The first of August found us in Pioneer Trails RV Park outside of Anacortes, Washington (Pioneer RV park described in Anacortes, Part 2). And, as we mentioned earlier, the RV park made an excellent base from which to explore Puget Sound, the North Cascade Mountains and Seattle. We took full advantage of it.
We wanted to go into Seattle but had postponed it. We were afraid of driving the big, one-ton pickup truck through the city. Finally, we remembered a parking area along South Lake Union where we could get the truck in if we arrived early. We picked up our friend Matt and went on Sunday morning to avoid the rush-hour traffic of the weekdays. And, it worked. We drove down Mercer Street at 8:30 am and immediately found a free 10-hour parking spot (street parking free on Sundays). From there we’d take the bus around town, and that worked too.
We’ve always liked Seattle. We like the hipster, street grunge attitude; the barefoot street bands, the eclectic neighborhoods like Fremont, Georgetown and Ballard, the good restaurants and funky bars, Pike Place Market, The Seahawks. So, this visit was kind of a tour of some of our favorite places starting with breakfast at Portage Bay Restaurant in south Lake Union and, it was excellent as always.
From there we took the short bus ride to Fremont, the super-hip neighborhood along the Ballard Ship Canal. We visited the famous troll under the Fremont bridge, walked through the Fremont Sunday Market and stopped for massages at our favorite massage parlor, Two Smiling Feet (very little English spoken here, only Chinese).
From there it was Pike Place Market which was packed with people on Sunday morning. Tourists choked the walkways while dreadlocked street bands slapped out the blues on guitars and homemade basses. We bought some fresh Dungeness crab and smoked salmon from our favorite fish monger, Pure Foods. But already the morning had moved into afternoon, so we walked to REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated), the gigantic Seattle-based outdoors store. I had some shopping to do in preparation for a couple of upcoming backpacking trips (and also to drool over the sea kayaks on sale there).
By then it was time to in go in order to beat the traffic leaving Seattle from a Mariners baseball game (Mariners won). So, we hit the freeway northbound stopping for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, Taste of India, in the University District (hhmm, hhmm, just as good as we remembered).
Another day we drove to Baker Lake and hiked up to the flanks of Koma Kulshan (Mt Baker) along the Park Butte trail. This is one of the most popular trails in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and for good reason. In just three miles, and an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, you reach the magnificent alpine meadows of lupine and heather at the base of the 11,000-foot peak. Flanked by the impressive black spires of the Twin Sisters, Mt Baker stands out, white in its perpetual snows while faint wiffs of sulfur occasionally drift by reminding you that this is a live volcano. The mountain is so close you could touch it and really, from the meadow it’s a short distance to walk up and onto the glaciers themselves. But the temperatures had reached ninety, we were low on water, and we were tired, so we turned back after enjoying the mountain from a shady spot in the meadows.
Then, the smoke drifted in from forest fires in Oregon, eastern Washington and British Columbia. Within a couple days even the coastline around Anacortes was shrouded in a thick fog of fire smoke. There have always been summer fires in the Pacific Northwest and about every five years the smoke from them gets bad. But in the past ten years the fires have been bigger and more frequent until now the new normal is thick smoke covering the whole state every August. Scientists say it’s a direct result of increasing global temperatures and it’s not going away.
To escape the smoke, we drove up to Artist Point, a favorite place of ours high on the flanks of Mt Baker. But even there the smoke was so thick that we couldn’t even see the mountain that we were standing on. Luckily, we knew of a grove of old growth douglas fir trees along the road to Artist Point and on the way back we spent a couple hours wandering through the massive trees, many of them over ten feet in diameter, 250 feet tall and 800-years old. That alone made the long drive worthwhile.
One day my friend Matt and I took the tiny ferry from Anacortes across Guemes Channel to neighboring Guemes Island. There we rode our bikes around the island’s coast, hiked up Guemes Mountain and sipped cold IPAs at the general store. Just a ten-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, Guemes is a quiet oasis in the middle of the Salish Sea.
By then our time in Anacortes was getting short. We had come to love the area, but we were scheduled to leave the RV park on August 19th after which Sonia was scheduled to fly to Santa Fe to visit friends while I backpacked for a week in the mountains with my friend John. So, we finished up our stay in Anacortes biking in the local parks, listening to music in the local pubs, and kayaking around Rosario Strait. There’s still a lot of things we didn’t get to, but we’ll be back. I think we’ve found our summering spot; Anacortes.