The title above isn’t just a tongue-twister, but a summation of our very active Memorial Day weekend. Friday afternoon, we packed up the car, bid the cats and birds farewell then zipped to Mount Vernon. After buying food at the local Safeway, we watched the thought-provoking flick “Rendition” then toddled to bed.
The next morning, we blew up our inflatable canoe and drove to Big Lake, a 545-acre lake, just south of Mount Vernon. Below is a picture of Rich looking very nautical on Big Lake.
In the 1970’s there were only a few cabins and trailers around the lake. Many of these vacation get-aways have since been replaced with large houses that seem out-of-place with brick facades, turrets, three-stories, and lavish landscaping.
Even though the shore is crowded with homes, there were only a handful of drift (fishing) and small motor boats on the lake along with an occasional jet ski, kayak and canoe. We had a fabulous time, padding around the lake, looking at houses, talking, eating cheese and crackers, and sun-burning the tops of our legs!
After loading the canoe back into the truck, we headed to Whistle Lake on Fidalgo Island. From our lot, this lake is a few mile hike through the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. Faster access is on the other side of lake where a parking lot is located. Looking at the map, we thought it was a quick half-mile stroll; however, as our arms grew longer, straining to carry the canoe, we wondered about the wisdom of our decision. Once we got the canoe into the water, we quickly forgot our pains.
The lake is pristine with towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and lily pads with bright yellow flowers (left). We were the only boat on the lake; although, quite a few young, brave souls were swimming in the icy water. On the shores were hikers, sunbathers, and kids with little fishing poles. There was also a group of teenagers (below), jumping into the water from a 20-30 foot cliff. I don’t know where they found the courage!
As we paddled towards the opposite end of the lake, I saw a dark figure frolicking in the water. A large, dark brown bird then swooped overhead. I commented to Rich that it might be a bald eagle, although; it didn’t have a white head. As we neared the end of the lake, we saw a large bald eagle near the shore. Its outstretched wings must have been what I saw from a distance.
Aware of bald eagles in the area, we started to scan the trees. Sure enough, we spotted five bald eagles in a grouping of trees! The female eagles weigh 10-14 pounds and have a 6.5-7-foot wingspan. The male is smaller, weighing 8-10 pounds. Young eagles are dark brown with varying degrees of white mottling. They don’t get their white head and full adult plumage until they’re 4-6 years old. In addition, they can live up to 40 years!
We spent quite a bit of time observing the eagles then paddled back to the other side of the lake to start the 1.3 mile (according to the Web) trek back to the parking lot. When we got back to the truck, a group of teens who’d been following behind exclaimed, “Good job. We didn’t think you had it in you!”
Our arms sore and legs burnt, we drove to Mount Vernon for left-over Mexican food and a controversial movie, “Body of Lies.”
Sunday morning, refreshed and energized by the clear weather, we drove back to Anacortes to catch a ferry to Guemes Island for the “pedal” portion of our weekend. The ferry carries just 22 cars and has a small passenger area. We stayed on the deck with our bikes where Rich struck up a conversation with a man who’s lived in the area for decades. I delighted in the scenery and people-watching. There were several passengers with carts and wheelbarrows of food and necessities that they’d purchased in Anacortes. Depending on your age and time of the year, it costs $1 to $4 for a roundtrip ticket as a passenger or with a bike. The cheapest fare for a car and the driver is $6 and up to $9 in the summer.
Because there’s only a small patch of commerce on Guemes, consisting of a general store/restaurant/gas station/bulletin board, almost everything that people need has to be purchased in Anacortes or the surrounding area. The rest of the island is private homes, a rustic resort, an art gallery, and a small stretch of public beach. Barely 600 people live on the island year-round; although, the population doubles during the summer months.
Because there are few people and even fewer cars on the island, Rich and I had a very pleasant and relaxing* peddle around the island. Don’t I look relaxed above?
Along the way, we chatted with various folks. We even stopped at the Guemes Island cemetery where I struck up a conversation with an elderly woman who grew up on the island. Her husband was placing flowers by the graves of four generations of his family.
Unlike the Texas cemeteries that I’ve visited, people on Guemes lived until old age. I saw only a few gravestones for infants, children and people younger than sixty! Hard work and healthy Pacific Northwest living can lead to a long life.
After leaving the cemetery, Rich noticed that the back tire of his bike was flat. He pumped it up, but it flattened within minutes. We progressed from the “peddle” to the “pump” portion of the weekend where every few minutes, Rich inflated the tire, rode like crazy then repeated the process. Miraculously, after pumping up the tire half a dozen times, the “goo” inside the tube must have sealed the hole and the tire stayed inflated.
One of the best "things" I saw on Guemes was the screaming red salt-box house above. The barn and chicken coop to the left of the house had extremely weathered wood with red trim. The mailbox and a lone Adirondack chair to the right of the house were also painted bright red.
After getting back to Anacortes, we zipped back to Mount Vernon to close up the house and head south to Kirkland. The cats were happy to have us home so they could go outside and torment bugs and patronize with raccoons.
Memorial Day marked another opportunity to “paddle.” We loaded the canoe (deflated) into our Honda FIT and headed to the University of Washington Arboretum. Developed with Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds in the 1930’s the 230-acre features 20,000 trees, shrubs and vines, including 139 plants on the endangered species list.
This time of year, the rhododendron, azaleas, magnolias, and dogwoods were blooming. We snapped dozens of pictures of their splendor. Afterwards, we blew up the canoe and dropped it into the water. We paddled through a marshy area near the arboretum and observed many turtles, ducks, and Canadian geese enjoying the sun.
We then headed across Union Bay to University of Washington, through the Montlake Cut and into Portage Bay. We typically sail from Kirkland, west on Lake Washington towards Union Bay so it was a treat to see another part of the waterway.
Portage Bay is the home to several prominent yacht and sailing clubs, marinas and million-dollar houseboats. It was a hoot to paddle by large yachts and glide down the rows of houseboats. I felt like a snoop peeking at the houseboats, but their alleyways of water is no different from a land-based house on a street. The houses varied from modernistic multi-storied, aluminum-sided homes with chic furnishings to run-down shacks packed with years of detritus, rotting decks, and listing foundations.
After a few hours of site-seeing, we drifted down the bay while nibbling on crackers, cheese, carrots and cookies. With our energy restored, we flexed our muscles and paddled back through the Montlake Cut, which has very choppy water, caused by the wakes from the endless stream of boats, kayaks and canoes going to-and-from Lake Washington.
Back on shore, we deflated the canoe and zoomed back home where Rich immediately changed into work clothes and replaced the window in our laundry room (two more windows to go) while I tended to laundry, cooking, cleaning, and ironing.
By 7 p.m. we both “plopped” in front of the TV, tired from three days of paddling, peddling, and pumping.
Below are more pictures of azaleas and rhododendrons from the arboretum and our Mount Vernon house.
*Rich made me ride my bike up the hills even though I complained bitterly. I had the physical strength, I just didn’t like the physical PAIN!