No trip to Washington would be complete for us without a visit to the San Juan islands and Whidbey Island in particular. We have great friends who live in Anacortes and we so look forward to seeing them when we are here. We also wanted to explore some new places, so we booked a stay on Orcas Island. More on that later, as it involved a boat ride for Jennifer. We love the area and had been looking forward to returning. We were also excited to be returning to the water after our two weeks “inland” in Seattle.
There is a Navy base on Whidbey Island and we have stayed there previously. It is a real gem of a park and probably the nicest one in the entire Military RV park system. One of the hosts there has been growing huge flower beds in the park for years, not to mention how impeccably clean and maintained the park is. We had a water view site and enjoyed the sounds of the waves at night and the cool breezes coming off the water. The sunsets on the water we could see from our site were amazing.
Our big adventure of the stay was a trip to Orcas Island. This involved driving the Jeep onto a ferry and riding a boat for 70 minutes through the San Juan Islands. Now for those of you who know Jennifer, this is not on the top of her fun meter. With the nice cool breeze and the smooth waters, the ride proved to be pretty uneventful and she did great, even standing outside on the bow watching the islands and other boats.
We stayed in the village of East Sound at the Outlook Inn. Very nice local inn on the water. Everything was within walking distance and we enjoyed the walks around the village visiting the local coffeeshops and eating fresh seafood.
After arriving on the ferry, we decided to drive up to Mount Constitution. The views are supposed to be spectacular. I say supposed to, because the day we were there, it was so foggy you could hardly see your own hand. There is a cool stone lookout tower at the top so up we climbed regardless! It was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The mountain is in Moran State Park. The land for the park was donated by a ship builder and former mayor of Seattle, Robert Moran. In addition to the fog, it started raining. Nothing like some traditional stereotypical Pacific Coast weather!
On the way down the mountain, we stopped at Cascade Falls. After gearing up in our rainsuits, we did the short walk down to the series of falls, thus the cascade name. The one thing about the rain, we were the only ones crazy enough to be there so we had the trail to ourselves. We walked down to the bottom of the final cascade for some longer views.
Robert Moran not only donated land for the state park, he also had a very large estate and mansion on the island, named Rosario. He moved to Orcas due to health issues when he was told he had one year to live. He ended up living 38 years on the island. The mansion is now a spa/resort, but open to the public. The showcase of the house is the 1913 34-rank Aeolian pipe organ and 1900 Steinway grand piano. It is still played for the public in the afternoons and by the same person for over 43 years. We were lucky enough to arrive when he was playing the organ and then the piano. Amazing. There are also custom stained glass storyboards and original old ship glass for windows.
The next day the sky cleared and we decided to go on a hike on the other side of the island. Turtleback Mountain Preserve is a sister area to Moran State Park, but on the other peninsula of the island. We took the South Trail round to Ship Peak for some awesome views of the San Juans and beyond. It was a nice three mile loop with enough elevation gain for us to get some exercise.
Orcas island is home to quite a few little bays and harbors. We did our best to visit as many as we could. Deer Harbor, West Sound, Orcas, Olga, Doe Bay, to name a few. It gave us a chance to really see a lot of the island and what makes it so special.
While in East Sound, besides visiting their local restaurants, we also stopped in at the East Sound Historical Museum. Very nice little museum housed in an old log cabin and filled with the history of the area. We learned that at one time, the island was one of the leading producers of apples and plums in the U.S.
Our ferry ride back was even nicer than the way there. The sky had cleared up and the water was smooth as glass. Jennifer was a real trooper and did great. Stay tuned for her next boat adventure.
While on Whidbey we were fortunate to get to spend time with our great friends Brian and Kelli. We have known them since our time in England and were stationed with them a couple subsequent times. They have a wonderful home overlooking the bay and Mount Baker in the distance. Besides taking us to the nicest roof top bar in Washington, they spoiled us with fresh local salmon and homegrown berries.
We also got the chance to catch up with friends from Tucson who were on their way back from an RV trip to Alaska. We met Brian and Karen back when we both used to winter at the RV park on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. We both have since moved to Tucson permanently.
Our trip to Whidbey was not just all boat rides and eating. We also did some local hiking. We took a short hike in Fort Ebey State Park along a coastal bluff. Some great views across to the mainland. There were also World War II gun bunkers used to protect the coast from potential invasions from the Pacific.
We took advantage of the location of the RV park on the Navy Base and walked their coastal path pretty much every day we could. The entire base is very well kept and very nice. There are paved paths all along the coast and beaches with benches and picnic tables. NAS Whidbey is home to the Navy’s EA-18G Growler fleet. The Growler is the follow-on to the old EA-6B Prowler, which was the Navy’s version of the EF-111 Craig flew. We enjoyed the sounds of the jets flying every day. There is a very nice memorial to the Prowler crews and maintainers.
This was our third visit to the islands and once again we were reacquainted with why we enjoy the area so much. Good friends, amazing views, fun activities and wonderful weather. We are already looking forward to our next visit. But time to move on, another location,