In last week’s post I wrote about the old ship La Merced, now used as an unconventional  breakwater for a shipyard on Fidalgo Island. We went to Fidalgo that day because I read about a fine park with expansive water views and easy trails. It sounded perfect for a day trip. We’d been to Fidalgo and Anacortes before but we hadn’t seen the northwest corner of the island.

To thoroughly explore Puget Sound’s islands you should travel by water, but a lot can be seen by bridge and ferry, too.  The region’s complex geography is a stew of wavy-edged shorelines, steep hills, hundreds of islands, deep basins, mountain watersheds and rich estuaries.  That means there are endless nooks and crannies to explore.  I’ve learned that whether I’m on Whidbey, Vashon, Bainbridge, Camano, Samish, or Fidalgo, each island has a unique atmosphere, and in spite of dozens of trips to different islands in the Sound, I’m barely familiar with them. Every time I browse a book, pour over a map or search online, I find more places to explore.



Washington Park sits on a modest-sized peninsula with tranquil views of the sound and surrounding islands.  A one-way road traces the park’s edge; along the road are pull-outs for picnicking and walking along rocky beaches or through the woods.

The day we went to Fidalgo Island, a misty, intermittent rain kept the views from being picture postcard perfect, but the mist was welcome after two months of dry, sere days. I was in a relaxed, open mood as I traipsed around a rocky beach. Smooth, colorful stones clattered underfoot like weighty marbles. Seaweed, shells and driftwood invited scrutiny.  The last little Gumplant flower glowed yellow among withered brown stems. Song sparrows flitted in and out of the underbrush, gulls cried and cormorants plied the water for fish. Roots and rose hips dangled over the cliffs, weaving delicate patterns on the glacial till. A ferry dissolved into the horizonless gray mist, bound for the San Juan Islands.

I pulled my hood up and tucked my weather-resistant camera under my sweatshirt between shots, taking pictures quickly, then retreating under trees. I was getting wetter by the minute.


















A towering, long-dead Douglas fir perched at the edge of the eroding cliff and leaned precariously over the beach. Across the bay kids scampered on the rocks, oblivious to the rain. My feet were soaked through. It felt good.


We continued along the road at the prescribed 10 mph speed limit, passing campers and people out for a walk. At the last pull-out, an ancient, twisted tree raised one steadfast, leafy branch above a grand view.  Across the pass, thickly forested Burrows Island rose darkly from the cold water.  A whale watching boat skidded back to port.  Did they see the resident pod of Orcas? Probably, but from my vantage point, only boats and gulls broke the water’s calm surface.  To my left, Whidbey Island lurked in the mist, and sixty miles south, Seattle sprawled a cacophony of metal and glass across another patch of land at the the water’s edge.


I noticed a path leading down into a grove of Madrone trees (Arbutus menziesii). The madrone is one of my new favorites since moving west, with its smooth, brilliantly colored, peeling bark and curvy limbs. At my feet, Reindeer moss (really a lichen, Cladina portentosa) formed puffy clouds of the softest pale green, pierced by sharp grasses. I picked my way carefully across the wet earth, drinking in the color.










The rain was picking up so we drove into town to Pelican Bay Books to dry off and warm up with an espresso. The bookstore, with its first-rate selection of new and used books, wood-burning stove, worn leather sofas, custom wood shelving and carefully crafted espresso bar, deserves a post of its own. But take my word for it – if you’re anywhere near Anacortes it’s worth a trip.

Enamored by Washington Park’s beauty and the old ship in Anacortes, we decided to return as soon as we could. Three days later we were back on Fidalgo island exploring another beautiful park (and returning to the bookstore!). More about that in another post.







































  1. It was fun to go on that trip with you. Your vivid narrative has me feeling a little soggy myself now. I can see why the Madrone tree is a favorite. It reminds me of the Gumbo Limbo I see in Florida. Another really nice post, Lynn.


      • Good recipe but in this case I suspect that the experienced chef and the local ingredients made a big difference. 🙂

        The first one, with the ship in the background, has such a nice range of soft tones. The variation across the branches of the tree give it a three dimensional quality that is just great.


      • The softness in the first photo comes from either reducing the clarity slider in Lightroom, or using the “Glamor glow” effect in Color Efex Pro and fiddling from there. I use both of those when think that kind of look might be appropriate for an image. I also increased the luminance sliders for some colors. It’s amazing what Color efex & Silver efex can do, and how much you can fine tune your changes. But the local ingredients do help! And they were fresh. 😉


  2. nice photos and narrative…color me embarrassed, having lived on Whidbey Island and in Whatcom County, and having been in Anacortes plenty of time, I didn’t realize Anacortes was part of Fidalgo Island. It doesn’t seem like one is going onto an island when travelling there from Mt Vernon or Whidbey. (It ain’t no Deception Pass).

    Living in Bellingham now, and now I’ve got the urge to make my way to Orcas. Got to do it by public bus, but it would be doable.


    • Anacortes doesn’t feel like it’s on an island, so you’re excused. 😉 Actually, when you cross Deception Pass you’re going onto Fidalgo, Washington Park isn’t far, and then Anacortes is just a bit further north. We typically cross from I5 near Mt. Vernon. I love Deception Pass, too. It’s a fantastic area.
      As for Orcas, I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t been to the San Juan’s. Hoping to go soon, but it keeps getting put off. I think you can do a nice day trip using the ferry with a bike.


      • There’s a lot of camp sites near Mt Constitution on Orcas, so I was contemplating biking it. Nothing is that far of a bike trip on the San Juans. Whidbey is another matter. With the rainy season, far fewer tourists. I still haven’t gotten up the courage to walk out on the Deception Pass bridge.


  3. Your post will serve as an introduction to places to visit when we start putting our trip north together. Keep ’em coming. What a great travelogue. Love your madrone shots. Down here it seems that the ones I encounter are generally hiding amongst the blackberry bushes. But all the images are wonderful. Love the multicolored pebbles wet and glowing, the root (or is that bark?) with the two ‘eyes’ and the tangled roots and rose hips. Your eye for detail is simply superb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool…and if you click on the bolded links above, they are to posts about those islands that you probably saw, but they’re 4 years old so might be worth another look when you’re planning. But we’ll talk!
      The madrones can get overshadowed by all the Doug firs around here – sometimes in the sides of roads they stick out, and in places like island bluffs, where the competition can’t get so tall. The pebbles – I think Jane Lurie had a really great photo of those not long ago, if you know her blog – this one’s not quite in focus, maybe because of the rain. Or me being unsteady because of the rain. The two-eyed thing is driftwood. Those roots were really cool – not the usual sight, are they? The geology of that spot is unusual.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The roots look so delicate, but strong at the same time. Fascinating. Jane Lurie popped up in comments at my blog and I’ve just recently started following her. I still like your rocks whether they’re in perfect focus, or not! Colors and textures are just varied and cool.


  4. Wonderful post! A trek through that gorgeous scenery followed by a freshly poured espresso, perusing used books, the warmth of a wood-burning stove and lounging on a worn leather sofa… What else does one need? 😉


  5. Thank you so much for sharing your day Lynn. I prefer misty to picture postcard any day. As ever your pictures are stunning, you wonderful eye for detail shining through and your narrative a pleasure to read! 🙂


    • It’s not the Alps, but it’s beautiful, for sure. That pebble photo isn’t quite in focus, and I’m just going to keep working on it, whenever I have the chance (i.e. when I’m on a pebbly beach in the rain!) . The little curled seaweed fragment there was perfect. There are always many interesting odds and ends on the beaches here – and happily, little to no trash.


  6. Your photos demonstrate that even in uncongenial weather conditions it is possible to produce fine images. The shapes and textures are captured quite beautifully: I particularly like the final monochrome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you like that one, Louis, I have to admit I struggled a bit with it, but I think I finally got it. The striped areas of bark on the trunk are where the bark was drying at different rates – very interesting to see. I love a noble tree!


  7. they are beautiful Lynn…the trees and the water…i also love the first shot as it leads me into to the details of nature…i love the details and the fine lines of the roots…i also appreciate your narrative as i imagine walking there too…compose another beautiful day 😀


  8. I love reading about your day out exploring and seeing the details you always capture so perfectly. Sometimes a rainy day brings its own pleasures. I love those Madrone trees, the roots, and the rich autumn colors. Wonderful as always, Lynn. 🙂


    • You’re one of the people who inspires me to try and get it written, Cathy. It’s worth doing, but it does take time! The Madrone trees in the rain are unbelievable – i know you like rich, natural color, so I guess that’s perfect for you! I hope all is well…


  9. What a beautiful part of the world you’re in – but you’re braver than me, as I’m strictly a dry weather photographer where walking is concerned >>> tho as I may have told you, I’m thinking about getting a waterproof camera. Gupta is right, you certainly have an eye for detail. And another of those making comments here mentions Bellingham – its a small world, I have very old friends living in Bellingham, very much into birds, hiking, Nature, photography.


    • It IS a beautiful part of the world, which is more than half the reason we picked up and moved here, so far from New York (in more ways than geographically). The OM D1 isn’t waterproof but the weather resistance feels like something I can depend on, especially when I have a native lens on that has it, too. Lots of drops of rain that day, just wiped off. I need to hear more about your Bellingham connection, because we’re thinking of moving there – in just a few months!


      • Well, let’s be honest, I only know you through our blogs but, given that, I think that you two might get on with my two (very) old friends very well – and they’ve been in Bellingham for sometime, in a house that’s in / borders on the forest. Maybe we should email each other re this – if you think this is a good idea, I could email you from my personal email (ie not the blog one). Then I would need to email them – but I can’t imagine there’s be any problem in your contacting them. He and I used to teach at the University of Nairobi, in Kenya, and the three of us did many safaris together.


    • With your sensitive eye, I bet you would make some gorgeous images. I hope it happens, and safely, as far as the equipment is concerned! I had to get used to photographing on overcast and cloudy days when I moved here – unlike NY, it’s cloudy almost all winter long. You learn to accommodate.


  10. I share your fascination for trees and these Madrone trees are magnificent. I’m used to cloudy days here and actually prefer them to sunny days for photos. I have a small, water sealed camera for those days when it’s rainy, too, but so far I’ve not shot anything as nice as these. Well done.


    • You’re upstate, right? Lots of cloudy days. I grew up in Syracuse – until 6th grade. It was hard to get used to all the dark, overcast days here when I first moved here from NY, five years ago, but now it’s harder to take pictures on sunny days. Too contrasty, right? As far as these photos go, I’m sure you’d do just as well in a place as beautiful as that park. 🙂


  11. The landscape in this area of Puget Sound is gorgeous. So varied and full of surprises, like this amazing twisted tree you found at the last pull-out of your trip. Once again you have captured the landscape and its details beautifully in your images.


  12. When I read the title to this post last week, this song popped into my head, and I used ‘soaked’ instead of ‘broke’ and smiled…

    What a great outing, but all of your outings are great! There are many images here that have a strong appeal – we are often drawn to the same visual contrasts of limbs or roots – against sky or soil or even water. I could get lost in drawing limbs or roots or the details of bark – patterns inside of patterns – so soothing and timeless. A friend joked long ago and stated, ‘You and your dead trees,’ – but there’s so much strength there, and one can see the character of the tree…

    That magnificent sentinel tree in your queue of images has surely been the subject of other photos/photographers…. if not, it appreciated that someone noticed and cares about it! It would be nice to touch the bark and sense the essence that’s there – and the history it’s witnessed….


  13. There are so many wonderful images here, but I was most taken with the simplest — the pebbles, and the slab of gray wood with the two holes in it. The grain seems to be flowing as surely as water flows, and the variation in colors recalls the layers of a streambed. The madrones are wonderful, too. Together with the eucalyptus, they still say “California” to me — along with the great sweeps of golden grass.


  14. Wonderful collection of photographs, dear Lynn. I never saw or heard of madrone trees, they look beautiful, especially when wet with rain. I love to learn about the beauties of your country by your pictures and stories.


      • If I ever visit the US, I’d rather head for the area of Seattle or Vancouver. But this will not happen as long as everybody has got weapons to shoot around with (I would really be afraid of that) or people like Mr.Trump are on job.
        But the day I start planning my trip over to your beautiful country you will know; and I’ll never let go the opportunity of meeting you, this is for sure.


      • It’s so sad that things are off balance enough here that Trump was elected. These are difficult times. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to Germany! And you’ll be the first to know as well… 🙂


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