Alaskan RED

A lifelong Alaskan learning about the world one backroad at a time

Adventures in Housesitting – South Whidbey Island

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First things first – an apology for how lax I’ve been at writing.  I need a bit of peace for the thoughts to flow out my fingers and I’ve found that rarely happens until later in the evening when we are traveling and by then the activities of the day are usually making my eyelids a bit heavy.  When we get home, we are moving a mile a minute catching up on chores and diving into projects.  All that to say, I’ll try to do better because I’ve so much to share from our adventures.  So here’s the first….

We already know Whidbey Island so scoring a housesit there was a little like coming home, especially for Cabana Boy who spent much of his youth there. His parents had property in Coupeville where his dad and his wife still live.  When I saw the housesit ad on Trusted Housesitters for somewhere in Greenbank, I knew we had to apply.  Looking through the ad, it appeared the home was on the water so I scrambled to get our application in – if you know me, you know I’m all about being near saltwater – having my morning coffee with that salty smell surrounding me is pure bliss!  When I got the acceptance from the homeowners, we did a little celebration dance (thank goodness no one was watching that!) and called Dad to let him know we were coming. Despite the fact that we’ve already done this, he asked the same question…”so you don’t know these people?”  Everyone is always surprised by this; that we housesit for people we don’t know.  And it is a big leap of faith for them and for us but we always hope to meet new people, experience new places and maybe make new friends.

The trip down to Whidbey is a story for another time.  Suffice to say, we packed up our truck, grabbed the Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Haines, and drove down the Alaska Canada and Cassiar Highways.  We arrived on Whidbey the day before our homeowners left and made our way to their home in the Lagoon Point neighborhood on the south end of the island.  While they headed to Europe, we were in charge of their lovely home on the lagoon – actually a manmade ocean estuary – two blocks back from the ocean, their sailboat docked out front, and their lovely kitty, Rachel.  We toured the house, went over their housesitter list and started making friends with Rachel who was a bit standoffish to start.  The next morning, we retrieved their car from the shuttle stop and settled in.  It could not have been a more beautiful day to try out the patio and watch the boats, birds, and people.

Whidbey Housesit (12)

Rachel was a breeze.  She let herself in and out through a window, exhibiting full disdain for the cat door.  When she was ready to be petted, she would jump up on a little bench and wait for her human servants to brush her.  If you didn’t respond quickly enough, she would come for you and lead you to the bench.  She wasn’t the kind to sit on your lap but she would walk around us – on the floor, on the sofa back, on the patio.  But two nights in, I awoke to find her on the bed, staring at me.  I began to pet her, she began to purr, and it wasn’t long before we were both asleep.  When I awoke, she was gone.  It was a pattern to be repeated many times during the stay.

Our first trip together was to Whidbey and we’ve returned so many times but we’d always been near the upper end of the island.  We decided we had to take advantage of our time to not only revisit our old favorites but also to explore new ones.  Since South Whidbey State Park was just a couple minutes up the road, we started there.  It has a campground, walking trails and beach access.  We stopped at the kiosk to buy an annual Discovery Pass, good in any Washington State Park for twelve months from the date of issue (day passes are also available).   After looking at the trail map, we took the trail to the beach, winding through the tall trees, the beautiful fall leaves, ferns and mosses.  It’s a bit of a walk and downhill so the uphill portion awaits your return to the car but it’s well worth it.  The walk itself is so lovely but when it dumps you out on the beach, it’s the icing on the cake.  The beach is sandy, long and on our first visit, fairly narrow because of the high tide.  There were people fishing both from the shore and from nearby boats.  We walked at least a mile down the beach, alternating between watching the water and the sand in front of our feet, looking for beach treasures.  Even the hike back uphill didn’t seem too bad after the peace and quiet of the beach.

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Another day found us revisiting Ebey’s Landing mid-island for another beach walk.  The beach is part of the larger National Historic Reserve.  Many people walk the bluff trail many feet above the ocean for the beautiful views but I can never wait that long to get to the beach.  And it’s a big beach, taking you far into the distance – far enough that we started our standard beach walk conversation.  CB – “I’m about done.”  Me – “just a little bit more.”  CB – “we have to walk all the way back too.”  Me – “how about just to that rock/log/point?”   Eventually, he wins and we walk back to the truck…me lagging well behind!  You can also make a loop of both the bluff and the beach.  Ebey’s beach is littered with driftwood and well used by locals for both walking and fishing.  And yet, its big enough that even when the tiny parking lot is busy, it’s not too far into the walk before you are mostly alone.  The day we went was windy and the surf pounded the shore making for a lovely walk.

Ebey (2)

And no trip to Whidbey is complete without a visit to Fort Casey which looks out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  On our first visit to Fort Casey, the entire Fort was open and you could explore all the rooms through the bunkers and buildings.  It was a test of my trust when he took me through “The Switchboard”, a narrow passageway that runs around the outside of a room in one of the buildings.  In the dark!  Where there could have been spiders!  Yep, that’s love there!  Even though its all closed up, its still a great place to visit and you are almost guaranteed to see deer and rabbits frolicking as you walk up to Admiralty Head Lighthouse and peer over the bluff to the water below.

Fort Casey (8)
Lest you think that this was all about beaches, I assure you we managed to fit in a few other activities.  We spent part of a day wandering around Langley, a small artist type community on the south island overlooking the water.  The main street is lined with shops, restaurants and a wine tasting room. We visited Prima Bistro, a French inspired restaurant where I had a tough time deciding which of the lovely items to try off their menu.  Fresh clams?  Penn Cove Mussels?  Cheese and Charcuterie?  All that went by the wayside when I saw my favorite – Croque Madame with house made bread, Parisian ham, gruyere cheese, a fried egg, and béchamel.  With a cool drink, it made a lovely brunch!  CB had to have the Fish Frites (fish and chips for those who do not parle francais) served with a caper remoulade and fennel slaw.  He declared it was the best fish and chips he’d had in some time which is saying something – he’s a bit of a Fish Frites hound.

Prima Bistro

We walked off our meal visiting some of the shops and made our way up to Callahan’s Firehouse – a glass blowing studio in, what else, an old firehouse.  If you go, ask to see what’s in the back – where they keep lots more inventory of hand blown glass.  I did not leave empty handed.  We also stopped at Ott and Murphy Wines for a lovely spot of red wine and on our way home, at Blooms Winery tasting room. I’ve always enjoyed their space in the historic Bayview Corner Cash Store where they have art, gift items, some lovely bites, and usually live music on Sunday afternoons.

One Saturday, we met with a friend, formerly from Juneau, at the farmers market near Langley just off the main highway that traverses the island – not far from Blooms.  It was one of the last for the season but we managed to fill our shopping bag with fresh veggies and bread and held firm resolve against the lovely pies and pastries.  Looking for a place to sit and catch up, we drove south on the island, following our friend as she turned off the main highway and drove some ways through the forest until we arrived at Mulkiteo Coffee Company where they not only roast the coffee but they have a lovely little café with both inside and outer seating (maybe you want to sit on a horse saddle stool?), a nice menu including breakfast served all day.  It was a lovely place to sip coffee and catch up!

And no trip would be complete without a visit to Coupeville – well, actually it was three visits.  We had to go to the farmers market where we were able to pick up baked goods, fresh veggies, and a lovely pair of earrings for mom-in-law, all while debating an order from one of the food trucks parked among the stands.  20151003_095013Our second visit was a day that started and ended at the Knead and Feed.  We had to have a pastry from the upstairs bakery to fortify us for wandering through the shops that line this little town on Penn Cove and ducked back into the downstairs café for a light lunch later.  And since we are, after all, us, we had to drop in for a little tasting at the Vail Wine Shop where they have both reds and whites open so you can sample before you buy, which of course we did!  Our last trip is a tradition for as long as I can remember – lunch at Toby’s Tavern with Dad and his wife.  As with so many buildings, Toby’s has some history.  The back bar was originally brought around the horn and took up residence in Fort Worden in the officers’ club sometime around 1900.  It moved to Fort Casey and then to the Central Hotel in Coupeville.  After a fire at the hotel, the back bar moved to Toby’s.

We also took some time to meet with friends of our homeowners, who we actually made contact with through the Trusted Housesitters site.  As petsitters, they handle daily visits when people are traveling but were interested in meeting us to recommend for those folks who want someone to stay in their home.  We had a lovely visit and exchanged information.  As of this writing, we have one new contact and are about to embark on a new housesit because of these connections.  And Rachel?  Well, we decided we will actually leave Juneau in the summer (I know – no Alaskan leaves in the summer but there you have it!) so we can visit with her again.

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