The Middle is back! If you noticed it was missing, thanks for being part of the small group of readers that stuck with me through the summer, when stats dropped waaay off. I’ve worried that I’ve lost my groove (still figuring that out, frankly)… maybe the writing’s gotten stale? Maybe our trip to Peru was more interesting to me than to anyone else? Or, the posts were just too long? Whatever… I figure it’s time to get back to a rhythm and Wednesdays are The Middle.
If you live in an ugly place, you may want to reconsider reading this. It could be depressing… Because I live in probably the most beautiful place there is, and that means that I can take a micro-vacation almost any day. So if you lived in an ugly place, this might make you jealous, and then you might wish your life was different, and maybe you’ll start thinking about the other things that you don’t like, and well, it’s a slippery slope… If you’re comfortable with your surroundings, you might still be jealous after reading this. Either way, you’ve been warned.
I live in the Pacific Northwest: Washington state. Those of us who live here, are always inclined to add “state” after Wasthington, lest you think we’re from the Capital: Washington, DC. On a map of the U.S., it’s the furthest Northwest corner of the country, twenty-five minutes from the Canadian border, and one hour from perhaps the most beautiful Canadian city: Vancouver. We’re surrounded by mountains. On a clear day we can see: the Olympics, the North Cascades, the Canadian Coastal Range, (all from my house!) and Mount Baker rises above our city, silent and watchful. We are surrounded by water as well: Puget Sound glitters each day, the San Juan islands are gems that highlight our horizon. There are three fantastic lakes in our small town, so in addition to Puget Sound, there is no lack of places to paddle, sail, swim, fish, or just sit beside the water. There is also endless opportunities to slip away for a few hours and feel like you went on vacation… a micro-vacation. Micro-vacation? A few hours, maybe a day, that feels like a whole vacation away. Around here, it’s easy. When you live in Heaven, life is sweet.
Here are a few of my favorite micro-vacations, right at my doorstep:
The Interurban Trail: This wonderful trail runs throughout our area, connecting neighborhoods, areas of town and providing some of the best walking/cycling/running/ meditation possible. Near my home it runs through Arroyo Park, a lush fern and waterfall filled canyon, near Chuckanut. I love to walk the 4+ mile section that follows Chuckanut drive (check this link for dozens of incredible shots!), through the trees, with spectacular glimpses of the Bay and islands. There’s a fresh spring for my dog to drink from, and at various points I am walking beside beautiful homes and then deep pine and fern forests with streams and lush cover, all along a flat, gravel trail in the woods. I often end up walking further then I intend, just because it’s so beautiful, and I loose myself completely in the place. Takes me about 2 minutes to get there, and I always come home feeling as if I’ve been away.
Biking around Lummi Island: One of my very favorite summer/fall micro-vacations is a bike ride around Lummi Island. The drive out to the ferry is about 30 minutes. We walk on, paying $7 r/t with our bikes. The loop around the island is just over 7 miles, and an easy ride even on a hot day. There are two hills and the rest is mostly gentle up and down or flat along the beach. The entire ride follows gorgeous farm land on one side and changing views of the sound on the other. We’ve seen seals, eagles, herons, and picked berries all along the route. We love to stop at one of two small beaches on the island and just chill. The sounds, smells and incredible views are priceless! I make sure I get out there at least once a summer, but two trips a year is even better. After a ride, we always finish with dinner at the Beach Store Cafe. Everything is local and organic, and with delicious options that make my entire family happy. A cold, micro brew beer and fresh local mussels… Yum! Coming back on the ferry at night, I always feel like I’ve been on a real vacation, even if the whole trip is generally done in four hours or less. (Lummi Ferry, bikes on board, bucolic scenes, delicious food, and if you get tired? Beautiful beaches to lie on…. Vacation.)
Fairhaven to Interurban via Boulevard Park: Amazing walk! We are so lucky to have this incredible slice of beauty to enjoy. I like to start at the Chrysalis Hotel, walk out over the water on our amazing board, through Boulevard Park (watch slack liners, readers, lovers, musicians, dog lovers, and every character in between) and along the Interurban to downtown. Sometimes I stop for a green tea at Woods Coffee (Starbucks, eat your heart out: THE best coffee around!), or I pick blackberries along the trail… or I just count my blessings that I have this walk, about a mile and a half from my home. (Scenes from a walk)
<– You have to climb up the roots, just to stand at the bottom of this tree!
Mount Baker: Year round this is one of my favorite locations! I love to drive up there on a clear day just to look at the mountains, but depending on the time of year, we also go sledding (summer or winter), skiing (winter), hiking (late summer/fall), sightseeing (year round) or just day tripping (all year). It’s the first place we took our exchange students last year, and one of the key destinations when we have visitors. We often stop at the Old Growth Grove on the way up or back, as well as the spectacular Nooksack Falls. We’ve been up to Baker twice this month: once the main route and this past weekend the back route, through Sedro-Wooly. This past weekend we stopped at Shadow of the Sentinels, another old growth grove with a wonderful 1/2 mile boardwalk. When the kids were little, we went there much more often as they loved to walk forever on the ginormous fallen trees, through the forest. In general, the woods around here are the the stuff of faeries, hobbits, and magic… as anyone who lives here can tell you. So, any day in the woods is a good day. Generally we go up the main route to Heather Meadows, and the reward for any day skiing or hiking is Milanos restaurant, my favorite Italian place, bar none! We occasionally flip and stop at the Northfork Beer Shrine, Pizzeria, Microbrewery and wedding chapel. We’ve never seen a wedding there, but the pizza and beer are great! Our favorite place after cutting our Christmas tree each year. It’s one hour from my driveway to the top of Baker (on a good day), but give us an afternoon up there, doing any number of things we do at Baker, and we come home totally chill. (Parking lot this August- lots of snow this year! Biking, sledding in July, Spring skiing, and my favorite Chain of Lakes trail hike… Baker is the place to be!)
Deception Pass: Any day, any kind of weather (except rain… maybe). Just the sight of the bridge makes my pulse slow and my thoughts drift. Put me on the beach, on the south side of the pass and I am one happy girl. Sometimes I drive down and back just to enjoy a half hour of unbeatable beauty. Roundtrip with stop: 1.5-2 hrs. Throw in a stop for spot prawns en route, and it’s a few minutes longer.
Vancouver or Seattle: Two incredible cities, both an hour away. A day spent in either is a vacation any time. (Vancouver or Seattle, hard to pick! Oh, that’s right I can visit either, in an hour.)
Bellingham Farmer’s Market: I said in a post last summer, it is my favorite summer routine. Saturdays are for the Market, and something’s missing when I don’t go. Sunset Magazine ranked it as the #1 Farmer’s Market “across the West.” Hello! I love the people there. I love the color and sounds. I love the smells: Ethiopian, Greek, Salmon, BBQ, Kettle Corn, Cooked nuts, hand made soaps, fresh flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods… all blend to create a uniquely Farmer’s Market smell, that makes me relax instantly. Give me my favorite salad at 22 Greens (ironically called Honky in Peru, and with a few personal signature additions- Dawn in Peru), my 15 yr old reusable bags, and time to wander… and I’m on vacation each and every Saturday.
Fragrance Lake: It takes a little more effort to get me up this hike, as it’s: UP. Bad knee and motivation keep me away, more than I’d like because this is absolutely one of my favorite places! I’ve never hiked up (spring or summer) and not jumped in the tiny, peaceful lake at the top of the ridge, even when the water’s cold. One swim and I feel revitalized for days! We can hike up at 10 AM, go for a swim and still be eating lunch on our deck… but feel like we’ve been away on vacation. After one such hike, Smart Guy looked at me, smiled and said: “Can you believe we live here?”
No, most days it’s hard to believe that we got this lucky! Had we not come out for my cousin’s wedding 12 years ago, had we not fallen in love with the area, we may
never have seen that there was a job opening here (first time in 13 years) for Smart Guy. We might never have flown out three days after seeing the ad, and we would still live in a place that was ugly. To friends who still live there, and who are reading this, sorry. There were a few things we loved, chief among them friends, but having lived in a place that I didn’t find beautiful, makes each day here that more of a blessing. Blesssed beauty.
Where do you live? Do you take micro-vacations in your own back yard? Where’s your favorite place to run away to for a few hours? Do you end up eating everywhere you go, too? Share your thoughts in the comment section, and take a minute to hit the Like link (put cursor on title, then click on like at the bottom). Your feedback is appreciated!
Notes: Some of these photos do not do justice to the places- best I could do with a cell phone. Thanks to Paul Anderson (who is lucky enough to live here too!) for one of these shots; your work is spectacular! Length- Perhaps I’ll need to work back to shorter posts… but there are so many spectacular places around me that it was hard to narrow it down to the ones that I really can’t live without! We like living in a small, gorgeous town, so if you found this particularly amazing don’t even think about moving here. I’ve exaggerated completely.