Friday, November 13, 2015

San Juans vacay Days 6 & 7: the long way home

Thursday it was time to start heading for home.  We said goodbye to park proprietor Sandy.  Mount Vernon RV park had really clean showers and we got our laundry done in a warm, clean, well lit laundry room. Bonus! This park was nice, even if the sites were a bit too close together.

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I had a very hard time deciding on which homemade breakfast goody to eat at Calico Corner in Mount Vernon.

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Apple cinnamon roll did not disappoint.

Then up and over Stevens Pass on route 2.

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Does this count as winter camping?

The reason for the detour over the snowy pass was so I could see Leavenworth.  The entire town has a Bavarian theme, and survives entirely on either destination shopping or lodging for Stevens Pass ski area.  Drew says there issome excellent mountain biking near here too, but it was toocold and we were en route to home, so we just walked around, bought a souvenir of the trip, and had  lunch.

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Even the Starbucks looks Bavarian



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The Maypole is the center of town.

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After our little detour, there was nothing left to do but cruise for home.  We made it as far as the Oregon Trail RV park in Baker City Thursday night. 

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The place was nice, and had a much-enjoyed hot tub, but the WiFi network only let two devices connect! Ridiculous.

Friday morning we rolled out after breakfast and espresso in the cutest little town of Baker City. We’ll have to make more time here next time through. 

So our business trip to the San Juan Islands was a big success.  I got to see and experience some places that hold special significance for Drew. Dewey had a good romp around the country and served us well. I was able to visit my friend and saw more parts of the country that make me continue to wonder if we should just sell all we own, buy a nice RV, and live address-free for a while.

San Juans vacay Day 5: not all business

After our bad experience at the Northwest RV park, we stumbled around in the dark and found an RV park run by the city of Oak Harbor, Washington.  The park was called Staysail RV; why the name was obvious once we got there. It was windy as all get out and on the harbor. Between the wind and rain, we had a fitful night of sleep.
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Wednesday was Veterans Day, so I took my veteran for some coffee at Whidbey Coffee. What a great little coffee shop with free WiFi
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Today was also the day to do the business we came up here for.  The rental house needed a new roof and so we met the roofer to discuss where to put in solar tubes to bring some light into the house.
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It’s a cute house.
With the business done, it was back to tourist and bike adventures.  We stopped and walked out on the bridge over Deception Pass. Day5 011b Stitch (1024x400)
The narrow straight at Deception Pass that makes Whidbey Island and island.
The tide was coming in and I can see why the water is so dangerous; it was really cruising through there.
But the real event of the day was riding the Cranberry Lakes trail system. There are 15 to 20 miles of trails on Fidalgo (Anacortes) Island in a block of land the community has set aside for recreation.
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Huge Big Leaf Maple leaves on the trail. The common name for this tree is appropriate.
The trail is a mix of wide walking paths, and narrow trails with technical rocks and roots.
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An occasional look out spot to remind you that you are riding on a heavily populated island.
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Swamps and lakes are everywhere.

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Loved these mushrooms growing on a log.

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I’m tired of the typical smiley face pose.

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Drew thought this was a rhododendron tree. The bark sure was red.

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We had a great ride and saw only a few hikers.  What a jewel of a trail system to have in your community.
After the ride, what else but…
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We stopped at the new North Sound Brewery, where Drew’s old Navy buddy is the head brewer. The beers he is making are exceptional. How cool is it to know a real live Pacific Northwest brewmaster.
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Drew and Rob.
Rob gave us a private brewery tour, which made us feel special and drink more of his beers.
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Because this brewery doesn’t have food either, we snagged big plates of Mexican food at the restaurant across from the RV park. The chili rellano was one of the best I had ever had, and the decor was kind of fun too.
"I don't normally surf in the Pacific Northwest, but when I do, I surf with these two awesome mountain bikers."
 Then we retired to our home for the night, the Mount Vernon RV park.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

San Juans vacay Day 4: rinse and repeat

After dinner, back at the campground, we enjoyed a chlorinated hot tub in place of a pay shower. That’ll show them to make the Jordans pay for a shower.
In the morning, we bid farewell to West Beach Resort and made our way to town.
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Pulling out of the soggy campground. The straight is beyond the trees.

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East Sound is the inlet of water that divides Orcas Island into two “wings”.  The wind howls up through the inlet somethin’ fierce.

Back we went to Moran State Park to ride some of the other trails and repeat some of yesterday’s fun ones.
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This time we rode the mostly level path on the east side of Mountain Lake. 
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At various times, a drop or two of dew would fall from the trees, but we talked to a 40-year island resident and 25-year Moran State Park Ranger and he said he has never seen it so dry!!!!!!  I had a good laugh at that.  If this is dry, I am terrified of wet.
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Mountain Lake
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I was really, really bundled up today, and stayed warmer than yesterday despite the cooler temps and lack of sunshine.  We also avoided the big descent that we did yesterday and instead tried part of the 6 miles open to equestrians.  They were rutted, as we had been told, but that gave us a chance to hike a bike and warm up.

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Horse damage.

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How many layers does it take to keep Lucy warm? 5.

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We said goodbye to Moran State Park just in time to blast through town and buy some provisions for the night.
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No time to shop at the cute shops in Eastsound, so I just took a picture for you as we drove by. Biking's more fun than shopping any day. 
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Provisions included frozen burritos for dinner and a delicious choice of microbrews from a mind boggling selection of beer at the little supermarket that serves this island population of about 5000 people.
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Then to kill time as we waited for the ferry to Anacortes so we could head down to Whidbey Island
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And since it was dark on the ferry, we got to do a jigsaw puzzle. 

We called ahead to the RV park we wanted to stay at at 5 pm, but unfortunately, they closed the office at 3 and had no way to get the WiFi code or bathroom key after that, so instead, we plugged in for some power to nuke our burritos, filled up with fresh water and dumped our waste tank before getting the heck out of there before the airstrikes started. Watch the videos to see what I mean.

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So we ended up at a rather barren RV park on the harbor in Oak Harbor.  Because laundry facilities were not included, and it was windy as all get out, we hunkered down in the smelly van to write a post for you.

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Tomorrow we will meet with the property managers for Drew’s house here. Until next then...

San Juan vacation day 3: Return to the magic

Way back in on December 7, 2004, when Drew was roaming around the western US, unattached, and hanging with friends in various mountain bike destinations on his days off, he got an email from notifying him that some girl “winked” at him. That girl was me.
That day he was filled with the excitement of possibility, and he went riding the trails around Mount Constitution in Moran State Park on Orcas Island the next day. 
Since the day Drew and I met, he has been talking about getting me to ride these trails to complete the circle. Yesterday, we rode them.
We started the day with breakfast at Island Skillet in the island’s only town of Eastsound.  Then, onto Moran State Park.  I will admit that I was moderately apprehensive.  We had the best weather we could hope for; partly sunny, no rain, high of 48, a day the locals described as “just beautiful”.  I am, more and more, a fair weather rider, i.e., I’m good with 60 or warmer.  But, given the history of this trail for Drew, I knew I was going to ride it one way or the other, so I put on all my warm riding clothes and saddled up.  
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Two bald eagles soared overhead, urging me on.
There are a lot of trees here. A LOT.  We basically rode through trees for 3 hours with various twists and turns of the trail and a few open view points.  The pictures below are heavily weighted to the areas with a view. 
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Climbing up a “fire road”, which I think is a hilarious name for a place dripping with water, to Mount Picket at only 1850 feet above sea level.  Even though we were out of shape, we could breath.

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To the top of Mount Pickett and then down a very fun single track to Twin Lakes.
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The sunnier of Twin Lakes. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun was almost disappearing behind Mount Constitution.
From the low point at Twin Lakes, we climbed up wide, then narrow, single track, sometimes really steep but never technical, to the north side of Mount Constitution.  Either because we were higher in elevation, or because we were on the windward side of the mountain, we entered a foggy forest wonderland.  It was even more silent than the first part of the ride, as eerie as the forest where Sasquatch lives, and ever so enchanting. Here is a ~1minute video of the sound of the forest and some wildlife.

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We rode along in near silence, letting our bikes carry us into the shadowy fog.

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Around the corner of the mountain, the clouds thinned and color of the moss changed from chartreuse to sage.  The biomass of moss on this mountain must be enough to power the entire island if it could be harvested.
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A few small clearings provided some evidence of daylight as we began the descent back to the park headquarters.
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Thirty-two switchbacks of forest trail madness through gigantic trees …
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brought us back to the car.  The high temp for the day was around 50 with no rain, not bad for the San Juan Islands in November, but the excessive humidity chilled me to the bone whenever I wasn’t exerting energy to move my bike. 
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To the car to warm up as we drove up to the observation tower atop Mount Constitution. We arrived to the top just as the sun was setting.

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The last rays of sunshine glinting off Mount Baker (the snow topped peak barely visible off the horizon in the center of the photo), and Twin Lakes (lower center of the photo), where we had just ridden.

I didn’t get a good picture of the observation tower, but I did have fun almost locking Drew in it.
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Back down the road, there is a nice view point that we shared briefly with two cold-looking hikers that bummed a ride back to their car from us.
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The view from the lower lookout point over to the Olympic Peninsula.
Night falls early near the 49th parallel. We hit the brewery at 5:30 PM and we certainly were not the first there.
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A welcoming site: the Island Hoppin’ Brewery.
Inside, we ran into a fellow traveler the Drew had struck up a conversation with at our West Beach resort. We also made friends with Kirt, the bartender, a couple that had just driven in from Salt Lake City, and another couple that loves beer as much as us.  A very, very friendly, warm and inviting place with superb beer.
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A hoppin’ Monday night at the only brewery on the San Juan Islands: The Island Hoppin’ Brewery. 
Their exceptional beer is served with your choice of a few bar snacks, such as cheese and crackers, peanuts, or smoked salmon, but no real fuel for hungry mountain bikers, so we searched town and found only the Lower Tavern, as most restaurants are closed on Mondays here in the off season. Decent food and more friendly people is about all I can say, but it worked to make us sleepy and content after a great day of mountain bike magic.