One of our favorite places in the world is Washington state, but especially the islands in Puget Sound, and even more specifically Whidbey Island. It may or may not be the prettiest island, in fact I rather doubt that it is due to the Navy base that is there, but it holds a special place in our hearts and we can’t help but keep going back to it. Which is what we did last October for the kids’ fall break from school.
However, our travels to this beautiful place began long ago- nearly 19 years ago, to be exact. You see, this is the place that we chose to spend our honeymoon; it may seem like an odd choice, but I was living in New Mexico at the time and my husband was living in Mississippi, and the clouds and rain and quiet grays and greens of it appealed to me as a juxtaposition to New Mexico’s near constant bright sun and blue skies, while the simple fact that it was cool felt like a tremendous departure for my husband coming from Mississippi! We rented a beautiful cottage on a vineyard, and would pick fresh herbs from the garden to cook with each night in our serene little world. It felt like heaven.
Fast forward several years and my husband ended up stationed here for a bit while training to fly Prowlers for the Navy, and though he was there without us (awful), the kids and I visited as much as was humanly possible, and we would stay for weeks at a time. While he flew jets, we spent our days outside: we found a fruit stand with a playground attached that also sold sandwiches, and we would head out in the morning, buy some freshly picked raspberries or some apricots or cherries and a couple of sandwiches for lunch, and the kids would play on the swings and slide there in the 70 degree weather for hours. When we got tired of that, we would go to the beach, where the kids could treasure hunt while I relaxed in the sunshine and salt air of June and July in the Pacific Northwest. One day I even took them on a whale watching cruise, though they were really too little to fully get it- my son, at 4, was more thrilled that I had allowed him to have M&Ms, but for me, it was an unforgettable experience, seeing the resident Orcas of Puget Sound up close enough to hear them breathing.
And while there have been many, many other trips out there since, last year’s was particularly memorable for many reasons. One is that we were able to catch up with some dear friends, friends from our Gulfport, MS, days who have now relocated to Seattle; another is that this part of the world has now become our daughter’s favorite place of all to be. And yet another is that my dad decided to accompany us. Only 8 months out from losing the love of his life, my mom, and he came with us on one of our adventures. I enticed with him the promise of fresh Northwestern seafood every day. And it worked.
Thus, naturally, I had to make good on that promise, which I managed beautifully if I do say so myself. Of course, it’s not exactly hard to find amazing seafood at every turn. And also of course, we had rented a house for our adventures, which is what we typically do, and were able to do plenty of cooking- no hardship when you’re starting with excellent ingredients.
Speaking of our house, what a charming place we found to rent for the week! When I say it was right on the water, I mean that it was right on the water. Out our back door, the beach began nearly immediately, complete with its incredible collection of beautifully weathered driftwood and treasures of all sorts. Our kids, teenagers now, still spent hours on the beach hunting for the perfect piece of driftwood or sea glass. They also each built pretty amazing structures out of all that piled up wood- I love seeing them outside in nature like they were that week! We also filled our time exploring elsewhere; we love watching the tides rush in at Deception Pass, the water below swirling and roiling but still not too much for the seals who apparently view it as an amazing playground/hunting ground. We marveled at tide pools and the creatures they contain at Rosario Beach. We rode ferry boats every chance we got, because for me, any way that I can be out on the ocean is a good way. We crossed at one point over onto the Olympic Peninsula and found our way over to Crescent Lake, a place so extraordinarily beautiful that I need to write a separate post about it. Old growth forests and moss and ferns, plus the clearest, most beautiful natural lake you can imagine PLUS a historic lodge that you can stay in (if you book far enough in advance)! Yes, please.
Perhaps we love this part of the country so much because it combines so many of our favorite things into one place: mountains and deep forests, the sea with its salt air smell, cool temperatures and broody days, and good food. Whatever the reasons for our passion for this place, I am certain that we will continue to return here for years to come, every chance that we get.
I’m pretty sure it’s become a part of me.