Last weekend we headed out for a little weekend adventure on nearby Guemes Island. It’s a tiny place with only a few hundred residents. In the winter there is nothing to do there except walk on the beach and stare into a fire, which was exactly what we hoped for.
We started with brunch in our own neighborhood. Our usual place had a very long wait so we wandered over to Lottie’s Lounge where we found amazing food.
I got the cheesy grits. They are made with heavy cream and cream cheese. Uh huh. Yum. There is some healthy spinach hiding underneath, I promise. They also offer the cheesy grits as a side. If you are there for brunch and don’t try the cheesy grits I will challenge you to a duel.
Then it was off to the island. The Guemes Island Resort is the only place to stay on the island save renting a vacation home. The resort is a small collection of cabins on the water and has been a resort since the 1940s, they keep the spirit of the small getaway really well. It felt welcoming but intimate, well loved and well kept. Like a secret, or perhaps a Catskills resort that you just assume everybody already knows about.
In the summer there is clamming, crabbing, boating, bonfires and exploring the island by bicycle. In the winter there is pretty much just walking along the beach and gazing at the view until it’s dark and time to go inside and make a fire. (Until one ventures out in pajamas and Wellies with flashlights to gaze up at the breathtaking view of the stars through the break in the clouds.)
I like it so much I spent a lot of time considering not telling you about it.
They have a wood fired heated Dutchtub on the grounds, shown above, that you can rent by the day all to yourselves. Dutchtubs are awesome and they regularly defy scale in photographs. The one above would easily accommodate four people even if it possibly looks like it could be a photo of a cereal bowl left on a rocky beach.
The resort has a little camp store that sells well curated beer, wine, food, soap, Slow Loris stuff and a few vacation essentials (flip-flops, sunglasses). Between Anderson’s (see below) and this I am confident to suggest that should somebody, say, decide they could not bear the thought of going back to the grind and instead they, say, immediately took the ferry to Guemes they would have everything needed to be fed and comfortable even if they were to “accidentally” break their car in a way that might take, say, a week or more to repair.
Our cabin is was built recently, very cozy-yet-spacious, came with all the kitchen equipment you could want, and even had a private hot tub on the unseen back deck. We should have stayed far longer than we did.
There are only a handful of cabins on the resort. The older (but updated) ones have an unhindered view of the water, the two newer ones are set back against a hill. On the hill above this cabin there were a few yurts with decks that I suspect have amazing views.
The woodstove was more than enough to heat the cabin, though they had a nice electric heater as well. One evening the wood started to distinctly have a face. A cute one. It was creepy. You might see it above. You might not to want to think about Little Big Planet as you do so.
I found this shell during a walk on the beach, it looks like it’s entirely made of quartz. It’s thick and heavy and translucent. Does anybody know how this could have come to be?
The old driftwood seen above was such a bright auburn color I wanted to drag the entire some-hundred chunk home with me if it weren’t so very against the rules. (I say this as a child of somebody who works for a park service and dares not disturb nature.) My sad camera couldn’t capture the look in the cloud covered gloom. I intend to return with proper camera equipment. It was that impressive.
The resort has a nice stretch of beach all to itself. But also from the resort you can walk a long way along the beach without seeing another soul. I think most of the stretch consists of privately owned lots but nobody seems to mind if you walk the entire stretch. (So treat it well, there are few places left where you can get lost while walking a curved but straight path.)
This is Anderson’s General Store, the island’s only grocery and restaurant. Scott knew it because he played at a music festival a few years back. He brought home stories about Artis the Spoonman commanding an audience. Anderson’s is charming and had an amazing selection of foods along with the making for s’mores as well as my favorite microbrews. More than I could have hoped for.
Anderson’s is also a pub/restaurant. We ate here twice, dinner the second time was had during the 2011 Superbowl when locals sat at the bar and criticized the commercials and the halftime show. We all sang happy birthday to the guy who, we learned the night before, is the partner of the very cool waitress. He had played Uno with the kid of two other locals who stopped in just to say hi to everybody. It was the sort of small community awesomeness I’ve only witnessed a few times.* I feel like an intruder just telling you about this.
* (One was eating breakfast at an honest to goodness lunch counter in a teeny coal mining town in Pennsylvania where the waitresses called everybody “Hon” and meant it, the other was a tiny town in Italy where I spent a summer taking language classes during college.)
Guemes is a hilariously short ferry ride from Anacortes, WA. This photo was taken from the ferry that has not left the island yet, the land you see right there is our destination. We could almost swim it. Reading back through old news stories about Guemes Island you see a pattern of the residents resisting too much access to the island. After staying for only two days I can see how one would become fiercely protective of what they have going on here considering that the rest of the world is so close. There were a few For Sale signs in front of houses that definitely made me wonder if this girl from Ohio might be an island dweller at heart
On the other side of the ferry:
Should you be in Anacortes stop at Adrift for a meal. The place is charming and both the grilled polenta and white bean and kale soup were amazing.
Lots of people (thank you!) also recommended Gere-a-Deli, which we were entirely too stuffed to try out.
This surveyors point was located, oddly, on the beach at Deception Point. The view from this point is below:
Should you be on Whidbey Island I highly recommend a visit to the lighthouse at Fort Casey. But, this is strange I realize, ignore the lighthouse entirely and instead head right for the old fort equipment you can see from the parking lot. It’s massive and interesting and there is more there hidden in the hills than you can see at first and it just keeps going and getting creepier as you go along. You get to climb all over it, look through old cannons and into dark underground rooms, up ladders, across narrow cement walkways and into bunkers. It’s dangerous enough that I was surprised we were allowed access to as much of it as we were, and it’s much more extensive than the similar fort-turned-parkland that we got to know in San Francisco. I’m sure there are lots of people there on warmer days but in early February it was empty enough that it felt very surreal, and very much like a level in a video game.
When we got back to Seattle the weather turned sunny and gorgeous.
So, weather, you and me will make a deal. YOU shine on my next weekend getaway and I WILL stop tracking how many times you are sunny all week and rainy on the weekends in the hopes of someday having enough evidence to prove that you are mean spirited. OK? OK.