1 if by land, 2 if by sea, 3 if by both

Pretend you are standing on the balcony of your penthouse suite on the top of a Seattle hotel. It’s a clear day, so you can see the Olympic Mountains to your west, Mt. Rainer to the southeast, and the Cascade Mountains to the east (with Mt. Baker in the northeast corner of your view). To the west and north you see a glimpse of Puget Sound and the waves look to be relatively calm today. It’s hard knowing which direction to explore first.

This dilemma is one of the reasons we keep going back to Seattle (besides the fact that Rachel and Robbie live there). In years past, we have hiked part of Mt. Rainer and poked around the Olympics, so this time we felt the urge to check out the Cascades and Puget Sound. It’s not always clear enough to see these grand creations of God from our penthouse suite, so we have to go to them to make sure they’re real.

A few years ago, Aaron biked throughout the San Juan Islands (in Puget Sound) and enjoyed the views and the natural setting. He suggested we visit the area. Rachel found an Airbnb on a 50 foot sailboat. (scroll through the photos on the link for a look at the boat!) Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the boat could be chartered up the the San Juans. We decided to go for it.

We all had very little sail boat experience. Fortunately, everyone (including Judy, Rachel, Robbie, and Aaron) seemed up for a new adventure. The owner and captain, Mike, also operated a bed and breakfast in the town of La Conner, WA, where the boat was docked. He offered us use of the shower at the bed and breakfast, since the bathroom on the boat looked like something you’d find in a tiny house. Adequate, but dinky (including a make-shift shower). He also offered us the option of laying outside behind the bed and breakfast since we were interested in seeing the Perseid meteor shower. We ended up not taking him up on the shower or the meteor view, but we appreciated the option.


One of the most enjoyable and relaxing times of the trip was the first night on the boat. Due to Mike’s scheduling issues (he was summoned to do jury duty and couldn’t get out of it), we only had the one night on the boat and it was docked; at first that was disappointing, but it turned out to be a sort-of Mackinac Island-after-the-crowds-leave experience. We found the La Conner Brewery, then chilled on the deck of the boat, playing cards and keeping track of a couple local seals. The “kids” slept on the deck for part of the night, looking for meteors. While we could see many stars, only a few meteors were noticed before they opted for more comfy digs below.

We had also planned to go to Orcas Island and Sucia Island before Mike’s jury duty obligation; We settled for a one day cruise out to Saddlebag Island. It’s a state park and the whole island is small enough that we felt we had explored most of it in a short time (it’s 1/10 the size of Mackinac Island). We hiked every trail we could find and came across no more than 10 people the whole time. The unanticipated “excitement” of this part of the journey was rowing to the island on two skiffs. The combination of unsteady skiffs, only three paddles for two skiffs, and rowing into a current made for a memorable, tricky affair.

Our quick sailboat trip on the Armadillo gave us a satisfying taste of sea life. Sure we would have liked to sail more and explore more islands, but the time on the boat was very memorable and enjoyable.


Other, AMAZING, highlights of the trip that you can glimpse in the photos, but you really had to be there to appreciate:

* Jason and Jackie’s wedding in Chicago started our trip. Jason is my cousin, Jan’s, son and he works on a top floor of a Chicago skyscraper at an ad agency where he influences which things we will buy. Jackie is a social worker. And despite this difference in occupation, they seem wonderfully matched for each other. The wedding and reception were grand affairs and we were blest to be among the witnesses. Long may they share life together.

* We saw the Tigers lose to the Mariners at Safeco Field. It was the third game of a Mariners sweep that never should have happened. Three close games that the Tigers let slip away. The one we saw started beatifully: 73 glorious degrees, fabulous view of the Seattle skyline, Verlander and Hernandez in fine form, and the whole family together and lovin’ “baseball.” We had donned our Tiger gear and were cheering at all the ‘right’ times, but not too obnoxiously. After Cruz homered off Verlander in the 7th, though, we slowly made our way to the exit…though still watching the game…just from another perspective…which happened to be closer to the folks with the brooms…and made our quick exit after the last pitch. Still fun, but we had nothing to boast about at that point.

* Our Table Mountain hike within close view of Mt. Baker was glorious. Check out the photos on the link or go there and hike it because there’s really no way to fully describe the nature-high, the majestic vistas, the precarious heights on the trail, or the the satisfaction of reaching the tabletop summit. We hiked 600 feet up in 1 1/2 miles, starting from an elevation of 5,100 feet…and then, of course, down those 600 feet. If it doesn’t sound like much of a hike, I think you should try it for yourself; it’s doable, but it took some focused energy and effort. And it was worth every step.

IMG_2265 We hiked to the highest point in this photo

We were fortunate to find another Airbnb in Bellingham for all of us. Though a tad more pricy than the average stay, it was a very welcome, comfortable stop on our Cascade journey (and we definitely need to get back to Bellingham’s hip scene at some point).

The Billings, MT, Airbnb was fantastic. Nice people, several cool dogs, and the bonus of banana bread and coffee.

The Sioux Falls Airbnb was even more well furnished and spacious. We would have liked to explore the area, but we had planned the trip out and back to be a quick one (and it did save us a lot of money over what airfare would have been); we need to re-visit these cool cities again another time.

If you didn’t see the photos earlier, here’s the link to all of them.

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