"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fidalgo Island

We spent one week at Fidalgo Bay Resort, near Anacortes, Washington. Fidalgo Island is not one of the San Juan's but it might as well be. It is just north of Whidbey Island, which is accessible by bridge, and west of Skagit Peninsula, a rich agricultural area. Anacortes, its largest town, is a major marine port providing access to the San Jaun Islands, which are very close.  The island has been inhabited by the Samish and Swinomish people since thousands of years before the Spanish and English arrived. The RV park where we stayed is owned by the Samish Tribe.

Across the river from the nearby artsy little port town of La Conner is Swinomish land, and these are structures built for their community cultural purposes.

The Fidalgo Bay RV Resort was ideal for exploring this beautiful area. The only drawback to the park's location was a view of two large oil refineries, but this just seems to be part of life, like logging. There's still lots of wildlife and natural settings around.  This is a closeup of a madrona or arbutus tree along the trail. They are beautiful trees, with shiny leaves much like a rhododendrum, but their unique characteristic is this smooth red bark that peels off every summer to reveal green underneath.

There is a nice long, level biking/walking path that goes right through the park and out over the bay, as well as a nature trail that goes on to an adjoining peninsula with access to a beach. The peninsula is Samish property and has limitied access, so it was quiet and undisturbed. We took lots of walks and a bike ride while there.

Anacortes is a fun town with interesting shops, restaurants, many big marinas, and the island has several beautiful parks, viewpoints of the area, and adventures to be had on the water. One day we visited Deception Pass, which divides Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. It is also the name of the WA State Park on the northern tip of Whidbey.

First we crossed the bridge and walked back out onto it to look down into the pass.

Old eagle eyes (guess who) spotted a harbor seal hanging out below the bridge. 

 View from the bridge. 

This view is looking the other way at North Beach, one of the beaches of Deception Pass SP, Whidbey Island.  For perspective, see the tiny person in the bottom left.

We headed down into Deception Pass SP to see if we could get to the beach, and we did find West Beach, to catch a sunset. While waiting we also caught this guy.

And then the sunset...

Another day we took a 6 hour whale watching boat trip through the San Juan Islands and out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, our old stomping grounds from a few weeks back.

Our boat was the Island Explorer. It wasn't full, so there was plenty of room to move around and get the best vantage points as needed.

We had to travel quite a long way before we saw the orcas, and along the way we saw two minke whales and some birds feeding on "bait balls" or clumps of small fish schooled up by seals or porpoises.  Once we got to where the oracs were, we saw lots of them, some even pretty close. 

This (below) was a typical distance, but for a couple of hours we saw
many all around the boat at different distances. 

I think this one may be called Double Stuff, a young male if I recall. His mother was Oreo and his sibling is Cookie. The marine biology group in the area names all the orcas so that their movement can be tracked. None are tagged. They tell them apart by the unique markings on their backs.

There are three resident pods in the area, named J, K and L, and we saw members of all of them. The guides on board commented on this mixing and hypothesized that is was a sign of mating (which happens across pods evidently).

We saw mothers swimming with their young, as well as the largest male in the area, Cappuccino. I don't think we got a good picture of him.  He had a very large upright dorsal fin, which is how you can tell the males.

We saw them doing all the things that orcas do: breeching, diving, peaking, waving their tails, but much of this at some distance.

All the resident orcas are fish eaters, that is, they do not eat marine mammals like porpoises or seals.  There are transient pods that do however.  We also hoped to see some of the several kinds of porpoises that live here, but didn't on this trip.

We finished off our time in Anacortes with an excellent dinner at Anthony's, a chain of seafood restaurants in this area. This one has a great view of the largest marina in Anacortes.

From our table we could see many of the passage makers, a kind of ocean going yacht that Rick is wild about right now. His favorite kind is the Nordhavn, but Nordic Tugs are very popular around here.  I can't tell you how many marinas we've visited to look at these boats. Well, that's one reason why we're here.

After Anacortes we headed south to Bothell WA, and east to Leavenworth, WA. 
Hope to get a post up about those places soon. 

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