Washington: Anacortes and Guemes Island

We aren’t able to join every year, but we try to be in Washington for the annual family gathering at Millersylvania State Park. As always, it was a wonderful 4 days with a group of about 50 amazing family members and pseudo family members (AKA friends) hosted by Norma, the 91-year-old matriarch who oozes energy, love and gratitude.

Millersylvania 2019
Photo credit: Tracy Jensen and Sara Floyd

With only 2 days between that event and our next house sit on Vancouver Island, we decided to hang out in Anacortes and then take the ferry from there to the island. We booked 2 nights in a lovely AirBnB suite only a 5-minute drive from the ferry dock since we would have an early start on our last day. 

A view of Burrows Bay from our AirBnB patio

Since we’ve been to Anacortes several times, we wanted to do something different. While having breakfast at the Calico Cupboard & Cafe, our server spotted us checking out our bicycle map. When we asked about the little ferry that headed to Guemes Island, she passed along a previous customer’s advice that taking the ferry across, cycling to the trailhead, and then hiking Guemes Mountain made for a really nice day trip. We checked out ferry times, stopped in at a market to pick up some fruit and sandwiches, and drove to the parking area by the ferry dock.

For $4 return each we took our bikes on the 5-minute crossing to Guemes Island and then cycled right onto South Shore Road. About 3km later we locked our bikes onto the bike rack that is conveniently positioned at the trailhead. (You can also borrow bikes from the General Store, which sits just above the ferry dock.) The trail was in great shape–dry and packed–and worth the effort for the views from the top.

Another couple takes a break on one of the viewing benches

While we were noshing on our lunch, the clouds and wind began to build. We were the only ones left at the peak and decided it might be prudent to try to get back to the ferry before a storm hit. Despite an ominous sky in one direction, we stayed dry for both the hike down and the ride back to the ferry. The general store is a great place to perch while you wait for the next boat (they run every 30 minutes with a couple of longer breaks each day).

Anacortes and the Guemes Island ferry dock from the General Store

We both really enjoyed our little day trip and recommend it if you have a few hours to spare in the area.

Waiting to board the return ferry to Anacortes

The next morning we were up early to catch the ferry to Sidney, British Columbia. We had reserved online (reservations are free, but there is a $40USD no-show fee) and the information provided there was that we must be ticketed and inside the gate no later than 60 minutes before the scheduled sailing time. With reservations for the 8:30 am sailing (there are only 2 sailings a day), we arrived at about 7:15. The clerk asked if we didn’t want to leave and go to town for coffee since we didn’t have to line up until 8:00. Two gentlemen in the car in front of us said that their documents indicated they needed to arrive 90 minutes ahead. 30, 60, or 90 minutes–you decide.

While we waited (and waited), we must have had the key in the ignition, which kept the headlights on. We noticed the ferry had arrived and tried to start the car, only to hear … silence. Ken ran off to get help from someone on the ferry crew and the fellows in front of us hopped out and started digging in their trunk. A staff member arrived on a baggage tug with a portable jump starter and began barking orders to everyone so we wouldn’t hold anything up. (Kind of ironic given our unnecessarily long wait due to poor information and a 45-minute late ferry!)

With everyone’s help and quick action we started the car and drove onto the ferry, barely causing any delay at all. Our new Alaskan friend from the car in front came over to our car window and pushed something inside, telling us he wanted us to have it. It was a portable jump starter kit that he had just purchased. He was sweetly insistent since he didn’t want us to get stuck getting off the ferry and telling us that he bought two so didn’t really need it. We thought it was a great idea to have one of these in our own emergency kit, so we took it, but paid him for it ($50USD).

We met up with Dick (the Alaskan) and Doug (from the Seattle area) on the passenger deck and had a great chat. These two were heading to Sidney to take Dick’s sailboat out for a spin. We learned that Doug is a retired finance guy and mountain climber who has written a novel about facing the US financial crisis. We’re going to wait a month until Doug’s updated version of The Snow Leopard and the Ibex is published to read it.

Other than the battery episode, our trip was uneventful with just one stop at pretty Friday Harbor. We arrived in Sidney at noon. (Ferry cost: $76.80USD.)

And now we are off to our most challenging house sit to date. Stay tuned!

On the wall of our Anacortes AirBnB

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