people have air conditioning. Later, as we listened to the news that weekend, there were reports of the heat causing the Cascade snow pack to melt too quickly creating high, fast-moving water along some of the mountain streams and rivers, so I guess they weren't kidding about 80's and sunny being severe for the area. We were glad to be headed north to Canada that weekend.

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