To continue from yesterday’s post about breathtakingly beautiful places right under my nose, while I visited the state of Washington, I explored a few islands and peninsulas that I thought were islands (you’ll see what I mean).
First, I visited Kingston, which is not an island but is still a 30-minute ferry ride from Edmonds, WA. It is part of the Kitsap Peninsula and absolutely had an island vibe. And yes, little navigation-challenged-me definitely thought it was an island (because a ferry took me across water to get there! haha) until an “islander” that I asked about “the island” corrected me. Yeah, I felt stupid for a second there. But–I’m getting quite used to being lost, mistaken, or utterly foolish. I’ve learned to laugh at myself instead of burn with shame. 🙂 This non-island, I explored on foot, leaving the RV south of Seattle.
On another day, I took the the ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island. Yes, an actual island! I was confused how it was an island when we drove off of the island in a vehicle, but I figured it out when I saw a map and understood how we ferried over (drove onto the ferry in our borrowed car; we left the RV again as it was a pretty penny to ferry it over just for a one day excursion), drove from the south end of the island to the north, and used the Deception Pass Bridge to exit the north end of the island and get to Fidalgo Island (which is actually also not an island! Ah! So confusing!). Whidbey Island, I explored by driving from place to place, then getting out of the vehicle and going on foot for a bit before returning to the car.
The highlight of the experience was hiking around the Earth Sanctuary, a 72-acre forestland full of meandering trails and all kinds of treasures, be they strange and entirely out of place (such as a massive whale skull; at least I think that’s what it was?!), aesthetically pleasing, or spiritual. In addition to the eerie skeletefied head, I came across a stupa, all kinds of sculptures, gongs, a mini Stonehenge, prayer flags, lily pad ponds, and the lushest, greenest trails.
Whidbey Island is also the home to the Admiralty Head Lighthouse and several massive coastal artillery guns, that I found out only afterwards, due to some research, are not actually originals. If you’re curious, read the amusing story of where the guns are transported from, how long it took, and how one gun nearly slid off the ship during a freak storm.
My next plan was to take the RV over to the San Juan Islands (about $60 for vehicles over 20′–the Trek is 24′) and spend 5 days on the three ferry-served islands (San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez) and look into how we could get onto the other islands part of the archipelago that a ferry doesn’t go to. Unfortunately, we had to skip this part due to time constraints.
But our time constraints were self-enforced and occurred for a good reason. I’ve seen many films in which travelers are graciously taken in and hosted by a loving family glad to open up their home, share their food, and indulge in conversations that go late into the night. I always thought this would happen somewhere like Italy, where an Italian grandmother would insist that I stay in her home with her large family, and then proceed to wine and dine me and the rest of her extended family at a banquet-style table, after which the 29 of us stay up \talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning.
Well, it did not happen in Italy, but rather in Washington, and not with Italians, but with Ukrainians who happened to be my family but whom I’d only had the opportunity to rekindle a relationship with a few years ago, once I became old enough to make my own decisions and not participate in a decade-old family feud. It was all so wonderful–we ate and went to the lake and stayed up until 2AM talking and painting (one of my favorite things ever!), and this repeated itself for 9 days; 4 days before I flew to California to say goodbye to a few members of my immediate family prior to taking off on my trip and 5 days afterwards. The last 5 days were the days I had saved for exploring the San Juan Islands, but I made the decision that spending time in such lovely company was worth missing the islands. The islands will (hopefully) always be there and I can come back another time. Such soul-rejuvenating moments of creativity and camaraderie don’t happen every day.
When I realized that if I stayed another day, I’d probably stay forever, my boyfriend/fellow adventurer and I forced ourselves to pack up and head to Canada (every night had ended with, “Can you stay another day?” and answered with an “Okay, just one more day.”) Halfway there, we decided to stop in Bellingham, WA. Once there, I looked at the map and noticed how close we were to–guess what?-another island!
I couldn’t resist just one more island and decided to visit teeny-little Lummi Island. We left the RV in Bellingham, grabbed our bikes and jumped aboard another ferry. A 5 minute ride (really!), and we were there.
We biked around most of the island from north to south for approximately 14 miles, picnicked on the beach (thanks to some pre-trip Googling, we knew that all cafes/restaurants were closed on a Wednesday so we packed our own dinner), and headed back sweaty, sore, and exhausted.
If you go, please make sure you have a decent bike that can handle all of the hills–not a $30 Craigslist purchase that doesn’t shift gears very well and had to be walked up nearly every hill. Otherwise, I learned that Lummi is a great place to go if you have a mission and want zero distractions–no bars, no touristy things to stop and snap photos of, no crowds, no noise. Whether that mission is to bike around the whole island, read, write, or paint, or just to de-stress in silence, it definitely doesn’t have much to offer in the entertainment/dining field, which is exactly what you might want, I don’t know. Here’s someone’s article about the 5 things there is to do on Lummi if that’s your thing. Either way, I’m glad I went! It was interesting see how close to a thousand people chose to live on such a small island.
And in case I’ve sparked your interest in visiting a few of the little islands scattered around the US coast, here’s some fun information on 22 of them, although there’s actually at least 176 of them.
Next stop for us: Canada!