Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two Days

There is a yarn store half a mile up the road from where we're staying in Birch Bay. This became important and required a visit of some protraction on Sunday morning, as soon as it opened. The Perfessor took the opportunity to acquire a novel from a local writer who was sitting under an awning at the Birch Bay Public Market nearby; the novel turns out to be a good story badly told, but he's going to read it if it kills him.

Following that utter waste of valuable time, we drove down to Ferndale, a small town between Birch Bay and Bellingham, where there is a bowling alley. (Not for nothing are we the Once-a-Year Bowling League.) But before we embarrassed ourselves on the lanes, we checked out Pioneer Park, a collection of 19th Century log buildings from around the area brought together as a sort of tribute to local history. And indeed our visit turned out to coincide with the biggest event Ferndale has to offer, Old Settlers' Weekend. The park was crowded with visitors ... well, okay, not crowded, but decently attended. The usual vendors were out in force, offering trinkets and craftwork and the sorts of odd products one normally will see only on late-night cable TV; also there were those who would persuade others of the rightness, if not righteousness, of their cause. Republicans were registering voters and some pipeline promoter was there to prove how valuable its own particular version of environmental disturbance was. And, of course, there were the food vendors, and in addition to the usual carnival-grounds choices, there was a booth set up by a group of young Ukrainian and Russian immigrants and descendants to sell foods from those lands. I tried the dumplings (I forget the Russian name; variniki, perhaps), which contained potatoes and onions wrapped inside (they called the wrapper a tortilla, but it clearly wasn't; I guess that's proof that the word "tortilla" is now fully English) and crumbled bacon and sour cream on top. Dee-licious!

I spent half an hour on a front porch talking to an interesting Marine veteran from Massachusetts who gives the impression of being somewhat addled, though that could be the effect of long years spent in Alaska.  After that, we had lunch at Bob's Burgers & Brew, the local outlet of a regional chain. Way too much food, good service. It was also right by the bowling alley, where we all did so abysmally that I shan't report the results in detail here. Suffice it to say, we all need practice.

We went from there to Honaker Homestead Park, which features two attractions: a fragrance garden and a farmstead. The fragrance garden is a small plot of ground planted with aromatic herbs and flowering plants. It includes Tennant Lake and has a 40' tower for wildlife viewing. I didn't see any wildlife, but got nice pictures of Mount Baker.
The fragrance garden

The farmstead is the legacy of the Honaker family, of Swedish origin. The patriarch was an accomplished architect back in the Old Country, but apparently not happy. He upped-sticks and moved to New Zealand, then to California, before landing in this remote corner of Washington around the turn of the 20th Century. Having designed his own farm buildings, they are somewhat nicer than your run-of-the-mill farmhouse and barn. The barn (and a sort of farmyard petting zoo) were open, but they didn't have enough volunteers on hand to open the house.
The Honaker barn. It's full of old farm
equipment, but a little short on
Following all that excitement, we retired to our condo for crispy beef with noodles and broccoli and, of course, margaritas. Everything's better with margaritas.

Monday was our day to explore the North Cascades. First stop was for Second Breakfast at Lafeen's
Where doughnuts come from
Donut and Ice Cream shop, where we had perhaps the best doughnuts In The Entire World. Thus fortified, we embarked on our trek. Our plan was to visit Raser State Park, for eagle viewing, then stop at a number of sites in and around the complex of recreation areas and parklands that make up North Cascades National Park. But en route, we decided to go in reverse, and so drove all the way out to Washington Pass, some 150 miles east, and make our way back along the Cascade Highway. It was a good choice.

Washington Pass offers excellent views of some stunning mountain scenery, with the added attraction of birds. Loud birds. Bold birds. One sat on a tree branch not six feet in front of the Church Lady long enough for her to get a really clear photograph. While she stared at it, another bird flew down and hovered behind her. A shame we didn't get a picture of that.

Our next stop was at an overlook from which you can see in the distance the mountain where Jack Kerouac and his friends served as fire-watchers in the 1940s. Then it was on to Diablo Lake, one of a series of reservoirs formed when Seattle City Power dammed the Skagit River (pronounced Ska'jit) in the 1930s. The lakes are fed by glacial melt and maintain a startling turquoise colour, a fact I remembered clearly from my one previous trip down this highway four years ago. 

Gorge Creek Falls

Ladder Creek Falls
Just below Diablo Lake is Gorge Lake, and the stream that flows out from there, Gorge Creek, drops in a falls right next to the highway. A similar falls come down a few miles farther on, behind the Gorge Lake Power Plant, at Ladder Creek. Both of these falls are gorgeous.

By this time it was growing dark, so after a brief stop to see an elk herd grazing in the near distance, and a quick swing through Rasar State Park to determine that it wasn't really worth a stop, we headed home (with a stop for a relaxed dinner at The Farmhouse in Mount Vernon, a sort of less-rustic Cracker Barrel). Just another enjoyable day.

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