Wednesday, August 17th, 2022, 0940-2000
Lake Samish to Whitney junction HWY 20, then Mark’s Way cool barn, WEBO mm 959, Section 8 Puget Sound
24 miles, Gain 2240′, Loss 2430′, elevation 7′
I had high hopes of getting back to hiking early in the morning. I was a fool. It’s not possible when trying to depart the Walkers, one of the strongest hiker vortexes on the planet. A hiker I know, Coyote, stayed for 4 days the previous year. But luring me on were a string of pearls…trail angels interspersed throughout the Puget Sound. Given the lack of free camping in this urban\suburban setting, it’s a very lucky and helpful thing. I had my sights set on the Way Cool Barn, a short 13 miles down the route by Edison, but I hoped to actually do some more miles to bridge the distance to a 3rd trail angel near Oak Harbor. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mary was up early, getting another huge breakfast out by 7 am! She certainly lived up to her side of the bargain in trying to help me get an early start. I’ll just blame Boon, with his sad puppy eyes and cuteness…I could barely manage to leave him behind. I actually shed a tear when I had to say goodby. That dog really got to me. Perhaps because my first and only family dog was also a lab. I’ll also blame multiple helpings to fresh cinnamon buns that Mary baked.
I was the first hiker to depart, but I’d also been the first to arrive. I’d sucked up enough love and attention, time to leave some behind for the others. I was sad to go but also in such a good mood. A day of fellowship with my family of hikers and trail angels had rejuvenated my soul. It promised to be an easy and delightful day of walking. I even promptly came to more trail magic that had been set out by Kelly and one of her friends that lived nearby. I’d neglected to get snacks for the day, so this was the perfect replenishment.
Soon I was climbing yet another steep hill on single track trail, thinking to myself “where did this come from?” I hadn’t given any thought to the route, still assuming it was all mostly road walking. Following the red line meant going over all the coastal hills. These trails led past some cute little lakes with built campsites and up to an overlook aptly named Oyster Dome. Technically, this was a side trip from the PNT but well worth the extra effort for the wonderful views of the San Juan islands. Many day hikers agreed, as there was quite a crowd when I arrived. Karaoke joined me and we enjoyed some festive beverages that Mary had insisted we take for this exact moment. She of course knew how much we’d appreciate the setting. I called it the McAfee knob of the PNT.
After too long of a break than what my late start should have allowed, I cruised down the easy switchbacks on the other side, loving how fast my feet could go. I ran into Mary at the carpark, waiting to give another hiker a ride. Boon was in the back and I tried to avoid looking at him, lest I become sad again. So funny that dog. I hugged Mary one more time and set off down the road. This was the first I’d come to the edge of the coast… technically a part of inland waters but saltwater nonetheless. I’m still a marine biologist at heart, so I know the ocean when I see it. Moreover, I’d spent many years of my life on the Pacific, working on various ships. I’d crossed it, sailed down most of the length of the Americas, and stared into its emptiness for months at a time…I knew this ocean. I’d even sailed around the Puget sound, doing all the cruise planning for my NOAA ship, as we transited from Hawaii to Bellingham, then to Seattle, and back to Hawaii. It was good to be back… especially having walked all the way to get here.
I passed some houses, where a man invited me to come pick some of his figs. I’d never had fresh figs, only dried ones. I had no idea what they even looked like, so this was an offer I couldn’t pass up. They were so different…and good! He also gave me some apples. He was the sweetest guy and in talking to him I learned he’d been a merchant mariner. How funny after I’d just been reminiscing about my sailing career. His name was Tom and he was so proud of his giant maple tree and yard, in general. He gave me the whole tour.
This is the kind of thing I love about rural and suburban road walking. It reminded me of all the experiences I had in New Zealand. Just as I would turn down opportunities to get a ride (a passing driver was always offering), some little gem would turn up: a petting zoo, a farmer inviting me in to share tea, kids running out from their house to bring me a coke, and people who I’d met previously driving by and calling out my name, like I was a local. The world really sees you when you’re a traveler on foot. You’re out there, both vulnerable and a curiosity inviting others to open up to you. I grew to love road walking!
Quetzal came by as I was visiting with Tom and also picked some figs. We continued on the road together, passing through through the tiny villa of Edison. We stopped to buy pastries at a bakery…another highlight of urban hiking: food stops. The original plan had been to walk another10 miles and then call for a ride back to Marc’s Way Cool Barn (WCB). But since he was only a mile down the road, on our way if we altered the route slightly, we figured we could at least drop off our packs. Marc was home and gave us the run-down on the place, which I’ll describe later. We ditched all the stuff we didn’t need while Quetzal smartly came up with a new plan. Since Marc wasn’t busy at the time, he could give us a ride down the road and we would walk back. This way he wasn’t waiting around for a phone call.
He dropped us off at HWY 20, giving us a great tour along the way. The route passed through a vast expanse of flat farmland, with great views of Mt Baker to the east. It was really lovely, despite being road walking. We actually walked along a coastal reserve and foot path for awhile, remnants of an old dike. The light over the sound was soft and warm, a perfect evening walk, unburdened from our packs. The last bit of road was a little busy and lacking much of a shoulder, but really nothing to scoff at. I enjoyed the openness of the area…flat farmland with views to the mountains all around. It was a bit like walking through the Kootenai river valley in Idaho.
We got back to Marc’s WCB by around 8 pm, just in time for dinner. Most of the others had also arrived: Wolverine, the Germans, and Funk. Marc graciously opens his barn to family, friends, and even us passer-by’s. The space was a man cave on steroids. It had a complete kitchen, bathroom, 2 TVs, tables and couches…and lots and lots of memorabilia, posters and artwork. His collection of Steam Punk Ladies on Harleys was particularly unique. Whatever one might think about the decor, what came through was the passion Marc has for his place. And also the kindness and hospitality he has in his heart in sharing it with others. It was one of the coolest places I ever stayed…and that’s saying something after I’d slept in a sheep shed in NZ!
We cooked fresh salmon fillets that Marc had in the fridge and also some dungeness crab he brought out especially for us. It was all amazing and great to spend another night with the bubble of hikers. Marc hung out with us for awhile, telling stories. He had a funny one about the first hikers he’d hosted, who had raided his fireball bottle and gotten a little crazy. His brother was driving by when he saw 3 naked kids running around in the field, giving Marc a call to see what’s up. He knew instantly, they’d found the whisky! It’s a wonder he ever had anyone back! We were pretty tame in comparison, all wanting to go to bed early. I picked a nice place on the floor in the corner and passed out.