Tag Archive for 'Washington'

Off the Grid: Day 5

We were out of bed at 5am on Wednesday the 13th to catch the first ferry back to the mainland. I experienced mild cardiac arrest once we were on the boat, when I checked the schedule and thought for a moment we had gotten on the wrong ship. But I was wrong and we were alright and we watched the sun come up over the frosty sea as we headed back to Anacortes.

We made pretty good time most of the way back to Seattle. Then we hit the legendary I-5 traffic. No problem, I thought. I whipped open the laptop, got online and began charting an alternate route. Left here. Right there. No! We’re crawling along through the suburbs. Ok, back to work. I feverishly plotted another course. U-turn! Back on the highway. Further afield from the main metropolis. Quick, take this exit! Then blammo. We’re dead in the water again. Ultimately, we had no choice but to sit and suffer like the rest of them. I’ve never been so defeated by a roadway. No viable alternate routes? What is this nonsense? It must be the confounded evil of Microsoft at work. I know I saw Redmond on one of those off-ramps.

Eventually, we got past Seattle and were trucking south through Washington again. We stopped in Olympia for lunch and I was put to work looking up the address of K Records so we could take a drive-by photo shoot. Then we took I-5 the rest of the way to Toutle (say it, it’s fun! Toutle, Toutle, Toutle!) and then to Eco Park Resort where we bedded down in a real cabin. I’d like to invite Mar Vista Resort to visit Eco Park Resort to see how cabin lodging is really done (and at half the price!).

We stayed in a cute one room log cabin, powered entirely by propane with a little refrigerator, a heater and two gas lamps. There was a log table with card games and checkers and a quilted log bed that required a running hop for me to reach. The back of our cabin opened out onto a clearing with silence and forest in the distance. We walked a little trail then took a drive down the rest of the way to Mt. St. Helens.

All along the road, we saw signs for Weyerhauser paper company. Apparently, most of the land around the volcano and the national park was bought by them for pennies decades ago and they now plant it and clear it in rotation. Each sign was labeled with the type of tree planted in that particular tree farm along with the year planted and the intended year of harvest. Many of the tree farms had a life-cycle of 40 years or more. I had never put much thought into my feelings on logging before other than that I’ve heard it’s bad for the environment so it must be bad. However, while I know clear-cutting is not good, I was heartened to see that they were continuously re-planting the same areas rather than leaving them for waste. It’s also plain to see that logging supports many families in this part of the country and, for many of them, logging has been a way of life and part of the local culture for generations. I was so excited when I realized the tree stumps laid out in front of the Eco Park Resort were for logging contests. I don’t know anything about this stuff except for a bad eighties film having something to do with the high school quarterback who wins logging games. Or maybe it was about the girl who wanted to play football. Or maybe it was one that starred the boy who looks like Sarah Jessica Parker from Real Genius? I can’t remember.

Anyhow, we finally arrived at the Johnston Observatory, which is the closest visitor center to the Mt. St. Helens. The center is named for a scientist who was camped out on the mountain nearby observing the oncoming eruption and died on-site. His body was never found. It was overcast, brisk and windy up on the mountain so we didn’t stay long. Seeing the area brought back memories of the pictures my grandparents showed me of their trip out west in the 80s. I didn’t think much about it at the time. But now I realize not much has changed since they were there and we’re traveling much of the same routes. In fact, we’ve come to realize that most of the people we travel alongside are grandparents. I don’t know what it is, but we apparently have the interests and road-trip habits of people twice our age. Could it be our fondness for early bird specials and WWII memorabilia? Is that an odd characteristic to have when you still have all your own teeth? Then again, we are homeless and unemployed so our teeth should be the next thing to go.

After heading back to Eco Park and having a home-cooked meal of “logger’s stew”, we bedded down in our cozy cabin for the long night’s rest.

Greetings From Mount St. Helens

Mat and Emily - Mount St. Helens

An Island Mentality: Day 3

Once again, early to bed and early to rise. We were out of the hotel Monday morning by 7:30 to pick up the rental car and head to Anacortes. We made good time up I-5 and got to the ferry terminal about an hour and half before the 11:05 sailing. I banged up my knee trying to cut through the traffic unloading from the ship, but Mat nursed me back to health as he always does and we munched on our faux McMuffins until it was time to board.

An hour later, we drove off the boat and on to the streets of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. This place is incredible. You can stand in one spot and at once see tiers of pastures peppered with red-roofed farmhouses, dropping off as the sea begins, and hazy snowy mountains as the backdrop. I can’t imagine a better scene. How amazing would it be to wake up every day to the clear blue water crashing at the cliffs below you and acres of rolling hillside behind you?

San Juan Island has a population of around 6800 and seems to have one of everything. One hardware store. One movie theatre. One guy who cleans the gutters. I haven’t seen a single McDonald’s. It rarely snows and they average about 25″ of rain annually, though I understand the winters can be fairly blustery and gray.

We originally booked a room at Juniper Lane B&B back in May, which looked like a funky place for a good price, but the propietor mysteriously decided a few weeks ago to close on the 11th and we held the only reservation so too bad for us. We ended up booking a cabin at Mar Vista Resort instead.

The term “resort” is used very loosely and should not be misconstrued to imply the existence of any of the usual luxuries such as shampoo, housekeeping or the absence of odd pervasive smells. The flimsiness of our cabin reminds me of a trailer home. I can’t believe it’s lasted on these windswept cliffs all these years, though it obviously has since it can easily be dated by the decor. It takes effort and selective purchasing to get “shabby chic”. Not so much required for just shabby.

Every window is framed in a hunter green valance that hides beneath it either a partially functioning venetian blind or a half-unraveled roller shade. The kitchen cabinets (two) are of plywood painted beige with faded stick-on decals in a strawberry motif. The sitting area consists of an office chair, a blue velour loveseat and a recliner with hunter green velour upholstery worn through at the edges and pocked with cigarette burns. The bed includes a bare box-spring and a mattress so soft and springy I woke up every time Mat rolled over.

Tucked around the bed are a thin poly-blend peach floral comforter and one of those synthetic fiber blankets that looks like it should squeak when you touch it. A green plaid curtain covers the bedroom closet/hot water heater area. And while the kitchen comes stocked with a pot, a pan, utensils and a measuring cup, the only amenity in the bathroom is soap and a towel (we are advised fresh ones can be exchanged for at the office).

And finally… the smell. It overwhelms you as soon as you walk in the door. It’s as if my grandmother has been frying onions in lard on the two-burner stove every night for the last forty years and then moved out yesterday.

Ladies and gentlemen… Mar Vista Resort. Where vacation homes come to wither up and die.

That said, the view is amazing and the silence is overwhelming. We are literally the last cabin before the cliff drops off in to the ocean. Across the strait is the Olympic Peninsula to the south and Vancouver Island to the north. (I see Canadian people!) Beyond that is the Pacific and then Russia. A fog rolled in Tuesday morning that completely veiled the mountains in the distance, though the sun was shining and the sky was clear above us. We walked down to the beach on a path bordered with blackberry brambles and ended up picking our way across the most incredible driftwood graveyard I’ve ever seen. Draped across the bleached water-worn castaways were the snakey limbs of bull kelp. It was an eery scene in the morning light.

[I have to backtrack here. I have nothing against trailer homes. I have no idea why people occupy them in tornado zones, especially when they’re mobile, but to each their own. My great aunt and uncle lived in a double-wide on bricks in Pennsylvania. I have fond memories of visiting them for reunions when I would be treated to tractor rides and my cousin and I could be occupied for hours hammering a jarful of nails into an old bench. I mean, really, who needs a Froggie Learning Center or whatever they’re called when you have a hundred rusty nails, a splintered old bench with peeling paint and two hammers? My kids are totally getting their own jar of nails.]

Anyhow, back to Monday. After checking in to our plywood home, we set out to explore the island. We went to the Pelindaba Lavender Farm where they grow some 60 varieties of lavender on 20 acres and sell everything from lavender sachets to lavender tea and lavender vinegar. Good place to pick up tschotschkes for the moms (and Barry). Then we knocked back a few (ounces) in the tasting room of San Juan Vineyards. We dropped in on the Oyster Farm as they were closing. Then drove past an alpaca farm and stopped to say hi. We had dinner at a pub on the harbor that brews it’s own Hefeweizen, IPA and a chile pepper stout. I had fried oysters and chips. Totally the best oysters ever. They had some kind of smokey flavor. So good. It’s amazing how much you can get done when the furthest you can possibly travel is 20 miles.