Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cama Beach State Park: Retro Rustic Charm

Want to feel transported back to an earlier, simpler time? On Washington's Camano Island, Cama Beach State Park was converted from an old 1930s-era fishing resort and now features cozy beach cabins, miles of trails through thick lowland forest, and a relaxed, slow-down vibe.

On one of our spectacular September weekends, I grab a friend and head up there from Seattle to check it out, based on the raves from a friend who stayed there recently. 

Our first stop is the Cama Beach Cafe for breakfast, set in a gorgeous new lodge in the woods above the beach. This very popular cafe uses seasonal veggies and fruit, Camano Island eggs, and sausages made in nearby Stanwood. My veggie omelet is excellent, and my table mates rave about the Swedish pancakes.  

Cama Beach Cafe's tasty local fare.
Alas, the  guy just ahead of me in line snagged the last of their famous blueberry scones. I'm sorely tempted by the gorgeous rhubarb pie in the display case, but discipline rules. Next trip.

Cama Beach lodge
 It's just a short walk to the beach and the Center for Wooden Boats, which offers boat rentals and educational programs. Friendly Shane, who manages the facility, is happy to chat with us and show us their boats.

Center for Wooden Boats at Cama Beach
 On a clear day, the westward-facing little cabins overlook Saratoga Passage, Whidbey Island, and peek-a-boo views of the Olympic Mountains beyond.

With a low tide this morning, we walk off breakfast by strolling down the beach for starters. Walking along the rocks and sand requires more effort with each step, so I figure we're burning more calories. :)

Waters of Saratoga Passage with Whidbey Island beyond.

With many trails winding through woods, along the bluffs, and over to Camano Island State Park (where there are even more trails) to choose from, we opt to walk through lush lowland forest to the bluff trail for views. 

 It all seems so right and peaceful walking along the well-worn paths through the healthy forest, with just the soft earth underfoot. We hear the distinctive, eeh-eeh-eeh cry of a pileated woodpecker reverberating through the forest canopy above. 

Looking southwest to Cama Beach (left at the point) and Whidbey Island beyond.

After passing several viewing platforms, it's time to turn around and head back to the city.  Too soon. What a perfect spot for a quiet getaway in the winter or midweek in the warmer months!

Have you been to Cama Beach? Do you have a favorite beach park?

  For more photos and Northwest happenings between blog posts, Like the Pacific Northwest Seasons page on FaceBook. 

Happy trail and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons.

When You Go
Cama Beach State Park is open year-round, and it's easier to book a cabin in the off-season. Some cabins allow pets. While I haven't stayed there, my friend Don has a few times recently and says the cabins are basic, rustic, but clean and cozy, with WiFi. For specifics and rates, check here. The cafe is open on weekends in the off-season 9 am to 2 pm for breakfast and lunch.  

It's about a 90-minute drive north from Seattle. You need a Discover Pass to enter and park, which you can buy at the entrance or, better yet, when you renew your Washington license if you're a state resident. Click here for location and driving directions.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Vancouver B.C. Must-See: Museum of Anthropology

Away from the tourist bustle of Vancouver's West End is a gem of a destination set high on cliffs above the Strait of Georgia.  The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) on the University of British Columbia campus at the westernmost edge of Vancouver offers magnificent examples of Northwest Coast art, both contemporary and classic.

Well before explorers and settlers arrived in the region from Europe and beyond, the First Nations people of the Northwest Coast had developed a sophisticated and complex culture of wood carving, painting, song, and dance. The MOA features some stunning examples in a lovely setting.
On a brilliant late summer weekend, we bicycle from the West End over the Burrard Street Bridge and through lovely, leafy residential neighborhoods out to the UBC campus and the MOA.

After parking our bicycles, we wander down the path to the contemporary MOA building, which was designed to reflect traditional northern Northwest Coast post and beam structures.  Just past the entrance, large and spectacular wood totem poles, bentwood boxes, cedar canoes, and sculptures are displayed in the Great Hall. I swear I can feel the power of these treasures set beneath the 15-meter-high high ceiling and glass windows.


Bottom of a Haida totem pole

Down below the Great Hall, we step inside a treasure trove of museum pieces stuffed inside glass cases and pull-out drawers in a darkened collections room. The quantity and quality of the collection is incredible.  To see it all really means many trips here to soak it all in.

Many masks, many more
Another highlight of the MOA's collection is Haida artist Bill Reid's massive wood sculputure "The Raven and the First Men,"displayed to full effect in the Rotunda. Princes Charles (aka the Prince of Wales) was here to unveil this masterpiece back in the 1980s.

The Raven and the First Men
Since I was here in the 1990s, a replica of a traditional Northwest Coast longhouse (or plank house) and a faux beach has been added on the grounds behind the building.  This simulates what a traditional Northwest Coast village would have looked like on one of the thousands of beaches that stretch northward up the coast to Alaska.

As with many museums I've visited over the years for my art history studies and beyond, I can only take in so much before I get sensory overload.  After a couple hours we head to the museum cafe for a cold drink and snack (banana bread baked on campus) on the outdoor patio before departing.  

I love this place!  It's on my intinerary for future trips to Vancouver. How about you? 

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons.

When You Go
While the MOA is known for its Northwest Coast art collection, it's also world-renowned for its research, teaching, public programs, and community connections. If you're in the Vancouver area or visit often, check out their ongoing public programs.  The MOA is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and stays open until 9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. Suggested donation per adult was about $16 when we visited last weekend. Check out their website for information on getting there via bus, auto, walking, or bicycle.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Seize the Day: Late Summer in the Northwest

It's September already and another summer is slipping by fast--too fast. Here in the Upper Left Hand Corner of the U.S.A. (apologies to Alaska), we know there won't be that many more shorts and T-shirt warm days here. So we savor each sunny September day.

Our light this time of year, when the sun is out, seems to have a subtle golden glow. Perhaps it's the angle of the sun, but there's just something sweet and particular about September light. I  know it instinctively.

While I've been working too much and through several weekends, I am getting away this weekend. So check back next week for more blog posts about Seattle's progressive sister (and MSL rival) to the north, Vancouver, B.C. Love that city!

In the meantime, just a few shots from this spectacular and special region.  

Art in the Park, Carkeek Park, Seattle, Washington

Cypress Island from Guemes Island ferry terminal, Anacortes, Washington


Mt. Hood sunset, Hood River Valley, Oregon

Orcas Island ferry terminal, Orcas, Island, Washington
And how do you like to savor September? 

Happy trail and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons.