Tuesday, July 26, 2011


What northwest residents say is true: I feel much more appreciation and gratitude for a sunny day when sunshine is as rare as it has been in the coastal regions of Oregon and Washington this year.  Sunday, the third (and last) day of our string of summer weather, was glorious – sunny, warm, clear, calm.  Our horizons were filled with snowcapped mountains while the water sparkled.

Beginning July 1, 2011, all the state-owned recreation areas in Washington require a Discover Pass for parking.  A one day pass is $10; an annual pass is $30.  There are 4 state parks on Whidbey Island, and at least one of the federal recreation areas has a parking lot owned by Washington state – which requires the Discover Pass.  You can buy a day pass at the parking lot, or buy an annual pass “wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold”.  Say what?

Last Friday, we learned that some state parks sell the annual pass, so finally procured one.  Yesterday, with the freshly purchased pass in our Jeep and the sunshine calling our names, we headed to Ft. Ebey State Park for a hike along the bluff trail.

Gorgeous summer day Perfect Picnic Spot

Looking towards the Olympic Peninsula from our trail.

Doesn’t this look like the perfect picnic spot?

After a good workout of 3+ miles (and even a bit of sunburn for me), we were off to Toby’s Tavern in Coupeville to meet our friend Joe and sample Toby’s mussels.  The verdict?  Toby’s are a better deal, less money for more grub.  The all-important broth at Kim’s was much better, though, and Odel liked Kim’s bread better, too (I liked Toby’s grilled garlic toast as well as Kim’s chewy sourdough.)  We’ll have to go back to Kim’s to make a final decision.  :) 

In the spirit of full disclosure, here is a photo of Toby’s mussels:

Mussels at Toby's Pastries at Calico Cupboard

Mussels and garlic bread at Toby’s on Sunday.

Pastry case at Calico Cupboard in La Conner on Monday.

With visions of blue skies and sunshine dancing in our heads, we fell asleep last night planning to get up early to catch the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island for a day of sightseeing.  One of the most frequently recommended “must does” in this area, it would be a first for us.

We were up at 6:30 and out the door at 8 am, rolling our eyes at the mostly cloudy skies.  At 8:45, sitting in the parking lot of the ferry terminal under a heavy bank of fog in 58 degrees, we decided to wait until Thursday, the next day with a forecast of nothing but sunshine.  So, what now?

Canoe approaching potlatchWe turned east, heading back to Edison, a tiny, charming town we had passed through on our way home from Bellingham on Saturday afternoon.  The village that was bright, vibrant, and lively on Saturday afternoon was cold, wet, and extremely quiet on Monday morning – not one shop or restaurant was open!  By now it was close to 9:30, and our stomachs were rumbling… so off we went to La Conner, another of the interesting small towns that dot the area.

We struck gold.  See that photo of the pastry case at Calico Cupboard?  It hints at the delicious breakfast we had in their dining room.  The entire meal as great, but the toast was the best I have ever had in a restaurant.  Calico Cupboard, La Conner - highly recommended by us!

Then we remembered: today is the opening of the Paddle to Swinomish 2011, the week-long cultural gathering of native tribes described in this story in the New York Times.  This year, the annual event is hosted by the Swinomish Tribe, at their La Conner reservation.  Tribes have been paddling to La Conner from Canada, Oregon and Washington for several weeks (or months); the big, decorated family canoes were anticipated to arrive beginning at 2 pm (with the cooperation of the tides).  We decided to walk off our breakfast by exploring La Conner while we waited.

Canoe 2 Group of canoes

Light sprinkles turned to rain as the canoes began to arrive, but it was a great sight nevertheless.  Wish I had a camera with a big zoom, but this is the best I could do with my little Canon.  What no photo could capture was the sense of excitement.  As the canoes approached the landing spot, the paddlers sang/chanted in booming voices, punctuated with whoops, cheers and laughter.   The group of canoes in the photo above came swooping into view from behind a point, paddling hard and chanting loudly – then turned around and headed back behind the point.  Other canoes came from behind the point singly, singing and laughing, heading up past us to the gathering point. 

We eventually decided to get out of the rain and head home, feeling we’d made the right decision at the ferry landing.  Back here at home, Odel got a pot of his great spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, and we have a bottle of Joe’s “cranberry juice” (homemade wine) to wash it down at dinner time (thanks, Joe!).  A good end to an interesting day.


  1. you made a rainy sound like a great time!!..maybe the sun will come out tomorrow??

  2. Your Welcome. Glad you decided against heading out to Friday Harbor and hit LaConner instead. I had intended to mention LaConner to you but forgot it. As for the "Cranberry Juice", hope you enjoyed it.


  3. Great save for an otherwise dreary day! I don't think I would be so brave as to travel the ocean in a canoe, even though they are huge. Sounds as if the participants were having a grand time though.

    The photo of the bakery case reminds me of Sluys' Bakery, another great small town in WA. (but not close to where you are).

    It's sunny here in Eugene this morning - hope the great weather extends all the way to Washington today.

  4. Right decision for sure! That would have been a splendid event to witness and hear! Thank for sharing it! Too bad there wasn't an audio link! Loved the first picture with all the driftwood -- reminded me of beaches in Oregon during my very early childhood!

  5. You two have great days rain or shine. So cool to have been arround for the Canoe arrivals. Maybe that's why the rainy day happened so you'd postpone Friday Harbor and stick around.


  6. We could certainly use some of that cool weather here in HOT Branson! What a beautiful area.

  7. Oh no! You actually had some of Joe's cranberry juice?? He sent us away with a couple bottles of it but we're returning in about week or so to get more. Hopefully, he has built up his supply of crab. Now we have to try Toby's and the mussels.

  8. Not ever having eaten a mussel before, how do you do it? Do you just pick it out with a fork and pop it in your mouth? Or maybe they slide out? Do you dip it in a sauce? I think I'd like to try one first before ordering a whole plate full. :)

  9. Judy, you pick up the shell and pluck the mussel out with a fork. Use good, chewy, sourdough bread or warm garlic bread to dip in/soak up the broth, which is an important part of the overall experience!

    I find the flavor of mussels to be sort of neutral... kinda' the essence of "ocean" without being "fishy". Great texture (tender, not slimy or chewy). The flavor of the broth is important - at home I make a garlic, wine, butter, lemon, herb broth and occasionally toss in a can of chopped tomatoes.

  10. Glad you guys got to get your cranberry juice from Joe. He gets pretty stingy with it sometimes. What a great day especially since it wasn't planned at all.

  11. Great save! Glad Joe treated you well. Although, to be honest, I can't imagine him doing otherwise. He just talks a big show. :)

  12. I would be happy to just follow you and Odel around and clean up your crumbs...if there are any:-)...LOVE those mussels!

  13. We sometimes throw in a handful of Fregola - it really gives body to the broth and we drink what's left as soup. Yum!

  14. Well the mussels and garlic bread made my mouth water... ok I am drooling here!!! Looks like it turned out to be a simply wonderful day!
    Have fun & Travel safe

  15. Very interesting about the paddle and the mussels sound wonderful!

  16. I have yet to come across a bakery that I didn't like. That, I think, is part of my problem...hee...hee...hee.

    How interesting to be able to see the boat races. And to think, if you did catch the ferry that day, you would have missed all the hoopla.

  17. Enjoying reliving our stay in Anacortes through your adventures. If you need knives sharpened, look for the guy at farmer's markets. I found him in Anacortes. We had the perfect summer in 2009! Unreal!

  18. We love the area, Whidbey Island, Mukilteo, etc. We prefer the chowder at Ivar's in Mukilteo but the one at the Fish Bowl in Langeley if it is still open is also very good but less cream and more broth based.

    You will love Friday Harbor if you get the chance. We love just riding the ferries wherever they go.

    BTW Thanks for the tip on Muldoons, we are on a great Pasty tour of the UP and we thought we had good ones until Muldoons and they are the best to date. Voted best in the UP.