Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon, gorgeous fall weather clear skies 79 degrees F
After two days of exploring traffic patterns in Puget Sound, we were definitely ready to travel north toward something a bit less crowded. After thoroughly reading everything Laurel and Nina had written about getting around in the San Juan Islands, I decided that traveling north via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Kitsap Peninsula and taking a ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville was our best route.
To the left is our original planned route, 114 miles, to the right is the alternate route, 195 miles and 5 extra hours!
Even with a ferry trip, it seemed better than dealing once again with the traffic on I-5 north to Mount Vernon and accessing Whidbey Island from the north. I went to the Washington State Ferry website and made a reservation for the MoHo and the Tracker, where the fare was calculated to be something in the vicinity of 67 bucks for both rigs. Seemed reasonable enough.
The drive north was uneventful, with clouds parting a bit for lighter gray skies and even a bit of sunshine here and there. I was a bit sad because I knew that Port Townsend was a great destination, and with our ferry reservation, we probably wouldn’t get much of a chance to see it. Fate stepped in, however, and as we approached the terminal an hour in advance, as recommended, I was surprised to see large red CLOSED sign at the gates.
Seems as though the bridge to land from the ferry on the Coupeville side had somehow broken, and the ferry had been turned around. I can only imagine how all those folks felt! The ferry was cancelled until the bridge could be repaired. We could return via Tacoma and drive north along I-5, or we could drive back to Kingston and catch the Edmonds ferry there.
Rather than worry about it, we decided to take a bit of time and enjoy walking around the downtown picturesque portion of Port Townsend where we had a good parking place for a few hours.
Port Townsend was as magically lovely as I expected, with wonderful shops and a vibrant feeling of both tourism and locals. We found a sweet little cafe where the cappucino was not only tasty, but pretty, with a little window table to sit and enjoy watching the changing and somewhat chilly weather outside. With the weather cool enough that Abby could wait in the MoHo, we enjoyed a leisurely walk through town, going in and out of interesting shops filled with color, art and creativity. I was completely enthralled with a shop that celebrated the fiber arts with quilting, knitting, and beading as a focus. I do love color, and the displays of fabric, yarn, beads and notions, all creatively jumbled together by color had me oohing and ahhing. I did manage to keep my wallet intact, but it was a challenge.After deciding that we definitely will come back to spend more time in Port Townsend, we reluctantly traveled back south toward Kingston. In line for the ferry with time to spare, we coughed up the 86 bucks for the MoHo and Tracker to cross the sound toward Edmonds. The crossing was uneventful, and I didn’t even bother to try to get up top for the view. By the time we reached Edmonds, it was mid-afternoon and the drive to Mukilteo wasn’t terribly difficult. In line once again, and coughing up another 56 bucks for another ferry, we waited as the sunshine came out and illuminated the sound and the islands in the distance.
We again enjoyed the ride, and this time I went top side to get some photos while Mo relaxed with Abby in the MoHo with a glass of wine and a good book. However,as the day progressed we were getting a bit concerned about our arrival time at Whidbey NAS. Google was telling me so many minutes, and we had a few less than needed to get to the Porter Gate where RV’s are allowed to enter the base. We made it with just 3 minutes before closing. It wouldn’t have been too awful if we had been late, as there is a special phone number to call and security will open the gate for you after a short wait.
Once on base, we tried to follow the written directions from the website, and managed to get a bit lost before a nice guy in a car and a Navy uniform offered to lead us in to the Cliffside RV Park. Of course, after being on base for a few days, it was so simple, but that first time in was a bit goofy.
It was approaching early evening as we checked into the south loop of the park, where the manager had told us by telephone to go if we arrived after six. He came down to meet us as we settled in, saying it was no problem for us to come to his office the following morning to settle up our camp fees. I must say that the view from the campground was incredible. After being in a deep dark forest at Lewis McChord, it was a delight to be camped on a high bluff directly above the sea with a 180 degree view of sky and water and islands in the distance.
The sites were level and the lack of shade completely irrelevant in the cool, cloudy skies of this part of the northwest. Full hookups and a spotless laundry right across from our site were added benefits. Just below us was a fitness trail, paved for bikes and used by runners and walkers of all sorts. The beach was just below the path a few hundred feet and was littered with beautiful weathered driftwood and covered with tiny pea gravels rather than sand. I think it was the nicest Family Camp we have ever experienced.
One of the sweetest benefits are the flowers! A camp host is a dahlia fan, and he plants more than 1,000 dahlias in the campground. Dahlias love that moist air and mild sunshine and they were in full bloom. At the campground office, on a table outside the door, are a large selection of vases filled with dahlias for each camper to take to their rig. Just return the vase when you leave. Without a doubt we will return for an extended stay to this camp. In a great location for exploring the area, at $30 per night it was a good deal for this part of the west where decent campgrounds are hard to find.
We originally planned to visit Lopez Island on Friday, but with the rainy weather predicted for that day, and the sunshine predicted for the next day, it seemed smarter to deal with Saturday ferry traffic and stay close to Whidbey and our home on Friday. Waking to misty rain, I read about visiting Deception Pass State Park and after our leisurely morning, we jumped in the Tracker to explore.
Deception Pass State Park covers more than 4,000 acres on two islands. The islands are connected by the Deception Pass Bridge, spanning the salt waters of Deception Pass 177 feet below. There are annual kayak races through the pass, but watching that swirling current and the incoming tide, you couldn’t pay me to drop a kayak into that water. In fact, much of the San Juan Islands and surrounding area require a more seaworthy kayak than our sweet flat water boats.
With the pass just minutes from the campground, we had the entire day to wander out to Rosario Beach and walk the trails on Rosario Head and then back toward Bowman Bay. At Bowman Bay there was a beautiful CCC interpretation center, but it was closed for the season. There was also a perfect kayak launch site and with better weather, it would have been a lovely paddle. We would have loved to have a bit more time to hike out to Lighthouse Point, but decided to save that hike for another visit. One could spend many days hiking around this beautiful park.
As I have often mentioned, I live in a forest. I do know that forests are often shaded and quite dark. However shaded and dark is a mild description of the depths of darkness in the thick forests of Deception Pass State Park. The firs and hemlocks are huge and the understory is impenetrable. The shades of green are beyond counting, but most of them are in the darker range of shades, and the deep blues of the water and gray skies added much to the gloom. It was a beautiful gloom, just not one where I would want to spend any great length of time. Beautiful to visit, but I wouldn’t live there. I need more light!
Light arrived in full force just as we returned in early evening to our camp. The sun burst below the cloud cover over the water to the west just a bit before sunset, turning the grass green gold and lighting up the skies. With Abby on her leash, we walked south on the trail, waiting for the sunset. High over the water, we found a perfect viewing bench. No green flash, but the light and the color was a perfect end to a wonderful day.