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Several years ago, Rich celebrated my birthday by planning an elaborate surprise staycation where he revealed the details of what we’d be doing at the last minute, including spending the night at the Waterfront Marriot, and enjoying a Sunday brunch at the top of the Space Needle.

This year, he decided to do the same, and once again, he refused to reveal the details until the last minute. On Saturday, before Rich left to show a potential client a home, he told me to pack outdoor gear and my hiking boots. Although, after some consideration, he revised hiking books to Keens.

With our bags packed, cats and birds feed, house secured, and bellies full from homemade pizza, we headed to our Mount Vernon home, where my mother lives. Every week, we do her grocery shopping, gather the trash and recycling (we don’t have garbage pick-up in Mount Vernon so we have to cart it back to Kirkland), restock supplies, cook (i.e. chocolate pudding, chopped liver, chicken soup, etc.) and other household tasks that aren’t done by her caretakers.

After shopping, Rich thumbed through our Entertainment Book to find a place to eat. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants aren’t located in Mount Vernon or Burlington. With few options, I recommended Taco Bell. We’re never disappointed by cheap, but satisfying burritos, chicken tacos, and 99-cent cheese roll-ups.

That evening, we watched a flick on TV, and made sure everything was ready for the next morning, when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.

Off to Orcas

The first stop of our two-day staycation was McDonald’s. In early March, they had a newspaper insert with buy-one-get-one-free coupons. The day we received the insert, Rich raced down to a local apartment complex, and scrounged through their recycling bins, harvesting a stack of coupons. For the past month, we’ve been eating lots of McDonald’s food, principally iced coffees with vanilla flavoring and caramel Frappuccino’s.

Plus, each time we used a coupon, we got a receipt, which invited us to take an online survey. When you take the survey, you’re given a code, which can be used for purchasing… wait for the drum roll… buy-one-get-one-free breakfast sandwich or cheeseburger.

On Saturday morning, armed with a code, we started the day with buy-one-get-one-free Egg McMuffins and coffees.

With food in our stomachs, we headed to Anacortes to take the ferry to Orcas Island. We had an enjoyable ride over, arriving around 9 a.m. Our first stop was Eastsound, which is the main town, smack dab in the middle of the wishbone-shaped island. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. It reminded me of an upscale seaside town on the east coast with cool inns and bed & breakfasts, art galleries, bookstores, quaint churches, and hip restaurants, serving organic, fresh-off-the-farm meals.

We wandered around, snapping pictures, and unwinding from the week. One of the highlights is the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which is on the National Registry of Historic Place. It comprises several charming, whitewashed buildings, and has a large labyrinth, which I walked around, contemplating the day when we can move to our house in Coupeville, and become residents, and not just visitors to the islands.

With it lightly drizzling, we were on the lookout for a place to pull up a chair and sit until the weather cleared. We spotted Brown Bear Baking. As soon as we opened the door, we were struck by the aroma of fragrant breads, buttery pastries, and fresh-brewed coffee. Ignoring the display case of sweet and savory goodies, our eyes drifted to the round, crusty loaves of bread behind the counter. We chose the Kalamata olive and rosemary loaf, but the counter staff accidentally gave us the fig and apricot loaf. It was a nice surprise… so tasty that throughout our trip, we ripped off and ate big chunks. And we resolved to purchase another loaf the following morning before we left the island!

As a side note, I’m glad Brown Bear Baking is ferry-ride away because it would be hard to resist their unbelievable loaves of bread, beautiful quiches, mouth-watering croissants, gorgeous muffins, dreamy cakes, and other treats. It’s much easier to refrain from grocery-store baked goods!

Scoping out Resorts

Our first stop was Rosario Resort, which one of my favorite marinas, and where the Moran Mansion is located. It’s the crown jewel of the Puget Sound, and unlike most exclusive resorts, the public is welcome to wander the grounds, and walk through the main building, in this case, the mansion. Check out the photo gallery to see what makes the resort a memorable place to visit… and stay by boat or car.

And read about our adventure at Rosario four years ago.

Next, we headed to Olga, which is the town time must have forgotten. It consists of a closed general store, and tiny post office. Or maybe we blinked while driving through the town.

Actually, Olga is very much like most of Orcas Island, lightly populated with quaint shops, inns, and bed & breakfasts (like the Orcas Hotel), discreetly tucked among the trees, which hibernate during the winter months, and open up in the spring through the summer. You can also visit Olga Pottery, which has very pretty, Asian-influenced vases, pitches, cups, bowls, and plates.

Our next stop was Obstruction Pass, which Rich claims we’ve moored off of during one of our charter trips. From a boat, most of the coastline looks the same!

On the east side of the island is Doe Bay State Park, and Doe Bay Resort & Spa. The resort is a labor of love, and designed to accommodate visitors from those looking for a rustic experience of pitching a tent to those wanting a relaxing vacation, complete with spa treatments and yoga sessions.

Rich and I walked around and were in awe of the campsites with names like antelope, baer’s lair, coot corner, crow’s nest, eagle’s nest, grouse grove, heron, hollow log, hummingbird, minke, and warbler. Our favorite site was seagull’s bed, which is a small site, perched on a high-bank cliff, overlooking the water. Seal landing is a bit larger, but so close to the cliff-edge that there’s a small fence so you don’t walk over the edge if you sleepwalk.

We’ve never seen campsite, which are not only smartly designed to provide privacy, but feature dramatic views.

Nestled between the camp sites are yurts and dooms, some of which have queen-sized beds. Three of the yurts are located steps from the water like the beach yurt.

The hostel is an affordable, and no doubt warmer place to sleep in bad weather. Along with communal beds, there have several rooms for couples.

My choice would be one of their cabins with a kitchenette, bed, table and chairs, electricity, bathroom, and a heater!

Along with accommodations, the resort has a general store, spa (we saw a naked man climb into one of the hot tubs… eck!), restaurant, yoga studio, rentals (kayak, boat), and of course, strategically placed benches for viewing the scenery.

I’ve already planted a bug in Rich’s head that I want to stay at Doe Bay for my next birthday!

Cozy Room with Surprise Inside

Still nibbling on our bread, we headed west to Deer Harbor, where we checked in at the Deer Harbor Inn. Rich had purchased a Groupon to stay at the inn. Our room was in the Log Cabin Lodge, which has eight rooms, four on the top floor, and four on the bottom. They also have a couple of cabins.

Our second-story room was lovely with a large pine bed, and matching chairs, and table. On the fireplace was a picnic basket, much to our surprise, filled with food for the next morning, including English muffins, hard-boiled eggs, bowls of homemade granola, bananas, and packets of jelly. In the small refrigerator was milk, butter, orange juice, and bottles of water.

After putting our bags in our room, we drove down to Deer Harbor Marina. We were hoping they had the huge ice cream cones, which we usually order when we stay in the marina. However, it being late March and still chilly, they didn’t have ice cream. Instead, we found several chairs overlooking the marina, and continued nibbling on the Brown Bear Baking bread, pretzels, and drinks we’d purchased earlier in the day.

A large black crow was also interested in what we were eating. He stood on top of the railing just a few feet from us. We marveled at the variety and color of his feathers. His head and cowl had tiny, soft, matte black feathers. His wings were covered with long iridescent black feather that glistened in the sun. The smaller feathers, covered the rest of his body, were deep, matte gray. Its legs and feet were covered with shiny black scales.

He (or she) was very elegant, and patient, waiting for us to place a few pieces of bread on the railing. He’d then pick them up, and fly down to a barrel where a pool of water had formed. After soaking the bread for a few moments, he’d gobble it down, and then fly to another bird, who was waiting with beak open for the regurgitated food.

When we switched to feeding the crow pretzels, he’d bury them in the planter boxes, no doubt for a future meals.

Once the crow flew off, we decided to take a walk around the marina. As we approached the end of a dock, a beautiful gray cat popped out of an open port hole on a small motorboat, dashed across the deck, leapt onto the dock, and raced towards us. It was a full-on cat attack!

She was eager to be pet, rolling over so we could scratch her tummy, and meowing her gratitude. She accompanied us to the boat where she lives. There was a cat bed in the pilot house where she must curl up at night.

Sticking to our Kool-Aide budget staycation, and not wanting a large meal after nibbling on bread all day, we opted to drive to a grocery store in Eastsound. We walked from one end of the store to the other until we settled on a bag of chicken tamales in green sauce (in corn husks), individual salads from the deli section, and a bag of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.

We returned to our room, and refrigerated the food, and then set out on foot for a walk around the area. We turned down the road to a residential area, and feed long blades of grass to two goats, guarding a boat repair facility, and then crossed over a narrow bridge to the other side of Deer Harbor.

At top of the hill was another marina. We thoroughly enjoy walking around marinas, looking at the boats, and strategizing how one day we hope to have a 35-foot Catalina sailboat, named Monkey About. “Come about” is a sailing term, and “Monkey” was the name of one of our cats, who passed away in Texas.

As we neared the end of one of the dock, we saw several birds perched on boats, squawking loudly. Less than 20 feet away, on a floating dock, was a bald eagle picking at a dead crab. Bald eagles are scavengers and have no hesitancy of taking food from other birds. Rich snapped quite a few picture before he flew away.

Back at the Deer Harbor Inn, Rich heated the tamales in the microwave in the common area, while I assembled the salads. While it might not seem like a fabulous dinner, we thoroughly enjoyed it in our cozy room, topped off with chocolate chip cookies.

Afterwards, we grabbed a couple of magazines, turned on the propane fireplace in the common area, and read for an hour or so. Sitting in front of a warm gas or propane is ten times better than a smoky, smelly traditional fireplace, which burns wood.

Warmed up, I recommended we hope in the hot tub. Rich was concerned because we forgot to bring our bathing suits, but I persisted, explaining everyone in the lodge had probably left for dinner, and most of the hot tub is obscured by the gazebo.

We took the minimum clothing with us, stripped down, hopped in the tub, and enjoyed the warmth and soothing bubbles, before jumping out, throwing on our clothes, and dashing back into the lodge. During that time, the only souls that saw us were some foraging rabbits.

Amazing Views with Each Turn

The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (the items in the basket left in our room), before going back to Brown Bear Baking for a loaf of bread to bring home. We then drove to Moran State Park. Opened in 1921, the park initially consisted of 2,700 acres donated by Robert Moran, a shipbuilder and former major of Seattle. A few years later, he donated another 1,000 acres. Today, the park is more than 5,200 acres with more than 38 miles of hiking trails from gentle forest loops to challenging ascents.

In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), built trails, roads, bridges, and 21 buildings, including the Ellsworth Storey tower, atop Mount Constitution. For our jaunt, we chose the Mount Constitution Loop, which is 6.7 miles, rated “difficult.”

We parked by Mountain Lake, which is 917 feet in elevation. We then trudged up to the top of Mount Constitution, which is 2,409 feet in elevation. The first mile or so was heart-pumping hard. The next two miles was a steady, but tolerable uphill climb. It was worth getting to the top because even though the Ellsworth Storey tower doesn’t look impressive in picture, it’s four stories in height, and provides what is considered one of the top marine views in the nation.

Originally built as a fire lookout, the tower offers a 360 view of the San Juan archipelago, Vancouver Island, and the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges. Plus, the tower is superbly constructed out of sandstone with wrought iron railings, door hinges and knobs, and other details, forged and shaped by CCC blacksmiths. At the top of the tower is an enclosed room with beautiful paneling and a heavy wooden door with ornate handles and hinges. I’m was awestruck by the workmanship!

Our decent back down to Mountain Lake, nearly 4 miles, was quick. We then drove to Orcas Village to catch a 3:00 ferry to Lopez Island, where we’d have less than an hour “lay-over” until we could get on the ferry to Anacortes. We reasoned it would be fun to spend some time on Lopez rather than hang-out on Orcas for a “direct” ferry to Anacortes.

Our plan would have worked out if there hadn’t been a mishap with the second ferry. We ended up waiting in the ferry line on Lopez Island for nearly two hours… polishing off the rest of the fig and apricot bread, reading magazines, and trying to get a cell phone signal.

Nevertheless, with amazing weather, it was enjoyable hanging out on the island, people watching, and taking two ferries. And we got to Anacortes 5 minutes before the “direct” ferry from Orcas Island. As we drove way, we could see the “direct” ferry circling in the harbor, waiting for the ferry we’d arrived on to leave.

As we drove back to Mount Vernon to retrieve the groceries we’d purchased a few days earlier, we reflected on our wonderful staycation… and the opportunity to escape from work, household chores, gardening, caregiving, and the myriad of tasks that need to be done.

Plus, Tuesday and Wednesday evening, we enjoyed Brown Bear bread for dinner. I poached eggs in minced kale, parsley, spices, and wine. The eggs were then placed on two thick slices of bread, which had been drizzled with olive oil. Layers on top of the eggs was sliced tomatoes, lightly cooked asparagus, and cheese. I then cooked everything in a 400◦ oven for 15 minutes. The eggs were slightly soft, and made the dish magically when poked with a fork.