Water is vitally important to the Earth’s natural balance, it covers over 70 percent of the earth’s surface. So is it any surprise that water can draw us to itself as if it were some type of magical healing force. We are in awe of its power and majestic beauty in all of its forms. From oceans to lakes to glaciers, water calls to us on an almost primal level and nothing on this planet can survive without water.
“Water is the driving force in nature.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
I would consider myself an Aquaphile – Someone who is an enthusiast of all things related to the water; a person who loves doing anything by the water, on the water or in the water. I think back to my favorite camping locations throughout the last year and my favorites were along some type of body of water. When I hit the United States it was approaching Labor Day weekend so I had made reservations at a Thousand Trails Campground near La Conner Washington. I have a one year zone membership at Thousand Trails that expires in September so thought I should get as much use out of it as possible.
Although my campsite wasn’t on the water the campground was and it was a short walk to the beach and the boat ramp. I haven’t been very impressed with the Thousand Trails campgrounds, but this was one of the better ones that I have visited and it almost made me want to renew my membership!
One of the best things about camping near water is the views. Sunsets over the water are always magical and growing up in California I have enjoyed many awesome sunsets over the years.
Cory and I wandered down to the water to enjoy the beautiful evening by watching the sun disappear over the water and islands and the moonrise from behind the land and trees. I had not done much research on the location, selecting it mostly as it was close to where I was crossing the border from Canada and near the water. It was exciting to read through the brochures and visitors information and find out about the San Juan Islands that were just a hop skip and a jump from my location in La Conner.
What is it about water and islands that fosters obsession? First of all, it’s the proximity to the water (Aquaphile remember) and then there is the matter of access. When thinking about an island, often you can’t get there from here. Not easily, anyway. It can be difficult to walk, bike or drive to an island without planning ahead. You’re at an island’s mercy. Usually, you can arrive only by someone else’s power and navigation. You are forced to sit passively and be piloted to an island — you can never just easily go.
“I feel we are all islands – in a common sea.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Islands, of course, have well-defined boundaries. It’s easy to see where they start and stop, unlike most cities. Islands often have distinctive flora and fauna, not to mention their human inhabitants. The separation encourages individuality and locals thrive on their disconnection. The mainland is always farther away in an islander’s mind than is evident from any map. Island life is not for everyone. People who hate limitations of any kind will feel trapped on an island. To love an island, you must love circumscription, flexibility and ferry schedules.
My first island visit was the easiest – you can drive to Whidbey Island over the beautiful Deception Pass Bridge. And the first stop on the island is naturally Deception Pass State Park. A short walk down to the beach gives a wonderful view of the pass and the bridge along with a great beach to explore.
Captain George Vancouver of England explored the area in 1792. He believed the pass was the mouth of a river due to the strong current flowing through the opening until his lieutenant sailed around the land to the south, discovering that the adjacent land was actually an island. Vancouver named the island after his lieutenant, Joseph Whidbey. Having been deceived by the narrow waterway, Vancouver named the waterway Deception Pass.
Whidbey Island is a large island located between the Olympic Peninsula and the Seattle-Metro corridor of western Washington. The island forms the northern boundary of Puget Sound and is home to a strategically significant Naval Base: Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Approximately 55 miles long and 1.5 to 12 miles wide it is the 4th Longest Island in the United States and the largest island in Washington State. Whidbey Island is home to around 70,000 Residents also known as Whidbey Islanders. The island is home to Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, the first national historic reserve in the US created by the National Park Service to preserve the rural history and culture of the island and to protect the area’s rare and sensitive plants.
Cory and I hiked a great loop trail at Ebey’s Landing which took us up and along a bluff above the water before dropping down to the beach with a hike down the beach back to the parking lot. The views from the trail offered glimpses of three National Parks including the peaks of Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park. The cliff alongside the trail was a bit unnerving but by the time I decided I didn’t want to continue there was no turning back only looking forward to the return beach walk.
My original plan was to drive down Whidbey Island from the north to the south end and then take the ferry across to Mukilteo and drive back north to La Conner, but there was so much to see and do on the island that I only got about halfway down before it was 5:00 and the day nearly over.
I have developed quite an affinity for lighthouses so Fort Casey State Park and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse was a great way to wrap up the day. Constructed in the late 1800s, Fort Casey was equipped for defense and used as a training facility up to the mid-1940s. The fort houses a pair of rare 10-inch disappearing guns. While the guns were the height of technology in the early 1900s, improvements in warships and the advent of airplanes soon rendered them obsolete.
“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.” -George Bernard Shaw
As the wooden Admiralty Head Lighthouse stood on an ideal location for one of the fort’s gun emplacements, it was relocated in 1899 as a temporary measure while a new lighthouse was built. An act approved March 3, 1901 appropriated $12,000 for a new lighthouse, and the War Department exchanged two suitable pieces of land nearby for the old lighthouse reservation.
The light was activated atop the new lighthouse on June 25, 1903, and the original lighthouse was repurposed to house noncommissioned officers and, for a short time, a temporary medical clinic. In 1928, the original wooden lighthouse was torn down and the lumber used to build a house on another part of Whidbey Island.
The second Admiralty Head Lighthouse consisted of a two-story dwelling linked to the base of a circular tower of roughly the same height by a one-story foyer. Three bedrooms were located upstairs in the dwelling, while the kitchen, dining room, and a living room were downstairs. Built in a Spanish style using brick covered with stucco, the lighthouse was a one-of-a-kind and was said to be the most comfortable residence in the territory, featuring an indoor bathroom and laundry room.
The current lighthouse was, like many along the coast, staffed and cared for by volunteers. They are doing a remarkable job of keeping this landmark facility operational and open to the public.
“The lighthouse does great service to humanity; yet it is the slave of those who trim the lamps.” – Alice Wellington Rollins
This was only the first Washington island visit, with so many to choose from it would be dependent on securing ferry reservations on a holiday weekend – fortunately I was in luck and I would be visiting San Juan Island before leaving the area!