Falling In Love With Bivalves

A long time ago I had some very bad mussels dish at a fancy seafood restaurant which was the reason I never touched certain bivalves. Clams where the only thing I would eat with a shell in this department. This all changed when I toured the Penn Cove Mussel Farm on Whidbey Island and Taylor’s Shellfish Farm in Bow. Not only did I get to sample fresh mussels, clams, and oysters, but I learned more about how each farm raises them in the most sustainable ways possible. I even was able to see a geoduck up close, something very few of us are afford in a restaurant.

Penn Cove Shellfish Mussel Farms

To get to the mussel beds out in Penn Cove, I had to board a boat at the old Coupeville Wharf. This is the famous wharf everyone has to take a picture of for social media, and on this morning, the wharf had a coastal seaport asleep vibe waiting to be awoken by the sun.

DSC00353Once in the boat, I sported the most stylish bright orange life vest and off towards the mussel beds we went. Once in the area, we saw mussel beds loaded down into the water with harbor seals lounging on top looking very happy. Most of the beds at the time had small mussels growing, but a few of the beds were big enough to harvest. It takes about a year for a mussel to grow the size for harvesting.

DSC00334DSC00311IMG_3299DSC00331Penn Cove Shellfish Mussel Farms grows more of a native mussel to the Pacific Coast-Penn Cove, but they also grow Mediterranean Mussels as well. The mussels are grown mostly in their Penn Cove location, but they also grow other shellfish like clams and oysters at their other location in Willapa Bay.

DSC00341After the tour was finished, our group received a 15lb bag of mussels to bring back to share with our friends.

DSC00395Interesting fact: mussels are more popular in Belgium, Netherlands, and other landlocked German-Franco countries. The first mussel farm on the west coast of the US was established in the 1970s and is Penn Cove Shellfish Farm.

Taylor Shellfish Farms

DSC00589When you hear Taylor Shellfish Farms, you may think of the Oyster Bars popping up all over the Seattle -Bellevue area of recent. But the real treat is to visit the location of the farm itself off Chuckanut Drive in Bow. Here you can have a taste of oysters while enjoying the view of the oyster growing beds and seeing first hand how those oysters are harvested.

DSC00593Here I tasted the different types of oysters grown and got an up close look at a delectably, the goeduck which goes for $70 lb which translates into $80-100+ at a seafood restaurant! I really wanted to try a small piece just to see why people want to eat this, but only if you buy one.

DSC00608DSC00611What does a person do with a geoduck? This even sparked some… let’s say.. inappropriate jokes regarding what a goeduck looks like. Even a shirt being sold in the market store played on this inappropriate joke. Pacific Northwest native the geoduck is known as “the good time clam.” Yep, I typed that!

IMG_3660IMG_3671The famous oyster shells are spread all over the ground outside which goes to show how close from tide to table really is.

Overall, I do believe I will be eating more bivalves in the future. Spending a whole day touring both shellfish farms was a treat, by had the opportunity to see how sustainable shellfish farming is and how it contributes to a healthy environment in our water ways, all the while eating homegrown shellfish in the process.

Tale Of Two Forts| Casey & Ebey

Forts are all over Whidbey Island and a few are even state parks! Fort Casey was located close to where I was staying making it an easily accessible place to explore on an early crisp sunny morning and Fort Ebey just a fifteen-minute drive toward Oak Harbor.

Fort Casey:

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Fort Casey is located five miles from Coupeville next door to the Port Townsend-Coupeville Ferry terminal. The fort was established around the 1890s as a World War I coast artillery fortification to protect the Puget Sound at the Admiralty Inlet area. The fort was decommissioned after World War II and made into a state park.

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On a quiet morning, I decided to explore the fortifications early before the crowds. In relative peace, I explored the arm structures, battlements and the iconic large guns reinstalled after becoming a historical site.

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For some reason, I found this funny!

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The iconic Admiralty Lighthouse built in 1903 was not open at the time. Maybe when I return for another visit to Whidbey Island I will have to stop by.

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Fort Ebey:

Fort Ebey just like Fort Casey was part of the World War II coastal defense system with smaller battlements. The old fort has a lot of hiking trails and beach access to explore.

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One such battlement had a series of tunnels to explore in the dark. With a flashlight and my phone, I walked around the dark rooms and passageways. I should have known that a walking around a dark secluded area would not be a smart thing to do. At one point when I was walking back down another semi-dark passageway, I caught a dark figure out of the corner of my eye off in a dark bunker. At first, I thought “oh hell! I saw a ghost.” But quickly realized it was a person and he was sorry to scare me, but I was already running down the corridor out towards light and to my car. This really should have taught me a lesson in not going to these places alone!

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After a scare just wanted to calm my nerves so I headed towards the beach to get some sea breeze. The waves were crashing in at an alarming rate. There were moments when the waves were huge, enough to boogie board or surf at one point.

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After what seemed like hours I headed back to my car and headed back to Camp Casey for a day of sunbathing at the pool.

 

Have you been to any of these forts? Did you find the Fort Ebey tunnel a little scary? Let me know in the comments!

The Island Life| Whidbey Island

For six weeks I called Whidbey Island home and became familiar with the slower way of life on the island. Here I was a part of the community on the island and found I really like this place.

Ebbey’s Landing National Historical Reserve:

The past meets present in a working rural landscape and community. This is what the National Parks Service says about this place, and it is where I became very familiar with for five weeks. In 1978 it was created as a 17,572-acre reserve integrates historic farms, a seaside town (Coupeville) native and pioneer land use traditions and ecologically significant areas.

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Here I got my first lesson in sustainable agriculture and a history lesson in why mega-mansions are bad business for land so rich with productive soil. Also spending a good part of my time on the campus of Pacific Rim Institute of Environmental Sciences is located in the heart of this reserve as part of Ebey’s Prairie.

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Coupeville:

The town has a small town historical charm with an agricultural community that is thriving with all the ties to the historical significance of Ebey’s Landing Reserve. It is the second oldest towns in Washington State with buildings dating from the 1850s and 1870s.

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First time I was introduced to Coupeville was to attend a root beer float party at the Compass Rose B&B. The house was an old Victorian-era home that when I took a tour, it was walking through an antique store or a museum. Everything inside was original to the era. I kept thinking how amazing this would be to live here! The kitchen had the largest collection of copper pans and utensils I had ever seen! Imagine cleaning all those!

The second time I had to go down to the famous wharf everyone talks about. This wharf was built in 1905 and the weathered boards could tell tales of a time long ago when it was the main transportation stop in the turn of the century.

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With a group of friends and headed for the shops. The main street had cute little shops to explore. I was disappointed with Kingfisher Books and the antique shop were closed. I really wanted to go inside. Ice cream soothed my disappointment really fast!

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Check out:
The Salty Mug-Coffee, pastries, soups and chowders. Inexpensive.
Coupe’s Last Stand– Need a hot dog, polish, brats, and veggie dogs with all the fixings.
Lavender Wind-the shop with items made from the lavender grown on the farm

Oak Harbor:

Cue Top Gun, Highway to the Danger Zone! 
As I have said before, the military seems to find me or is it the other way around? Sleeping in the old officers’ barracks at Camp Casey, you would expect some military activity to happen. For a total of two weeks worth of days, Whidbey Island Naval Station would do practice flying maneuvers over the area. I should be used to this by now with commercial air traffic flying over at all hours of the day in Seattle, but these jets are much more sonic loud then a Boeing bird. I can see why residents on the island complain about the noise. Yet it is part of living within an area with active military bases. I will never forget when one flew a little to close to the ground for comfort when touring Kettle’s Edge Farm. Coming close to one of those military birds is scary when you think of it. You think it may crash! Over the five weeks I started to tune them out, and by the last night at Camp Casey, I could sleep through the noise.

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Camp Casey Conference Center:

Camp Casey Conference Center was once a part of Fort Casey where the enlisted and officer barracks are located. There are a few beautiful historical officer houses build in the style known as “military Victorian” that can be rented for the weekend at either Fort Casey Inn or directly from Seattle Pacific University which owns the property next to Fort Casey State Park.

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The floor I was on

For Au Sable, the five weeks were spent living in the BOQ building between Captain’s house and another officers house near the beach. The rooms assigned had two navy issued beds with a mattress and chest of drawers. Military style! Some of the rooms had bunks where four people were assigned. I was lucky not to have three other people crammed into a room!

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Deception Pass:

Took a small hiking adventure up to Goose Rock in the Deception State Park. This 0.5-mile hike to a vista with breathtaking views of the Pacific Sound and Northern Whidbey Island.

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From atop of the summit you can see the San Juan Islands, Cranberry Lake and NAS Whidbey. IMG_3275

The island in the background is up for sale! If you have a cool 5.6 million dollars laying around it can be yours!IMG_3278

I have been over this bridge about a dozen times and the view never gets old. The summer heat and the sunny weather made it even more enchanting for some of the people in the group who are not from Washington.

After spending six weeks on Whidbey, it was hard to leave back to Seattle. I will be coming back in the future, and who knows, may move here.

If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same.

Sunsets of Whidbey Island

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“Never go too long without watching a sunset” -Atticus

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“The only kind of sunsets that I don’t like are the ones that I missed.”

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“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens every day can end beautifully.”

-Kristen Butler

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Location: Fort Casey State Park and Camp Casey Conference Center SPU

Deception Pass State Park

For the longest time I have been wanting to visit Deception Pass and the bridge that keeps showing up on my news feed over the past couple of months. Over one holiday weekend Dad and I loaded up the truck with our fishing gear and headed for Deception Pass Park’s Cranberry Lake for some fishing. Along the way we stopped to take in the sight that is Deception Pass Bridge.

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On a Friday morning we loaded up the truck with fishing gear and drove an hour and a half up to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey¬† Island side to Cranberry Lake. Once there we were greeted by a serene looking lake, and quietness of an early morning fishing spot. The side we ended up on was the east side of Cranberry lake near the entrance to the park’s campground. A half an hour into fishing I had caught my first fish, a medium size striped bass. For some weird reason I was more tickled about catching it than any other fish caught the whole day. Around 8:30am the Navy decided it was time for some training with the F-18 Hornets (Navel Air Base Whidbey is nearby). At one point if you were not awake already, you would have been once one turned on its after burner and then a sonic boom would jolt you awake. After awhile you just became use to the sound roaring over head as they were doing maneuvers over the lake. Later in the morning we ended up with a medium-sized catfish and a very small striped bass which sadly had to be released back into the lake.

 

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Stripped Bass

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Catfish

After a while I started catching large clumps of water weeds instead of fish. A true disappointment when you think there is a fish on the end of the line giving a fight.

After four hours of fishing we decided it was time to go when more people started showing up and crowding the dock. On the way back home we stopped at the Deception Pass Bridge Park to view the bridge by the same name. This bridge when seen in the flesh is quite a marvel of engineering, and raw beauty nature surrounding the structure in breath-taking. Being on the side of the bridge is a little nerve-wracking when cars are speeding past you close to the narrow strip of concrete you are standing on. But the view was worth the nerve-wracking, and I would never change that feeling.

 

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View Below The Bridge

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Vew From the Bridge

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The water below was a light turquoise color close to the waters around Hawaiian Islands during a rain storm and could see the swirling currents in the channel below. At one point a motor boat was gunning the engine into full throttle to get through the channel to the other side. I have heard in the past people have become stick in these strong currents coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Skagit Bay.

 

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Skagit Bay w/ Strawberry Island

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Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean

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There were plenty of trails to hike down to the beaches along the channel, but I would like to save those for another time when I can devote a whole day to it. I believe another visit will be in store soon, and hopefully it will be on a sunny warm day. Driving back along highway 20, there were two lakes looking very tempting to fish. Pass Lake and Campbell Lake are the next lakes to tryout in the near future.

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North Beach Below

Now I can check this off the bucket list, and hopefully will have the chance to take out-of-state visitors to this wonderful gem close to the San Juan Islands. Maybe I will see them too. Who knows?