I visited Whidbey Island in May for a reunion of friends who were in Vietnam with me and while I was on the island just part of a day I longed for more. We found a couple of days free loaded up the van and off we went to reacquaint ourselves with island life. Whidbey is really very close to home so why hadn’t we camped there?
It is a long (55 miles) thin island set in Puget Sound and just a 20-minute ferry ride from Mukilteo to Clinton where we began our trip across the pastoral island of rolling farmland, small towns and beautiful views of Puget Sound.
First stop was the quaint little town of Langley on the south end of the island; Langley overlooks Saratoga Passage and is where I spent many a Friday evening picking up my son where he lived there with his father I remember those Fridays and how after long workweek I could always feel myself decompress as I drove off the ferry, islands have a way of doing that.
Langley hasn’t changed much, the buildings are the same, they have been repainted, the shop owners have changed, there are more flowers and more art than in the late 1970’s and with that more tourists but it has remained small and retained its charm. This was George’s first visit so we walked the waterfront, poked our heads into some of the shops and managed to find the ice cream shop. The main street is lined with cars on both sides making good photos impossible, darn those tourists.
We had reserved two nights at Fort Ebey State Park, the first visit for both of us. The park is near the northern end of the island and the town of Coupeville. It was originally built as a coastal defense fort in World War II and the remnants of the gun batteries remain but we were interested in the 28 miles of hiking trails and the possibility of biking.
After we set up the van we headed out to explore the trail system and specifically to find the bike trails. It was confusing at first, many trails heading off in different directions but they were all well signed and after about an hour we decided this was really mountain biking territory, large roots in some places made even walking precarious, some steep hills coupled with the narrow trail and we decided it was not our kind of biking so we gave up on that idea and just enjoyed the hiking which was fabulous.
Coming out of the forest, not far from the campground, we found our way to the gun battery hill with a beautiful meadow of freshly cut grass sun dried creating a patterned carpet sweeping down to the edge of the bluff, beautiful against the blue of the water and the sky!
The next morning after breakfast we had seen a trail leading to a beach access and headed north on the Bluff Trail to near the northern border of the park. It didn’t look like a long hike but gadzooks the ups and downs were numerous and some quite steep with most of the ups waiting for hikers returning from the beach ugh. It was a really nice hike despite the ups, made up of a mix of forest with openings to views of Puget Sound; we finally made it to the beach access point where we walked the short expanse; it was rocky, the tide was out and the panorama of Puget Sound was awesome. I looked up at the cliff, thinking about the climb back up and noticed a bald eagle atop one of the tree snags just sitting contentedly. I would have loved to capture him in flight against the blue sky but he did not seem interested in moving.
There was a lake nearby but my legs were tired and when we started downhill again to the lake all I could think of the uphill hike back to the van so we skipped it for now and began the uphill slog. At a rest point we looked out to see another bald eagle perched in a fir tree, such a majestic bird. The return trip wasn’t really as bad as I had imagined but I admit to a few “water” breaks.
Ravenous after our hike we drove into Coupeville for lunch. It is a small town in an idyllic setting on Penn Cove, well known for its mussels. Today the cove was filled with sailboats so we walked the pier to watch for a bit . . . oh I do miss sailing sometimes especially on a beautiful day like today.
Like Langley Coupeville hasn’t changed a lot other than the buildings being prettied up and more tourists but it is still a fun place to wander around.
A friend had told us we must eat at Toby’s Tavern and obedient little children that we are we found Toby’s, it wasn’t hard in this tiny town and at 3 p.m. it was not crowded so we took a booth by the window to enjoy the view. Once inside I did recognize the place from former visits, many, many years ago, I just hadn’t remembered the name. We sat by the window and watched the sailboats enjoying lunch and adult beverages, very pleasant afternoon.
Toby’s has a lot of history and the walls are adorned with all sorts of memorabilia. Above our table hung an old 5 man racing shell built by George Pocock for the University of Washington back in the early fifties, it has been raced all over the globe. Small world, I had met Stan Pocock, George’s son, on a snorkeling trip in Belize and did not know his history until late into the trip. Coincidentally he and his wife had lived within blocks of us in the 1970’s.
The back bar was brought around the horn in 1900 and was a presence in other businesses in the area before coming to rest at Toby’s. Sorry, didn’t get a photo.
Back at camp, we were stuffed from lunch so no need for dinner just time to relax and maybe a hike later in the evening. Around 6 p.m. we heard “hello neighbor” and our camping neighbor invited us over to share their fire that evening. We accepted and had an enjoyable evening in their company and the company of their dog Max show who made himself right at home in my lap. It was a pleasant evening and after 4 hours of hiking I think we will sleep well tonight. Sweet Dreams.