Outdoor Explorations · Poetry

Lummi Island/Birch Bay State Park/N. Cascades National Park – May 24 – 28 2012

We made the long holiday weekend a bit longer this year, and took off for five wonderful days up in the northwest corner of our state!

We started off by going up to Lummi Island on Thursday for a part of the afternoon.  Maurie had an appointment on the island, and I took my bike and rode a loop around the north tip while she was occupied.  Lummi’s a great place to ride.  The north tip of the island is about a 10 mile loop, with rolling hills and gorgeous views out to the west.  Traffic on the island is slow, and it seems that the locals are all inclined to wave at you as they pass in their cars, or you pass them.  It was  a great way to start out the weekend, and to stretch after a couple of hours in the car.

Lummi Island View
Lummi Island View

After the appointment, we got back on the ferry back to the mainland, where we made our way to Birch Bay State Park.  Our plan (which was accomplished, by the way) was to camp out for two nights, enjoy campfires and spend some time on the beach.  It was tough work, but someone had to do it.  We were treated to fantastic sunsets both Thursday and Friday nights.  The campground had trails all through it, and a wonderful marsh just to the south of us with red winged blackbirds throughout, and bald eagles were nesting in the treeline on the far side of the marsh.

Birch Bay Sunset – Thursday
Birch Bay Sunset – Friday

Friday was our real day to explore.  After our breakfast, we rode our bikes along the beach for a few miles out of the park and through the town.  We got to see great blue herons and golden eagles our on the tide flats during the low tide, and gulls were everywhere.  While I was fixing breakfast on Friday, Maurie got on her bike and explored the campground some more.  She found a neat cluster of cedars that had grown off the same nurse log.  The log is long gone, but you can see the how growing off a nurse log is very different than growing straight out of the ground.

Birch Bay Cedar

Friday was also a day for sitting on the beach and enjoying ourselves.  I finally got some poetic inspiration and penned a couple of new poems.  Maurie played her flutes and we just had an all around relaxing time.

Me Writing

Saturday, we packed up camp, bid farewell to the beach and headed inland to the North Cascades National Park.  We found a walk-in campsite at Colonial Creek Campground, right next to the boat launch.  There was a little concern that there might be too much traffic at the boat launch, but it was reasonably quiet.  Since our last car camping trip to the National Park (way back in 2002 — we need to get there more often, really), they’ve installed bear boxes in the campsites.  Since we were in a walk-in site, it was nice not to have to run back and forth to the car for the cooler and cook gear every time we wanted to fix something to eat (which seems to be very often when we’re out camping!)

Colonial Creek Camp

We explored the section of the lake right next to camp, sat in our camp chairs and unwound a bit after our drive.  After dinner, we attended a ranger’s presentation on the Skagit river and learned a few new facts.  Then it was back to camp for a campfire before bed.

Colonial Creek Campfire

Sunday was a day to hike.  There are so many trails in the park we’d like to hike, but many were still under snow.  We kept with a nearby trail – Thunder Knob trail which started from the north side of the campground.  The trails is about four miles round-trip with great views.  With only 500 feet of elevation gain, we passed through different types of vegetation that made it feel more like climbing thousands of feet in damper parts of the Cascades.  We were rewarded with a windy but beautiful bluff at the top, where we had lunch and relaxed for a long time, writing, sketching, taking pictures, and Maurie playing one of her flutes.

At the Top!
Maurie on the Trail with Mountain in Background
At the Top!

One thing that struck me as we sat enjoying the views from the top as we ate our lunch is the number of people who take the time to get out on a trail, but once they get to the destination, they take a couple of minutes (maybe 5), and then turn around and head back down the trail.   They don’t take time to soak in what they’ve come to.

Interrupting the chorus
Of wind in the trees
They chatter to the
Flat overlook

Young men
Shirtless
Strut and boast
For the girls

They’ve done it
Check it off the list
They turn back down the trail
And depart

We can hear the wind
In the trees again

Going back down a trail you’ve just travelled always seems faster than the trip out.  It took about the same time to hike down as it did to hike up, but it seemed to go faster.  Can’t really explain why, it just did.

After the hike, it was time to rest in camp for a while before our dinner and campfire.  Maurie stretched out in the tent, while I just wandered about a bit, spending some time on the lakeshore and poking around the trees around camp.

Funny thing about camping is you get tired sooner and want to go to bed early, but as we approach Solstice, the days are still getting longer, and it doesn’t start to get dark until well after 9:30.  It’s hard to get the campfire going early and sit around like that, let alone go to bed before dark!

Monday we broke camp and made the long drive home.  We opted not to go straight out to I5, which did add some time to the trip.  We made our way down the Mountain Loop Highway and into Snohomish, before taking Highway 2 out to I5 and home.  Made for a much longer day with more time in the car than we’d prefer, but we did come across a wonderful Forest Service campground where we hope to return to camp, and we had some great riverside views and saw lots of beautiful waterfalls.

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