All I want for Christmas is…
For the first time in years we found ourselves alone for the holidays. And after a long, busy year my body, mind, and soul craved solitude and quiet. I have been in love with Cannon Beach, Oregon since 1994 when my sister got married on the beach. There is just something special about this coastal town, which calls to your soul. Most visit for the beautiful beach, the town full of quaint shops, intriguing art galleries, and delectable restaurants, and for photographers it is a visual paradise.
Our decision to leave town was very last minute. At first it was hard to find a place to stay with the dates we had in mind or wasn't priced too high. I contacted a place via Facebook. I manage Facebook pages for businesses so I was impressed how quick and responsive they were via messaging. The front desk sent an email with a quote within a short time. I called and they were friendly, accommodating and helpful over the phone. They gave us off-season rates even though it was Christmas. We booked the room, packed our bags and hit the road the next day.
Upon our arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. We stayed at the Lighthouse Inn, but check in is at their sister property, Inn at Cannon Beach. We were greeted by the same person who helped over the phone, check in was quick and easy, they had warm delicious cookies for guests, and over 400 movies to choose from. The Lighthouse inn is conveniently located in town, everything was within walking distance; the beach, restaurants, shops, grocery store. We had a 1 bedroom suite with a small kitchenette, a large tub (this was a treat for me), a fireplace. Comfy, cozy, clean, and convenient.
The front desk gave us a list of restaurants, including two that were open on Christmas Day. We decided to splurge on Christmas dinner and made reservations at Wayfarer. The menu was limited to traditional holidays dishes, turkey and prime rib with all the fixings. The place was packed, the view was wonderful, the weather was gorgeous, and the service was define.
Most of the time the weather was just right, but the day after Christmas was stormy with scattered rain, so it made for a nice day to drive down the coast a bit, our final destination was to take the tour at Tillamook Dairy Co-Op (I was really going there for the ice cream.) We stopped at various state parks along the way and drove through the town of Manzanita and stopped for coffee. For lunch we found a place on yelp, Hidden Acres Greenhouse and Cafe. It was a bit south of Tillamook and when you drive up it is a working nursery, the food and the atmosphere was well worth it.
A few facts I learned at the Tillamook Diary:
On Thursday, the weather cleared up and visitors flooded the town and the beach. The quiet solitude was now filled with holiday cheer, dogs running around, children playing, parents and grandparents. It was our last day there and with cameras in hand we spent hours on the beach, people watching and photographing crashing waves. It was a beautiful end to 2018.
November in the Pacific Northwest means chilly rain, cold winds, and grey clouds hanging low. We hunker inside seeking warmth as we try to stay dry. But then Mother Nature will squeeze in a day or two of Fall-Like weather in between winter-like days. Such was the case the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Instead of grey skies, it was clear and BLUE. The sun lit up the earth and the last remnants of Fall shone in its light. People escaped from their indoor winter prisons and busted a move on the trails, strolled through the parks, spent time out on the water, exercising their bodies and their spirits. Our hearts sang in tune with nature as we absorbed the golden rays of light.
We let loose on these rare days in the winter months, a reminder to live life and create new stories as we hunker down once again on a cold rainy day ,waiting for the next burst of sun and warmth.
Soon the Pacific Northwest will be shrouded in the dull color of gray. Until then, the Fall Colors this year exploded into burnt umber, rich reds, vibrant oranges, bright greens, and light greens painting the landscape with magnificent color and beauty.
The Artists Point area is a called that for a reason, it is a true natural inspiration for artists. Photographers from all over the world flock to Picture Lake hoping to capture the iconic reflection of Mt Shuksan in the lake. Mother Nature shows off her best in the Mt Baker area and this Fall she was in FULL glory.
The lighting on this Saturday afternoon drive was anything but bright. It was more of a reminder of the winter to come, but that didn't stop the colors from shining brightly, painting the landscape with vibrancy and warm colors. This is why Fall is my favorite season — the rich, warm colors that remind us of the beauty surrounding us. Add to the color, the crisp, fresh, cool Fall air after a hot, stagnant summer and we have a season that is worth every minute.
These colors won't be here much longer, but it was well worth the Saturday afternoon drive up Hwy 542 to Mt Baker Ski Resort area, even on a rainy afternoon. The reflection in Picture Lake was beautiful mix of Fall colors and the hike around the Visitor Center in Heather Meadows made for a quiet reflection of why the world is so beautiful.
If you take the drive up, a must stop is Wake N Bakery in Glacier, the healthy snacks are to die for, my personal favorite is the Orange Frosted Cardamon Cookie. And a hot espresso is great on a chilly day. We completed our day with Pizza at Chair 9 restaurant on Hwy 542. The place was bustling on a Saturday night, they even ran out of Pizza.
It was a good way to relax, spend time communing with nature, filling the camera with photographs, and getting quality time with the hubby.
People watching at any event is a great past time for most of us, this especially holds true for Oyster Run. in late September of every year, thousands of motorcycles flood the streets of the small community of Anacortes, WA bringing with them unique bikes and unique people.
We hit the road at 8:15 a.m. The morning was cool and crisp, a touch of Fall nipped the air, a welcome relief after weeks of warm weather and smokey skies. We headed east on Hwy 20 from Anacortes, WA. With a two-hour drive ahead of us, we settled in and enjoyed the morning drive through the Skagit Farmlands as we headed to the North Cascades.
Our destination, The North Cascades Institute at Diablo Lake. We had signed up for the Diablo Lake and Lunch Boat Tour. After years of driving by we were finally going to 'experience' Diablo Lake by boat and learn more about the history.
To get to the Institute you drive east on Hwy 20, also known as the North Cascade Highway and the Cascade Loop. Watch for mile marker 127, shortly after you will see a sign for North Cascades Institute Educational Center telling you it is the next left. The road looks like a driveway. A little bit larger than a single lane road takes you over Diablo Dam, then park in the last parking lot. There's a short, easy hike from the parking lot to a set of buildings.
Amos, a National Park Ranger greeted everyone as they signed in. There is a nice little gift shop to browse in and well maintained restrooms close by. After a brief presentation in the amphitheater, we did a short hike to the boat house. There we boarded the Alice Ross IV for our two-hour boat tour of Diablo Lake. The boat was roomy, comfortable, heated (if chilly), large outside deck, large windows, water cooler, and large restroom. With everyone on board, we were filled with eager anticipation to start our tour with our guides, Amos (National Park Ranger) and Evan (North Cascades Institute.)
Amos and Evan took turns educating us about the area, the lake, the dams. Educational and entertaining we learned so much (too much to keep notes, you'll just have to take the tour) and enjoyed every minute of the tour. Evan started the tour telling us about the names of the various mountain peaks; Mt Fury, Formidable, Forbidden, Mt Terror, Desolation Peak, Devi's Dome, Devil's Elbow, Nightmare Camp, and more. We pulled up close to Diablo Dam. The dam, built in 1929-1930, at 389 it was the tallest dam in the world.
We then hightailed it over to Thunder Creek, where Amos proceeded to tell us about the glaciers and how they feed the lake. Thunder Creek is fed by 52 glaciers, making it the most glaciated drainage in the lower 48 states. North Cascades National Park has 312 glaciers, making it the most glaciated park in the lower 48. Amos went on to explain 'what' a glacier is. The North Cascades receives over 400" of snow per year. Glaciers start by large patches of snowflakes that don't melt, accumulating year after year, becoming a permanent snow patch. As it grows, becomes heavy, and compresses, the air is squeezed out between snow flakes, eventually it morphs into ice. He went on to explain the Emerald Green color of the lake comes from what he called "rock flour" basically the sediment caused from lots of grinding and suspends in the water. We left Thunder Creek and took a quick ride by Deer Island and Monkey Island (you'll have to take the tour to find out why they were called that.)
As we went down one of the small arms on the lake, the high walls towered over us, it was like going through a canyon. They told us that the North Cascades is the second larges biodiverse park in the country, second after the Smokies. Also the second largest watershed in the state, second after the Columbia River. We reached the power station for Ross Dam where we docked, after donning the stylish hardhats, we took a quick 15 minute tour through part of the power plant. Once the tour was over, we boarded the Alice Ross IV and headed back to the Institute where we completed a tour with a delicious lunch in the dining hall.
Touring with Skagit Tours was not only educational, it was entertaining, exhilarating, exciting, and worth every moment. Visit their website for more information and to sign up.
To continue our daycation and exploration, we detoured up to Rainy Pass and finally took the time to discover this hidden gem — the Washington Pass Overlook. An easy hike on a well maintained trail took us to an overlook with an incredible view of Washington Pass and the last part of the highway before you descend into the Methow Valley. Well worth the stop on the Cascade Loop.
We finalized our day trip on a drive back on the Skagit Hwy, located on the south side of the Skagit River from Concrete to Sedro Woolley instead of our usual, Hwy 20. It gave us a different view of the Skagit River, parts of the highway were lined with old trees dressed in heavy moss, canopying over the highway. All in all, it was the perfect Skagit day. After all, in the Coastal Salish language, Skagit means a Place of Refuge and after spending such a peaceful day it most certainly lived up to its name.
Short Stories of passion, of life, of people.