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Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

We headed out of Skagit County, Washington this morning, excited to be finally on the road and on with our adventure, but sorry to leave. . . again. It’s just 3 months since we moved back down from Alaska, with the intention of moving on as quickly as possible, but we soon remembered why we liked the area so well and stayed so many years. Skagit county is a beautiful — no, make that stunning — county, from the shores of the Salish Sea and the farmland panorama of The Valley, to the county’s eastern border well into the Cascade Mountains. Nine months of relentless cloudy skies and rain-drenched, lush landscapes give way this time of year to sunny skies, drought conditions and vast dust clouds blowing across fields from the wheels of farm vehicles in the Valley. Unless you’ve lived here, you can’t understand that this area has a wonderful climate — year-round.

"Hay For Sale", Sedro Woolley, WA

We saw these two men playing cards beside their “store” in the Thrifty Foods Store parking lot just before we left today and we asked to take their picture since, to us, they represent Skagit County at it’s best – timeless, relaxed and real.

Transplants from the East coast (Maryland), we have, over the course of about a decade and a half, explored the county and much of the state, as well as a lot of the Northwest region and, sometime/where along the way, we truly became Washingtonians. And now we sit in a campground just the other side of the Columbia River in Oregon, taking a moment to say good-bye. Good-bye to the Valley’s fresh, local produce; the beautiful walks; the salty air by the bays; the awesome power of the Skagit River; the old growth forest in Rockport upriver; and the creatures, human and otherwise, whom we’ve encountered. It’s also a lifestyle that we’re leaving.

We will also miss our favorite place for lunch: the Rachawadee Thai Cafe in Mount Vernon. Open the door to see a narrow aisle between the brick wall to the right and, to the left, just ten red-topped, low stools before a long stainless steel counter that divides the cafe lengthwise.

We’ve often enjoyed the excellent food in addition to the performance art, during the lunchtime rush hour, of 4 people working in coordinated, efficient and good-natured concert to slice, stock, clean, cook and serve delicious food, all the while providing excellent customer service. We will think fondly of the times we’ve left the cafe with our mouths pleasantly afire, having ordered 3 out of 4 stars heat per entree. We made sure to go there for lunch yesterday where we ordered enough food for leftovers for tonight’s dinner.

This evening, with the sun going down after what seemed a sweltering drive in the sunny low 70s, the air is freshening with a breeze over the grassy RV sites surrounded by trees as we sit on our lawn chairs, the dogs lying contentedly near our feet. Here we are today — where will we be tomorrow? We have no definite answer to that question and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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This is Indian Pipe. We’ve come across it occasionally in western Washington, most recently here on Fidalgo Island. According to Wikipedia,
“Monotropa uniflora, also known as the Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe, or Corpse Plant is a herbaceous perennial plant, formerly classified in the family Monotropaceae, but now included within the Ericaceae. It is native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas.[1] It is generally scarce or rare in occurrence but is common or even ubiquitous in some areas, such as many parts of eastern North America.
Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.”
(Link to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Pipe)

So flower, closely associated with fungi.

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Our haul this morning from the farmers market in Mount Vernon.

We love fresh carrot tops in split pea soup so we made that for lunch.  The garlic is just superb, as was the onion.  The beets will go into blender drinks, their tops in our salads. This is a great place to live for those who like organic, locally grown whole foods. We shop the farmers markets, the Co-op and sometimes make trips to the small farms in Skagit Valley and on the nearby islands to get organic produce, eggs, cheese and meats. In Alaska we loved the access to fresh Alaskan fish, shrimp and crab, but missed the variety and freshness of the produce here.

It will be hard to leave, but we have developed such a taste and preference for fresh, organic whole foods that it will still be a priority for us and we look forward to discovering new farms, farmers markets and natural foods stores wherever we go.

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The Black Rock Seafood store is an addition on a small, old house a couple or so miles walk from the RV park. It makes a nice destination/purpose for a walk with the dogs. They sell Alaskan fish, in addition to local fish and seafood. On a recent walk, we had them pack a nice piece of Alaskan halibut with plenty of ice to put into one of our backpacks for the return home.

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The Salish Sea is close by no matter where we are on Fidalgo Island, but it can lose its sense of immediacy when we’re surrounded by forest, as when we’re walking the trails in the ACFL (Anacortes City Forest Lands) or when we’re in the RV park.

View (with fewest human elements) from our campsite

Sometimes the wind blows the scent of salty water strongly up the long hill to our RV and with it comes a familiar freshening of the spirit that briny air triggers in us both. Living in Juneau, AK, which is tucked in along a narrow stretch of land at the base of steep, forested mountains beside the Gastineau Channel, we were even closer to the changing scene of tides and seasons. We rarely went out on the water, but it had nonetheless a powerful influence in our lives — the dramatic tidal shifts exposing vast muddy flats and tilting gangways to precarious levels at ebb; the everpresent smell of brine; the salmon runs; the enjoyment of buying fresh salmon, halibut and spot prawns from small commercial fishing boats down at the docks; wind-whipped waves breeching the barrier to spray cars driving along Glacier Highway north of downtown. Here in Washington, we no longer feel the elemental connection, due to the much larger human presence and all that entails, but we are more aware of the sea than when we lived in the area previously.

Brian & Annie examining tidal pool

On a recent walk in Washington Park on the northwest edge of Fidalgo Is., we watched Black Oystercatchers poke their long, vividly red bills among big rocks at the water’s edge while out on the water Cormorants and Buffleheads dove for food. Still further out, against a backdrop of mountains made miniature by distance, pleasure boats, small commercial fishing vessels, immense ferries and barges being towed by tugs passed to and fro. The forest still grows right down to the rocky shore on this part of the island. On a walk through the center of the park we came to an open area where tall trees gave way to shrubs of human height and suddenly we heard, but could not see, a tiny fighter plane buzzing by repeatedly and firing on us. A hummingbird in defense of it’s territory or nest, but what type of hummingbird we’ll never know because it was too quick for us.

Bark of the Madrone tree

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. . . is hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest. This one is consistently accurate:

Downtown Sedro Woolley at dawn

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Tis the season for food in Skagit valley. The Co-op’s produce section is bursting with fresh, beautiful vegetables and fruits, farmers’ markets have begun their seasons in the various towns and the fresh fish is coming in from Alaska. Spot prawns will be available in about a week. We finished a half flat of local strawberries in just 3 days – so sweet and ripe.
We’ve taken some nice walks in Island and Skagit counties. It has been a rainy spring and we often have trails mostly to ourselves as we walk in full rain gear with waterproof binoculars to hand.

Along the Cascade Trail

On a walk beside Padilla Bay we just about ran into a weasel who had just caught a mouse or vole. The poor thing wasn’t quite dead since we interrupted the hunt, but weasels are quite fearless and this one retreated only for moment (despite 2 humans and 2 dogs) then came back to finish the kill and carry it away. Practically under our feet! Didn’t need binocs, but looking through them provided an amazing clear, close-up view. Like watching a nature show.

Padilla Bay At lowest tide

Skagit River Valley “Upriver” near Lyman

Band-tailed pigeons were another interesting sight on another day. Physically similar in shape to the non-native Rock pigeon, but behavior and size had us guessing. They are big and this flock of about a dozen was silent and very wary in the deep woods upriver.

And yesterday we saw not one, but three Barred owls. All together, a family. We interrupted the parent who was feeding two young. They all flew a short distance in differing directions to settle high in tall trees. This forest area is about a mile’s walk from our RV park. The fairly quiet road we walked along passes through this wood on a steep course down to Similk Bay. The woods drop sharply off to one side of the road so near the top of the hill we’re walking beside the tops of those tall, old trees. The owls, therefore, were easily viewed. We waited for a while, watching. The three owls kept their eyes on us too. In one tree, the parent, clutching what appeared to be a large, dead rat in its talons, called occasionally. Our patience was rewarded when the three joined up on a branch still in clear view. The momma/papa began stripping pieces of flesh from the rat and feeding them to one youngster while the other made hissing noises until it’s turn came.

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