Seven Miles To Travel Down A Twisting Track Of Gravel,
Seven Ragged Miles To Town On Unpaved Road
I had planned to get this up a few days ago, but frankly, the six days off rather ate into my ambitious plans. Plus, I think I caught some sort of low-grade cold, or possibly even a mild sinus infection somewhere early in and I've been feeling a teensy bit under the weather ever since; not enough to prevent me from doing things, mind you, but just enough to require prioritizing what sorts of things I was up for doing.
So, the mini-vacation turned out pretty well, with the sole exception of the speeding ticket I got in some podunk burg outside Bellingham on Thursday afternoon. 31 in a 25 zone, and me in the middle of a line of cars all going the same speed. Yeah, I know municipalities across the land are cash-strapped, but seriously, could you-all be just a little less blatant about hitting up us hapless out-of-towners to cover your revenue shortfalls? Especially, when it goes on our driving record? Thanks!
Otherwise, speeding tickets and stuffy noses aside, it was a pleasant time off. I spent two days in a very nicely appointed cabin just outside La Conner, overlooking Skagit Bay with Whidbey Island due west. The weather was a little chilly (although still rather warm for January), but not too cold that I was uncomfortable, especially during the occasional sun breaks. Spent pretty much spent most of the two and a-half days I was there sitting on the porch or walking on the beach. Lots of wildlife on-view: bald eagles, hawks, seagulls dropping oysters onto the rocky shore, little brown squirrels, birds galore - all very peaceful.
Except however, when the jets from NAS Whidbey did fly-overs, which on Wednesday at least was pretty much all afternoon. Mostly appeared to be EA-18's (a variation on the F-18 Hornet), along with what I presume was a large cargo jet, with a couple of air/sea rescue helicopters and some fancy close-formation aerobatics thrown in for good measure. I think they were just taking advantage of the relatively clement weather to practice touch-and-go's (simulated take-offs and landings) and turnouts into the Straight of Juan De Fuca, heading up the narrow gap between the U.S. and Canada that leads out to the Pacific Ocean.
The evenings got decidedly colder, but a very efficient wood-burning stove (and back up electrical heating) kept the inside of the small space nice and cozy.
I lolled around until about noon on Thursday then "broke camp" and headed north along the coastline to Samish Island a little spit of land that juts out into the Sound - with some insanely large (and presumably quite expensive) homes dotting the shoreline. From there I caught the scenic Chuckanut Drive, which hugs the shoreline and drove north to Larrabee State Park, just south of Bellingham, for a quick hike, then hopped back in the bus and drove north and east through B-ham heading in the general direction of Mt. Baker, whereupon I had my meet up with the aforementioned revenue enhancement official.
After that minor setback it was relatively smooth sailing: I took State Route 542 to S.R. 9, then turned south passing through Deming, Van Zandt, Acme and Sedro Wooley, before finally turning east onto Hwy 20, which leads straight into the heart of the North Cascades. I ended up stopping a few miles short of my goal for the evening, a campsite just outside Concrete, and found instead what turned out to be an even better (not to mention actually open!) location at Rasar State Park, where I overnighted.
The next morning I continued east to Concrete, then turned south to Darrington until I hit what's known as "The Mountain Loop Highway", which is something of a misnomer, since: A of all) it doesn't make a full loop without considerable effort, and; B of all) the middle 14 miles is in reality an unpaved single lane U.S. Forest Service road, which at certain times of the year (and generally that means now) is unpassable due to snow. But not this January - I checked at Darrington, which was the last place I could have gone in another direction other than back the way I'd just come, and was told the pass was clear, if somewhat muddy in places.
So, the bus and I trekked up the mountainside, following the Sauk River (and passing two trucks coming from the other direction on a muddy, narrow, one-lane dirt road - some days you just can't get away from traffic!) until we reached Barlow Pass, then cruised down the other side, making a quick rest stop at Big Four Mountain Viewpoint, before completing the long, meandering coast down out of the foothills into Granite Falls, then south through Lake Stevens, Machias, Snohomish, Cathcart, Maltby and finally into Woodinville, where I stopped for a quick snack at the local DQ, and where I finally, reluctantly, took to the freeway for the last few miles back home.
Whereupon I spent the remainder of the weekend doing as little as possible - with the exception of teaching a tax workshop and going to the gym Sunday afternoon.
But, now it's Monday again, and I'm back in the real world. Thanks Vacationland, it was nice visiting you - maybe we'll do it again sometime.
on 11:47 AM