Sunday, August 17, 2008

Whistle Stop Summer: Lummi Island Edition

Our summer of sampling continues. I’m going to be the Cliffnotes of the Pacific Northwest, with firm grasp on three facts about each place that I can spout upon request. Closer examination will reveal my lack of actual knowledge with astonishing rapidity.Ironically, while I am doing rapid, skimming tours of the region, I continue to diligently slog my way through Moby Dick, which (I kid you not) I have been reading for the last year. Several times, I read five chapters forward, neglect the book for too long, and have to go two or three chapters back, but I am finally, finally moving towards the (already-known) close. Anyway.
I continue to resolutely lack depth in my travels.
This past weekend (quite hot... for Seattle) was the weekend of the RSVP, or the Ride Seattle to Vancouver and Party bicycle ride, which started because of the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s prevented the gung-ho cyclists from doing their Seattle to Portland ride that year (at least, that's how local long-time cyclists tell it). My mom, not me, was riding in RSVP. We figured we would join my mom for her first night of the ride, say hooray and well done, have dinner with her and my dad, and head back to Seattle the next morning. The end of the first day’s ride of RSVP was scheduled to be in Bellingham. And as I scouted hotels, a distant memory echoed in my mind, of a place I’d long been curious about. But I’ve been curious about it for long enough that I can’t actually remember what spurred my interest to begin with.
The place was Lummi Island, probably the most overlooked of the San Juan Islands. Whatcom County provides the ferry service, rather than the state. The ferry, pictured at top, is quite small.

It is a country-quiet sort of island, with the sounds of weed whackers, old trucks, boats distant and near, and gulls all flickering through the air. The quieter lanes, as we walked along them, were plump with the dark, jammy smell of ripe blackberries. Porpoises surfaced in the channel, bald eagles flew close enough to see their eyes, seals played near the beach. We stayed at a terrific, peaceful inn: the Willows Inn. The deck there looks out at Orcas Island and the sound; orcas can sometimes be spotted from the deck (the kids and I were madly hoping to see one, and we saw other wildlife, but no orcas). The view is mesmerizing. The rest of the inn, though, has its own hypnotic tranquility. The kids particularly enjoyed being introduced to bocce on the inn's court. My boy is a natural. I would have been prouder of that if he hadn't been on the other team.
The dining room of the inn tries to hew to the ideas of the Slow Food movement; the food there is lovely. Not knock-your-socks-off, holy-crap-amazing how-did-Michelin-not-star-this good (it's too relaxed and unpretentious to preach about how carefully the food is grown and prepared). But… it sneaks up on you how good it is. The delicious food, the view, the atmosphere… all conspire to content and delight, and suddenly, during the midst of dinner, I realized that I was suffused with a sense of well-being that reverberated through my body like sunshine on skin. Curly interrupted my sentimental reverie by dropping her napkin and thoroughly mangling my toes as she pushed her chair back, tromping upon my foot to get her napkin. It happens.
Squished toes and all, I continued to feel enormously content. The food, the place— within twenty-four hours I found myself pie-in-the-sky out-loud dreaming to Stumpy that we could raid the piggy bank, say to hell with college education for the kids or paying the mortgage for our home, and buy some land on Lummi. Of course, staying at the Willows Inn, with a room looking out over the San Juans and a windowseat at the top of the stairs, would probably have to be foregone if we plundered our savings.All of this is a long way of saying: if you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest (and you like things like quiet walks, skipping stones from a beach, kayaking, cycling and delicious food), you might want to consider a visit to Lummi Island.


cook eat FRET said...

in my next life, will you please be my mommy?

Meg said...

Claudia- it doesn't look so bad, does it? Happy to.

Fifi Flowers said...

Lovely post! Beautiful photos... thanks for the trip!
Now pack your bags and come along with me tomorrow to Provence... Fifi

Meg said...

Fifi- if Provence is warmer than Seattle right now, I'm in- we're getting October before August is over.