Washingtonians don’t need to travel far from home or stay away very long to experience an enormous variety of flora, fauna, scenery, eateries and (of course) Coffee, Art & Ambiance!

As a Christmas gift, my son planned a rustic overnight excursion for myself and my mom and aunt, both in their 80’s. My other son joined in, too. This mystery excursion took place March 23rd and 24th 2009. After the excursion Aunti Vi, who is 89 years young, wrote up her account of it and I added pictures to her story (below). Feel free to copy our itinerary and journey and enjoy!

Written by Viola Ala
Pictures by Penny Wight

It had been promised as a Christmas gift to his Nana and Great Aunt and Penny, his mom! What adventure had been conjured up this time? Whatever it might be, it was always something to look forward to, so when the idea had jelled in Dan’s mind in March 2009, his Nana and I, his great aunt, and Penny were filled with eager anticipation. The trip would also include Dan’s brother Ian.

The anticipation was palpable as we eagerly set off after a hearty breakfast served by Penny. How grateful we were as Dan disdained freeways as much as the rest of us, so what an absolute delight as we traveled rural roads to our first stop. It was to have been a garden for roses (Antique Rose Garden south of Snohomish) but it was closed. Miraculously, McAuliffe’s Nursery was nearby and as it looked inviting, we drove in. Never have I seen a nursery so beautifully laid out, with paths of slate, plants of all descriptions, planter “boxes” whose three-foot sides were made of many kinds of stones embedded in concrete. It was just like strolling through a park!

“Isn’t it time for a cup of coffee or something?” someone inquired. The Snohomish Café (Bakery) loomed ahead and so we stopped. An antique store had to be browsed through before continuing on through Lake Stevens along the Lake to Granite Falls, up the Mountain Loop Road with a stop at a very small (National Forest – Turlo) campground that nested on the banks of the Stillaguamish River. I am prone to enjoy sculptures created by mosses. Here, my imagination saw several grotesque “animals”…


and “birds”.


Dan continued up this Loop Road until there seemed to be too much snow. As we drove down, Dan decided to take off on a logging road on Green Mountain. We traveled up it until his passengers urged, “Please, Dan, turn around. This doesn’t look like much fun!” We had to admit some of the snow-laden scenery was spectacular, but we all sighed with relief when we got to the main road!

“Hey! Aren’t we ever going to stop to eat?” I groaned. Driving through a few more miles of charming farm country, at last, we stopped at the hometown café in Stanwood, decorated in an old western motif. There we savored our main meal, accompanied with a pitcher of beer.
Now it was on to our overnight accommodations which Dan had reserved at Cama Beach State Park. He had reserved a cabin that faced Saratoga Pass, a beautiful spot.


These cabins had originally been build in the 1930’s for fishermen. They had now been refurbished and opened to the public just this year. One feature of the camp reminded me of traveling cross country in the 1970’s. In those early days, many campgrounds had the sinks and toilets in a central spot for everyone’s use. And so it was here! What should we do if we had to use the facility in the middle of the night? Wake somebody up so we didn’t have to go alone in the dark? Well, let’s hope we can hold off until morning! And so we did! But early morning found we three females getting dressed and off to the “biffy.” But isn’t this what makes a trip memorable, something out of the ordinary?
Our ingenious host prepared a wonderful breakfast in the morning, using the cabin’s microwave oven to serve an egg and a slice of ham on an English muffin half – very delicious!

As we were preparing to get in the van to be driven to our car (cars were parked on a hill just above the campground) the driver asked if we’d like to see how their canoes were built. We had just seen a display of several beautiful boats in the boat house and, of course, we all wanted to see how they were made. We saw canoes in several stages of construction. The builder was just removing staples, hundreds of them, one by one from a canoe about fifteen feet long. These staples had held the material that made the canoe water proof. Seemed like a tedious task! This was an added “plus” to our stay at Cama Beach State Park.

After transferring our gear to the car, including bedding, dishes, etc., Dan drove to Camano Island State Park to walk the beach.


Beautiful sunshine, water so calm…

that when a sudden spout of water broke the surface, we knew it had to be a whale, and a gray whale at that! Soon after a beautiful loon swam near the shore. What a treat –a whale and a loon all in one “fell swoop”!

Time to leave came all too soon. As Dan drove along those country roads, we coffee “hounds” were once again ready for some coffee. This time it was a most interesting café (The Station) in Stanwood. We surmised it to be a teen “hang-out” with its couches, tables with puzzles and books and in one section pool tables. It looked like a safe haven for teens to spend a little time if they followed certain posted rules. We were served superb coffee, too.

As we traveled, Penny mentioned having seen snow geese in a field in this area a few years back. Lo and behold, there appeared a field, (between Conway and La Conner) white as snow with hundreds of snow geese feeding and flying about. We stopped to enjoy cookies and milk in a lovely gazebo surrounded by the large rose garden at the home and public gardens of orginal owners of Christiansen’s Nursery near La Conner. Then, of course, we had to inspect the nursery next door. (This nursery is one of Penny and her mom’s favorite places to purchase flower and vegetable garden goodies. Penny bought her mom three small special geraniums to replace ones that had bloomed for years – until this year’s chill. Dan bought some tiny plants. These purchases were amazingly tucked safely into nooks in the car with us…including on the front console of the car!)

Our journey continued on (through Bow-Edison) to Chuckanut Drive, our next stop being Larrabee State Park as Dan needed a park with a grill for preparing our evening meal. He had ingeniously fashioned a small carrying case that held bits of kindling, paper and matches for starting a fire, as well as a can of chili and kettle to heat it in; also a dessert he wrapped in foil and did a very credible job of “baking” it on the grill! He had even provided a beer to serve with the food. No repast could have tasted better!


There was one more adventure before heading to Edmonds. In Bellingham a stop was made at a coffee shop (Adagio) run by a friend (and ex-barista) of Penny’s who served his friends a free cup of coffee. What a treat to end the two-day adventure as now – Dan did enter the freeway, making it home in about an hour.
Imagine packing all this into a two-day adventure! This had to take a great deal of planning as everything just seemed to “roll along” so well, a wonderful and interesting trip.