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Published: September 22nd 2018
Rainbow Bridge over Swinomish Channel
La Conner is our first stop on our round-the-world trip, we arrived here about 30 hours after locking the front door at home. La Conner, where on Earth is that I can imagine you asking? Well, it’s in the US state of Washington, about half way between Seattle and the Canadian border and on the shores of Puget Sound. We’re so close to Canada that the weather app on my phone is giving me the forecast for Victoria on Vancouver Island. La Conner is not very big and according to Wikipedia has a population of around 900. A sign in town lists its various claims to fame, one of which is something like Washington’s Best Town for Romantic Weekends – consequently it has a large selection of eating establishments, galleries, museums and a craft brewery. The historic wharf area is bounded by old buildings that have been nicely renovated and house these attractions. The “Wood Gallery” sells beautiful handmade timber furniture and the brewery serves a pretty good drop. For a couple of days I tried to remember what the historic area reminded me of and I think it’s scenes from the 1960’s television series “Here Come the Brides”. I like
View from Rainbow Bridge
the architecture of the old buildings and houses in town. Everything is wood with ornate decoration over windows and porches, well looked after and nicely painted.
The town itself is on the banks of the Swinomish Channel which separates the mainland from Fidalgo Island – we’re staying in a cottage on Fidalgo Island. The Swinomish Channel is so narrow that it looks just like a river. My impression of the area is of one huge valley surrounded by mountains and hills. The Northern Cascades can be seen to the east, the various islands of Puget Sound seem to be very hilly and on a clear day you can also see the high peaks of the Olympic Peninsula to the southwest. It’s an incredibly complex coastline and it’s difficult to know which bits are islands and which the mainland. The whole area seems incredibly fertile if the luscious black soil is anything to go by. There is a lot of corn growing around the place (4 cobs for $1), fields of blueberry bushes, I've been told brussel sprouts grow here and I’ve noticed other brassicas. The US Navy has a base nearby and it's not unusual to have the peace
broken by the sound of "Growlers" (a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet) flying overhead.
Our main reason for coming to La Conner was to visit friends from my days living in Colorado – it was about 20 years since I’d seen them. Jennifer and Paul picked us up from the airport in Seattle and drove us up to our accommodation. They helped us settle in on our first day by taking us to hire a car, get a SIM card for a phone and generally show us around the area. They’ve also taken us sightseeing to some of their favourite places. We’ve been to parks on the coastline not far from here where we saw various birds, seals and very attractive scenery but the highlight was our trip to the Northern Cascade Ranges where we had amazing views of Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan. Mt Baker is a feature of northern Washington vistas and can be seen from La Conner and Puget Sound on a clear day, however up close I thought Mt Shuksan more spectacular. The peak is permanently covered in snow and there are a couple of glaciers on the upper slopes. There were
a few flowers around, mainly pink fireweed and a white daisy; the wild blueberry bushes were starting to get their autumn colours (red); and we heard and eventually spotted a marmot. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for those 2 days – it was picture perfect and short sleeves weather for me.
Since then Terry and I have been exploring on our own. We drove a little further up the coastline one day and were very impressed by the scenery – forested hills sloping down steeply to the rocky shoreline, islands offshore and amazing greens of all the vegetation. At the coast the forests are still in their summer leaf but further inland the trees are starting to get their autumn colours and in places you can see patches of yellow starting to show between the dark green of the fir trees. Today we drove inland, up the Skagit Valley to a tiny village called Rockport (no shop, no petrol station but did have a bar). This area is forested with large Douglas Firs and other conifers, various birches and what I think are maple and alders.
We also managed to take the ferry from Anacortes to
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island - we left the car behind and went as walk-on passengers. The trip takes a little more than an hour with the ferry winding its way between the islands. And …. we saw a small pod of orcas, probably 3 animals I’d say judging from the splashes. They were a couple of hundred metres away but still close enough to make out what they were from their large dorsal fin. Friday Harbor is quite an attractive little town, probably similar in vintage to La Conner and also very popular with the tourists. We walked to the edge of town to visit the local historical museum (closed), decided that we’d visit the exhibition by women artists at the local Museum of Modern Art (also closed) and so contented ourselves with a visit to the Whale Museum.
Foodwise we’ve tried many of the delights that the local area has to offer. Jennifer and Paul fed us the local Dungeness Crab, we’ve purchased and cooked locally-caught King Salmon and tonight we tried three varieties of oyster. We’ve shared bottles of Pinot Noir from Oregon with J&P and more than once enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder
with a pint of Porter – just as well we’re getting to do some walking.
This part of our holiday is almost over. Tomorrow (Saturday) we return our rental car, on Sunday we travel to Seattle and then LA ready for an early morning flight to New York City on Monday.
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