Forgive me, reading public, for I have sinned. This article is well over a month late and I am the only one to blame.
Rather than bore you with excuses for my tardiness, allow this second Semi-Solo entry to serve as a condensed guide to experiencing the Islands of Washington state. While there is much more to see than is contained herein, I would highly encourage you to use this as a jumping off point.
So, after Canada-ing it up, I moseyed on down to Whidbey Island. The journey here involved driving through an area that was used to film “The Ring” (Deception Pass State Park), which may have sent others on the Nope Express real quick. “Not I”, said I. “I am going to the island”. This is actually a stunning park that is worthy of at least a day for full exploration. Preferably in the summer – like anywhere in Washington.
In actuality, Whidbey Island is really a lot more commercialized than one would expect for an “island community”. With commercialization, however, comes splendid Thai food at Jeda’s Thai Kitchen and the most awesome Inn I’ve ever been to. The island can be traversed by car in a day and along the way you’ll find crisp ocean air, and beautiful evergreen aplenty. See below for pictures after the jump:
Being limited by the current existence of winter (pro tip: most camping and outdoor excursion-type stuff is closed down until May or June), I decided that I needed to alter my schedule and actually complete my once-lofty goal of going to the San Juan Islands – or at least one of them. Ferries are frequent and incredibly easy to take, so the next day had me setting course for Orcas Island by way of Anacortes.
Orcas welcomed me with open arms. If you’re looking for more of an authentic, uniquely Pacific Northwest experience, this is it. A haven for seaside artists and those looking for a more peaceful day-to-day, I can see why Orcas draws people in with its magic.
First up was a brief hike up Mt. Constitution. I should be transparent and say that this “hike” was mostly a long and winding drive. But hey, it took more out of me than you’d think. Anyway, this is the view from the top. You can almost feel how cold my hands were taking this – I straight up thought they were going to fall off. It was worth it, though.
Next up was Doe Bay, a small resort area with a restaurant that was closed on Tuesdays (the day I was there…naturally). Even though it was empty, there was something beautifully subdued about the view that day. I couldn’t help but sneak a photo of the lone deer guarding over its sea-front forest.
As you drive around the tiny island, you’re surrounded by a forest that is honestly best described as enchanted. There are patches of farmland and small homesteads sprawled throughout, but it’s nothing compared to Whidbey Island and certainly not the mainland. It was a calming, ethereal music type of drive that complemented this scenery – and only being there could describe the sensation.
As the afternoon unfolded, I knew I had to check the island’s largest city, Eastsound, off my voyage to-do. Of all the charming boutiques, local-laden restaurants, and small but impressive art galleries that comprised the town, this building was my absolute favorite. A simple, Southern-style Episcopal church with a white picket fence. I don’t know if it was the fence, the trees, or the (sadly hidden) red door, but it drew me in. I stood in the courtyard for 20 minutes, just thinking.
One stand-out business in Eastsound – and a must-see at that – is Kathryn Taylor Chocolates. I’ve grown to be fairly picky with my chocolate, so I couldn’t have been more impressed when I walked in and saw such flavors as vanilla honeybush, lavender caramel, or rhubarb. What impressed me even further was the incredible artistry put into each and every chocolate inside that glossy case. As a further perk, they even had larger desserts (like that cake you see below) and gourmet hot chocolate. Do you need any more reasons to come here? No. You’re going to do it now.
The day, admittedly, was simple. I admired and explored some nature, took some pictures, and ate some chocolate. I also ended it with a fantastic massage from Roxanne of Massage by the Sea before heading off to my ferry back to Anacortes. With the lack of crazy deadlines, extreme adventures, or, frankly, extended human interaction, the day was able to teach me an important lesson: sometimes, it just takes a day. A day to recharge, recenter, and connect with what you truly enjoy. A day to just do things on the fly and not worry about hitting goals or targets. As a goal-driven person who is constantly seeking the next level, it can be difficult for me to let loose and just enjoy my surroundings. But a part of my ability to achieve anything in my life rests on the times that I do recharge and remember what life is about: enjoyment.
Well, there’s a thought of the day for ya.