|A parachutist takes off near Poo Poo Point in Issaquah.|
Maybe the city owes that character to its ferry terminal, a departure point for Canada and Alaska.
Unlike an airport, anyone could wander into the terminal. A handful of people queued for ferries and cruises.
|Schooner at the Bellingham ferry terminal|
But Washington was my destination, and there I would gratefully stay. I had a free flight to burn on Frontier, and as I always expected, I would burn it on a roundtrip to Seattle. Waiting as long as I could to redeem it, I had no choice but to burn the trip so close to all these other travels. As my second West Coast flight in eight days, I felt slightly frazzled before even landing. Luckily, a mostly relaxing weekend awaited.
Arriving the previous night in time for a slice of pizza and Manny's Pale Ale on California Avenue's for a day when my sister and I headed north. I don't get to see Jenny as much as I like, and am always glad to know there's a couch in West Seattle if I want to visit.
This time, we hit the road for some camping, something we had never done together before. From Seattle we head north up the impossibly green I-5 corridor, bound for Bellingham. Bellingham had laid back quality and small-town charm. Its brick downtown had any number of dining and shopping options . The shepherd's pie at the Archer Ale House went well with an Alaskan Brewing Hopothermia Double IPA. There's nowhere close to the Juneau brewer in the Lower 48, so I have to enjoy it when offered on tap.
As Nancy can attest (unfortunately her schedule did not allow her to join on the short trip), the Fairhaven District proved to be a good destination for jewelry shopping.
Some folks at the visitors bureau recommended a more scenic route to Fidalgo and Whidbey islands. In a few turns from downtown Bellingham, we took Chuckanut Drive, which clung to some forested cliffs high above a marshy plain at low tide. We immediately appreciate not having to backtrack to the interstate; this drive could not have been less scenic.
With the water in retreat, the region's oyster beds were easily visible. The cliffs soon dropped road through lush farmland. Little towns rose as the road turned. A bison farm broke up the many herds of cattle grazing on the blanket of green.
Soon enough we crossed to Fidalgo Island, which bridges connect to the mainland. In a few minutes of curvy road we approached the famed and photogenic Deception Pass, where two stately bridge span the pass to connect Fidalgo to Whidbey, with Pass Island between the two.
Wildflowers sprouted beneath the bridge supports, and the bridge was open to pedestrians. That said, the bridge deck loomed 180 feet above the feet and supported constant traffic in both directions, including heavy volumes of trucks. We decided to hike to the top of Goose Rock, one of the steep hills surrounding Deception Pass. When we reached the top, the near 360 views did not include Deception Pass itself, which was far below us. .
|My first banana slug sighting.|
Quickly setting up camp, we stopped at the beach, where forest of driftwood had come to rest, and followed it through unclear paths in the woods to a beach with sand and smoothed rocks. From here the bridge and pass dominated views to the east, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and myriad islands to the west.
With so many settings within walking distance of each other, Deception Pass State Park's popularity is tough to dispute. The campsite made the experience even better. Each site was sculpted from forest materials. Aside from a picnic table and a firepit, the sites provided ample privacy and turned rocks and fallen trees into outdoor sitting rooms. Behind each site a series of narrow paths delved deeper into a thicket beneath the giant trees. We could see our camping neighbors, but not hear them.
Wood went on the fire, and we relaxed. Sometimes camping is just a matter of doing nothing. We drank some good wine, some exquisite session IPA made with Citra hops, and hot dogs cooked (again) over an open fire.
We talked about dreams, life, family and our dear, departed brother Joe, whose 35th birthday would have been that Sunday. I never noticed before that I called him Joe but my sister calls him Joey. I think sometimes those thing are a difference between the first and the third child when the middle child has special needs.
By 11 p.m. we had exhausted our supply of firewood and bunked down for the night. A few hours of wrestling with my sleeping bag made sleeping on the ground without a pillow or air mattress mostly comfortable. Thanks to the time difference, I woke for good by 5:30 a.m.
Not content to sit among the quiet campsites, I wandered right into the mostly stunning site of the trip. Reaching Cranberry Lake, the morning grew more lively. A family of geese prepared for a morning swim, while finches of many colors flitted and dived low in the sky.
A small bird cut a rapid line for the trees, followed immediately by a bald eagle. Few things could beat waking up and stumbling from the campsite to an eagle sighting.
|Low-rez bald eagle|
As we departed the state park, a mule deer romped along the road. Fishermen had been line up along the lake banks for hours. We had gone less than a mile onto Whidbey Island, leaving plenty to explore.
Not all the local aviation had to do with birds. From the edge of the state park, the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was visible, as were the occasional take offs and landings of its many vintage aircraft, some of which are exceptionally rare planes. There were frequent sightings during our 24 hours on Whidbey.
|Coupeville from the pier|
Coupeville, the state's second-oldest town, could have been plucked off the Maine coast. Gulls darted overhead, soaring above the stylish houses built onto wooded outcroppings beyond the main drag. A visitor center on the pier housed a restored gray whale skeleton.
By the time we reached the ferry in Clinton, we were quire hungry. Looking back to Langley, we walked through the few blocks that comprised downtown, looking out onto the Camano Island and the mainland across a ribbon of Puget Sound. At the Braeburn Restaurant, empty stomachs were no longer an issue.
After 15 minutes on the ferry, we drove through Redmond and the massive hangars and buildings of Boeing. We cruised back into West Seattle, but with Kyona's bowl full from the food she had not eaten while we were gone, we had to press "pause" on fun.
Days before I arrived, the cat began skipping meals. Since she ate almost nothing in three days, a vet trip was in order. Kyona was soon off, crying all the way in her carrier. She's normally friendly and social, but her piercing cry ran thick with pain.
With the cat at the vet for overnight observation - and my fears about her lack of appetite conjuring some grim diagnoses - I debarked for the West Seattle Brewing Company, a nanobrewery operating out of an old convenience store.
|No signs of The Mountain, so the brewery must do|
|Issaquah and Seattle's east suburbs from Poo Poo Point.|
Soon I returned for dinner. Never sleeping well after a night on firm ground, I drifted away before 8 p.m. rolled around.
In the morning, we had Poo Poo to consider - Poo Poo Point in Issaquah.The deceptively tought 1.7-mile hike climbed up to a spectacular view of the hills east of Seattle. Finding the trailhead was tough but eventually we found the field that served as a landing strip for hang-gliders and parachutists.
The evergreen forest was dense and the path was rocky. The journey challenged us on almost every step until finally, we came to a flat spot with pads for hang-gliders to launch.
None launched that day, but on the way down, a parachutist fluffed out his/her chute then got a running jump into the air. There was a tense takeoff moment when an unleashed dog got caught up in the proceedings, but the parachutists shook it off before gliding away.
As we left Issaquah, the giant orange marquee of XXX Root Beer loomed over the street. The XXX chain had been reduced to two unaffiliated locations, but the Issaquah location seemed to thrive. I stuck with a root beer, drinking it greedily. The owner worked the register and thanked me for buying a sticker (as if I could skip buying one). A car show had just begun in the adjacent lot, and I took note of the afficiandoes of the classic car circuit catching up with each other.
To cap our trip, we decided to visit one of Washington's best-known waterfalls. Just off the road, Snoqualmie Falls sit downstream from a power plant but none of the cataract’s magnificence has been tamed. The are was heavy with gift shops and resorts, so we departed as quickly as we arrived.
After a quick lunch at The Bridge, which had relocated across town after previously sitting yards from my sister's apartment building, we turned back to Kyona.
Wait the time took forever and the vet had few answers - in essence, Jenny knew what the problem was and they ran a million tests to rule out anything else. We recovered the cat, who seemed peppier after some pain medication made eating more palatable.This being Joe's birthday, we talked to our parents before settling in for the afternoon.
With this, my third trip to Seattle since my sister moved there, a last night routine has developed. I have never booked a flight departing from Seatac later than 6 a.m., so an early night is always in order.
We ordered Taco Time, just like the two previous trips, and settled down for a few beers and a marathon of the final episodes of Futurama. Finishing the series finale, we signed off for the night and for all but the formalities of another Seattle visit.
Traveling nearly 5,000 miles for three days of hanging out might seem ludicrous, but not when one of my sister is involved. She's a good egg, and these trips make me realize that I miss having her around.