Beyond the City Limits
Mid-April, I decided to visit my hometown of Seattle. Seeing as the Emerald City is in the peak of its rainy season at that time (believe it or not, the rain does stop eventually), my mom wondered why I’d ever want to visit for a week of gray drizzle. Well, I found round-trip airfare for $178 (which I ended up paying for in the end, when my MD-80 flight was canceled and I spent an extra six hours in BWI—I’m not bitter), and I knew visiting in April would allow me to see my favorite parts of the Pacific Northwest sans camera-toting tourists. Fortunately, I ended up bringing with me about 36 hours of sunshine, so my mom and I ventured out of the city.
Our first stop: Whidbey Island. About 30 miles north of Seattle is the ferry from Mukilteo (its small port has no more than a lighthouse, small market, and Ivar’s restaurant—their smoked salmon chowder is to die for) to Whidbey Island. There’s not much on Whidbey, either, but that’s the beauty of it. We stopped by Greenbank Farm, a 1930s berry farm on the south-central part of the island. In 1972 Greenbank was considered the largest grower of loganberries, a cross between a raspberry and blackberry, for which the farm is now famous (stop by in July for their Loganberry Festival). Unfortunately, we arrived before the farm actually opened for the day, so instead of testing some delicious loganberry products, we were instead greeted by some of the farm’s furry friends (pictured left).
We continued north through Deception Pass, a 4,134-acre marine and camping park with great views and wildlife-watching opportunities. Stop your car before Deception Pass Bridge and take a walk along one of the short trails, or check out the view from the lookout on the other side (for more information, the visitor center
is located about one mile south of the bridge). After leaving Whidbey Island, we continued east on Route 20 and north on 237, on a mission to make it to Edison, Washington, for lunch.
is a typical small (and by small I mean population 133), Northwest town with antiques shops and cafes. We passed cafés like Slough Food and Bread Farm and headed to the edge past “downtown” Edison and across from the post office is the Zagat-rated Rhododendron Café (5521 Chuckanut Drive, +1 360 766 6667), “where Northwest and ethnic foods meet.” This green-and-purple landmark (pictured, right) has been a favorite of locals and visitors since it opened its doors in 1984, and blends its classic dishes (grilled crostini with goat cheese, herbs, and roasted red pepper; homemade soup) with other global specialties. This month’s menu features Spanish and Portuguese paella and tapas. Yum.
From Edison we headed back south to La Conner, Washington, to check out the 25th annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. The festival technically takes place during the month of April, but due to an unusually cold spring, only the daffodil fields were in bloom mid-month. By now, some of the tulip fields are finally showing full color (click here for a great guide to the fields in bloom), but the cold weather is like keeping the tulips in a fridge, so I suspect there’s still time to see the colorful fields. My mom and I took pictures in the Roozengaarde fields (complete with windmill, you almost feel like you’re in Holland), but soon realized that all the tourists who weren’t in Seattle were there, so we continued along our journey.
Before heading back south to Seattle, we decided to make one final stop in downtown La Conner to pick up some coffee (cliché, I know) for the road. At the end of First Street is the Calico Cupboard Café and Bakery—possibly my new favorite West Coast eatery. The cute, 27-year-old bakery has the best desserts in town, and I couldn’t resist trying one of their raspberry cinnamon rolls. These deliciously famous treats make the gray Northwest skies disappear any day.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Photos: Rosemary Kimmel and Jeannette Kimmel